This is a post I’ve been meaning to do for a long time but have never found the time, so this week, I somewhat selfishly put it up as the weekly League of Extraordinary Bloggers’ topic, which would force my hand a bit. Reis O’Brien has been doing this kind of thing for the Lair of the Dork Horde, and it’s a great way to keep people enthusiastic and updated on what he’s doing.
I realize this post may be of interest to no one but myself, and I apologize in advance.
First, a little history…
For the last 17 years, my wife and I have run our own graphic design business, and as a supplement to our business, we have started a number of web sites that would keep our creative juices flowing while bringing in some residual income. I try to keep the streams from crossing too much but I’ll pull the curtain back a bit today. We run a website for tourists to Washington, DC, and our most successful site is a kid’s site filled with children’s games and activities. I also have a site dedicated to collecting Halo’s Master Chief, but sadly haven’t updated it in a couple of years. I even once ran a site called 40yearoldgamer–while I wasn’t quite 40 years old, I knew I would get there soon enough. That one didn’t make it.
The reason 40yearoldgamer.com didn’t succeed was that my heart wasn’t in it. My heart is totally invested in Cool & Collected though. It took me a while to get my footing and to find “my voice,” but when I did, something just clicked and everything got so much easier. This seems to be the case for many bloggers, and Shezcrafti wrote of her own similar epiphany earlier this week.
How to make a million dollars without even trying (somebody tell me, please!)
I truly enjoy working on Cool & Collected more than any other aspect of my day, and if I could do it 100% of the time and make a living at it, I would absolutely do so. Every day I see tons of items I want to write about, but just don’t have the time to do it–paying work always has to be the top priority for me since I am self-employed and don’t eat if I don’t work.
If making money was the determining factor for whether or not this site existed, well let’s just say, you never would have been subjected to KONGTOBER 2012. This site is not exactly a cash cow–I sell a few items through my ecrater store and sometimes people will see things in my yard sale hauls that they want to buy, but that’s not going to pay off my mortgage.
I have tried a variety of avenues to get this site to pay for itself, but if you’ve ever tried looking for an affiliate program that sells vintage items–there’s only one–eBay. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, eBay is the only affiliate program that I have found that works for this site. Believe me, I’ve tried them all–Entertainment Earth, Amazon, Sideshow, etc. — but the only one that consistently puts a few pennies in my pockets is eBay. If you ever find yourself buying an item on eBay, you could really help me out by clicking that little eBay button over there on the top of the sidebar.
While affiliates programs haven’t been the most lucrative course of action, I’ve been very fortunate to associate myself with companies such as Hakes Americana who has been a loyal sponsor for a couple of years and Titan Books who have provided me with items to review and then give away as prizes to my readers. I would really like to pursue more opportunities like these in the future, so if you are looking to sponsor a great site or have your items reviewed, I’m standing right here.
Where does he get all those wonderful toys?
I have been a collector all my life–when writing our high school senior wills, mine read “Brian Adams — on an eternal quest for all things cool.” Many of the posts I write are about items from my own personal collection, but I also love to highlight other collectors whose collections make mine look downright puny!
When I find something on eBay or another site that I think is amazing, I’ll point it out on Cool & Collected or send out a quick Tweet or Facebook post. I’ve been around long enough that now people are regularly sending me things they think I’d like to see (and they’re usually right!).
One of my favorite, favorite, favorite things to do with visitors to my site is to actually trade toys. This year, I’ve traded items with dozens of folks including fellow bloggers AEIOU and Sometimes Why, Revenge from the Cosmic Ark, Branded in the 80′s, William B. West, and Toyriffic, to name just a few, and I have ended up with some really fun items to add to my collection. There’s simply nothing better than getting a package in the mail, and this year, my mailman has earned a big Christmas bonus. Without this site, I doubt anyone would be up for a trade with some random guy, but when your online reputation is on the line, you can bet that the trade will be fair for both parties.
An added bonus of running a site like this is that people learn what you like and if they come across something at a flea market that fits your collecting interest, they might pick it up for you or snap a picture and ask if you’re interested. What could be better for a collector! One of my dreams would be to have a sort of trading post on Cool & Collected where collectors could post their “wants” and “haves” but I’m not smart enough to have figured out how to do that yet. I’ll get there.
There are plenty of sites that review new toys and pop culture items, and I am fortunate to have become pals with some of the best, such as PoeGhostal, ItsAllTrue, TV & Film Toys, Infinite Hollywood, and That Figures to name a few. Early on, I realized that I would leave this field to the experts and decided to focus on my true collecting interests which lie with the older stuff from the 80′s, 70′s, 60′s and even earlier. It’s true, I’m living in the past in a lot of respects, but we had great toys when we were kids!
This has been the breakout year for me in regards to building relationships with my readers and fellow bloggers. Some fun “celebrity moments’ occurred this year as well–through the recaps I wrote for Hollywood Treasure, I made a friend in Fong Sam who worked at Profiles in History, and the recaps for Toy Hunter led me to receiving a call from Jordan Hembrough on a Saturday afternoon, where he gave me his cell phone number in case I ever needed anything.
On Twitter, I have made many friends and had great discussions. I’ve had my tweets retweeted by Jon Favreau, Joe Hill, Jordan Hembrough, Elyse Luray (Collection Intervention), and American Pickers. I’m getting pretty good at what I like to call the “Twitter Game of Thrones.” If you’re nice to people, they’ll like you more–remember that kids!
Here on the site, I try to respond to as many comments as I can. I live for comments! It’s true. Many times, the comments that readers have left on my site contribute far more to the topic at hand than my original post, and I love every word! The comment sections on some of my articles have become almost forum-like and there’s nothing better than having commenters interacting and responding to other commenters.
The League of Extraordinary Bloggers
What can I say about the League other than, “Wow.” After seeing the wealth of creativity being produced by my fellow pop culture bloggers, I tried to think of a way we could pool those resources and make something bigger–something better. I thought about guest posts and the like, but what I really wanted was something that would be a mutual benefit to everyone, and after doing some research into other blogging circles, the idea of the League was formed. At this point, there have been 35 weekly assignments from the League and approximately 70 blogs have taken part! To say my expectations were exceeded would be a huge understatement.
Each and every one of us has met new people and been inspired by them to put forth some of our best efforts. Each week, the League adds another blog or two to its ranks, from brand new sites like Goodwill Hunting 4 Geeks to well-established sites with larger audiences such as UnderScoopFire and Nerd Lunch. It has been exciting to see other sites succeed, such as the Cavalcade of Awesome’s Time traveling post which was picked up by WordPress’ Freshly Pressed — I think Pax is still getting comments on that one. I also was touched by the outpouring of support when one of our fellow League members suffered a tragic event. Our thoughts are still with you Brother Midnight. And the League has gone international! Seeing Yelinna’s photos from the top of Huayruropunco Mountain in Peru as a League response still makes me shake my head in amazement, and I do hope to make it to Mexico one day for that free beer at the Monster Cafe Saltillo.
The League has taken on a life of its own, and while I may captain the ship, I do so with as little steering as possible. I prefer to let the League find their own way whenever possible and think the best results have come from the most vague topics. I would really like to get more topics submitted for the League by its members, so if you have any, let me know!
I’m an eternal optimist and firmly believe that “If you build it, they will come.” This website is a marathon not a sprint, and after actively working on it for over two years, I have seen that old posts have a way of sticking around and getting rediscovered.
In the year ahead, I’d like to see Cool & Collected continue to evolve and become even more of a gathering place for collectors to visit and talk about their own collections and collecting interests. I’m not a big fan of forums, but I think this could largely be achieved through guest posts and columns by fellow collectors. If anyone out there has a burning desire to write about their prized possession or a great flea market find, I’m your huckleberry.
The League will hopefully continue to grow, but it will be a challenge to keep it engaging and to keep the participation levels on an an upward swing. I want the League members to feel like they are part of something big, and continue to be as enthusiastic about it as I am. I’ve been thinking about how we could take the League to the next level and maybe even buy us dinner in the process. Sponsored League topics are an idea that I think could work, but with so many opinions involved, it would have to be done right or not at all. With 20+ blogs writing about a single topic in any given week, there’s no reason that a sponsor wouldn’t be interested in that kind of reach. Maybe the sponsor could host a contest and pick his/her favorite response and that blog would get the meal. I don’t know, I’m talking out loud here.
I’ve been itching to branch out into other areas and create an actual physical product of some sort to sell on the site. Philip Reed’s and Strange Kids Club’s recent Kickstarter projects got the old gears turning, but nothing has solidified yet–just how big is the market for King Kong collectors anyway?
Like I mentioned earlier, writing and creating content for this site is the highlight of my workday. I truly am having a blast here and hope that others are as well.