As you well know, I contact only the bloggers I accept to be the Faire’s official bloggers. I think having a list up on the site is confirmation enough otherwise and I do not wish to contact people just to give them bad news nor invite conversations on the matter of “Why not?”
However, having done this several years now, I thought to write about that why-not, to give you all an idea about what I am looking for in the bloggers for the Faire. Perhaps it will answer your questions if they are genuine and sincere, coming from willingness to learn.
The important thing to remember here is that I am coordinating bloggers for Fantasy Faire. This means it is all a niche, not mainstream. I fully believe that I would do absolutely lousy job in picking bloggers for any mainstream or fashion event, I have no interest, experience or the eye for such. I also believe that a lot of techniques and blogging styles that are commonly excellent for mainstream are not necessarily a perfect fit for fantasy blogging.
It is also important to understand that I am picking people to be a part of a team, to work together. Bloggers are like independent press and inviting them into the early access is like choosing from a variety of newspapers and magazines the ones that you want to have the very first view of your event. All of the press and bloggers gain access to the event once it is open and they are all free to write whatever they wish, but the people you want to pick in your team are the people you feel are genuinely excited and enthusiastic about the event, the people that you know will cooperate with you and share your love for it.
Fantasy Faire stands out because of the Fairelands. No other event provides a continent of fantasy lands for the visitors to explore, no other event is so rich in beautiful scenery, no other event is as much about the regions and events as it is about shopping. This means there’s a lot of focus on the bloggers that take pictures in the regions or of the regions. If all the pictures I see in a blog are made in a studio, it makes me wonder why that blogger should be invited into the early access.
I am a strong believer in ‘show, don’t tell’ in writing, roleplay and as a general principle in life. If a blogger states they would love to write about things and participate in the challenges, but all I see in their blog text-wise is credits, I do not necessarily take their statement seriously. If they say they love taking pictures in the regions, but all I see are studio-pictures, it does not create a very reliable impression. If I am told that the blogger loves roleplay style blogging and all I see is l33tsp3ak and lollerskatez and gigglez, I am closing the window. I believe that your blog should show me what you are like as a blogger: what your interests, abilities and style are without you having to tell me.
I also believe in balance. Good writing can balance photos that have still room for improvement. Stellar pictures can balance lack of writing. In the Faire’s case, passion for RFL can balance both, but there are of course limits. It is all a scale, it can weigh more on one side than the other, but it cannot be such a difference that the whole scale topples over.
I put actually very little emphasis on the amount of feeds, the age of your blog, the amount of social medias you repost, the page views, flickr favorites, all those numbers. Instead I try to find inspired spirits with creative talents.
That does not mean that a recently started blog would not get a strong nudge down those scales toward a not-yet-this-year, but if it is balanced with other matters of excellence, it is not a dealbreaker. However, if a blog does not meet the base requirements, no amount of numbers, reposts or feeds will influence the matter in the slightest. They are not a balancing factor, they are a bonus.
Picture wise there’s of course the basic things that I’m sure all coordinators require: picture quality, picture size and aspect ratio. If the pictures are so pixelated I can tell at a glance the anti-alias is not on, if the pictures are so small I have to squint or open them in another window (smaller than the text width) or if I can see immediately that the picture is squished or stretched, that the original is not the aspect ratio the blog forces it to be, the answer is a no unless there’s absolutely miraculous amount of balancing factors.
Often less is more in pictures. A couple of really good big pictures is better than ten small shots. Learn to choose and edit, and even if you wouldn’t photoshop, try your hand at cropping. If the surroundings are meaningless, the picture can be cropped closer to the avatar. Of course if the surroundings are a part of the whole point, it should also show in the picture quality and composition.
I am a huge fan of in-world shots: avatars in SL environment. The studio shots or photoshop copy-pasting a background for green-screen avatars can be done marvelously well. It can. It can be an actual artform and beautiful, but the majority of the people learning their way toward that artform still produces pictures that would be oh so much better in the genuine SL environment. Needless to say, morphs give me a headache.
I also absolutely adore pictures where something seems to be happening. I know in mainstream the standing in the middle of the picture against studio background is important to show off the outfits and the pictures are mostly just about the items, but I have always felt that to blog fantasy you are also blogging spirit. You create characters, moments, stories.
I would also like to remind everyone that these are all of course my personal preferences. They have nothing to do with some other event coordinator’s requirements nor are they any sort of official blogger scale, simply the preferences for the events where I coordinate the bloggers. You should never take this kind of things as a measure of self-worth nor too seriously. This is a hobby and a form of creative self-expression and like all creative works they do not appeal to everyone. As long as they appeal to you and bring you joy, that is what matters.
I also make exceptions. The scales get balanced by many factors, but these are the main answers to that question “Why not?”.
The above has been my main response to “Why not?” for many years now, but as I go through the blogger applications now, I realize there are several things that were not addressed, nor were they relevant at the time. Blogging trends and styles change as a whole, and therefore new explanations need to be added.
I would like to point out that since Fantasy Faire is a Relay For Life event, it is therefore by default a PG event. I myself am from Finland, and don’t consider nudity automatically sexual, and tend to have less strict views on that part of PG requirements, but many of the merchants don’t hold similar views, and if you blog review copies, their opinions matter. Do bear that in mind. I personally worry less about innocent nudity, like mermaid nip slips (why would they ever wear a bra anyway?) than theoretically-PG-with-all-the-bits-covered while clearly having sex type of PG-breaking. I have similar views about PG when it’s about violence. Fantasy is full of heroic moments and combat and struggle, feel free to pick up swords and charge against the Unweaver, but try to stay away from areas that glorify suffering. A hero can be injured and in pain, but they will triumph in the end. Hope will prevail. It is all about action and context, not about what is visible or used in the picture. Not about the wearables, tools or props, but the meaning and message you convey.
That said I also have to state that since I list the bloggers and their blogs on Fantasy Faire’s website for everyone to see, and for merchants to check through if they so wish, if the very first thing I see when I open your blog is xxx-rated smut story in words and pictures, I am closing the tab right away. That does not mean that only 100% PG bloggers would get in, of course not. We do have plenty of bloggers who create riskier pictures and posts around the year, but turn to less adult versions for Faire, and that is fine. However, that whole first impression of your blog does count. Look at your blog and imagine you’re a Faire merchant looking for a blogger to showcase their wares. Would you pick yourself to do that based on what you see?
Another thing that I sort of don’t quite understand I have to explain is: “Blogging is not just taking pictures and posting them in Flickr.” Yes, taking beautiful pictures is the foundation of good blogging, but anyone can do that (picture quality varying), anyone can go to the Fairelands, have a wonderful time and post pictures from there. That does not make one a blogger. Blogging requires spreading information, adding credits, writing things. If the blogger’s chosen style is review copy blogging, it is fine if all they do is credits and slurls, but they do need to be there. That is the separation line between taking pretty portraits of your latest look and blogging that look. The blogger tells the viewer how to create that look, what they are wearing, where to get it, adds slurls to events, offers information. That said, you don’t need a blog-blog if you offer all that information in Flickr, but the information does need to be available somewhere. That is pretty much the whole point.
I do also encourage and accept bloggers who can opt out of review copies and blog only the event itself. Well, events. In plural, for the Faire is full of events. In these cases there’s no need for credits about what you are wearing (although if you bought something from the Faire and it’s in the picture, a mention would be appreciated!), but that does not mean you can just post pictures in Flickr and call it a day. The very least there should be basic information: the picture is from Fantasy Faire, how long it’s open, and the slurl to the location. Additional writing warmly encouraged, but at least the event’s basic information should be mentioned. Bloggers are the Heralds of the Fairelands, the ones summoning other people over: if there is no slurl or information that’s not much of heralding.
It’s also good to remember that Fantasy Faire is an old event, and we absolutely could run it with the bloggers who have been with us for years. There is very few spots for new people. If you did not get chosen this year, and are planning to apply next year, stand out from the crowd and show me how you would blog Fantasy Faire. Go to the Fairelands, take pictures there, make a Flickr album or blog category, some easy way to show the whole thing to me with one click. Write. Add slurls, add information, do everything you would imagine you’d do if you were an official Faire blogger. Obviously I’m not saying ‘go broke shopping for things that official bloggers get as review copies’, there’s plenty of ways to blog the Faire without buying anything. Make fantasy characters with things you already own, go take pictures in the Fairelands, credit the look and slurl the location. If you enjoy writing, write! Stories, impressions, ramblings from the Fairelands while dancing on the deck of the FaireChylde, it all works out!
I’m not promising I’ll automatically accept anyone doing that, but at least that would be a complete 100% ‘show, don’t tell’ and I could immediately see how you would blog the Faire, instead of having to guess.
Last year I did a post series called Blogger Highlights, and I warmly recommend checking them through for excellent example material.