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!

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

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