My 2024 Calendar - how it's made!
Hi everyone! After a jam packed summer, I am finally home for a while, and I’m really happy to share that I’m releasing a 2024 cosplay calendar!
Some of you have already pre-ordered it - y’all are truly amazing - but I want to get the word out and encourage more folks to get a copy!
I wanted to write a blog about what it's like to produce a calendar in general and how the 2024 calendar came together! (I also selfishly hope this post will convince you to purchase a calendar because printing costs have gone up a lot and I have to sell more stock to recoup the production investment. Thank you in advance!)
Yaya Calendars through the Years
I have been producing an annual calendar since 2013 and it’s one of my favorite projects to work on every year! I get to plan photo shoots and pick out costume photos that suit each month, create a cohesive collection of my best work, and I collaborate with an awesome graphic designer who makes each calendar look so aesthetic and pretty!
In over a decade, I only skipped making a calendar twice.
2020 didn't have a calendar because I was writing a book in 2019 and traveling like crazy during the last few months of that year.
And 2023 didn't have a calendar because I focused all of my time and energy on designing a sewing machine haha.
Many of you may not know this, but as an independent artist/business owner, the end of the year slows down quite a bit with fewer or no conventions and not nearly as many paid opportunities. My annual calendar is a vital income source that helps my business get through to the next convention season. So if you enjoy my cosplays and want to support me, buying a calendar is HUGELY appreciated!
So how does the calendar making process work?
Taking photos for the calendar
Since I produce an annual calendar, whenever I make a new costume or plan a big photoshoot, I think about the kind of image that would work in a calendar layout. I use vertical photos because they show off my costumes nicely!
Brian Boling shoots most of my photos so during photoshoots, we always make sure to take lots of vertical shots. Then, while I'm selecting photos, I set aside a few vertical shots for calendar use and don't publish them so they are exclusive to the calendar.
This doesn't work all the time, especially when I work with other photographers who might want to publish their favorite shots from a photoshoot. But I at least make sure to only use photos for the calendar that are not available as a signed print so you can only get a physical copy of that image when you buy a calendar.
Also want to note that all my calendar photos are SFW since I want people to be able to hang them anywhere, in their living room, kitchen or office!
Examples of photos we shot specifically for the calendar
After collecting a bunch of photos, I select the images for the cover, months and back cover. I put a lot of thought into matching the right costume to the right month, considering things like seasons, holidays and themes. A summer month gets a summery costume or picture, October is always fun because I can choose a horror or villain character, and if I have a great photo to represent Valentine's Day or the end of the year, I always put them in the appropriate months!
For 2024, I selected the demon Daki for October (Halloween) and a festive New Year's Eve picture of Ningguang for December!
This part is always so fun!
I work with graphic designer David Terres on the calendar layouts and will send him all the selected images in high resolution. With those, he designs a few variations of the cover first.
For 2024's calendar, I knew I wanted to use a Belle photo because that costume is one of my all time favorites! I sent David two Belle photos as cover options:
David chose the one with the skirt flying in the wind, which was one of the very last shots of that day! He created three cover options for me to select from! Let me tell you, opening that email and looking through the cover layouts is always such an exciting day for me! I'm amazed every time at David's design skills. Here are the 3 cover options I received for 2024:
I ended up choosing this one with the swirly graphic element!
Once the cover graphic is decided upon, David creates a custom layout for each month, following the cover theme and graphic elements. For the 2024 calendar, really love the swirls running through each picture and how nice the month boxes look!
This is not a copy/paste template, y'all, we make a custom designed layout each year! David Terres is a fantastic designer and puts a lot of effort into making each calendar look polished and beautiful, and I make sure to pay him fairly!
The photos I selected versus how they look in the calendar layout
We also take a lot of care into creating the back cover and the profile on the last page. I will sneak peek these elements for the 2024 calendar soon!
I want to remark that we purposefully leave out holiday markings or extra text on the month pages because I want my calendar to be enjoyed globally and holidays are specific to each country. We put a lot of effort into the design of the calendar so it can be visually pleasing in any room and that's why I don't add blurbs of texts to the pages.
For years I have been using a remote printer and I have to order a pallet full to get a decent wholesale price. I do take a hit on the freight shipping but they can get a pallet of calendars to my door in 3 weeks. This gives me more time to shoot costumes during the year. I try to collect all images by September and finalize the layout with David by beginning of October. This gives us 1 month to print and inventory physical calendars, and me a few days to sign pre-orders before we start shipping in November.
For those who want to produce a calendar, the best practice is to make a small run with a local printer (yes, pay a bit more) and gauge interest the first year. If your audience loves buying calendars from you, I suggest planning the next one early in the year and look into overseas printing with sea freight delivery. If you can wait 30 - 60 days for physical copies to arrive, you can save a bunch of money by printing in Asia.
Just remember that calendars have a limited sale window so you want to start promoting your calendar in September or October already!
Various calendar signing days throughout the years
If you have read this far, I hope you will consider ordering a calendar! They also make for great unique Christmas gifts!
Many of you may not know this, but as an independent artist/business owner, the end of the year slows down quite a bit with fewer or no conventions and not nearly as many paid opportunities. My annual calendar is a vital income source that helps my business get through the slow season onto the next convention season.
There has been a world wide paper shortage and printing costs have gone up exponentially, but I am trying to keep the calendar at the same $29.99 price point for now. It is very important that we sell through as much of the stock as possible, and I have quite a bit riding on the 2024 calendar specifically because it will determine if it is worth it for me to continue producing them. I usually don't push sales this hard but my production costs are much higher this time and I am giving up on some travel opportunities to stay put and sign calendars so they can be shipped in time for the new year.