Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Feature on Sew Mama Sew and giveaway!

I am very excited today for 2 reasons, firstly my book is charting in the US.  Not particularly high yet, number 79 in reference books on but I'm still excited nonetheless I wasn't sure whether it would make any kind of splash over there or not.  It only went on sale in the US and Canada yesterday so I'm hoping it's going to build over time.

The second reason is that an article I wrote for Sew Mama Sew has been published!  You can read it here, they are also giving away 5 copies of my book too.   I wrote about the sense of isolation you can experience when working from home alone, something I'm sure many of you can relate to.

As well as all that excitement I have also had a really busy few days shooting photos for a whole set of new tutorials for the site, techniques guides.  There will be guides to different hem and seam techniques, pressing tips, sewing tips from an expert stitcher, a guide to hand stitching stitches, a guide to machine stitches and some alterations tutorials. 

I'm going to be busy editing photos and uploading the tutorials for the next couple of weeks and then I'm going to put the live 1 per week over the next 3 months. 

I'd love to know what sewing techniques you'd like to see featured in the future, please do comment below and let me know and I'll see if I can get them into the next lot I do.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Year of Handmade Gifts

Hello everyone, welcome to 2015!  I realised at the end of last year that as with every year I planned to make several people handmade gifts, even bought the fabric ready and then never got around to it so I decided this year I will aim to make 1 handmade gift a month and share my progress through my blog.

I'd love to have you sew a long with me, making your own handmade gifts too so please do either post links to what you have been making in the comments section each month or come and join the Facebook group I've set up.  I thought we could share our pictures, links to useful projects, ideas and inspiration in the Facebook group.  Do feel free to nab the image above to use on your blog and link back to this post for anyone who wants to join in.

I've decided I'm not going to be too strict with myself so will aim for 12 handmade gifts in the year, but not necessarily 1 made each month.  I'm sure there will be some months I might manage 2-3 and other months where I don't manage any.  So as long as it averages out to 1 per month I'll be happy.

This is the last handmade gift I made, a pin cushion and needle book set for a secret santa I held at my sewing group.  I'm sad to say that is the only handmade gift I managed last Christmas and even then it was a last minute rush! I was so busy with book promotion I didn't have chance to make anything else.

I'm going to star the year off by making a baby quilt for my best friend who is due to have her first baby in March, a little girl.  My friend is obsessed with pink so I'm sure the baby's room will be very pink!  So I'm planing to use the fabrics above, the new V & A collection - Bhandari, to make the quilt as the purples will go well with pink plus it has pink in the prints.

I'll probably mix in some pink and purple Kona solids, any will probably leave out the turquoise print as it doesn't quite fit the colour scheme.  The fabrics aren't in the shops yet but will be on sale shortly. I am going to try and write a tutorial for the site whilst I make the quilt, just deciding on the design.  It will be pretty simple, either squares or I was considering bricks like a brick wall kind of look.

Then after the quilt I need to start thinking of something for mother's day.  I made these gifts for my mother in law a couple years ago and she loved them.  I'm considering personalised notebook covers for this year maybe.

So will you be taking the handmade gift pledge in 2015?   If so do comment below and let me know what you plan to start with or come join the conversation in the Facebook group.

Monday, 22 December 2014

A look back on 2014

Well what a crazy year 2014 has been, I think I've done more than most people do in 3 years in this year.  It started off very stressful with my son just out of hospital after an operation on his throat, my husband in hosptital for 2 weeks, me finishing off writing my book and putting my house on the market....and that was just January!

It only got more manic from then, The Sewing Directory got super busy whilst The Great British Sewing Bee was airing.  I was busy interviewing many of the contestants, and writing up the supplies and techniques featured in the show (find them here).

Editing with my red pen (just like school!)

At the same time I sold my house, started packing up and getting ready to move and then the sale fell through!  All of this was going on whilst editing my book, reading the 240+ pages over and over again to make sure every little thing was right.  I've been blogging about the whole book writing process here if you'd like a look.

The house had to go back on the market but luckily we found another buy fairly quickly, although we had to take quite a big financial hit.  But on the plus side by the end of May we moved from Cardiff to Devon, city life to country life.  It was quite a big lifestyle change but I am really enjoying it, we're loving having our own garden to grow veg (pictured below).

Half of our back garden before we planted veg
Also in my new house I now have sewing room which is in the house.  In the old place it was in the garage which was cold and a bit damp (I had to wash my whole stash when I moved!), now it's half of my bedroom so I can easily sew whenever I feel like it and I'm surrounded by my stash!

There's a post about my sewing room, with photos here.

My new sewing room

By the time we moved and unpacked it was the summer, most of which was spent entertaining visitors and exploring our new area.  Although I did squeeze in a trip to the Festival of Quilts too which was brilliant, I did buy a large amount of fabric whilst there (blogged here)!  Also in the summer my book went to print so I had to start on the promotion to ensure people would be talking about the book in October when it went on sale.   Plus start of the summer I set up a new website to accompany the book, full of business guides and advice for craft businesses:

My haul from FOQ!

The autumn and the winter of 2014 was pretty much taken up with the book, all the PR, the book going on sale, the book hitting number 1 on the Starting a Business chart on Amazon!  I also managed to squeeze in a trip to London to meet the amazing Zandra Rhode and talk about her new fabric collection.  Do take a look at the stunning pics of her studio here.

Me and Zandra
On top of all that I was of course still running The Sewing Directory, and freelancing for many magazines.  The Sewing Directory has grown hugely this year with around 50 new businesses listed plus a large amount of new content.  Some of the most popular includes the brilliant bag making series, Lauren Guthrie's guide to making thermal lined curtains, Lorna Knight's tips for accurate fitting and the beginner's guide to cross stitch.  Plus there were over half a million unique visitors to the site this year. I also managed to blog quite a lot this year, this post is now my 300th post on this blog!

It has been a whirlwind of a year, I'm not quite sure how I managed to fit it all in.  To be honest it has been very stressful and exhausting but I did manage to get a lot done.  I'm hoping that 2015 will be much more relaxing!

The one thing I really didn't get much time for last year was sewing, my list of projects that I want to sew has grown hugely and I barely managed one or 2 things of the list.  So next year's plan is to sew much more.  I'm setting myself the challenge of sewing one handmade gift per month for 2015, if anyone wants to join in and blog their progress throughout the year please do.  I've blogged about it here and will set up a Facebook group for it in the new year where we can share projects, photos and ideas.

So how was your 2014?  What have you got planned for 2015?

Friday, 19 December 2014

Book Promotion - Part 2

As promised this is the second part of my post on book promotion, find the first part here.

Facebook Advertising

The only form of paid advertising I did for my book was Facebook advertising.  I was promoting the book on my Facebook page anyway so I decided to pay to boost a couple of the posts and ran one sidebar advert too.

I spent just over £5 on the sidebar advert and got 228 clicks through to the book listing on Amazon so I thought that was well worth the money.  If even 10-20% of those people bought the book it would have lead to 22-44 sales.

I think I spent about £12 on boosted posts as well, so in total £17 on advertising.  I think I might run another sidebar ad in the future for the book, you can target it very precisely to people who like crafts and business.

Facebook advert

Social Media Promotion

I used all my social media platforms to promote the book several times in the week of the launch and around once a week after that.  I shared pictures of the book on Facebook and Instagram, I pinned it to Pinterest and tweeted about it.  I also retweeted or shared reviews, offers and giveaways of the book on social media too.

The one thing I was a little wary of was overdoing the social media promotion, I didn't want to be going on about it all the time and boring my followers so I tried to make sure I spaced the posts out well and still posted lots of useful content in between.  There's a fine line between sharing your news and spamming people with it.

I'm hoping I got the balance right, no one has complained about me posting so much about the book so that's a good sign!  Luckily most the people reviewing the book, and many of the people who bought the book also posted about it on social media so I think plenty of people will have seen it and become aware of the fact the book exists.

Books piled up at the launch party

Launch party

The launch party is something I was a little unsure about whether to do.  I don't really like being centre of attention, and I know from having run sewing meetups it takes a lot of planning.  I got a few offers to do ones several hours away from Devon in big cities, but I declined.   By the time I considered travel, hotel, providing food & drinks for the party etc it would have cost me more than half my advance.  Although I didn't write this book expecting to make lots of money I still wanted to keep some money to compensate for all the time and effort that went into it. I can see that you can quite easily spend your entire advance promoting the book and buying copies for yourself (I got 6 for free which were soon handed out to family members).

Then in the summer I was chatting with a friend on Facebook who runs a local sewing shop, Jenna from The Exeter Sewing Machine Company and she suggested we team up for the launch.  Jenna's shop is only 45 mins away from me, and also close to my family and friends which meant it would be easy for them to get to so we decided to go ahead with it.

Launch party goodie bags

It took about 3 months of planning (most of it in the last month) to sort out where and when, and to get things for the amazing goodie bags (see my post here about the party itself & the goodie bags).  We also had to promote the event on social media and locally to make sure people came along. It did get a bit stressful as the night approached making sure everything was ready, and we were unsure how many people would come as many didn't RSVP which made it difficult to calculate how much food and drink to buy. But in the end we had over 60 people and the night was a big success.  It was great to meet so many new people in the area who also run creative businesses, plus many of my friends from my sewing group in Exeter came along too.

I've made a couple of new friends thanks to the launch and that was definitely worth more than book sales. :)

So as you can see a huge amount of work goes into promoting a book and what I've written about is just what I've done, the publishers have also done a lot of work promoting it too.  I never realised when thinking about writing a book that there was so much work after the actual writing was finished.   I guess until you've done it once you don't know the full extent of what is involved, which is why I have written this series to share my experience with you all.

It's not over yet though.... no I'm not about the announce another book! Now that the majority of the UK promotion is done it's now time to focus on America.  My book is published on the 13th of January in the US & Canada so it's back to the start on the promotion cycle again.  It will be a lot harder this time as I have much less contacts outside of the UK, but I still want to give it my best and do what I can to make my book succeed. 

I also just realised it's now exactly 2 years since I came up with the idea for my book and starting drafting the plan and setting up meetings with publishers.  What a busy 2 years it has been!

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