Wednesday, 15 October 2014

52 books challenge completed!

As you may have spotted from looking at the tabs across the top of this blog for the last couple of years I have been attempting to read 52 books in a year.  I decided to set myself this challenge at the start of 2013 because I had gone from loving books and reading several per month (or often several per week) to hardly reading any books.

As soon as I started working on the idea of The Sewing Directory it took over my life, I was working 7 days a week and just had no time for any reading.  I had also had a baby a year before I started the directory so by the time the business was launched I had my hands full!

When I blogged about doing this challenge several people said they wanted to join in.  The first year we did it via Twitter but this year we have a lovely Facebook group which has become an online book club.  The other members have encouraged me out of my comfort zone to try authors I never would have normally.
One of the books I tried thanks to others in the group recommending it.  I loved it, it was very moving.

Last year I didn't quite make it to the 52 books, I managed 44.  This year a good 10 weeks before the end of the year I passed 52 books!  In fact I've managed 54 so far and I'm now aiming for over 60.  I feel so proud to have gotten there, especially as not only did I write my own book this year, but I also moved house which was a pretty big ordeal taking a lot of my time and energy.

I don't quite know how I managed to fit it all in!  I think actually part of the reason I've read a lot more is because I've been run down and ill a lot of the year.  Then when too ill to work I read instead.  I've also travelled a lot, by train, so I've read several Kindle books. So next year it would be nice to just read because I'm taking time off for fun, not because of illness. I should make that my goal for 2015.  52 books read whilst healthy...

Friday, 3 October 2014

Who is in the book?

In this post I wanted to tell you about the lovely knowledgeable people who contributed to my book.  I do not claim to be an expert at all things business related so although I have shared my knowledge, and researched lots of topics in depth to cover in the book I wanted to get the experts to add their top tips in. I want to give you as much useful information as possible to help with your business.

At first I wasn't sure about having other people involved, I knew lots of other books did it and I wanted mine to be different.  But then once I started writing I realised that it's good to have a different point of view, or input from someone who has had a different experience of business or who works in a different part of the industry from me. 

Many of my contributors are from within the craft industry such as Tilly sharing her blogging tips, Harriet from Not on The High Street giving advice on making your products stand out on online marketplaces and Kristin from Sew Mama Sew sharing her knowledge on building an online community.

But also I wanted people from outside of the industry who are experts in their own niche subject, such as Ruth former head of SEO at Moz who gave advice on search engine optimisation,  Rebecca the MD and CEO of sharing tips on web design and PR consultant Fran sharing advice on marketing your creative business.

The one thing all the contributors have in common is that I think they all do something well, something which will help those of you running your own businesses.  

Also crafter extraordinaire Perri Lewis (blogger, Guardian craft writer, creative director of Mastered and craft author) has written the foreword for the book.

You can find out about the all the book contributors and read Perri's foreword here.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Promoting the book

You might think that once you have submitted your book to the publishers that the work is over.  If only!  Once the book is written and sent off to be printed you then have to focus on promoting the book.  You want to make sure that once the book is on sale people are talking about it, and will want to buy it.  The publishers do of course promote the book, but if both the author and publishers work together to promote it then you can reach many more people than just leaving it all to the publishers.

I started by building up a list of reviewers, please who would blog about the book or feature it in their magazine and tell their readers about it.  I'm lucky that in the years I've been running The Sewing Directory I've made a lot of friends who volunteered to review the book for me so I quickly built up a big list of reviewers.

SEO series for Craft Business

With the magazines it was a little harder, I wanted to offer them some content to use to promote the book because they are always looking for features.  So by writing for them and giving them free content they are more likely to feature the book. Plus I wanted to have more than just a few lines in a book review section.

The time consuming aspect is that every publication wants something different, and often something that is not just a book excerpt but written especially for them.  So I did spend several days at the start of the summer writing up features which you will see in magazines over the next few months.  They include a 6 part series of SEO for Craft Business which is both in their magazine and on their site (part 1 and part 2), a feature on content marketing and one on free apps to use for your business in Craft Focus, a 2 part feature for Sewing World on selling at craft fairs and some Ask the Expert features for Craftseller.   Plus the CHA-UK will be running some excerpts on their site and have a special discount for their members here.

My first review - in the September issue of Workbox

Review copies of my book have just started being sent out, hopefully I should receive a copy next week, the first time I will have actually seen it as a book and not just a pdf.  My first ever review has just been published in the September issue of Workbox, a needlecraft magazine.

I also got some lovely feedback from freelance journalist Sarah Moolla who writes for several of Immediate Media's craft publications including Craftseller.

She said

'Your book is fantastically useful - informative, clear and well-laid out and right up our readers' street. Very well done to you!'

Which was lovely to hear.  After spending so long writing a book I feel quite nervous about what people will think about it.  After pouring my heart and soul into it I really really want people to not only like it but find it useful.  So I am looking forward to seeing what other people say about it. 

Last but not least on the book PR was planning my launch party! Jenna who runs Exeter Sewing Machine Company kindly offered to host my launch party at her large sewing shop in Exeter.  Through running my sewing group in Exeter I know there is a really vibrant craft community there so I jumped at the chance.

We decided to hold it in mid November.  The book is due to go on sale end of October but just on the very remove off chance that the books arrive in the UK later than expected we wanted to leave a little leaway.  I suggested a Friday evening so we can offer people a drink and they won't have to get up early for work the next day!  I wanted people to be able to come by after work and then have a nice relaxing evening filled with cake, wine and networking with other creatives.   They will have copies of the book available at a discount, plus I can sign them for you.  We will also be having a raffle, and 10% off fabric purchases during the event too so you can stock up whilst you are there.  It would be too tempting to be surrounded by all their lovely fabrics and not be able to buy!

I do hope some of you can make it to the book launch.  If you can it would be great if you could comment below so we can make sure we have enough refreshments for everyone.  Or you can join the Facebook event here.

In the next post I will tell you about the lovely people who have contributed their expert tips to the book, and why I asked them to contribute.

If you'd like to pre-order the book you can find it on Amazon here (with pre-order price guarantee) or on the Search Press website here. 

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Festival of Quilts 2014

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days at the Festival of Quilts.  I have been a couple times in the past, just for a day and found it was never enough time.  So this year I decided to stay in Birmingham Thursday and Friday night so I could have all day Friday and most of Saturday at the show.

Surveying his domain by Lata Narayan

This meant I had enough time to have a proper look at the quilts, as well as fitting in lots of shopping and meeting up with lots of people.  I do have to admit the downside was I spent way more than I ever expected - think maybe I left a bit too much shop time on the schedule!

Paris by Anna-Karin Andermo

The quilts were breathtakingly beautiful, it was worth the extra day to be able to take my time and have a proper look at those. It does make me wish I could find some time to quilt, I felt so inspired by the quilts I saw.  The detail on the quilts was amazing, take a look at this close up of a quilt below called Norfolk by Harriet Wilson.  All those tiny little embroidery stitches.

What was even more amazing was the quilts by primary school children, they totally put my quilting to shame!

The magic of summer nature in my garden made by Mary Elton Primary School in Clevedon

I particularly like quilts (or fabric) with trees or leaves on.  They are my personal favourite.  There was a display of quilts made by countries around Europe. They each picked a season and made mini quilts with their interpretation of that season, below is one of the winter displays, from France.  It did make me realise that you don't have to make a huge quilt, but that in fact a mini quilt would take less materials and a little less time but look just as good, and can be used as a piece of art of hang on the wall.  I've decided I want to have a go at making a mini quilt.  It's on my list of things I want to try for 2015.

I got to meet up with lots of lovely people including Katy from I'm a Ginger Monkey who was there promoting her new magazine Quilt Now,  Sara from Sew Little to Say, Lynne from Lily's Quilts, Jenni from Love Patchwork and Quilting, fabric designer Nel Whatmore, Justine from Simply Solids, Linda from Search Press and many many more. If only I'd had more time to chat. I also got to meet several of my customers and sponsors who were exhibiting there.

Justine, Laura and Lisa on the Simply Solids stand

As for the shopping... it was amazing!  There was stand after stand of beautiful fabrics and lovely accessories, plus textile art and even quilts for sale. I went with good intention, I took £100 cash with me thinking I'd split that over the 2 days.  Of course by the end of day 1 that was gone!  So I took more cash out the next morning, and by the afternoon was buying on the card too.  I'm too scared to add up how much I actually spent in total, it might make me cry!  I was planning to go to the Westpoint show next month but after spending so much at this one I've decided it would be safer for me to stay at home.

My haul!

Above is a picture of my haul, in the back are 3 notebooks, 2 silk painted and one textile art one (I have a notebook addiction as well as a fabric addiction).  Next to them, on the back right, are 2 embroidery kits and some embroidery silks.  Far right is crushed walnut shells (for pincushions) and dried rose petals.  Then pretty much all the rest is fabric, some lovely Japanese fabrics, lots of nature themed ones, trees, leaves, animals etc.

Closer view of the fabrics I bought

Plus some Star Wars and Angry Birds fabrics to make things for my son and husband.  Under all of that lot is an A2 cutting board for my new sewing space, it perfectly fits that desk which is next to my sewing machine. Near the front on the left is some iron on bias for making stained glass style quilts which I fancy having a go at, perhaps one of the mini quilts I plan to make.

So as you can see I got a little carried away...  This is why I should stick to trade shows where I can't buy anything instead of retail shows!  I have no will power when it comes to fabric.

Amy Butler
I forgot to say I saw Amy Butler on the Cotton Patch stand when I was rushing past.  Unfortunately I didn't get chance to meet her but it looked like she was having a great time.

I'll leave you with a few more shots of the stunning quilts that were on display.

Fantasy to reality by Kathleen Matthews

The Frog King by Daniela Pippig

Snowing by Abeer Al-Khammash

The Magic Dream by Vera Skockova

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