29! Discount! I Love Exclamation Points!!!

Tags

, , , ,

My friend at Drawn For You posted this on my Facebook wall this morning lol. It says “Happy Birthday from Dead Writers and dancing dinosaurs.” I am saying “oh hellz yeah” because I say that a lot.

I turn 29 today (well in a few hours as of this writing, I didn’t want to stay up til midnight). 28 was a great year for me – Sweet Tea Apothecary exploded thanks to Dead Writers, I regained my passion for writing and have been working on some great projects, and I had a little baby who is already cooler than I am (she has baby sunglasses and baby Toms shoes). As I did last year, I’m offering a discount corresponding with my age, 29% off; I think we can both agree that it will be in our best interests if I live to be 100 ūüėČ

UPDATE:Etsy runs on Eastern time so please use my website link if you would like to take advantage.

Anyway, 29% off whatever you want now til April 25th. You can visit my website, or my Etsy shop, whatever you prefer. Just enter code STA29 at checkout. Just a heads up that any orders placed between now and Sunday, April 27 will not start shipping until Tuesday, April 29. (Yours may be after Tuesday depending on the number of orders placed and what place you are in line.) Why? Oh well that’s because I get to go home to LA and be happy and warm in the sun and see all my friends and family and and and….THIS WEEKEND IS BABY FREE. I get to be a person for 3 whole days!!! I probably don’t have enough time to go to Disneyland, but I might just do it BECAUSE I CAN.

Thank you all, truly, for being enthusiastic, supportive customers. I’m always working on things to improve my products because you all inspire me. I APPRECIATE YOU. I’m going to lay off the caps lock key now. G’nite.

PS. If anything you want says sold out, just comment here, on FB, or email me and I’ll fix it for you. Sometimes when I have sales my quantities get maxed out and it takes forever to bulk re-do them. Also, if you’re in Australia or somewhere else that’s already in the future and you have trouble, let me know. You get a discount too!

Advertisements

What characters would you like to see?

Tags

Since we all know it takes me forever and a half to get new perfumes out (and I just released 5) we should probably start talking about what I’ll release next. What literary and historical characters would you like to see? I have ideas for Hemingway, Violet McNeal (see my Drunk History Facebook post), and Dickens.

I’ve also been thinking about releasing single note oils e.g. rose, Earl Grey, cucumber, etc. What do you think?

5 Books You Wish You Read in High School

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Before I went crazy and decided to be a perfume maker, I taught middle and high school English. That lasted a hot minute and I am one of the people who buckled under the pressure of teaching. I worked with students in the inner cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco and it was one of the most joyous, enlightening, humbling, and heartbreaking (all at once) experiences of my life.

Yesterday, my friend told me about a new book by Sara Benincasa called Great. It’s a YA geared retelling of The Great Gatsby with gender-swapped characters. I haven’t read it yet but I can’t wait, the reviews are pretty stellar and its supposed to be wickedly funny. I bring this up because as I read the description of the novel it reminded me of my biggest failing (but also biggest breakthrough) as a teacher.

Picture it: I was a newly certified teacher taking over for my master teacher who left on maternity leave. The kids knew me in the role of cool teacher helper who had their back, and now I have the audacity to come in and tell them what to do. The first month was hard and I was desperate to re-connect with them and find a piece of literature to bring them back to me. I thought back to my high school days – what was my favorite book to read in English class? Lord of the Flies. It was violent and scary and had all that crazy Freudian/religious stuff going on. Plus, lets tie it into Lost (which was in it’s last season at the time) and do a survivalist, philosophical theme, it will be great! And it was great, they loved it and their minds were blown when they found out Lord of the Flies means “the devil.” But the very first day one of them raised their hand after we were only a few pages in. “Ms. why are we reading a book about a group of British white boys?” My heart sank. In that second it all clicked for me – my upbringing and background were privileged in a way these kids hadn’t seen and instead of finding something that spoke to them, I just rolled out the same “classics of literature” and expected them to react the same way I did.

I’m not saying that the classics shouldn’t be taught or that they aren’t relevant. That’s not the case at all. But so often in high school English (at least from what I saw from my fellow colleagues and what I was guilty of) was an adherence to the old standards with modern supplements strewn in on a limited time budget. Which, again, is fine and at least we’re throwing them a bone by including things they might like, however, the bulk of what they are tested on is the old stuff. Why not start integrating more diverse books and using the classics as the backup? Or have special English classes devoted to modern literature? When I say diverse and modern, I don’t just mean issues of race (in the classroom described above I was the only white person which is problematic for lots of reasons I won’t get into here) but also issues of gender, and one of the most important things I found during my time teaching – having texts that were representative of my students’ neighborhoods/cities. And none of this is a question of whether or not modern students can handle the complexity of classic literature (um they totally can and excel at it) but more a matter of being tired of stories told by predominantly rich, white, privileged characters. Hell, I fall into that group (sans wealth) and I get tired of it.

So here are some ideas for books that we might look to that can speak to modern kids. I’m not adding Great to this list just yet since I still need to read it, but that’s what we need to be going for!

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian¬†(I’m going to write most about this because I actually taught it)

Of course today, the day I write this blog post, some school district in Idaho bans this book. I really don’t know why, this book is absolutely amazing and should be required reading for all students. Sherman Alexie’s semi-autobiographical novel won the National Book Award and is loosely based on his life growing up on a reservation, or “rez” as he calls it in the book. It’s funny, it’s heartbreaking, it’s about real teenagers. The premise is that a 14 year old Native American boy named Junior, a smarty, a cartoonist, a basketball player, but most important of all, a kid who dreams of breaking the cycle of poverty and making a new life for himself, decides to transfer to an all white school. Junior has to navigate the world of the white people who don’t accept him for his race, as well as his tribe who feels that he has betrayed them. This in addition to dealing with teenage hormones, a disability, death in his family, alcohol abuse, and poverty. The language in this book is accessible and it absolutely killed when I taught this. Before we started I brought in photos of a reservation (I can’t recall which one) but the photo series was from Harper’s Magazine and it was about alcoholism and poverty in the particular tribe it represented. We did a gallery walk and the students looked at the photos and then had to write reactions. This was paired with an excerpt from Howard Zinn’s A Young People’s History of the United States¬†(more on this below). This unit was poignant and all of my students – African-American, Asian, Hispanic, White (no Native American kids in my classes unfortunately) – connected with the material. Junior is an underdog, an everyman. You root for him. The book is also hilarious. This was my favorite thing to teach.

The Madonnas of Echo Park

I mentioned earlier how important it is for student’s to read books that take place in their neighborhood. When I taught in LA it was for middle school and this book is way too advanced for that; I didn’t pull it out at the high school in San Francisco because the Nor Cal/So Cal rivalry is apparently a real thing and those kids would have killed me if I brought in an LA book. This novel follows a similar format to the movie Crash and features interconnected stories from a cast of characters spanning several decades of Echo Park in Los Angeles. Madonnas, like Crash, explores the different people that comprise the neighborhood but mostly focuses on the plight of Mexican-Americans and how they live between their traditional and “adoptive” worlds. The author’s words are elegant and as someone who lived in the area, it was a completely surreal experience to read about my neighborhood and know exactly what he’s talking about and just nod in agreement with everything. I can’t even imagine what that would be like for a kid who maybe hadn’t shown an interest in reading before – you see yourself on the page.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

This book, a Pulitzer Prize Winner, is slated to be a modern classic. If it’s not being taught already, it will be. Oscar Wao is another hilarious underdog character who is grappling with the realities of life as a member of an immigrant family in America. It’s been a long time since I’ve read this book so it’d be better if you go read a summary (or the book outright!) but like the previous two books mentioned, I love how relatable the character is for young readers (he likes Tolkien and Marvel). This book as well as Madonnas are both more advanced so I’d wait until junior or senior year (or even honors classes).

The Hunger Games

I have mixed feelings about the inclusion of this book because I don’t think it’s the best thing out there, but there are two reasons why I feel that teachers should spend a little time on it. 1. Katniss Everdeen is one of the strongest female characters out there (in the first book, I think the world could have done without her getting coupled up by series end) and we need more strong female characters. The Emmas and Elizabeth Bennets just don’t compute anymore. 2. This book is a phenomenal way to incorporate a unit on media criticism into your class. Most students came to me believing that whatever they see in a newspaper or on TV must be fact because of how it is presented. This book completely puts that idea on it’s head and is perfect for having larger discussions about the role of government, propaganda, how media can spin pretty much anything, and it’s also a great introduction to the fact that girls have grit (you would be amazed at how rampant gendered stereotypes are in a class of 14 year olds). I am also pro-books that have an associated movie because I love using media in the classroom and comparing the two, it adds so much depth. We read some excerpts of this during our Lord of the Flies¬†unit (before the movie came out so many of them weren’t familiar with the story).

A Young People’s History of the United States

This is a supplemental history book but I used it all the time in my English classes. It’s always a good idea to prep your class for the time period they will be encountering when you start a new book. What I love about this one is that it’s not the PG history that students have heard all their life. It’s history from the losing side whose voices are seldom heard and when you are competing for a high schooler’s attention, giving them information that is new and refreshing and interesting, goes a long way. This book is a great supplement to any humanities class and is another way to help students learn to question everything…because the world is not so simple as many history books make it out to be.

I’m all for reading Pride and Prejudice, A Tale of Two Cities, and The Great Gatsby in high school… but let’s add these books too, shall we? If you have more suggestions, let me know below.

 

 

Marketing Strategy for Your Etsy or Online Business

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

In the post, So You Wanna Start an Etsy Shop, I discussed the basics behind setting up a small online shop. That was basically a list of a bunch of things you need to think about/prepare before you start selling. This time I’m going to discuss marketing strategy. I will start by saying that before I had my shop I worked a stint in PR and then worked in the editorial side of marketing for a few years before pursuing other things. My specialties in marketing were content creation, copywriting for ads, social media and blog management, and newsletters. My skills are a couple years out (I left in 2010) but I learned enough to be more than competitive for a small shop.

So what is marketing? Is it the same as advertising? What about PR?

Companies sometimes define these differently and in my experience many people within companies thought all of these were the same, but they’re not. For our purposes we are going to define marketing as your overall plan or strategy for getting your company’s name / message out there to your audience. Your marketing strategy can encompass advertising, PR, social media etc. Advertising are paid announcements (whether done online, on TV, radio, or print) – you pay for a spot and generally write your own material. Public relations in the context of a business is to manage your public image (hopefully so it’s positive as often as possible) but in terms of a small business like an Etsy shop, I’ll define PR as the free press you get. When I worked in PR my job was to let news, magazine, tv, radio editors all know about technology companies I represented. My goal was to get them interested in the companies and/or their products so they would write about them (so we would NOT pay for these stories). In the grand scheme of marketing, free stories about your company are seriously the best. You get your name out there and hopefully more business, and you didn’t have to pay for anything – awesome! That’s not to say that publicity you drum up through stories featuring you are without work. Sometimes you get lucky and someone finds you and you find out after the fact (happened to me, was amazing but stressful because I was successful overnight), and sometimes you have to reach out to people who you think would be interested in what you have to offer.

So how should I market my company?

How you start marketing an Etsy shop or small online business is up to your time constraints and comfort level – confidence in yourself as a seller and confidence in yourself as a marketer. If you have experience in either sales or marketing then do what you can before you launch your business to get your name out there. Start announcing on your company FB & Twitter, hold a grand opening party or sale, advertise on a blog or magazine that targets your audience etc. If you’re a newb to all of this, you might not want to draw too much attention to yourself all at once and take a more gradual approach. If you’re a newb you might be more comfortable waiting to really market until you have a few sales or a few feedback under your belt – you’ve worked out your business kinks and are ready to get to the next level.

When you are ready to devote time to your marketing strategy, start off with a plan. First you should write down what your goals are – do you need to drum up sales? are you trying to bring in wholesale orders? what is your end goal here? Once you have that figured out, figure out a budget for how much you’re willing to spend on ads, and also make a budget of your time. You can seriously get sucked into this stuff (social media especially) so make sure you stick to your desired time allotment. Once you have goals and a budget, now is the time to get creative with the different ways you can get your message out there. I recently launched 5 new perfumes. Here is what my plan included:

1. Start teasing new perfumes via social media and blog several weeks before launch.

2. Post pictures of the new perfumes (close ups of labels). I did this on Twitter, FB, and Instagram

3. A few days before launch, posted a FB message telling people to sign up for my newsletter to receive a special discount code for the new perfumes (I got 50 sign ups from this).

4. Blog posts on the history behind the new perfumes posted on my shop website, and this blog.

5. Designed and sent out a newsletter email to my subscribers. It contained links to the blog posts I had written about the perfumes and a discount code for being newsletter subscribers. (I had a 60% open rate and a 30% click rate which is unheard of. The industry avgs are 15.2% and 2.1% respectively. Part of the reason for this is 1. people were expecting it since I talked about it on social media 2. I don’t send out emails often so when people who hadn’t heard about the new perfumes saw an email from me they were intrigued 3. I make it easy for people to opt in or out of newsletters, no pressure, I only want people who want to hear from me!).

6. After the newsletter subscribers all had their turn, I told all my social networks that the new perfumes were up for purchase. I also decided to spent $5 on FB ads to reach more people that had not previously heard of me or liked my page. This made it so my post was viewed by an extra 2k people and resulted in 15 new likes on my page (a good amount considering it was a post about a perfume launch). Update: See below about my new thoughts on FB ads.

I don’t want to talk specific numbers, but this was an extraordinarily successful campaign. It cost me $5 and a total of maybe 2 hours(writing). I had not anticipated it would go so well. But when I say marketing plan, this is what you need to do. Write out all the things you can / will commit to doing and then do them. This was for a product launch, here are some ideas on how to start marketing a brand new store (I’m writing as things come to me so these aren’t necessarily in order):

Facebook ads (to start out maybe budget under $50, have a really nice photo and a snappy description. Make sure you’re using keywords that will hit your demographic and you can get lots of likes. This is an important start to what will hopefully become a robust network of people who care about your stuff.)¬†So after I posted this, a friend of mine sent me a video with some really troubling info about Facebook ads. The gist of it is that Facebook has a click farm problem and paying for ads there are not worth it in terms of engagement. As such I’m no longer going to recommend purchasing ads on there. I have had some success with post boosts but I only use them when I have sales and spend about $5. I target those to people who already like my page however. So if you do decide to purchase ads on FB first, watch the video, and second make sure that you only spend small amounts. Be cautious. Watch the video on Youtube.

Etsy ads (as I said in the other blog post, these aren’t moneymakers so only spend a little. These are good solely for getting your shop at the top of the page and into people’s consciousness.)

Google Adwords – I haven’t really used these but other people swear by them. Look into it, and also set up Google Analytics while you’re at it. Great tool for tracking your traffic and referrals.

Tutorials on your blog (blogs are really important! They give people a chance to know you better and you can talk about other subjects of interest so you can relate to people on more than one level than just your products). Never underestimate the value of free content. I recommend wordpress – easy to use, lots of widgets to download, and like Etsy, it’s a community of blogs so you have some built in traffic.

Social Media Buttons – this is simple and free. Etsy integrates with Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest (not sure about instagram yet but I imagine they will if they don’t already). You can put these on your blog or on your website. Make it easy for people to find you and follow you

Discount Codes / Grand Opening sale – self explanatory, helps encourage people to try you out

Newsletters – This is more for when you are established and have a list of people who have purchased or are otherwise interested in your shop. Etsy and other ecommerce sites like Shopify integrate with Mail Chimp which is seriously SO EASY to use and free! It’s a great tool. Just make sure not to spam people by emailing every time you have a thought. Emails are great ways to let people know about discounts or promotions, or any other important news about your store.

Giveaways – Before I had a real service for giveaways I’d just list on FB or my blog what I had to give away and whoever was first to email got the perfume. It was really inefficient however and not fun to write back to all the people who didn’t win. I started using Punchtab which integrates with my Shopify store and what I like about that is it rewards people who share your store. So they get more entries to the giveaway by signing up for your newsletter, and posting on twitter or fb etc. Lots of visibility the more shares you get.

Sample Boxes – You’ve heard of things like BirchBox, well there are loads of boxes that feature handmade makers. A lot of them go through Etsy and will convo you about appearing in their box. This is a great way to get your name out but make sure you research the box first. There are lots of bloggers (more on that below) and box curators who are just in it for free stuff. If you choose to do a box and they are not paying you for your samples (you should be paid for your work! don’t undervalue yourself!), at least make sure they have a good following on social media and a nice looking blog. Check that people comment on their blog too. If no one ever comments and they have less than 100 followers on different social media platforms, that’s not a whole lot of promotion for you to be giving things away. I like IndieGiftBox, which as I’ve mentioned, featured me last year and then my sister in law recently took over when it went up for sale. Check them out.

Etsy Teams (Especially BNR/BNS when you’re just starting out) – There are whole teams dedicated to just promotion, just to blogs, just to buying from each other (BNR/BNS). This is absolutely something you should do when you’re starting a new Etsy shop. These people will give you feedback, heart your items (which in turn makes it so that everyone in their network can see it too), and give you a place to link to your new items/talk about your shop. To read more about BNR/BNS and how they work, check out the previous post. (I definitely recommend doing those as part of your initial advertising budget).

Review Items / Forging Relationships with Bloggers – This is something I’ve only done for myself a little bit (because I’m lazy and haven’t really needed to yet) but I had to do this a lot in my old jobs. If you don’t follow already, you should make a list of 10-20 top blogs, or publications, or youtube channels, or social media networks (etc) that cover what you make. So for me, I make perfume based on historical and literary figures, my list would include perfume blogs, youtube channels in which the host is interested in makeup/perfume, websites for booklovers, and websites for history lovers. After you make the list, start checking out their social media pages, Facebook and Twitter, and join the conversation. The more you interact with them the more likely that the person running the page will acknowledge you back. If they don’t ask you specifically for your product to review (and they might or might not) after you’ve been commenting and interacting for a while (and hopefully you’ve researched how they like to be approached whether via email or contact form) you can write them a quick message introducing yourself and explaining why they and their audience might be interested in your wares. Be sure to tell them you understand that they may choose not to cover you but you are willing to send your product anyway. If they’re into it, score! Hopefully they do write about you. Anyway, that’s the simplified version of PR in a nutshell. Once you’ve made a friend/connection in one of those places you can go back to them if you have new products etc, but again DON’T SPAM, DON’T BE PUSHY, JUST DON’T BE THAT PERSON. Conversely, if bloggers approach you asking for products so they will review, be selective and research the person. Just like with the boxes, if they have a blog that doesn’t have a theme, they just review random stuff and don’t have a big audience on social media, they might just be a person who gets free stuff in exchange for a review. If you want the review so you can point people there, go for it. But random reviews on random blogs do not have the same power as something on a major blog or website. Unless the person is really good at SEO, it won’t even show up in Google search. In that case, pass. If however it’s from a major blog, JUMP FOR JOY. But also keep in mind they may end up not reviewing you because it doesn’t work out in their editorial schedule (cough cough Barnes and Noble). The tl;dr of this section is: interact with others, always check followers and demographics, and go into these partnerships without solid expectations (you’re not paying for advertising in these cases so nothing is set in stone).

SEO and Keywords – SEO means search engine optimazation which is a fancy way of saying “Way for Google to find you.” I am not an expert in SEO so I won’t go into too much technical detail but basically what you want to do is write your product descriptions and all your web pages, blogs, tags, and links (notice how when you hover over links it has text that pops up?) with strong keywords so that people find you. The more specific you can be the better. For me keywords like “book perfume,” “handmade perfume,” “perfume on Etsy” etc work well, as do my specific ingredients e.g. “tea perfume,” “jasmine perfume.” That’s not to say that you should just write those words 5000 times on every page – it’s really annoying when people do that because it doesnt make sense and you can tell they’re trying to game the system. But for example, my post How to Make Your Own Perfume Oil (which is essentially a long keyword itself) has so many search terms in it that it’s on one of the first pages on Google for people looking for DIY perfume (it’s not just the quantity of the search terms, it also has to do with the fact that I have good traffic already. The more people view, the higher you go in search results. This can take time, but that’s why you want to start off right!)

Branding – I should have put this near the top because you want to start by having good branding, but branding is essentially cultivating a cohesive look/image for your shop and products. Here’s an example: Think of Anthropologie vs. Hot Topic. What do you think of? For Anthro you probably thought bohemian, indie, or expensive. For Hot Topic, you probably thought about emo kids, dark colors, band t-shirts etc. Each company has an image. It’s what you automatically think of. When setting up your shop and then conducting all your marketing, you want to make sure that your color palette, your fonts, your photos, your writing voice are all cohesive. It’s how people know who you are and how you present yourself should be a mirror to the kind of clientele you want. I try to cultivate an image of vintage, historical, literary for my perfumes. If you look at the photos, fonts, and colors, you might see a trend of lace, art deco, and general old-timey-ness (especially in the writing. PS. Please read the Madame Moustache description, it’s seriously my best work, so proud of it. I find it hilarious.)

Ok this was a massive brain dump so I’m going to stop here for now. I’m sure I’m forgetting things so I’ll update as I think of them and as always feel free to ask questions!

So You Wanna Start an Etsy Shop?

Tags

, , , , ,

I have several friends who have been interested in starting their own Etsy shop or just an online business in general. I’m the only one of my friends, that I know about at least, who has gone this route so they generally come to me. I also on occasion will get an Etsy convo from someone interested in starting up shop. I’m always happy to give business advice because it’s fun and interesting. I don’t generally respond to competitor inquiries (from people I don’t know) of where I get my wholesale perfume materials because 1. Come on really? Trade secrets yo. And 2. LMGTFY¬†(check out the post on Making Your Own Perfume Oil if you need materials recommendations for diy perfume).

This post is for you if you’re a maker who is serious about being successful at Etsy or an online business in general. Which is to say that you are ready to put in a lot of work. I say that because not everyone I know who has tried has really stuck with it. Everything on Etsy, that you see on Pinterest or blogs anyway, is just so pretty and it’s easy as putting your stuff up and then shoppers just come by right? WRONG. It takes A LOT of work and a longish amount of time (but that’s dependent on time put in, quality of product/photos, word of mouth, and LUCK).

So here’s my personal story of how I made it work. This was in 2012 however so keep in mind that social networks change in terms of popularity and usefulness (Instagram, Pinterest, Wanelo, and I’m sure there’s more I don’t even know about) so make sure you do research on what the technology trends are.

First things first: I’m assuming you have a product you are good at making and you’re ready to start selling. You have to get a business license to sell your products. Some sellers don’t do this. It’s illegal. Don’t play that game. Generally you have to register your business with your state and city. Cities have various processes so make sure you research that. Washington state and Seattle are awwwesooommmme because everything is online and it’s really easy. When I had to do this in California it was a pain because I had to visit various offices to get things signed and it just seemed pointless and not suited to an internet business. Hopefully that has changed. Anyway, get that license. How tax works with online shops: you charge sales tax only to the residents in your state (for now). You have to make sure that each city is accounted for separately. Example, Seattle is 9.5%, Spokane is 8.7%. Etsy and other commerce sites make it easy to put that information in and the really good ones populate it for you, but at the end of the year you have to make sure that you’re submitting the right amounts to your state. So long as you make under 20k through Etsy Checkout or through 20k through Paypal you don’t have to file any separate tax paperwork, just your regular tax forms.

(The rest of this post is copy and pasted from two emails I sent to a friend)

1. Look up your competition. Read all of their policies, see how much they charge, check the keywords they use in their listings, look at their pictures, check out their websites/fb pages/twitter etc. This is a good way to figure out what your shop policies are/what you need to do in your shop to be competitive.

2. Branding –¬†Shop¬†name, logo, about story, packaging, photos. You want to create a consistent look. To start your¬†shop¬†you absolutely need the name (decide before you put it in¬†Etsy¬†because you only get to change it once without them being jerks about it) and a nice looking¬†shop¬†banner. I also recommend snagging your domain name. It’s really cheap maybe $8 for a year. You don’t need to start a personal website right away, just make sure you have it squared away for when you are ready. Think about the presentation of sold items. I have muslin bags that I stamp my logo on and tie with a matching ribbon. I include a business card and when I was starting, a coupon for 10% off future orders. Think about how people you’ve bought from on¬†Etsy¬†package their stuff and figure out what you’d like to do.
3. Start sourcing all of your materials – yarn, packaging, mailing envelopes, cards etc. This is important because you want to make sure that you’re getting a good price (you’ll find over time that there are certain vendors you always go back to). Evolving process.
4. Figure out pricing. You need to think about the cost of materials, the time it takes you to make things, shipping costs, packaging costs, and how much you want to pay yourself for your work. Right now, my prices are what I found to be the mid-range for perfume on¬†Etsy¬†but I’m probably going to increase soon (already happened)¬†because of demand. Figure out what you’ll use for mailing. I like USPS because its the cheapest for lightweight packages or even if you use the flat rate boxes. You can also buy them straight through¬†Etsy¬†which gives you free delivery confirmation/tracking thru¬†Etsy…this is super important. A person who had never used¬†Etsy¬†before put her wrong address in and instead of telling me that she didnt get her package opened up a case against me.¬†Etsy¬†immediately dismissed it because the tracking and shipping info was already in their system.
5. Marketing plan.¬†Etsy¬†is REALLY saturated by sellers. You need to make sure that not only does your branding look set you apart, but you have to be good at SEO (search engine optimization) cross linking etc. You need to have a Facebook, Twitter, and personal blog at bare minimum. When I started¬†shop, I was only tutoring so I had a lot of time to devote to all this stuff. I had a routine of posting my listings on FB/Twitter everyday. I joined¬†Etsy¬†teams and wrote all over them with links to my¬†shop. I posted on my blog everyday – tutorials are big and get you lots of traffic. Pinterest and Wanelo were kind of a waste of time. I use FB to get messages out to people but I’d say Twitter and my blog are best for driving traffic (this is no longer the case. Facebook has grown substantially and is amazing for building fan networks). Eventually you want to start getting your stuff reviewed on other blogs as well. Now, I dont spend anywhere near as much time doing that stuff because I have enough traffic, but my next step is getting out to other blogs and starting a personal website with ecommerce options so I can move off¬†Etsy¬†(more on that later,¬†Etsy¬†is the best starting point but you outgrow it). (I’ve done this, this email is old)
So that’s what you need to plan/research for. Here’s what you should have input into¬†Etsy before you open:
Make all your listings. Make sure you have good photos (this is my biggest problem I’m terrible at photography and can’t afford a photographer yet), a very detailed description with measurements etc. Keywords (steal keywords from competition or start typing stuff in the search bar for ideas).
All of your policies. How much time you need, do you accept custom requests, what forms of payment do you accept, who you use for shipping, return/refund policy. People are notoriously bad about reading policies but its a CYA situation.
Find teams to join on¬†Etsy. Usually new person teams, teams for liking Facebook/twitter/blog pages, new listing teams. I joined a bunch and posted in their forums everyday for a few months which got me some momentum. The only thing is that its sellers not buyers bumping you…but every favorite means it goes out to their circle so other people end up seeing it too. That said, click on the people who favorite your competition and add as many of them as you can to your circle. This makes them wonder who you are so they look at your stuff. I got a lot of my initial sales that way.
Sales and frequency of re-listing gets you to the top of searches/pages so the more sales you get the better you do. The more feedback you have, the easier you get sales. Re-listing is super annoying but in the first few months you want to relist at least 1 item per day. They charge you 20 cents per listing which is not bad when you’re starting out but when you start to make lots of sales it starts to become a burden. Once you’re making sales you naturally re-list when things sell instead of just doing it to game the system.
I think that’s good for now. It’s a lot of trial and error and finding what works for you.
Part II

Let’s see, for advertising I’d say a mix of the following:

1. Try the¬†Etsy¬†ads for a month or so. I didn’t see a lot of orders from the ads but it’s good to be at the top of a category for a few weeks so people start to see your¬†shop. I wouldn’t do it long term, just a good way to start. And only ever spend $5-10 on a campaign. Update on Facebook ads:¬†So after I posted this, a friend of mine sent me a video with some really troubling info about Facebook ads. The gist of it is that Facebook has a click farm problem and paying for ads there are not worth it in terms of engagement. As such I’m no longer going to recommend purchasing ads on there. I have had some success with post boosts but I only use them when I have sales and spend about $5. I target those to people who already like my page however. So if you do decide to purchase ads on FB first, watch the video, and second make sure that you only spend small amounts. Be cautious. Watch the video on¬†Youtube.

2. The biggest thing that helped me was joining teams and writing/linking in the forums. I did that every day for about two months and it got me lots of views/hearts.

3. Join a BNR/BNS group!! This also helped. I did this a few times over the course of a month and it really jumpstarted sales for me. BNR means buy and replace and BNS means buy and stay. Basically, a team will set up a treasury board with items from different stores who “buy in.” So you buy something from another¬†shop¬†(they usually have a $3 minimum) and that gets you on the board. If it’s a buy and replace you are taken off the board once you’ve made a sale. If its a buy and stay you get to stay on the board and make more sales. This really helps in the initial stages because it’s giving you a higher sales number which helps people trust you more and also since its all¬†Etsy¬†sellers, they’ll leave you good/constructive feedback. Once you have a few feedbacks, the sales become more regular. This works well if you have some lower priced items. I found this to be more effective than advertising so used my advertising budget on this as opposed to ads. I think this method is also great because even though you’re gaming the system, you’re learning how to be a seller in a safe space – meaning people will give you helpful feedback about your packaging/policies/timeliness etc. on the group page, great learning method.

4. Blog, Twitter, and Facebook. Do free tutorials on your blog – that gets me big amounts of traffic because I have ones on how to make perfume, eau de parfum, solid perfume and floral water. That gets lots of people to my¬†shop. Twitter is great for new items and for sales if you mark #etsy. Facebook is so so until you get a good audience which takes time. I think it’s good to have to put pics up and such but it’s harder to get followers. Twitter has been better for me anyway. (Instagram is starting to be important for me)

My situation was a little different just because we moved to Seattle and I didn’t have a job yet so I had a lot of time to dedicate to starting. It took me about 2-3 months to start seeing regular sales. Since it’s been steady and I’m pregnant anyway I just work on that and do freelance stuff now.

But if you make time to do all of those things that should help! Some smaller, lower priced items also gets people into your shop to make the first initial sales.

Ok folks! Those are the basics for starting your shop. Coming soon: blog posts about marketing strategy and e-commerce sites once you’re ready to move off Etsy. Feel free to ask questions, I enjoy this topic and it is constantly evolving.

Gather ’round, it’s history time for my new perfumes

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Remember when I used to write about history? Probably not because it’s been sooo long. Well, I’m about to fix that because I have 4 brand new perfume tributes to let you know about!

Madame Moustache: A Perfumed Oil for Fancy Ladies & Gentlemen of Exceptional Quality

On the American Frontier you needed backbone and sheer wit to not only survive, but prosper.¬†Eleonore Alphonsine Dumont, aka Madame Moustache, had both in stride. Originally born in France (at least that’s what she claimed), Dumont was a notorious gambler hustling her way through mining camps and gambling houses in the West. She amassed a small fortune only to lose it all to a man of charm, but little substance. With dogged determination Dumont upped her gambling efforts and started her own gambling house “Vingt-et-un” (21) a saloon for stylish gents, no women, save for herself, allowed. Her charm made her the perfect, unassuming gambler, and with the addition of running a brothel, she found her fortune back in excess. When her beauty faded she became known as Madame Moustache, owing to a line of dark hair on her lip – which she wore with pride.

Madame Moustache Perfume Oil contains notes of tobacco pipe, vegan Egyptian musk, fire, and vanilla. This alluring scent is meant for fancy ladies and well kept gents, and smells like a warm campfire.

VIII: A Cologne Oil Worthy of Kingly Pursuits

Before he became the rotund, belligerent king of his twilight years, young King Henry VIII was a stylish youth deeply interested in the arts, education, sport, and was a devout Catholic called a Defender of the Faith by Pope Leo X. As the second son of Henry VII, he was never expected to become king, but when he did, he did so with lavish excess and cultivated an image of a Renaissance man. Henry VIII’s obsession with producing a male heir (partly his own vanity, and partly a desire to avoid another War of the Roses) is what led to the two things he is widely known for: the English Reformation and his six wives.

England’s most famous king had a soft spot for the finer things in life and was said to wear a concoction of ambergris and civet, two of the finest scents of the time. This cologne oil inspired by the illustrious Tudor has notes of ambergris, belladonna, clovebud, tobacco, bay leaf, fire, and Peru balsam.

Archibald Mensies: A Cologne Oil for Explorers of Merit & Other Fearless Pursuits

Back in the 1700s there was still a large swath of Earth left unexplored, especially in the New World. Archibald Menzies was a Scottish surgeon who moonlighted as a botanist and naturalist. He was hired aboard George Vancouver’s HMS Discovery that traveled around the world and is of particular note here in Seattle as they were some of the first to explore Puget Sound. Like Charles Darwin, who wasn’t even born until 15 years after the Discovery expedition, Archibald Menzies documented plant life and cultivated seeds. He discovered the Douglas Fir and brought/planted orange seeds in Hawaii (still there to this day) for future ships stopping there to port (oranges helped with scurvy).

This cologne oil features blood orange, oak moss, Egyptian musk, tobacco, and fir. Dab some on your wrist and go exploring.

Beatrix Potter: A Dead Writers Perfume

Beatrix Potter was the author and illustrator of the beloved children’s story,¬†The Tale of Peter Rabbit. She was born to a wealthy Victorian family and after summering in the Lake District as a child, she began her lifelong work as a naturalist and conservationist. Using the royalty money from the success of her book she bought Hill Top Farm and surrounding areas in an effort to keep the English countryside pristine.

In¬†Peter Rabbit¬†she wrote,¬†‚ÄúPeter was not very well during the evening. His mother put him to bed, and made some chamomile tea: “One table-spoonful to be taken at bedtime.‚ÄĚ This perfume was created after reading these lines to my own child. Beatrix has notes of moss, blue spruce, dragon’s blood, fire, earth, and chamomile. It has a wonderful green scent with the light floral of the chamomile headnote.

Let me know how you like them!

I went to the AWP Bookfair so you didn’t have to

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

AWP, or Association for Writers & Writing Programs, has a huge yearly conference in a rotating lineup of cities. This year it was in Seattle and I am seriously kicking myself for not finding out about it until two weeks before because I WOULD HAVE SOLD SO MANY BOTTLES OF DEAD WRITERS. OY. Oh well, I will pay more attention for next year (I heard it’s in Minneapolis).

Basically, the conference is a week of writing workshops and off-site readings with lots of booze because writers. (I would like to take this moment to quote my mother this weekend when I said I was going, “It’s good to have a little to drink to spark your creativity, but there is a line. Like Hemingway. Look what happened to him.”) My mother ladies and gentlemen.

Anywho, the conference was really expensive and we had family in town so I only got to go to the Bookfair. If you’re looking for books you’d find in Barnes and Noble, this fair isn’t for you… however, it was a paradise of indie presses, literary journals, MFA programs, and sign ups for moar writing conferences.

So here are the things I enjoyed:

Litographs

These guys put an entire book on a print/t-shirt/or canvas tote of your choosing in really modern designs. So cool and not expensive! My favorites are Pride & Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, Dracula, and Anna Karenina. But they’re all pretty amazing. Great gift.

Whidbey Writer’s Workshop MFA

I’d like to eventually get an MFA and if I’m still living in the Pacific Northwest, this is the one I want to attend. It’s a low-residency program on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound about 30 miles from Seattle. They have great instructors and interesting program emphases to choose from (Children’s and YA for me). Also of note about this program: 1. it is one of the only MFAs not given by a university but of an actual writers organization and does a great job of teaching you the business of getting published; 2. you can attend the residency on the island as a trial to see if their MFA is for you. Win win.

Sackett Street Writer’s Workshop

This is a top rated workshop for people who want to take classes but not necessarily go for an MFA. Classes are held in instructors’ houses in New York City. Sounds really fun and they gave me a free tote bag so sold. I’m going to check them out the next time I’m in NYC.

Hugo House

I already knew about Hugo House as I take classes there (fun fact: I pass this place every day shipping your orders and I always thought it was a halfway house until I looked it up lol). If you are in the Seattle area and are a writer, this is your haven. It’s an old house named after the Seattle poet Richard Hugo. They have all sorts of classes to help you grow as a writer, supportive instructors, and lots of readings and other activities. At AWP they had a jar full of fortunes. My AWP fortune was, “When God closes a book he opens a chapbook.” #truth

Conference I signed up for: Napa Valley Writer’s Conference

Because wine. My friend was at the conference later in the day and saw my name on the sign up list and we had a laugh.

Journals I liked enough to buy and will probably submit to:

Ploughshares – this is a popular one I’d heard of. They lured me in with a free t-shirt with Edgar Allen Poe on it.

Fairy Tale Review – this is on my radar to submit to. Their latest issue is Wizard of Oz themed. They gave away a packet of “magic seeds” with every journal.

The Rumpus – they lured me in with onesies for my baby that say WRITE LIKE A MOTHER. I thought they were affiliated with McSweeney’s and I had a good talk with one of the editors. They have ties to McSweeney’s but are their own thing. I was confused because I used to volunteer at 826 Valencia and they were down the street from each other. I am going to submit some nonfiction here.

The Austin Review – this is a brand new, snazzy looking journal from super cool city I haven’t been to, Austin. They are just getting started and are really passionate. Worth a look.

Zyzzyva – I heard about this journal because Junot Diaz really likes it so I bought a copy. The editor told me the name is the last word in the dictionary and is an insect. She said that their logo is a beetle made out of typeset. Super cool! My favorite story in the latest issue is Photisms.

Rock and Sling – Ok this one is strange for me. This is a Christian journal. I am not religious (I’m what they call a bad Catholic or recovering Catholic) but it’s pretty modern and looks like it allows for different forms of spirituality. I’ve got some stories from my catechism and confirmation days as well as lots of ghost and insanely spiritual dream stories so I am a little interested in what I could create for this. The journals they had also had some really insane art.

Bitch Magazine – I’d already heard of this, a feminist magazine. I really enjoy that it’s pop culture through the lens of feminist viewpoints. I picked up their new food issue which is not at all what I thought it would be and it is even more awesome than I could have imagined. They were selling really cool mugs with famous strong ladies from history. The girl working the booth told me that her presence there had made for interesting conversations with all the people who hadn’t heard of this one lol.

The Paris Review – this is an old prestigious journal I want to submit to but won’t get into, which is fine. They were selling old journals from the 40s and 50s with names such as James Thurber and T.S. Elliott. I would have bought those but they were too expensive. I did get the latest issue, and sigh, really want to get published there.

There were literally a billion other cool things but these are the ones that caught my attention. Hoping to have a booth for Dead Writers next year.

Naturals vs Synthetics?

Tags

, , , ,

One of the biggest questions I receive as a perfumer is about whether I use synthetics. Yes, I do, I am unashamed to admit. It is frustrating when people come at me as though I’m a terrible person for this. Yes, some people have very sensitive skin so synthetics are bad for them, but I’m willing to bet those same people would also have issues with various essential oils. Natural is always better right?

WRONG.

I have tried to explain this multiple times, but this quote from a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle says it better than I’ve been able to articulate:

“Industry insider¬†Carol Maa, a classically trained perfumer and CEO of luxury advisory group ofLeisure, weighs in: “Is natural really the same thing as safe?” she asks. And is natural always environmentally friendly? “Something as basic to perfumery as musk comes from endangered deer,” which are poached relentlessly in China and Russia, says Maa. “That’s not humane. Yet there are now amazing molecular re-creations of musk, the next generation of musk” – hyper-precise synthetics – “that are not only humane, but sustainable and biodegradable and let perfumers play on specific elements. Molecular geeks can geek out on citrusy musks, say, or smoky¬†musks.”

Hyper-precise faux ambergris without a touch of real whale? Bring on the¬†atomizer.”

Read the rest of the article¬†here, it’s got a nice shout out to my perfume group, Seattle Sniff.

**This is not to say that I don’t like all natural perfumes, I do. I also don’t have a problem with people who only want to use natural perfumes for various reasons of their own. I just don’t like it when people are uninformed and mistakenly believe that all naturals are always inherently safer or better. It kind of reminds me of the whole all natural childbirth vs medicated vs csection. IT’S ALL NATURAL DAMMIT. /rant**

Writing, Writing, Writing

Tags

, , ,

I have not yet started selling Pemberley and my three newest, Archibald, Madame Moustache, and VIII are sitting on the counter waiting for me to get it together. After all the baby’s activities – music class, story time, and baby French class (yes I’m one of those people) – it’s hard to concentrate on the perfumes when I’ve been so excited about writing again.

It all started when I read a YA book over Christmas travels. The book hit a nerve with me because I have written two unfinished YAs and it got me thinking…now’s the time. Especially because my YA genre is still on the outskirts of what’s popular but I definitely see the trend heading in its direction. I have three friends working on novels so I’ve been long distance workshopping with them. Not only that, but Seattle has a very strong writing community. I’m taking a class at Hugo House right now where I’ve met several really cool people with similar goals so hopefully more eyes to help me work out my manuscript’s kinks.

The one I’m working on right now, was originally written in 2010 during Nanowrimo. I left it alone for a while because the subject matter was still very raw to me, but now that I’ve had some distance, this is the year I’ve decided to get it out there. It’s a fairy tale – sort of Neil Gaiman hanging out with the Brothers Grimm type thing about a teenager on a journey to the underworld. I enjoy it. The other one I will edit when the first is complete is a steam punk story that grew out of a short story I wrote for the Machine of Death franchise. I didn’t get in to my great sadness, but that’s a good thing because the novel that came out of it’s ashes is way cooler.

Anyway, perfume releases are on the horizon but taking a backseat to some creative endeavors I want to take on this year. The perfumes I talked about in the first paragraph will come out within the month but after that I won’t be releasing anything new for a while.

So hey, I did a podcast

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Kimberly Wilson, a very lovely lady, interviewed me for a podcast on her blog Tranquility du Jour. We talk about tea, historical fiction, and of course, perfume. It was a new experience for me and a lot of fun. I was insanely nervous because I actually was 30 minutes late for the podcast because I can’t read apparently and messed up East Coast vs. West Coast time and then I was afraid the baby would wake up and yada yada yada here you go. Even if you don’t want to listen, there are some links to books I recommended to her so definitely check those out.

I apologize profusely for the horrible, horrible vocal fry. I lived in Los Angeles for the majority of my life ok? I know I do it, but I can’t stop. It is my great shame.