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.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The book launch

It's almost a week since the book launch party and I've just about recovered enough to tell you all about it!  It was epic!  I was amazed at how many people came, we struggled to all fit in and there was a queue outside around 30 minutes before the party started which given the wet horrible weather totally blew me away.  It was touching to see how many people came along to support me, thank you so much to everyone who came.

Books at the start of the night

It was great to see piles of my book on display in the shop and even better to see how few were left at the end of the night! The image below is by Sara's Texture Crafts who came along on the night, and then interviewed me on her blog about the book.

End of the night - Image © Sara's Texture Crafts

I was planning to take lots of pictures on the night but it was so busy I barely had time to have a drink let alone take photos.  I did manage a photo of the goodie bags whilst we were packing them before the event.  Plus I've seen several pictures of them on social media and other blogs since, they were amazing!  Gutted I didn't get one!

Contents of the goodie bags

A huge thank you to Search Press, Korbond, Hantex, Coats Crafts, Brother, Janome and the Exeter Sewing Machine Company for donating such lovely goodies. The raffle prizes they kindly donated went down a treat too and we raised £65 for Children in Need.

The best thing about the night was getting to chat to so many other crafters, many of whom were starting up or already running their own businesses. Having only moved to Devon a few months ago it was great to get to meet more people locally who have the same passions I do. I spent the whole evening chatting and signing books, the 3 hours flew by and before I knew it it was time to go home.

I did end up losing my voice so my husband and son had a very quiet weekend afterwards!  But it was well worth the lack of voice and sore throat.  It's a once in a lifetime event for me, and one I will always remember.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Book launch party!

Two posts in 1 week from me, that's a rarity.  But my book launch is sneaking up much faster than I realised and I wanted to share the exciting details.  I have been really touched at how generous companies have been providing fabulous freebies for the goodie bags and raffle prizes.

First of all the where and when, if you click on the image above you'll see full details but it's on the evening on Friday 14th November at The Exeter Sewing Machine Company.  I wanted it to be at the end of the week so everyone could relax and enjoy a few free drinks :-)

It also happens to be the same evening as Children In Need so we will be fundraising for them during the evening.  We have a load of lovely raffle prizes and every £1 donated to charity will give 1 ticket into the raffle, plus you'll get a ticket for any purchases made on the night - and there's a 10% discount!

My book will be available at a discounted price, £9.99 instead of £12.99, plus if you'd like it signed I'll have my pen at the ready.  There will also be lots of crafters, bloggers and creative entrepreneurs there for you to mix with.

Just some of the goodie bag contents...

Best of all thanks to the generosity of Search Press, Hantex, Korbond, Coats Crafts and Exeter Sewing Machine Shop we have the most amazing goodie bags!   There are 50 so it will be first come first served, the event is starting at 6.30 so best to aim for that time if you can.  The contents of the goodie bags are split between me and Jenna at the sewing shop so I'll show you the ones I have..

Haberdashery from Korbond
Haberdashery suppliers Korbond have kindly provided not 1 but 3 gifts for each goodie bag!  Every bag will have the adorable spotty embroidery scissors pictured above, plus a chalk wheel and chalk refills.  Plus if you popover to their Facebook page you can enter their giveaway to win £200 of sewing supplies from their new Creations range.

Beautiful Art Gallery Fabrics from Hantex

My lovely friends at craft distributors Hantex have kindly provided an Art Gallery Fabric pack for every goodie bag.  Each pack contains a fat quarter of one of the new Art Gallery collections plus samples for a couple of the other ranges.  The packs are from several different collections including Katy Jones fabulous Priory Square which isn't on sale until December.   Visit this page for details of where to buy AGF in the UK.

Free craft book for everyone too
My publishers Search Press have kindly provided a free craft book for every goodie bag, yap a whole book with 20 craft projects in.  Part of their popular 20 to Make series.  They have a 3 for 2 offer on the 20 to Make books here.

Raffle prizes
I also have some lovely raffle prizes, craft books from Search Press and a sewing basket from Korbond.

Sewing box from Groves & Banks plus threads from Exeter Sewing Machine Shop  for raffle prizes.

Thread set from Exeter Sewing Machine Shop bag from Groves

A couple of craft ebooks from Vivebooks

There will be lots of Kaffe Fassett goodies too..

Plus Coats Crafts are kindly giving lots of Kaffe Fassett goodies to be included in the bags too plus some raffle prizes. They haven't arrived yet so there are no pictures but they include a fat quarters, spools of thread, postcards, project leaflets.  The bags themselves are being provided by Janome
along with some other goodies. 

Jenna has a few treats at her shop ready to add in.  I won't have everything together until the day of the launch so I'll try to tweet and Instagram some pics as I put the goodie bags together.

I really hope to see you at the launch party.  If you're unable to make it but would like to but the book at a discount there's almost £4 off the cover price here. 

Monday, 3 November 2014

The emotional rollercoaster of writing a book

Now that my book is finally on sale, and has spent it's first week at number 1 in the Starting a Small Business chart (thank you very much everyone for ordering) I wanted to blog about the emotional side of writing a book.  This is something I haven't seen anyone write about, and you don't realise until you go through the process yourself.  Nothing can prepare you for the emotional roller coaster of writing a book.  There are brilliant highs, and stressful lows and overall it's an emotionally draining process.

I'm going to start right at the beginning and describe the emotions that I went through during the whole process right up to publication.  It's a long post but if you are thinking of writing a book please do read it to get a better understanding of what you are signing up for.


The beginning is when you first start to think about writing a book. It may be that a publisher has approached you about writing a book for them or that you yourself have a great idea and want to write it up as a book.

At that time you have a real mix of emotions, excitement at the thought of having a book published,a book out there with your name on it.  Doubt was another big emotion at this stage, you start questioning if you are good enough to write a book.  Are you as good as other authors?  Will your book be a success or a big failure?  Will publishers even like your idea?  Will you have time to write a book?

I've been writing business guides for magazines for years

The doubt started to kick in as soon as I decided I wanted to write a book. It does linger with you throughout the process.  I had to keep telling myself that although I may not know everything if I know more than the person reading the book then that book will be useful for them.  I knew from writing for magazines, and training people that I had knowledge others wanted but it's still hard not to compare yourself to others and think 'do they know more than me?'

Book offer

Once you overcome the doubt enough to speak to publishers about your idea the next big emotional stage was the book offer stage.  I had spoken to the publishers at a trade show and knew they loved the idea, but I had to wait for my proposal to be pitched at an official meeting and be accepted by the whole company.  This felt like the longest wait ever and was really stressful and at times depressing.

Once the contract is signed the exciting work starts

On two different occasions the meeting was postponed and I wasn't aware so I spent days waiting for the phone to ring to tell me the news and it didn't happen.  Then I wasn't sure whether to e-mail or whether that would seem to pushy. Or whether the fact I hadn't been contacted was bad news.  I had friends and family ringing me asking me how it went and I had to tell them I still hadn't heard.  The self doubt definitely kicks back in here!

Both times those 2-3 days of waiting felt like forever, I couldn't sleep properly, couldn't concentrate on work, was rushing for the phone every time it rang.  I'm sure once you've been through the process before it probably isn't the same, but when it's your first book you just get so excited and want to know it's definitely going ahead. By the 3rd time the meeting went ahead and I finally got the news I had been waiting for, my book had been accepted and was going ahead.  I hate to admit it but by the time that news came it was somewhat anticlimactic, the bubble had burst.  I felt like I had used up all my emotional energy the first two times and just had nothing left by the time I finally got it confirmed. It was disappointing as I had imagined that moment being so different.

Then the writing starts...


Once the contract was a signed and sealed excitement is the primary emotion. I was raring to get going, spent hours planning and researching and was really looking forward to the planning meeting with my editor.  I love the process of writing the book even though it was done during a very busy time in my life.  I started it in the summer holidays so had my son at home with me, then I was preparing to sell my house so sorting, de-junking, decorating as well as running The Sewing Directory and writing the book plus both my son and husband were hospitalised in close succession! My son then was off school for a month recovering from an operation and my husband spent 2 weeks in hospital just as my son went back to school

But despite all of that I love writing, if I could spend all day every day writing I would be more than happy.  I liked immersing myself into the topics I was covering, researching, drafting, contacting experts to get their contributions. There's a great sense of satisfaction seeing it all coming together and imagining people reading it.  Even though I had to do the writing in short bursts here and there amongst everything else going on I still enjoyed it.  I'd say my dominant emotion at this stage was happiness, this was definitely the bit I enjoyed the most. This was one of the big highs, especially seeing it all printed up and together for the first time - looking like a book.

Red pen ready for editing!


Once the writing is over it's onto the editing.  This was a much more arduous task than I imagined, probably because my book was almost all text - 90,000 words of it to be precise.  Maybe it's easier when you have lots of photos and less words, but I found reading those 90,000 words over and over was really exhausting and draining.  After a few months of going to and fro with my editor Edd, who I have to say did an amazing job and make my book look great and read brilliantly, I was sick to death of the book.  I felt like I could recite it page for page, I had examined every little word and sentence so much I never wanted to see them again. Wwhen it gets to the point that you are arguing over a single word you do start to wonder if you have gone crazy!   I wonder if that's what editors feel like by the time they get to the end of a book?

Thankfully there was a little lull at that point.  I was feeling drained from the editing, I also had moved house during the editing stage so was physically exhausted too.  The summer holidays were approaching so I had a few weeks where I didn't think about the book at all. Which believe me I really needed by then! The book had been sent off the the printers, I couldn't change anything else.


Then it was onto the promotion of the book, this is a real up and down stage.  When you first start thinking about how many people you need to contact, how many free articles you'll need to write for magazines and sites to promote your book and all the work you'll need to do it is very daunting.  The publication date seems far away so it feels like a big build up with no results at that point.  You put lots of plans into place but don't see the pay off until the book is out.

Of course most publishers have their own PR people, as do mine, a lovely lady called Mary has worked closely with me throughout the promotion stage.  However, I feel like you get out what you put in at this stage.  Your publisher is promoting hundreds of books so has a finite amount of time and energy to devote to each whereas for you this is it, the one book, the focus of all your attention.   Also you put so much work into your book you may as well give it the best start possible and make sure that people know about it and ideally want to buy it too.   I don't want to look back on it and wish I'd spent more time promoting it, once it's been on sale for a few months it's old news and much harder to promote.

In the top 1% of books on Amazon 3 months before release

 A big high for me at this stage was when my book was listed on Amazon in July.  It got into the top 1% of all the books on Amazon, almost top 5,000 out of over 6 million books just a few days after it was listed on the site.  That was almost 4 months before the book actually went on sale, and when there was very little information available about the book.  It was so encouraging to see that people had enough faith in me to pre-order my book before they even knew much about it.

The promotional stage was, and still is exhausting.  I remember on one day I wrote 12 articles for magazines to promote the book, I was liaising with what feels like hundreds of bloggers, reviewers, magazine editors etc making sure they got information about the boo, review copies, giveaway copies etc.  Plus planning the launch party, more on that here.   It has been more work than I ever expected but nothing can beat the feeling you get when you read the lovely reviews (check out this one).

Number 1 bestseller!  Plus five 5 star reviews already

On sale

Then came the biggest high of them all, my book going on sale!  After almost 2 years work the big day arrived and people could finally buy my book.  It was both very stressful and amazing at the same time. 

Amazon didn't get their delivery of books in time for the big day so although it was officially published it was saying 1-3 weeks for delivery.  This meant I got loads of messages from people who had pre-ordered wondering when they would get their book and why the date had changed. I didn't know why and it did take the shine off my big moment to know that even though it was officially on sale people still weren't getting their book.

But at the same time my book shot up the charts, going to number 1 in the Starting a Small Business chart, 5 in the Craft Chart and top 500 of all the books on Amazon!  I had never dreamed it would do so well. Before it was published I told my husband I would be really excited if it made it onto any of the charts, especially if it made it top 10.  When it got top 5 I was over the moon, and then hour by hour I watched it steadily climb right to the top (where it still is a week later).

Image from Dottie Doodle

What I'm really loving is seeing the book arrive with people over the last few days.  I've had so many lovely messages and pictures on social media from people saying how excited they are to have received my book.  I can't wait to find out what people think of it. I also think it will be very exciting when I first spot it 'in the wild' so the speak.  When I find it in a book shop or craft shop, on display.  I have resisted the temptation to rush out and track it down in a shop, mainly because I live in the middle of nowhere so it would require a big effort to do so!

Is suspect there will be more highs and lows to come.  If I get good reviews and feedback from people that will be a huge high, but if I get negative comments I know that will be a low.  As much as I know you can't please everyone I've poured so much into this book it will undoubtedly hurt if it gets criticised.   There's also the launch party at the end of next week in Exeter, it will be amazing to see people all gathered there to help me celebrate the launch of my book.

Is guess there's still one big question.....

Is it worth it? 

I'm afraid you will have to wait a little longer for an answer on that one.  Until I know how the book is received, how well it sells, what effect it has on my business and I've finished the UK promotion, plus the US promotion (which I need to start on next as the book comes out in January in the States). 

At the moment I feel both proud, excited and exhausted.  Too tired to objectively look at it, I think writing a book and moving house at the same time was not the best idea ever! In the new year, probably springtime I will do a follow up post to let you know my final thoughts.  I need to have time to recover from the tiredness, and step away from it for a bit.  If you'd like I'll also do a post in between on book promotion.  I've learned a lot over the last few months!

If you'd like to take a look at my book it's on Amazon here, and there's more information on the website which accompanies the book:   If you'd like to read more about my book writing journey then click on the tab at the top right for my other posts.
I'd like to thank all for following me through this book writing journey and I do hope you enjoy the book.

UPDATE - Since writing this post I found this article which ties in perfectly with this post.  It's called Is it worth it to write a craft book? 
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