Oh, hai! I read books, then I write down what I think of them.
[I was provided with book for the price of No Monies thanks to the publisher, Storey Publishing, and the ever wonderful NetGalley. It is available (hopefully) today: June 11th!]
[A very important note: this is not one for the ereader. You will want either a hardcopy, or a tablet/computer to read on. The layout is more like a magazine sans pictures.]
I love it when people give me money. I love it even more when people give me money for something I'm doing anyway, so I'm always on the lookout for ways to turn what I'm doing anyway into monies which I can then squander on unimportant things like the gas bill. When I saw The Handmade Marketplace on NetGalley, I was immediately interested.
I hoped for a book which would give me some guidance to how one goes about selling things, both online and in general. I already have some knowledge about the avenues available and I spent many a Saturday as a teenager manning a stall for my Mammy's craft business. I have a degree of knowledge, but it's mostly out of date.
What I got was a book which was ... mixed.
The style is initially pleasing. The writing is chatty and positive without getting too rah! rah! about everything. Throughout, soundbites from crafters are provided and these often covered the points I felt were missing from the text. There are also some useful little Q&As which, again, raise the points I was going to complain weren't covered.
It looks quite nice too, initially. The layout suits the chatty style of the writing, but it doesn't gel enough. If you're giving me something I can't read on my kindle, I'd hope there's a reason for it. Most of the cartoon images could have been taken from a stock site - they don't have anything to do with the text. There are a few places where some diagrams would have been useful, such as when talking about how to set up a home photography studio. I also found some of the more cursive fonts (used in the quotes from crafters) difficult to read (which I was doing on my PC).
Where I struggle is in knowing who The Handmade Marketplace is aimed at. The style and the substance is pretty basic, but overall the book is teaching you how to set up a crafting *business* - rather than starting with where to sell, how to sell stuff, it begins with inspiration, branding, logos, and business practices. These are all useful things (I'm very glad to see branding covered, even if there are some massive gaps in the content, such as information about fonts and how visual identity works) but for a book which has the subtitle "How to sell your crafts locally, globally, and online"? Not so much.
Branding is not the only place with gaps. There is a short section about photographing your work, which include the rather bizarre assertion that:
Some cameras allow you to easily adjust the white balance, which can result in crisper, clearer photos.
While it's true most cameras allow you adjust the white balance it has nothing to do with the sharpness of a photograph. White balance is the temperature of the photograph. Setting it correctly means the colours in your image will appear accurately. This can be done in camera or as part of the post processing if you're shooting in RAW (which is like shooting a negative rather than a Polaroid - if you're adjusting it afterwards, shoot RAW) The sharpness is effected by things like the size of the aperture (which you can only control if you're using an SLR and which in turn affects the depth of field), the shutter speed, the use of a tripod etc none of which are talked about. No tips on how to create certain looks - not even the classic "put your camera on a bean bag to keep it steady" tip. (I'd also advise making use of the 2 second shutter delay to avoid creating blur with your finger pressing the button.)
When it's not missing things out, it offers some pieces of advice worthy of #Pippatips. In the evaluating a craft fair section, the book suggests you consider the time of year the fair takes place.
If you knit winter hats or make letterpress Chistmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa cards, a show in the middle of summer might not be the right one for you.
But, it also has some excellent advice which may not have occurred to anybody who's new to craft fairing, such as asking what other kind of artisans are going to be at the fair. It does a good job of covering the (very) basic things you need to know and suggesting ways to research the fair, but much of this information is bogged down in the chatty style - it's not a book to reference easily. Checklists would have been a big plus.
It also covers things I wouldn't have thought to cover, like what happens if you apply to attend a fair and get rejected, and I think that's probably a really good place to explain why this book doesn't do it for me.
I'm not precious in general, and I'm utterly unprecious about business things. Yes, I get the same sense of pride as anybody else putting my stuff out there into the big wide world for people to part with money for - and I'm talking about all sorts here: writing, design, illustration, craft - but once it's out there I'm done with it; anything from that point on is just numbers. Sure, it's disappointing when things don't get accepted places you thought they would, or something doesn't sell as well as you hoped, or any other form rejection can take. There is a flipside: the unexpected joy, or more often bewilderment, of something doing better than you believed it would. Even that, though, is just numbers. When somebody tells me to give me a hug for all my hard work, especially when it's for something fundamental to the job I am trying to have, I want to respond with a Grumpy Cat gif.
I particularly dislike the way the book is so firmly on the side of the crafter: it may work for you, it didn't for me. When talking about how to deal with somebody leaving a negative comment about the work, the book sensibly advises addressing the customer's concerns, avoiding an argument, and doing so promptly. Unfortunately, it goes on to say:
You come out smelling like roses compared to Ms Crankypants.
Which is right up there with being thanked for a negative review so the author can show everybody how nice and great they are even though this meany-boots didn't like their book. It's passive aggressive and it's not on.
Although I liked the style and the structure, I feel this book is too much about the chatty style and pleasing layout to be of use to anybody looking to become a crafter. There are a few gems of advice (loved the idea of providing drinking water and dog biscuits at outdoor shows) but it also has some major omissions. (I did a bit of Googling afterwards: if the author is a crafter, she doesn't connect that fact with this book, so that may be why there are these gaps.). The best thing to take away from it are the chapter headings so you can do your own research: 2 stars.