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.
I check you out daily. I enjoy your blogs. Pretty neat also to get attention from the peop, you mentioned. Keep up the good work. By the way I have a complete mint on card super powers collection I’d be willing to share pictures of if your ever looking for a collector to spot light.
Thanks for stopping by Richard. At times it feels like only 12 people ever visit me here because they faithfully and regularly leave comments, but my stats show otherwise. 😉
I would love to show off your Super Powers collection. I know a few folks who would be drooling over those pictures (myself included). You can do full collector profile here:
Or, just send me an email with the pictures attached and I’ll put them up on the site for others to see. This is exactly the kind of thing I’d like to do more often! Thanks again!
Poe Ghostal says
Interesting post, Brian! You’ve inspired me to write one of my own.
Regarding revenue sources…oddly enough, over the last few months I’ve been doing surprisingly well with Amazon. Twice in the last four months, my Amazon affiliate cash has rivaled that of my monthly advertisers’. (Of course, the other two times it was nearly nil, but still…)
Personally I’d love to get eBay as an affiliate, but they turned me down the last time I tried. I’d be curious to know how exactly you work with them. They didn’t explain exactly why they turned me down, they just gave me a list of the usual reasons they turn people down.
Hey Poe, I look forward to reading the state of Poe Ghostal!
It’s funny but just about 100% of my Amazon revenue has come from a single post, one where I wrote about how to dress up as Breaking Bad’s Walter White. If I was more money-driven, I should have learned from that and written more posts like it!
The eBay Partner Network is a strange affiliate program. I honestly don’t have any idea of how they determine the amount they pay out. I’ve heard of people having difficulty getting approved and others being dropped for no reason. I don’t know the secret formula since I was approved without a problem. I do know that when I sent them a ton of traffic one day after writing about the top 10 most expensive action figures, they shut me down for a week, thinking I was generating fraudulent links. So, any money I may have earned that week was kept in eBay’s pockets, until I contacted them and they started tracking the earnings again. It seems like doing something right that sends them traffic, isn’t necessarily what they’re looking for.
Poe Ghostal says
Well! That sounds like a headache I might as well avoid. The nice thing about Amazon is that it takes a lot for them to get jumpy. As long as people are buying stuff (and not returning it), they don’t really care where the traffic comes from.
I wouldn’t abandon eBay altogether, because their payouts can be good for sites like ours where people need to shop there since the items might be vintage or exclusives that aren’t really sold in stores.
Keep up the good work! The League really helped me get some readers and is a great avenue for Newbies like me to make some connections and learn the ropes. I tried Adsence, Bidvertizer and the lot but it added up to nada and only added annoyance trying to open my pages. A big site like your might get somethin out of it but I’ve resigned myself to my 40 hour to make money.
I’ve tried plenty of affiliate networks for this site and others, and it really does take some effort to figure out what works–I’m still trying!
I’m still with you and the 40-hours. It would be a dream to work on Cool & Collected for 40 hours a week as the main source of income, but that’s a goal I think I’ll be working towards for a while yet. 😉
Fong Sam says
Keep it up, Brian. Always follow your passion and do what you like. Everything else will take care of itself.
Thanks Fong! I am “following my bliss” like some other fine folks I know. 😉
Hey thanks so much for the shoutout! I am sure the league has garnered new readers myself. I am such a blogging newbie that I had no idea one could make money doing it. I wonder how that would work in ole Mexico…Thanks to you dear sir! This blogging thing is awesome to do. Thanks for starting the league and being an inspiration to us all!
Oh yeah…Forgot! Come on down for some cold beer!
I’m on my way. 😉
By having a physical business tied in with an online presence, you’re in an excellent position to make money with your site–if not directly, than indirectly. I mean, how many other Mexican bars are known about worldwide! 😉 Through the League and your other online efforts, you are generating future customers that will seek you out the next time we head across the border.
One of these days when I open a brick and mortar business–maybe my “Simians in Cinema” museum–I’ll be asking you for advice. 😉
John (Batcave Toy Room) says
Great Post Brian! I love reading personal posts like these and learning more about the authors. A format I’ve been working on at my own site. You and I lead such parallel lives and I find it very interesting. I am glad to know I am not the only one trying to balance bliss with the 40 hour a week grind. Looking forward to what the future has in store.
Thanks John! I often kid Reis about he and I being separated at birth, but I think you may in fact have been the triplet. 😉
It’s always enlightening to hear from others about how their blog works within their own lives.
Dex (@Dex1138) says
Start the 80s slow clap for you & the blog
Thanks for the mention.
I can honestly say I don’t know where AEIOU would be if the League didn’t exist. I’ve connected with so many fellow bloggers through it. And the weekly assignments keep things from getting boring even if I skip a few here and there 😉
I’m old enough to realize that more can be accomplished by sharing resources and supporting one another than building walls and tearing each other down–plus it’s a whole lot more fun! Glad the League has helped you with the site, but I was a fan long before the League began. 😉
It was fun trading with you Brian and maybe we can do it again in the future too buddy.
Absolutely! I look forward to it John!
Excellent post! And congrats on Cool & Collected! It’s a wonderful site to visit and through the League I’ve learned about so many other great sites I was unaware of before.
I appreciate the inviting atmosphere you’ve created and am always eager to see what new topics pop up and the other Leaguers responses to them. Thank you, sir, and keep up the great work!
Thanks man, I’ll do my best. 😉
Reis O'Brien says
Brian, you’ve always been a top notch blogger and beyond how much I love your blog, I always look to you for inspiration. Your style of writing, your enthusiasm and consistency have set the bar high for us bloggers, and I have to thank you for giving me something to work towards. Keep up the great work, and I sincerely hope you find a way to make a gazillion dollars doing this!
Now waitaminnit, I thought I was trying to reach the bar you set! 😉 Thanks Reis! Geek Orthodox is one of the reasons I wanted to start writing about items from my own shelves.
I keep looking for the COOL AND COLLECTED show to appear on the TRAVEL/HISTORY/SYFY channel…
Ha! I actually have been approached but nobody wants to see that! 😉
Reis O'Brien says
I wanna see that!
Thanks for everything you do here, Brian!
Cool & Collected is one of the few sites I find time to check on a regular basis. You are a huge inspiration not only to me but I think to a lot of other bloggers as well. If it wasn’t for you I don’t think GeekChunks.Com would have ever even gotten started.
Thanks for the swift kick in the butt to get blogging and keep up the awesome work!
Thanks Jeremy! We’re all in the same boat here, and it really does make it easier when we can lend each other a hand needed. I love the direction Geek Chunks has taken and it’s been fun watching it evolve. We’ll have to do some more collaborating this year.
Thanks! It certainly is a labor of love and like you said it’s a marathon not a sprint. I still plan on going back and doing some of the League posts too, I’ve missed some really great topics. I’d love to collaborate anytime, just let me know!
What a thoughtful post. I’m glad to give the league a whirl! I only write about pop culture once in awhile, but this community is the closest fit I’ve found for my Generation X stuff. Thanks for the opportunity to participate. It’s impressive what you’ve done here and I love your design work including the Big Fish Pond site.
Thanks Jennifer. I hope we see you around the League every now and then. You can reinterpret many of the topics to suit your site better.