Archive | July 2011

The Emotional Roller Coaster of Self-publishing

I’m exhausted. Tomorrow is Greg’s birthday and I plan to force him to take the day off to go do something fun. Usually this is not an issue. If I say, “Hey I think we should take the day off,” then he’s usually all for it. But it’s been raining for two weeks straight, and neither of us are crazy about driving in torrential downpours. At the very least I will drag him off dinner somewhere.

Besides the fact, that it is indeed his birthday, and I’d never let it go uncelebrated, the truth is I need to get away from the computer. I torched for six hours tonight and it was a joy to just sit there and work. But here I am back at the computer doing publishing stuff.

Yesterday was an emotional high. The book got here. It’s gorgeous. I love it. I held it in my hands. All that lovely stuff. Then I uploaded files for Kindle, PubIt!, etc. I spent all day doing that. Then I got an email this morning about a typo on the first page. The first page! No less than five people have proofed this book and it was professionally edited. We all missed it. Every single one of us. I don’t fault anyone. No one can catch everything in a full length novel.  But my high fizzled into a “Oh my God!” I already ordered the first round of books. What if there are a ton more?

I don’t really think there are a ton more. Greg did find one on page 76 today. It was very minor. Again something easy to overlook. The great thing about self-publishing is I can reload all those files with the changes. Not really that big of a deal. But still all of the work to get here and it being my first book, I am just exhausted. Mentally worn out.

Oh, I know. All books, even the ones from New York have typos that slip through. It happens all the time. No matter how hard you try to avoid it, it happens.

On the other hand, I am so thrilled with positive response y’all have had to this book. I can’t thank you enough for believing in me. Thank you for sharing in the excitement. It’s meant the world to me.

UPS and Something I’ve been waiting for–Favorite things Monday

Yes! I spent my morning anxiously waiting for UPS to get here. My office is in the front of the house, and the blinds are wide open. You’d think with the dogs always on the lookout for strangers they’d bark right? They usually do.

But, no. Neither dog barked. My UPS man did not ring my doorbell like usual and I did not hear the truck. I have no idea what time he got here or how long my book was waiting for me on the front steps.

But it’s here!

It’s a true testament to my willpower that I didn’t run around screaming through the house. You see, Greg was in the studio and had I created a ruckus, that might have proved to be dangerous since he was working with hot glass at the time.

Instead, I sent an email with a lot of !!!! to Lisa Liddy, my book designer, who is undoubtedly wondering why in the heck I haven’t been posting all over Facebook, Twitter, and any other place I can randomly spew with glee.

I was just busy getting the efiles ready to go. I’ll let you know as soon as they show up in the various outlets (a few days I think).

In the meantime, you can now pre-order a signed copy of the book from right here. I ordered a small print run because I’ve had requests. They should be here early next week and as soon as they get here, I’ll be getting the handy pen ready and shipping them out.

Whooo hooo! Finally.

Live Marble Demo Sunday at 2pm CST

Yep, we’re back at it. Greg will be demoing a marble tomorrow (Sunday) at 2pm CST, and I will be in chat to field any questions. The last two weeks were really fun, so stop by if you have a chance.

That’s 12pm pacific, 1 pm mountain, and 3pm eastern.

The marble will be along the lines of this:

Surviving the Lean Months-The Business of Lampworking Extras

Every year there’s at least one month when I look around and start thinking: Whoa! What is going on? Sales are so slow it’s easy to start to panic. When you’re looking at having to dip into savings to pay the bills, that’s when things get scary.

Which means if you’re planning to lampwork full time as your sole source of income, you really need to have a savings account set up for just these times. Never assume when you’re having a good month, that you can and will be able to sustain your sales volume. Put some of that cash away for when things dry up.

Since we’ve been at this full time for over six years, we can see some patterns of when sales will dip. Usually between June and August sales can be inconsistent and then there’s October. I’m not sure what it is about October, but it’s usually pretty touch and go.

So, how do we survive without throwing in the towel and searching the online want ads? First of all, we realize the savings is there for just this reason. Resist the temptation to check your online sales venues every five minutes and get your butt out to the torch. Work on building up inventory, work on new designs, try new things. Think about adding something different to your product line. Put your energy into creating. Do not spend your time worrying and complaining about how slow it is. Remember my post on Looking in the direction you want to go? Creating new items and hopefully building some excitement about those pieces is a perfect example of how to implement that advice.

Keep listing items. Do not decide to just take the month off and stop listing anything new. The worst thing you can do is disappear  from your online venues. Think about it. If you go to someone’s shop and they’re closed or have stopped listing stuff, what do you do? You go shop elsewhere.  Maybe you even become a loyal customer to the new shop and you forget all about the first shop you went looking for.

Look. I know it is hard. It’s easy to get discouraged. I’ve been there myself. Spend an afternoon commiserating with your lampworking friends. Go have a margarita. Spend a day relaxing at the beach. Take a few days off.

Then get yourself back into your studio. Take this opportunity to work on all the designs you’ve been thinking about, but haven’t had the time to develop. Have fun! Remember why you started lampworking in the first place. Because dang it, it’s fun to melt stuff.


Etsy Online Sales–Ch 4 The Business of Lampworking

Have you decided to open an Etsy store? Or maybe you opened one a while ago, and you listed a few things, but you’ve yet to sell anything except a bead or two to your mother or sister. Or worse, nothing at all. Now you’re wondering, what’s wrong with my beads?

Likely, the answer is nothing is wrong with your beads. Nothing at all. It’s your approach that needs help. Etsy is not the Field of Dreams. It’s not the case of build it and they will come. You need to work for it.

Let’s start with the basics.

Are you’re pictures clear? Bright and focused? Do you show multiple views of the bead? One picture is not enough. People want to see every angle and the bead holes if at all possible. Also include a few close-ups on the detail. You get five pictures. See if you can fill them up.  If you’re not aware of the macro feature on your camera, look into it. It’s what helps you get clear crisp closeups with your digital.

Okay, now work on content. For optimum results, try to build up your store to over two hundred listings. People like variety when they shop. Don’t have them leave your store to go to another one. Get them to spend a ton of time in yours. Obviously, this will take some time. If you’re just starting out with your store, work on a build up. But for goodness sake, do not open you shop, list ten things and then sit back and wait to see how it goes. If you offer made to order items, this will help with your overall listing count.

That leads me right into frequent, consistent listings of items. Set yourself a schedule of when you list and how many items and stick to it. I am a full-time lampworker, so when I’m home (as opposed to out at a show) working, I try to list at least one new thing a day. Two or three on good days. Now that doesn’t always happen, but it’s the goal. Shoppers like to browse new things. If your store doesn’t change, why would they come back regularly? I just checked and I listed twelve new items last week. That’s pretty dang good. I also relisted some expired stuff.

Some people like to renew existing listings on Etsy, with the idea that the items will show up first in the category search. I personally have not used this strategy, but I have heard from various other people that it seems to work. It is 20 cents each time you do that though, so be sure to add the extra cost into your marketing budget.

Variety. Do you have a variety of items to choose from? Do you have lower cost items? I’ve found the twenty-dollar and under mark moves a lot faster. If you don’t make any beads under twenty dollars, consider developing something that would work for that price point. I still sell the higher priced work, but the lower cost items move a lot faster.

Shipping. Are your shipping costs reasonable? Do you ship worldwide? I know of some sellers who will only ship within the US due to some Paypal policies (I will get into that in my post on shipping). However, if you are excluding the rest of the world, you’re missing out on a lot of sales. If you’re worried about tracking, insurance, or packages going missing, think of anything that may go wrong as shrink. All businesses have it, and I rarely have an issue with international packages. I’d sure hate to think about how many sales I would have missed out on if I didn’t ship worldwide.

Marketing? What do you do to market your work? Anything? Here are some ideas. Post your work on Lampworketc in the gallery. Advertise it in the self-promotion section also on LE. Become a member of jewelry making forums and post your work there in the appropriate places. Share your listings on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Build a website and/or start a free blog. If you blog, be sure to do it regularly or no one will follow you. Start a newsletter and have a link on your blog, website, and in your email signature line where customers can sign up. Let them know when you’re running a sale or when a new design is being launched. Familiarize yourself with SEO.  I’ll be perfectly honest, I know almost nothing about SEO, so I’ll point you to Susan Sheehan who has already complied the links to read up on it.

Social Networking. I’ve already recommended posting your listings to Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, but don’t stop there. Actually social network with people. If all you do is spam people, you will likely get blocked and/or unfriended, unfollowed, and uncircled. The same is true for Lampworketc. Be part of the community and people will come to know you and your work.

Consider joining an Etsy team. I have belonged to a few of them, but ultimately they both went by the wayside. I did, however, learn a lot about marketing from my fellow team members. Check them out and see if any work for you.

The most important piece of advice I can give you (if you’ve followed everything I’ve listed, and your pricing isn’t out of line) is the last thing you need to do is be patient. It takes time to build a customer base. Give it at least six months. Six months of constant listings, promoting, social networking, and new designs, should lead you to a solid customer base.

Sounds like a lot of work right? Well, it is. But starting any business takes a great deal of output and effort before you’ll see results. Even if you’re established elsewhere say eBay or another venue, unless you plan to point your existing clients to the Etsy store, you’re basically starting fresh.

Please note, I used my frequency of listing as an example. As I noted, I do this full-time. If you’re a part-timer, then by all means, adjust your frequency, but still make it consistent. Two, three, four times a week. Whatever works for you. I’d advise against listing a batch once a week. Spread them out a little. It will help in searches on Etsy.

Please leave me any questions you have and I will try to answer to the best of my ability.

Favorite Things Monday-Homemade Smoothies

So, last week I was talking about smoothies. That got Greg thinking if we had a blender (ours died a while back), then I could make us smoothies. Yes, I can do it. He didn’t seem to be paying much attention when I was telling him the ratio of ingredients. I suspect I’m going to be hearing, “D, aren’t you going to make a smoothie today?” quite often the rest of the summer.

You’d think with my vast experience of smoothie making, I could have been a little less messy, right?







It was super yummy though. Mine included soymilk, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Greg’s had orange juice, orange sherbet, strawberries, and peaches.

Live Bead Demo on Livestream Sunday 2pm CST

Last week was our first Livestream murrina demo. Greg made a butterfly murrina cane and I hosted in the chat area answering questions and/or relaying questions to him to address.

This week I will be making a murrine ring focal and Greg will be hosting chat. Don’t forget 2pm Sunday CST. That’s 12 pm pacific, 1pm mountain, and 3pm eastern. In this demo you’ll get to see how I encase with minimal bubbles and without smearing. Hope to see you there. The chat feature is really cool and mucho fun.

Online Feedback-Lampworking Business Extras

If you’ve ever bought or sold anything online you know each seller and buyer has a feedback rating. It’s expected once the transaction is completed, both parties leave feedback.

I’ve seen sellers ask when they should leave feedback. Right after the customer pays? After they receive the item? After the buyer leaves feedback for the seller?

In my opinion, after the customer pays, they have completed the transaction. Anytime after that, I will leave feedback. To me, it doesn’t matter if a situation arises later. I worry about it then, and because my policy is I will accept a return for any reason within a certain amount of time, it just doesn’t matter. Problems arise so seldom it isn’t something I worry about. Plus, it’s rude to hold feedback hostage.

As a buyer, I think it is important that if a situation arises, to give the seller a chance to make it right. Feedback is usually the first indicator of a seller’s reputation. Most professional sellers I know will happily address any problems. Just please don’t leave feedback as a way to get their attention without an email first. That said, if they don’t acknowledge you or handle the situation to your satisfaction, you have every right to leave an honest account of your experience.

On another note, leaving feedback is optional. Hounding buyers or sellers to leave it is annoying. Sellers, I strongly recommend not asking your buyers to leave you feedback. If you must, put it in your thank you email and word it something like this: If you’re happy with your purchase, please consider leaving me feedback (insert link to online retailer’s feedback page). Then leave it alone. Hounding them will only result in an annoyed customer.

Personally, I leave feedback once a month for all my online venues. It’s more time efficient for me. So if you buy something and I don’t leave feedback right away, it’s only because I haven’t gotten to it. But I will, don’t worry.

Online vs Shows–Ch 3 part 2 The Business of Lampworking

The big question online sales verses shows. You look around and everyone who’s anyone has an Etsy store, a website, and eBay account. They talk about the Best Bead show or Bead and Button or the selling at the ISGB Bead Bazaar, and you think to yourself, man I need to be doing that.

Some people spout how well they are doing, others say sales are dead. Now what? Where to start? My best advice is to pick one direction and give it your all. But which direction?

Pros of online venues:

Work from home.
Low cost.
Instant feedback.
Can sell work for less than you can doing shows.
Don’t have to take time off work (if you have another job) to hock your wares.
Your customer base is worldwide.

Cons of online sales:

Have to learn photography skills.
Need to learn to navigate online sales venues (though this is much easier now than it ever has been before).
Don’t get to interact with the community in person (It is certainly possible to make connections online, but there is nothing comparable to the in person connection).
Customers do not get to see work in person before buying. Each monitor is different , making it impossible to accurately portray the color of your work 100% of the time.
Have to deal with shipping. Packaging, lost mail, possible broken product, returns, and customs.
Have to build a following in a worldwide sea of other venders.

Shows Pros:

Built in customer base.
Get to see customers reaction to your work.
Can make connections you wouldn’t online for publications, teaching, demos, etc.
Get to see and interact with other artists.
Get to travel.

Show cons:

Shows are expensive. Every show you do there is a risk you won’t even cover expenses.
You need to work out a table display.
You need to travel.
May need to take time off work.
Can be discouraging watching everyone else make sales if your table isn’t getting much attention.
Need to build a large inventory.
Don’t know what customers respond to until you’re at the show.
Have to sell work for retail to cover show costs.
You lose studio time while traveling and working the show.

Our main focus for our business is online sales. It keeps us consistent with cash flow, and  the overhead is low cost. We’ve recently in the last few years started adding in shows, but that is an addition, not the focus. Also, for each show I sign up for I am prepared to accept the money put out many not be returned.

As I said earlier, my best advice is to pick one direction and give it your best effort, then worry about whether you want to expand in another area. Be prepared that either direction you go, it will take months to build a following. That means your first shows may not make you any money. It takes time to get noticed. There isn’t a magic wand.

My next few posts will focus on how to be successful with both online sales and shows. Stay tuned.

Skinny Cow & Jambe Juice-Favorite Things Monday

If you’re a friend of mine on Facebook, you’ve probably seen my many posts about Skinny Cow. Usually at about ten or eleven at night when I’m writing or editing. And usually I’m either feeling guilty about eating one at that hour or complaining I am out.

In fact. Right at this minute, I only have one of these tasty little ice cream sandwiches in my possession. Here is the box, but there is only one lonely little ice cream treat in there.

Ha! Right after I added the picture, Greg arrived home from his weekly shopping trip and I am happy to say, I now have two full boxes of Skinny Cow. He also brought home a delicious watermelon. As I was cutting it up, and sampling of course, I suddenly had a craving for the seasonal watermelon smoothies we used to make at Jamba Juice.

Oh, how I wish we had a Jamba Juice store around here. Sorry Smoothie King. Your menu just doesn’t work for me. I find it really cool that I still love Jamba Juice smoothies even though I worked there for five years. It feels like forever since those days, though, only eight and a half years. Which seems really short considering next year will be my 20th high school reunion. What?!?

HOLY CRAP! I was just looking up a picture of the Jamba Juice logo and guess what? Jamba has made an appearance into New Orleans. Oh my day is made!!!