Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Book Promotion - Part 1

This is the last stage of the book writing process, after spending so long writing and editing your book you need to convince people to buy it.  No matter how great your book is unless people know it exists it won't get purchased.

Mary Ellingham from Search Press
Most publishers have their own marketing staff whose job is to promote their books.  However they are promoting many other books at the same time so your book will not be their sole focus.  Whereas for you the author it is, meaning you can put more time and effort into the promotion than they can.  After spending so much time working on the book it seems silly to not put the effort into promoting it too.  Although I do have to admit by that stage having just re-read the book several times over whilst editing I was feeling a little sick of it.  But you only have one launch so you have to make the most of it no matter how tired you are by then.

Search Press have a lovely PR called Mary, and I told her from the outset that I wanted to work with her on promoting my book and not just leave it all to her.  Luckily she was more than happy with and we have worked closely to make sure we are not duplicating work and contacting the same people, and she gave me a lot of autonomy to set up reviewers and giveaways etc without having to refer back to her on every little thing.

I understand from friends of mine who have written books with other publishers that not all PR's are as friendly and helpful and sometimes you have to go at it alone without knowing what the publisher is doing which is obviously a lot more difficult.

The 1st press review of my book

How to promote the book

So onto the how, I tried several different methods of promoting the book.

- Blogger reviews and/or giveaways
- Magazine giveaways or reviews
- Book launch party
- Writing free content for magazines or sites/blogs to promote the book
- Social media promotion
- Facebook Adverts

Blog promotion

I'm not going to lie, it is very time consuming, lots of e-mails to and fro.  For the bloggers I went through a mental list of who I know, and who has the ideal audience to promote the book.  I drew up a spreadsheet I contacted all of them by e-mail (individually not an impersonal group e-mail) to ask if they could work with me in some way to help promote the book, offering them review copies, free content or giveaway copies. Once I'd gotten all their responses, details of what they could do to help promote the book and their address I sent it all over to Mary at Search Press so she could ship the books out.

I have to say I feel very uncomfortable approaching people asking them to do what is essentially a favour to me.  I wanted to make sure they got something out of it, so copies of the book, free content and social media promotion from me.  I've been sharing the features and giveaways so help send traffic back to the people who featured the book.  As someone who doesn't like to ask other people for anything it was quite a big hurdle for me to overcome to ask people to promote the book for me.

Giveaway and review on Lily's Quilts

I have to say I am so pleased and grateful to all those who did, the sewing community really got behind and helped me to spread the word, sending my book straight to the top of the Amazon chart I am in (Starting a Small Business), and even now almost 2 months later it is still top 3, holding steady at number 2 most days.  I couldn't have done that without everyone who shared the news about my book and their lovely reviews.

I actually feel like it has helped me build my bond with many people, and has lead to me making several new contacts along the way so in hindsight I'm really glad I did it despite feeling uncomfortable asking for help in the beginning.

Made it to number one!

I started contacting bloggers around 3 months before the book came out, and then they started posting about the book about a week before the book went on sale and some are still posting now and I've got some guest posts lined up for the new year.  I didn't want to do a blog tour as I think they can sometimes be a bit artificial.  I wanted people to be free to feature it how and when they wanted so it was a more natural spread of posts rather than 1 solid week of everyone blogging about the book.

Some people featured it on their blog, some on their social media and others on both.  There was no strict schedule of who would post when. I left it to them to do it how they saw fit and to say whatever they wanted to say.  There's nothing worse than when you see several 'cut straight from the press release' posts about a book. 


When it comes to magazines I was lucky that I write for many sewing and craft titles so I already had a lot of contacts.  Plus the magazines are the first place most publishers go to promote their books so they contacted those that I didn't have contacts at. 

I've managed to get interviews and features in more magazines than I can count!  Including Sewing World, Craftseller, Craft Business, Craft Focus. Making Jewellery, Love Sewing, Workbox, Inside Crochet, Pretty Patches, Sew Magazine... Plus more coming up in the new year like Quilt Now, The Beadworkers Guild Magazine and new features in a few of those named above.

However, for most of those magazines I wrote free features in exchange for promotion, most magazines like to have unique content (rather than an extract from the book which another magazine might use too).  I lost count of how many features I wrote but I do recall writing 12 in one day!    Also do bear in mind that time spent writing their features is time I'm losing money, instead of writing paid features for magazine at around £100 each I wrote well over 20 free of charge.  So although I managed to secure a lot of press coverage, the book sales it will generate is nowhere near the amount of money I could have earned getting paid for the writing.

Feature in the current issue of Pretty Patches

However, it did ensure that thousands of people have heard of my book, and hopefully a decent percentage of those will buy it.  Plus it introduced my site to many people who may not have come across it otherwise.  In the first month after my book came out the traffic to The Sewing Directory jumped by 30,000 visitors so if you are viewing your book as a PR exercise it does pay to get the magazine coverage as well as blog promotion.  If you are in it for the money you would probably want to limit the writing for free and just see if they could do a news post or giveaway instead.

Given that this post has become so long I'll continue is in a second blog post on Friday.

PS. Whilst we're talking about promotion there is still time to order my book and get it for Christmas!  There is currently 30% off on Amazon, click on the pic below to be taken to Amazon.

Hope you've found this post useful, and see you for part 2 on Friday.

If you'd like to read my other posts about my book writing experience find them here. 

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Meeting Zandra Rhodes

Back in October I got a very exciting invitation from my site sponsors Coats Crafts to meet their new fabric designer...none other than Zandra Rhodes!   Obviously I jumped at the chance and took my good friend Julia from Sew Curvy Corsets along to take photos whilst I was interviewing Zandra.   Please note that all the photos below are the copyright of Julia Bremble and cannot be used without her permission.

Me and Zandra
Zandra has just launched her first fabric collection with Coats Crafts, called Lace Mountain.  It was inspired by her trip to Ayers Mountain.  As with her clothing collections it is bold and bright, I love the blue and red colourway pictured below. 

Plus have you seen the quilted bathmat project on my site made with Zandra's fabrics?
Quilted Bathmat Project

As you may be aware Zandra owns the Fashion & Textile Museum in London, and she lives in a big penthouse apartment above, plus one floor is her studio which is where we were invited to meet Zandra.

The first thing that caught our eye as we entered the building was the amazing floor in the entrance!  It had beautiful crystals in it and sparkled and glittered as you walked through.

We then walked up a few flights of stairs to enter Zandra's vibrant studio, the pictures below show you around her studio space.

As you can see much like the lady herself the studio was an explosion of colour and almost like a gallery with quirky works of art scattered throughout.  I particularily liked the 'Z' chandelier which was designed especially for Zandra by her friend Andrew Logan.

I also rather liked this amazing mirrored artwork on her wall.

The stunning quilt you can see over a screen there was made by Stuart Hillard of The Great British Sewing Bee fame, using Zandra's fabric collection.

I then sat down with Zandra to interview her for Love Sewing Magazine.  The interview appears in issue 8 of the magazine which goes on sale this week.   I have to admit I was feeling a little intimidated about meeting such an icon, Zandra is the most famous person I have interviewed.  But I am happy to report that she was absolutely lovely and immediately put me at ease, it was like chatting with a friend rather than a formal interview and the time flew by.  I was rather sad when it came to an end.  When our time was up she kindly offered to pose for pictured with us both, my picture is at the top of the feature and below is Julia with Zandra plus a shot of Zandra alone.

Whilst I was chatting with Zandra Julia got to have a good look around and went outside to explore the roof garden.

I have to say it was a pretty epic day, one which I will always remember.  Meeting Zandra was a great experience, plus getting the chance to catch up with Julia too was brilliant.  Before we went to meet Zandra we had lunch in the Fashion and Textile Museum cafe with with lovely Claire-Louise from Thrifty Stitcher (the brains behind The Great British Sewing Bee), she had some very exciting news which will be coming out next year.  Do keep an eye on her blog or social media to be kept updated!

Oh and one last picture, I took my book along to show people as it was just before the book went on sale so we got a little pic of my book in her studio - that pretty much makes it famous doesn't it? ;)

So don't forget if you'd like to read the full interview with Zandra look for issue 8 (Jan issue) of Love Sewing on sale tomorrow I believe.

All images © Julia Bremble

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Life gets harder for small businesses

I'm sure most of you have now heard about the new VAT rules which are sadly affecting so many businesses in our community.  If you haven't find out more here, essentially these rules mean that from the 1st of January small businesses selling digital products (such as patterns, e-books, e-courses etc) to anyone in the EU will be compelled to VAT register, regardless of how small their turnover.  The hassle of having to submit VAT accounts quarterly, and having to increase prices by 20% to cover the VAT has meant that many small businesses have taken the decision to close down, close aspects of their business or cancel their expansion plans.

Fat Quarterly Magazine will be taking a hiatus

Fat Quarterly Magazine will be suspending sales from 31st Dec, so if you have your eye on any back issues grab them quick.

U-Handbag will be closing her pdf pattern site down.

Numerous sewing, knitting and crochet designers are saying that they too will have to close down.

I have had to put my plans for running craft business e-courses in 2015 on hold.

All in all this is very bad news for our industry, even if you do not sell digital products I'm sure many of you use them.  You will suddenly find that from January onwards there will be a big reduction in the number of pdf patterns available.  Those that are still available will most likely have to increase their prices so it will cost you more to buy.  The creative world as we know it will change, and I suspect not for the better.   There's a petition here you could sign to encourage them to introduce a lower limit to keep smaller business exempt.

Then following on from this news Facebook have just announced that from January they will be reducing the reach of posts which they consider promotional, any about giveaways, products available for purchase etc  Making it even harder for businesses to reach their page fans, fans who have joined their page because they want to know the latest news and offers from that company.   So for those who do manage to keep trading despite the VAT rules they are going to have to work even harder to get news of their new products, offers, giveaways etc to their customer base.

I have decided to now run my website giveaways 3 weekly rather than fortnightly, to allow more people time to find the details of my competitions and enter before the deadline.  You can always find the latest giveaway on the news section of my site.  You can also join my newsletter (sign up here) and I will let you know the details of the current giveaway, and details for the next giveaway too so you don't miss it.  Plus details of any offers, new products, fabric sales etc from my customers, new projects and content on the site and industry news.

2015 is going to be a tough year for small craft businesses so please do help them out as much as you can.  Tell your friends about them, visit their Facebook pages if you don't see any updates for a while, buy from them where possible and help keep our community growing and thriving. 

If you run a small business yourself this cartoon from Dave Walker gives a great summary of your options.

Monday, 24 November 2014

A year of handmade gifts?

I wonder if any of you would like to join me in a challenge I'm setting myself next year?  Every Christmas I keep thinking ought to make gifts for people, and then I run out of time and end up buying them instead!

So I've decided in 2015 I want to make handmade gifts, every month of the year (some for birthdays and some to save up for Christmas). I want to tackle a different gift each month so that throughout the year I can give people handmade presents, and by the end of the year I will have some ready made for Christmas gifts.

I have lots of ideas of the things I want to make, but just never seem to get the time.  So by spreading it over the year, and trying several different projects the theory is I should end up giving a lot more handmade gifts that I have any other year.

The cushion pictured above is a cushion I made for my mum's 60th birthday.  I bought vintage fabrics from the decade she was born, so they were as old as she was, and made them into this patchwork design so it showed off all the different fabrics well.   She loved not only the fact that I had made her something, but the thought behind it.  Ideally I want to make thoughtful gifts for people, not just any present.

Some of the ideas I have so far include a fabric book cover for mother's day. I'm thinking to replace the middle strip of fabric with one that I have embroidered to personalise it, and a baby quilt for my best friend who is having a baby in March.  So those I will probably make in the Jan & Feb, beyond that I haven't quite decided yet.

So would anyone like to join me with a goal of making one handmade gift a month?  We could share suggestions and link up every quarter to show what we've been making.   Please do comment below and let me know if you'd like to join in.

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