Otaku Journalism: Coming to a con near you

23 July 2014 | No comments yet

As usual, Kevin Bolk had perfect timing. On the final day of the Otaku Journalismsale, he let me know that the flyer designs were ready.

Take a look below, but I’ll warn you: since they’re in print-ready CMYK instead of web-friendly RGB, the colors look a little different than usual:


That’s right, I had Otaku Journalism flyers made for handing out at conventions. If you’re going to Otakon next month, I’m sure you’ll spot one. I also want to bring a stack in my suitcase to Geek Girl Con in Seattle this October.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “you’ve got to spend money to make money?” Because that’s what my experience with publishing has been. Adding in the flyer costs in, I’ve spent about $1,100 on publishing and promoting my book in order to sell about 150 copies, both full price and on sale. I’ll need to have sold 200 copies at full price in order to finally break even.

My entire career as a writer up until now, you could read my work online for free. My main gig, ReadWrite, compensates for that with ads, while Otaku Journalist makes up the difference in affiliate links. One thing I didn’t realize however, is that “free” is the best advertising. When you decide to charge for something, suddenly you have to work harder to promote it.

This has meant running my first sale while trying not to feel gross about it. It means bringing Otaku Journalism into the real world with paper flyers where potential readers congregate. Today, it means writing about money matters honestly so I don’t feel like a sell-out.

Sorry for such a self indulgent post. The original post I had planned for today fell through. On the other hand, if you like hearing about the business side of things, let me know. I think it’d be awesome if I had more self-published geek books to read, but it does take time and money. If I can make that side of the process less nebulous, I’m happy to help.

How to not be DashCon

21 July 2014 | 11 comments


I’m sure you’ve heard about DashCon, the Tumblr-themed fandom convention that became synonymous for “failure.” Between canceled guests, missing money, and “an extra hour in the ball pit,” DashCon has given the Internet a lot to cringe over. Despite attendee testimonies that they actually had a good time, DashCon’s social media footprint was a major PR nightmare.

Two weeks later, I think we’ve all had enough of a laugh at DashCon’s expense. Tumblr may not be your fandom, but one failed fandom convention still lowers the credibility of the rest. This is not just DashCon’s public image at stake, it’s all of fandom’s, too. If you like going to cons and volunteering at cons, you know this isn’t a good thing.

Now it’s time for fans to ask ourselves, “How can we keep this from happening again?” I posed this question to two veteran con-runners; Rob Barba, former convention chair of Anime USA, and Geoff Beebe, board member at Cloudsdale Congress.

Where did DashCon go wrong? Here’s what two experienced convention volunteers think.

Be realistic

Optimism is a good thing. But too much and you lose your basis in reality. According to Rob, DashCon needed a healthy dose of the latter.

“DashCon expected 10,000 visitors in the door. There are popular conventions that have been around for a decade plus and haven’t even reached a third of that number,” he said. “Also, for its first year, DashCon wanted $65 at the door? $20 would have been acceptable.”

Listen to mentors

DashCon was reputed to have mostly minors and many first-time staffers running the convention. Geoff recalled assisting at a convention last year that had many first-time staffers, and noted that competency is no match for experience.

“Though they had many qualified people holding key positions, they called in myself and other veteran staffers who were able to advise and mentor,” he said. “It was good they did that because there were hotel shenanigans, and the experienced people that were called in had seen similar situations before, and knew how to handle it.”

Treat your guests right

It takes a degree of trust for a famous person or group to put itself in the hands of a fandom convention consisting mostly of volunteers and not always professionals. When a convention doesn’t do their best to cater to guests, Rob said, all fans suffer.

“The crew of Welcome to Night Vale getting burned over this didn’t just cost DashCon—it might have also cost similar cons who were completely on the up-and-up,” he said.

Treat your attendees right

Geoff said that sometimes convention volunteers get excited by their privileged positions and forget the real reason they’re putting on the con: to give attendees a good time. In his opinion, what happened at DashCon—from the surprise $17,000 fundraising session the night before to the ball pit as a replacement for a monetary refund—put attendees’ interests last.

“When disaster strikes, it’s the attendees who end up paying,” he said. “In this case, it was literal.”

“Don’t f*ck up”

Bluntly rounding out his advice, Rob said that sometimes volunteers don’t realize just what’s on the line when they’re running a first-time convention.

“You won’t believe how many people seem to think that in the first year of running a con, people can make massive errors at the expense of attendees and that said attendees will forgive anything because ‘Hey, we’re a con!’  No, they won’t, especially if you’re in a convention-heavy area or in a mature genre. (Trying to start an anime con nowadays? You’d better ace almost everything the first time around.)

In your opinion, what are the absolute essentials of a well-run fandom convention? Alternately, what are some of the worst shenanigans you’ve seen a con deal with? As a convention volunteer myself, I definitely have some stories!

Photo via emmagrant01

Otaku Links: Cause and effect

18 July 2014 | 1 comment


  • I’d been curious about these illustrations of cat-ear headphones. It turns out they are a real product, but the drawings came first before the artist’s friend engineered a prototype that turned the “ears” into speakers.
  • First her own show, and now her own comic book! Yaya Han has come a long way. Like a lot of east coast locals I’ve been a fan for years and it’s been really cool to watch her become a bigger and bigger cosplay star.
  • Do you think Anitwitter, that garbled Internet space where our self deprecating otaku jokes go to die, needs a wiki? Some Twitter denizens did, and then didn’t, and Moritheil documented the whole short-lived venture.
  • It’s so awesome how I see more and more women at every Magic: The Gathering event I go to. Could it have anything to do with the fact that it’s no longer OK to be a jerk or a bully? Nah, that must be a coincidence.
  • My friend Patrick recently introduced me to We Are Tomodachi, an annual English language newsletter from Japan, all about Japan. A really good mix of travel tips and Jeopardy worthy Japan trivia.
  • Finally, the latest Geeks Next Door comic speaks to me. Crowdfunding is a great tool and some of my friends use it wisely, but no I don’t want to pay thousands for you to go to Otakon if you live two hours away and have a job.

Illustration via Axent Wear

Otaku Journalism on sale today!

16 July 2014 | 8 comments


Maybe it’s because the sun stays out so much longer, but I’m always more productive in the summer. It’s a great time to start acting on your goal to build or expand a writing career. And what better way to start than by reading Otaku Journalism, the ONLY guide written specifically for journalists with geeky inclinations?

Starting now, Otaku Journalism is 50% off on Amazon. I’ve dropped its price from $5.99 to $2.99, effective immediately. The sale will last until next Wednesday, 7/23.

Some recent praise:

“I’ll be honest, I’ve done tons of bits and pieces of writing over the years, and lots of blogging but nothing has really stuck for me, as I realized before and while reading Lauren Orsini’s fabulous book Otaku Journalism. I feel pretty good recommending this book to anyone, male or female, otaku or not. If you’re passionate about SOMETHING, this is by far the ideal book for you to get.” —BJ Wanlund

“Being in this position where I feel like I’m on the edge of the cliff on making the decision to do fandom freelancing, Orsini reassures with proven tactics that I could do just that.With helpful information and examples, it’s a go-to for those willing to take the plunge too!” — Rachel C.

“Honestly, this book should be given out to anyone who’s majoring in journalism. After reading this, I feel like I’m a journalist. There’s everything from pitching, ethics, events, and idea creation. Basically covers everything you need to start a blog or a beat.” — Kevin Raposo

Otaku Journalism has an average reader review of five stars. Ready to see what people are talking about? Check it out and definitely email me about what you think.

More about the book:

The 5 anime I always watch dubbed

14 July 2014 | 16 comments


When i was growing up, your preference for subbed or dubbed anime was an identity, a lifestyle choice, something you wore emblazoned on a button pinned to your backpack. Because back then, subbed anime was hard to find.

Back then, the only ways to get subbed anime both took lots of time and effort. You could save up with allowance or part time jobs to buy three episodes per VHS tape at Sam Goody. Or you could download it, over days or weeks, on Kazaa. Or you waited until Otakon rolled around and everybody crowded into the video rooms to actually watch the anime we couldn’t get. Can you remember a time when the video rooms were as packed as panels are today?

If you weren’t picky, however, dubs were easy. You could just turn on Toonami. We pretty much all started out on dubs. Moving on to subs was an expression of your anime devotion.

Today, subs vs. dubs isn’t the black-and-white debate it once was. Just about every anime DVD comes with a choice, so you don’t have to invest in one or the other. And dubs are far higher quality than they once were, featuring stellar English performances.

I usually watch my anime subbed, since that’s typically what legal streaming sites offer. But when I’m browsing my own anime library, here are the ones I always watch dubbed:

Cowboy Bebop


This just might be everyone’s favorite dub. We recommend it to our friends who are looking to get them into anime because they can watch it in English just like that Miyazaki film they tentatively tried. I love Wendee Lee as husky Faye Valentine, and Melissa Fahn’s bright, loopy wordplay as Ed. Even background characters show high quality performances in Bebop.

Spice and Wolf


Brina Palencia is sly and seductive as the wolf goddess Holo and J. Michael Tatum as an understated and businesslike Kraft Lawrence is her perfect foil. Lawrence and Holo have a complicated relationship that is more than platonic, and the nuances of their verbal banter were made more clear to me when I watched it dubbed the second time around.

Excel Saga


Jessica Calvello famously voice-acted herself hoarse after mimicking Excel’s over-the-top enthusiasm halfway through the series. While no performance is worth an injury, Calvello’s is spectacular, channeling Excel’s turned-up-to-eleven eagerness with laser accuracy. Most of the other voice acting in this show is so-so, but Calvello makes it worth a listen.

Rurouni Kenshin


When is a dub that I think is good not really a good dub? When it’s a nostalgia pick. This dub is always going to sound good to me because of my memories of watching it with my friends in middle school. Rewatching now, I still think Richard Hayworth makes a great Kenshin; sometimes goofy, sometimes with an edge of something deadly.

Nerima Daikon Brothers


Longtime readers know that this wacky musical comedy is inexplicably my favorite. I love having the opportunity to turn it on dubbed and sing along. More than any of the voice actors’ performances, I love how director Chris Ayres’ adaptation of the songs into English maintain both meaning and rhyme. I’m fortunate to have had the chance to tell him so!

Now tell me: what’s YOUR favorite anime dub?

Top photo by naniwear, who has it for sale in her Etsy store.

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