Promoting your shop outside of Etsy is a valuable way to increase your exposure as well as sales. There are a variety of social mediums to do so: Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc., but gaining local or national exposure to new readers has the potential to boost your profile to a new dimension, if not your confidence.
Getting published in a newspaper, trade magazine or book can be an incredible ego boost, but does it translate to sales? Is it worth the hassle? What are the pit-falls? Though certainly not an all-inclusive, guide on how to get published, these stories and tips could help you start thinking about promoting yourself on a larger scale and give you some tools to get the process started, especially when you are the one actively seeking out publication.
I sent out a request via the EcoEtsy group, posted a request on the forums and also scoured the forums for past posts on getting published. One theme that stood out in about 90% of the stories is that the sellers were contacted directly by the authors/writers/publishers, most of whom were found via Etsy. This speaks to the importance of carefully crafted photos. If a writer or publisher is surfing the Etsy site, s/he will certainly gravitate toward those photos that not only showcase the product but elicit a certain feeling or emotion. Usually writers are seeking out products that match the theme of their story, so it can also be a case of being in the right spot at the right time. Jane from zJayne, who was recently contacted by and featured in Body and Soul Magazine, a Martha Stewart publication, states that, â€œa lot of it is luck. What helps bring luck might be always plugging away at improving pictures, and renewing or listing something daily to be seen.â€
For those who were contacted directly, about half were asked to send in high resolution photos of their items; the other half were asked to specifically send in the items to be photographed in house (which will mean that the copyright to the photos will be owned by the publication and you will most likely not be able to use in your shop/on your site). What you will need to do or send in will also depend on the publication as well as what the piece is on. If your item is part of a â€œGotta have it for this season!â€ promotion spread, sending in photos or items may be enough. A how-to tutorial to making your product will likely require detailed instructions, step-by-step pictures and/or an article/bio to coincide with your product. An article about you and how you craft your items may mean a visit with a hairstylist and photographer for a full photo shoot. It all depends and you will need to act accordingly.
How it went down
Just about everyone who commented on being published indicated that it was a positive experience overall and that the editors/publishers were, for the most part, very easy to get along with. Here are some snippets from fellow EcoEtsy team members:
Jessica from SpaGoddess has been featured in several blogs, newspapers and magazines, including E The Environmental Magazine, ReadyMade Magazine and most recently Cosmopolitan Magazine. She states that, â€œit was only Cosmo who requested products. The PR agent requested samples for the initial meeting/presentation. I sent what she asked for, plus some other products I thought they may enjoy and as much promo info as I could put together. Once Cosmo confirmed they wanted to feature the product, they asked for another 2 samples of the product so they could do some photography. None of the others asked for a media packet or products to sample.â€
Sometimes you may submit one item, but something else in your shop catches the fancy of the editor/writers, as is the case with Claire from MontclairMade. â€œ[Green Craft Magazine] contacted me via Etsy convo before the first issue was published. She was specifically
interested in my crochet plarn totesâ€¦I made a special plarn tote to send for that original
submission. She later asked me to send samples of my brown paper bag cover journals and they were
eventually chosen for an upcoming journal issue. â€œ
Claire also regularly participates in the magazine’s requests for â€œchallengesâ€ submissions
which are a regular, deadline-specific feature of the magazine and can help you get noticed by the editors as well as the readers if published.
â€œWe’ve had a great response,â€ says Jessica and Robyn of PoshPads. â€œI really think it’s because we believe in what we are doing…not everybody will like your art form or product, but if you talk to enough [people] and send [to] enough [people] who are in the same industry/interest of your â€˜work’ then someone will take notice…it ONLY takes ONE person to give you the boost you need. Then it’s up to you to continue to follow through.â€
Mandy and her mom of Mandinka have been in several local newspapers and a local magazine. â€œAll of the reporters saw our work in the artists co-op here in downtown Springfield where we sell our bags. They were interview type stories and they took our picture and took their own photos of a few of our bags. This definitely helped our business locally and created a lot of custom ordersâ€¦even years later people will say, â€˜Oh, I think I read about you in the paper a while back.’â€
Whether you are contacted directly or decide to actively pursue the submission, make sure you understand the process: Will your item be returned or kept? Will you have to include a check/money order to cover the shipping back to you? How long will they keep the item? Will you be able to sell the item while they are holding it (if it’s one-of-a-kind, will this hurt your sales? If it’s not OOAK, do they prohibit you from selling it until publication to keep it fresh and unique for when the publication drops?
If you are contacted directly by a publication you are unfamiliar with, you will want to shelve your excitement for a moment and make sure you check it out: Is it a legitimate publication? How popular/well-known is it? What is the readership? Will you get any additional promotion on their website?
Though newspapers and trade magazines rarely compensate monetarily, being featured in a book often will. Regardless, make sure you are clear on any compensation or complimentary services as a result of publication: Are you being promised payment for this? If so, do you have it in writing? Will you get an advanced copy and/or additional copies?
Regardless of the type of publication, it is essential that you include all your contact information. â€œMy suggestion would be, if you’re going to be included in a book and will be writing up an â€˜about me’ paragraph for inclusion, make sure you include your link to your shop, blog, etc. so people know how to find you. â€œ says Lisa of LilFishStudios.
Although many sellers did not see a huge spike in sales immediately after being published, it often varied on the popularity of the publication. Either way, make sure that you give the appearance of being able to handle a surge in sales (having a pretty good selection in your shop will help you look more established) as some publications will want to be assured that you can meet demand from their consumers and may deny you inclusion if they feel you are unable to handle it. â€œAn inventory is necessary. When I’ve been asked to submit, they also say something about being able to fill orders that may come in – so you plan ahead – not even knowing if it’s a go,â€ says Jane of zJayne.
Some questions to ask yourself are: Are you financially in a position to make dozens of these items ahead of time in case sales jump or will you be able to/willing to work long hours and have customers possibly wait in order to meet demand? Can you afford to hold onto extra inventory in case sales don’t transpire and sell over time? Can you handle it emotionally if sales don’t budge?
Janet from CustomSepia (not an EcoEtsy member but a friendly seller that answered my call for stories) says that sales have been mixed, even with an appearance in Martha Stewart Magazine. â€œThe lesson I took from my experiences is that there’s no guarantee that you will make it big from one appearance in the press. You have to keep plugging away and trying for the next bit of exposure. There’s never a time you can sit back and say, “OK, now I have all the customers I need.”
If you do see a surge in sales, you may also have to ask yourself if you are prepared to handle the short term (or possibly long-term) effects on work/life balance? Jessica from SpaGoddess notes that â€œonce you get press like this, you’re under some heavy scrutiny and that can weigh heavily on [you] personally. It’s also hard to predict how the exposure is going to impact sales. Do I spend a bunch of money (which I may not have) trying to bulk up inventory or do I just take it as it comes? Are my websites good enough? Does my brand look professional enough? I already work 10-14 hours a day, can I really do much more than this? It is challenging to keep up with the growth and be realistic about what I can physically do in one day. I had to add an assistant and have started to reorganize the biz to improve my quality of life, i.e. not work 10-14 hrs/day 7 days a weekâ€¦It is really exciting, and stressful, and definitely challenging.â€
You may also want to see if you can promote a deal for the readership which may include freebies for the first (however-many) people that come to your site and mention the publication or a certain percentage off for readers using a certain code/message to seller. This may not work for the publication or may not suit your style, but something to consider as it can be difficult to translate readers into buyers when they’re reading off a print copy (and not an electronic version where they can easily click on a link). Such a promotion may give the readers the push they need to check out your site now rather than leave it for later, only to be forgotten.
There’s no such thing as bad publicity, right?
I’m going to say the dreaded word for many Etsy sellers: Regretsy. Now before you hastily leave this post, hear me out. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Regretsy is a website that features â€œuniqueâ€ items from Etsy. Their tag line, â€œWhere DIY meets WTFâ€ pretty much sums up their position. However, my good friend and the seller who first introduced me to Etsy, Lisa from Archdiva (a sexual health educator by day, jewelry maker by night â€“ and let’s just say that sometimes she combines the two interests) recently submitted her work to be featured in the recently released Regretsy book. I know most sellers feel that Regretsy seeks to hurt people’s feeling by making fun of their art and would be horrified at the prospect of being featured on their daily website, let alone actively seek out publication in their book. However, most people who have been featured have seen a tremendous sales boost.
Says Lisa, â€œI think what a lot of people don’t realize is that being on Regretsy is not always a commentary on quality; sometimes it’s about content, sometimes it’s about odd typos or strangely worded descriptions; sometimes it’s something that just strikes April (site founder) as really hilarious. I mean, look at my vulva pendants — high quality, but sort of a weird subject to some people’s eyes.â€
As a result of being featured in the book, Lisa received free online promotion on their site, an advanced copy and lots of curious visits. Although she hasn’t seen a sales bump yet (book has only been out a month), she has seen a large increase in site visits and hearts. â€œAs far as I’m concerned, those visits and hearts will translate into sales down the line. The exposure from the book has brought in people who probably wouldn’t have otherwise visited my shop, so that’s a win as far as I’m concerned!â€
Seek for yourself
Although being featured on Regretsy may not be high on your list of publications to be in, it really is up to you to seek out those publications that you wish to be featured in. It’s wise to cast your net wide and try a bunch of different venues to increase your chances of being picked up.
Why not reach out to the local community or arts editor of your local or state paper (the local movement is really catching on and you can jump on this bandwagon!). Participating in an upcoming arts and/or crafts show? Why not send a press release to your local paper indicating that you’ll be participating and provide a bio of you and your business that will catch the attention of the editor and readers. This has the potential to not only promote your shop but can direct people to your booth at the show.
You can also do like Jessica and Robyn at PoshPads who wrote their local paper when they won an award. â€œWe recently took 5th place in “Leading Moms In Business” and that gave us great exposure. We contacted the local newspaper to tell them about the win and then they decided to feature us.â€
Want to know what to include in a press release for local publications such as newspapers? There are lots of resources on the web, but here’s a good start.
If you find yourself drawn to certain publications that features work not unlike yours, seek out the submission guidelines and send it in! Can’t find submission guidelines? Google the editor and send them an email inquiring about submission guidelines and include a link to your shop. Worse they can do is say no or not answer but if it’s a yes, it can unleash a multitude of possibilities.
Jessica and Robyn know the value of self-promoting. â€œEvery time we come across an opportunity to talk or send in our product we do…even if its a long shot. If you see an opportunity/challenge for new business or something specific to your art form/product sign up…join in and try to win it….only you can make it happen!â€
Here’s a link to the submission guidelines for Stampington & Co. (the popular publisher of over 30 art periodicals, including Green Craft Magazine) which could help you understand the types of things they’re looking for in submissions.
Regardless of the publication, make sure that you read the submission guidelines thoroughly, send in items/photos according to their directions and hope for the best. Becky from GlueandGlitter speaks from experience: â€œThe only thing I would have done differently at this point would have been to read their instructions more closely before starting. [The publication] is a book of patterns, and I ended up having to do mine over because I realized at the end that I hadn’t followed their specs exactly.â€
If sending in products, make sure the presentation is just as beautiful as the item itself. And if you are published, make sure to post a link in your shop announcement or profile to let customers know of it (for some, it helps to add legitimacy and value to your business). However, be careful to publicize your upcoming appearance until you know it is confirmed or have seen it in print; all too often these deals can fall through without notice. Becky recommends â€œkeeping the situation under your hat until you’re sure it’s happening. I did get burned once by telling my friends and family about an article somewhere else that ended up falling through. It was a little embarrassing!â€
And be prepared for the unknown. Some sellers expressed frustration over not getting enough communication and finding out after the fact whether an item was published or if it fell through. The waiting and wondering can be exhausting.
If you are featured, it’s always a nice sentiment (as well as good business sense) to send a little thank you since many items are returned back. Jessica from SpaGoddess sends out thank you goodie boxes to the writers and public relations agents after the stories are in print. Nothing like keeping you and your business fresh in their minds!
So, if you have fantasized about being featured in a publication, you don’t need to wait for them to find you; go ahead and get out there and self-promote! Hopefully this has helped you understand the process a bit more. Have any additional thought/comments/suggestions? Please feel free to comment below!
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