The Soapmaker’s Guide to Online Marketing ~ Now in Paperback!

By Lisa Maliga, copyright 2017

optimized-the_soapmakers_guide_to_online_marketing_kindleThe Soapmaker’s Guide to Online Marketing was first published in 2013. I’ve taken the time to update and expand this helpful book for those of you who are selling [or thinking about selling] bath and body products online. Back in 2004, I opened up my store, EverythingShea.com. I started off knowing very little about how to get people to visit my little website. I’m sharing what I’ve learned with anyone who wishes to get more customers. 

Best of all, this book is still the same low price it was when it first was published in June 2013. However, one thing’s changed — there finally is a paperback edition!

Much of the information in this book is also helpful for those creative people who sell other types of arts and crafts online.

♦♦♦

Soapmakers and crafters, learn how to grow your online presence! “The Soapmaker’s Guide to Online Marketing is packed with detailed information on designing, building, and promoting your website. Learn how to write a press release. Get loads of free and low cost promotional ideas. Attract customers by blogging, making videos, and showing off enticing photos of your soaps and/or other bath and body products. Written by the author of “The Joy of Melt and Pour Soap Crafting” and more than a dozen other soap crafting books.

You’ll get:

♦ Successful SEO tips
♦ Free online and offline website promotion tips
♦ Helpful photo guidelines
♦ Video ideas
♦ 100+ updated links
♦ Getting product reviews
♦ Set up your work/crafting area
♦ Wholesaling and labeling guidelines
♦ Avoiding online fraud
♦ Tips on creating your product line
♦ Basic soap recipes
♦ More than 30 resources

Check out my new book trailer!

the_soapmakers_guide_to_online_marketing

Where to buy links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Soapmakers-Guide-Online-Marketing-ebook/dp/B00D5YX9IS
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Soapmakers-Guide-Online-Marketing-ebook/dp/B00D5YX9IS
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-soapmakers-guide-to-online-marketing-lisa-maliga/1115476903?ean=9781540862976
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id804457652
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-soapmaker-s-guide-to-online-marketing-3
Scribd: https://www.scribd.com/book/230453462/The-Soapmaker-s-Guide-to-Online-Marketing
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/322570

 

70% of Nothing: The Reality of Indie Publishing

By Lisa Maliga, Copyright 2015

computerscreenI barely passed basic math in seventh grade, but I’ve learned a lot about numbers, percentages and book rankings since 2010.

On October 21, I released my $2.99 novel, Notes from Nadir, which I had serialized via my blog of the same title. The price was chosen because I would earn a 70% royalty rate. I sold four copies the first month, the same number in November, and soon the book was ignored.

By February 2011, I had five novels on Amazon and a few other stores. The titles were previously published online and I had regained my full rights. Sales in the dawn of e-publishing [2000-2004] were minimal and I noticed nothing had changed, except that I was now doing all the work.

I self-published my nonfiction titles as I had extensive experience making soap and bath and body products. Over time, my eBooks were available on 12 other Amazon marketplaces like the UK, Canada, Australia, Italy, Germany, etc. I uploaded titles to B&N, Smashwords, Kobo, CreateSpace [paperbacks], iTunes, and Draft2Digital. I joined AuthorsDen, Manic Readers, Twitter, Face Book and WordPress. I’ve had my own website since 2001 and this year I launched a newsletter and offered free eBooks. I have two instructional videos and two book trailers on YouTube, and I joined Pinterest because I like photography.

When it comes to nonfiction books, I’ve discovered that it’s exceedingly difficult to get linkbacks/mentions from companies/sources that are listed. I revised one of my titles to include several photos and interview some suppliers. While I provide their links and contact information, they won’t add a link to my eBook on their website, nor mention it in a newsletter/blog.

Why are those listed suppliers unable to provide a link? I’m asking for no money and in many cases have even spent money on their product[s]! I offered them a free copy of my eBook in their preferred format.

Don’t these suppliers realize that they can make money from eBooks? Should a consumer read it and want to buy supplies, that supplier has just picked up some biz? Also, if a supplier has an Amazon or B&N affiliate link, they’ll get money for each copy sold from their website. [I realize that not all websites sell via Amazon/B&N].

Indie writers are easy to ignore. They have no agents, managers or publicists to get the word of their eBooks out there. Ironically, while many of the bath and body suppliers are fond of the term FAIR TRADE, they won’t do a simple link exchange which would actually benefit their own company!

But I kept writing until my titles increased from 1 to 32, almost evenly divided between fiction and nonfiction. Contrary to the myth that more books equal more sales, I’ve found the opposite to be true. As of August 2015, I have 7 more titles yet I’ve earned 30% less than I did in June 2014 on Amazon.

Approximately 90,000 eBooks are released on Amazon every month. The chances of any book being seen are in the league of unlikely to very unlikely.

How does a writer earn a decent living by writing eBooks? Four years ago, I saw a pattern. They wrote an eBook or two, especially a series or serial, blogged, went to other authors’ blogs and left comments. Those other authors had a larger following, so the neophyte eBook author sucked up to the “bigger authors” and dished out excellent book reviews, hoping to get the same treatment for their books. Even after that exhausting circle of writing, praising other writers, and occasionally having other writers praise you, they still hadn’t seen an increase in book sales. Others have speculated that at the start of the self-pubbing boom, some authors bought dozens of good reviews on Fiverr, thus launching their careers.  A self-published author/blogger exhorted their followers to write a book, write a second book, a third, and repeat indefinitely. Unsurprisingly, that author wrote a book about how to write and market books.

After releasing my twentieth title, I thought there would be more sales. I uploaded a horror novella that had small blocks of white spaces appearing randomly throughout the book. No one contacted me about it because I never sold a single copy of the aptly titled An Author’s Nightmare.

Since then, I’ve changed how I perceive indie publishing. Whenever I upload an eBook, or even a paperback edition, it’s not publishing, it’s uploading a manuscript. I also uploaded three freebies; hoping readers would discover my other titles. Occasionally, they did.

So, how does an “indie” author get noticed? By advertising?

Advertisers are popping up all over the place like psychedelic mushrooms. They’ll send your book’s links to the best potential customers — readers. Sometimes grand promises are made of thousands of readers willing to download or buy your book. I tried getting a $2.99 novel out to 106,000 Face Book fans. The result? Zip. I could have done that myself, as I’m a member of more than 50 book-related groups. In fact, I have. The result has been similar. With some advertisers, you’ll get a few sales or a few hundred downloads for a freebie. Then what? Not much. Your book plummets in rank, maybe you get a review or two, and the title rests in obscurity with hundreds of thousands of unread eBooks on Amazon, B&N and other online bookstores.

Getting lots of downloads of freebies is meaningless if no one buys your other titles. There’s another myth about more reviews attracting more sales. Sometimes it’s true, especially if they’re legitimate reviews by readers. Yet how many people actually read and review those freebies?

After my years in indie publishing, I’ve learned that only a few authors can make a lot of money. I’ve earned far less than I did when I was temping.

Being an author isn’t unique any more. Self-publishing is for anyone who can process some words, design a book cover or have one made for a few dollars. Many books aren’t even proofread, let alone edited. With the glut of available reading material, it’s almost impossible for an author’s book[s] to stand out. Most eBooks will plunge to the murky depths of internet bookstores far, far away from the best sellers. They’ll wind up with six or seven-digit rankings, doomed to obscurity.

Most people don’t read. Most people don’t buy eBooks or prefer downloading freebies. And most readers don’t review books.

And that’s what I’ve learned about selling eBooks [and paperbacks] for almost half a decade.

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Memories of Bakery Bleu

By Lisa Maliga, copyright 2015

bakery bleu pie notes from nadir lisa maligaConsolidating my archived emails, I came across some that were labeled Bakery Bleu. Ah yes, the first bakery I ever worked at, the one described in my novel, Notes from Nadir. The one where I met Gordon, the owner and baker. A quick Google search revealed that things had changed since that interview back on a beautiful warm and sunny April day. No longer was the bakery there—it had vanished. 

Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 19 ~ The Boss of Bakery Bleu

Upon entering the bakery, I noticed a bin of unwrapped baguettes on the counter. I saw a variety of rolls and sweet rolls on the shelves, and behind the man who stood at the counter, were rows of different kinds of breads.

I met Gordon, a tall auburn haired man bordering on pudginess. He wore a navy polo shirt with the golden-brown Bakery Bleu logo [a pair of crossed breadsticks] above one of his manboobs. He shook my hand and sat down across from me so he could see both me and all the baked goodies to the north.

“Do tell me about yourself,” he said in a hearty voice. His accent wasn’t local, that’s for sure. He sounded English. Of course, I didn’t think he wanted to know about my personal history but about how valuable I’d be as a minimum wage slave, I mean, employee. I smiled, and for once, I wasn’t unhappy about sitting across from the man even though he could only offer a part time job. I pulled out a pale blue resume and handed it to him. He nodded and looked at it. I knew he was probably surprised when he saw the word Dreamweaver on the bottom where I listed a few web related things.

“You had your own business,” he studied that piece of paper atop the black table. “You lived in Los Angeles…what’re you doing here?”

Much as I want to, I couldn’t avoid that question. The man was scrutinizing me now. I looked at his dark eyes, then down at the table. “Cheap rent. I live with my mom.”

He had a genuine, hearty laugh. It sounded so wonderful after not hearing much of it that year. And I laughed out loud myself. It was true, that cliché about laughter being healthy.

“I did too when I first moved here from London.”

“Not London, Kentucky?”

He smiled broadly and I was feeling more comfortable with this man I had just met. “England.” He replied, though I knew the answer and he knew I knew that he was from across the pond.

“The people are so boring here,” I said. Oops, not the kind of thing to say in a job interview, especially as I was applying for a job where I’d be waiting on those boring people. But this didn’t really feel like one. “I didn’t say that,” I said.

He leaned forward a bit, covered his ears and replied, “I didn’t hear that!”

God, we were like teenagers on a first date.

He began speaking of the duties. The first date was over; it was a real job interview. He went over them: waiting on customers, taking calls, helping out with orders, mopping up… “It’s not General Motors,” he said. “We’ve all got to pull together.”

Like team spirit? I thought, but left that unsaid.

He complained about how slow business was. And the customers’ taste in bread. “The baguettes are too hard!” he mocked, using a higher pitched voice. He shook his head and in his sexily deep voice said, “I lived in France for eight years. A baguette is CRISP. Here they think it’s burned. I offered to sell them dough if they want soft baguettes.”

I chuckled at that image.

“Look, I only have one important question for you…” he paused with the drama of a stage actor.

Hmm, this was getting interesting. 

To read more, click NOTES FROM NADIR.

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notes from nadir lisa maliga ebook cover

Starting a Crafty eCommerce Business Website

By Lisa Maliga, Copyright 2014

I’m sharing some basic tips on how to launch a crafty eCommerce business website.

Your website is your storefront. Will you design your own website or hire a professional? Another option is to get a predesigned virtual store at Etsy, eBay, Artfire, WordPress, etc.

Buy Your Domain Name

Usually it costs less than $10 per year.

More than a decade ago, I bought the domain name everythingshea.com which I still own. Although people from China wanted to own it, I said no, you can use whatever you want in Chinese but in good old American English it’s still EverythingShea.com. After all, I started this company because I love shea butter, and all my products contain shea butter.

Internet History: Archive.org

If you’re not already familiar with http://www.archive.org you might want to be. If you start an online website, whether you’ll be running it as a store, or just as a nice online display case of your product[s], it’s a helpful site to visit. You can see just about any website’s history or find out if the website ever existed and/or what it looked like years ago.

PayPal Shopping Cart

I used PayPal as my shopping cart. It’s free and all you pay is a small percentage for each sale. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, PayPal is an option you’ll want to consider. Also, PayPal is the payment of choice on Artfire, Etsy, eBay and many other online shops.

It’s All About You!

the soapmaker's guide to online marketing, lisa maliga, ebooks, soapmaking, soapcrafting, online marketingAside from having an eye catching, keyword-friendly main page, I recommend having an About page on your website. Visitors can get to know about you and your products. This increases customer confidence, tells us how long you’ve been making your products, and what inspired you to make them.

This page should feature information about the origins of your company. Share photos of your products—even if it’s only one. You can also have pictures of you and/or your workplace. If you have a soap site and sell soap bars or shampoo used for animals, show a picture of a dog being bathed in your soap. For an author’s website, display your picture, book cover, and/or workplace.

Expanding the WWW

The WWW is like the universe – expansive! It grows page by page, picture by picture, and video by video–every day and night. Like authors writing more books and uploading them onto Amazon, B&N NOOK, Kobo, iTunes, etc., the more titles you have, the more web pages you have, the more likely you are to be noticed.

Each page should accurately represent your product and not use any tricks. I’m a firm believer in quality versus quantity. Show and tell the audience why they need to buy your product. Be creative. Use photos and videos. Make it a visual feast that engages even a casual surfer. Lovingly describe your products, attracting people in such a way that they want to learn more—and become your customers!

Testimonials

Testimonials – Ask for them. Get them. Use them with the buyer’s permission.

Free Samples or Paid Samplers?

shea butter sampler everythingshea.com

As I was running an online only store, I didn’t offer free samples. However, I sold samplers containing several varities of shea butter and handcrafted soap. I always included a sample with any PAID order.

However, for authors, offering a free eBook will attract more readers. And there isn’t any mailing fee!

Learn more about online promotion here:

Promoting Your Website ~ An Excerpt from “The Soapmakers Guide to Online Marketing”

Selling Your Soap at Craft Fairs & Farmer’s Markets

hollywood fruits nuts flakes soap
Hollywood Fruits, Nuts & Flakes Soap

By Lisa Maliga

Copyright 2014-2016

I’m no stranger to craft fairs and farmer’s markets as a customer. I’ve attended these types of events since I was a kid. They’re fun to go to and I know what to look for when shopping for soap and other bath and body products.

What initially attracts my attention is how the soap is displayed. Nice, neat rows of soap? Stacks of the stuff? Baskets, containers or little tubs brimming with it? Soap that needs to be cut for you like wheels of cheese [think Lush]. Soap loaves? Some shelves flaunting your soapy wares? For lots of brilliant examples, go to Google images and type in “soap displays for craft shows.” You’ll see loads of ideas in just the first few images.

The Scents of the Season

I’ve read and seen that there are certain scents that sell better in the warm weather than around Christmas or in cold weather. In warm weather, the trend is for lighter fragrances like florals, especially lilac, lily of the valley, sweet pea, anything with the word “blossom” in it, and fruity scents. Consider the fruits that ripen during the warmer months: Strawberries, peaches, watermelon, mangoes, papayas, blueberries, plums, etc. Vanilla is a warm aroma that is associated with baking but is good any time of year. You can’t go wrong with a fresh green herbal fragrance or one reminiscent of the garden, like mints, thyme, or rosemary. Then you have the perennial citrus favorites: lemon, lime, orange, and grapefruit. You’ll attract customers with fragrances that smell like the elements: ocean breeze, tropical rain, fragrant meadows, country roads, or forests.

In the fall and winter, the aromas are a little heavier. Say hello to pumpkin–that’s a perennial fall through Christmas favorite. And for Christmas, you’ll have candy cane/peppermint, eggnog, balsam, bayberry, cinnamon, Christmas tree/evergreen, mulberry, and frankincense and myrrh.

To Wrap or Not to Wrap?

Unwrapped soap, [naked soap], shows off the products to the fullest advantage. You can clearly see the size, color, and texture. The customer can get up close, and smell the aroma. The problem with naked soap is that it’ll be handled by anyone. Also, by not having labels people with allergies won’t see if it contains a potential problem ingredient. A label should be included with each soap whether it’s written on a chalkboard, printed on a sign, available on slips of paper or on the backs of business cards.

Which leads to how you bag your bars of soap. No matter what type of bag you use, always include a business card/flyer/brochure/postcard that has your vital stats like your website address, email, business address, phone number, and all-important company name. If you’re a wholesaler make sure that’s mentioned in your promotional literature. That customer might own a hotel, bed and breakfast, or shop that will be very interested in your products.

Free Samples!

Who doesn’t love free samples? I do, but I don’t expect them. Unfortunately, some people think you should not only provide freebies, but you should either give your soap away or offer substantial discounts. And they’ll come up with some pretty wacky reasons as to why they’re so privileged. Including little bars or slices of soap [along with your contact information] is a goodwill gesture. It often leads to more sales. It’s also recommended that you clearly label the name of the soap/product freebie along with a brief description. Lavender Soap is usually sufficient for people to figure out what it is, but that perennial kiddie favorite, Monkey Farts, might need a few keywords to explain that it’s a fruity or coconutty soap.

Pricing – Buy 3 get the fourth bar free or any variation that promises a free bar of soap will get me over to your booth in a flash! People enjoy getting bargains.

Soapmaker, Salesperson—or Both?

Standing behind a booth all day selling your wares can be a challenging to the more reserved soapmaker. However, you’re the expert. You know every aspect of your soaps from ingredients to oils to molds to packaging. Sometimes dealing with various personality types can be taxing. You’ll encounter the inevitable free sample trolls and the free recipe trolls. In other words, there will be people who want to do exactly what you do. You can’t control that. I’ve seen and read about this countless times. Just be polite and don’t indulge them.

Some soapers prefer having a salesperson do their work for them. Whether an employee, or a relative or friend, as long as they can effectively answer questions and promote your products. And please be a conscientious soaper that has extensive knowledge of your product along with lots of experience when it comes to making it! Many times, I’ve wandered into a crafting forum and seen newbies in despair over their soaping boo-boos that have come belatedly to their attention during a craft show. That includes soap that started as sapphire blue in the morning but the sunlight faded it to pale blue or even bone white. Soaper, know your products!

Another advantage soapmakers have by selling their wares at a public venue is the opportunity to meet customers and listen to their needs. You’ll see trends in fragrances. After the venue is over, take inventory and see what your hot sellers are and what doesn’t do as well. You might consider offering a special ordering service to those that want unfragranced soaps or palm-free soaps, etc. Perhaps you have many fragrances/essential oils that aren’t used in your current product line—if you have customized scenting you’ll attract new customers.

Whether you sell soap and supplement it with other products, packaging it in a gift basket is another way to attract interested customers – no matter what time of year.

Have lots of fun, sell lots of soap and know that you’re making the world a cleaner place one customer at a time!

Read more soapmaking stuff!

It’s Crafting Season ~ Consumer Beware!

By Lisa Maliga

Copyright 2013-2016

tapioca shampoo bar melt and pour soap handmade shampoo bar ebookAlthough Hobby Lobby has been displaying Christmas items since August, signs of the upcoming holiday selling season are  evident online. This is also the season when the newbies emerge. Beginning soapmakers, and other handmade bath and body products makers [lotions, lip balms, body butters, sugar and salt scrubs, etc.] are getting that “I wanna sell my handmade products” fever. People who don’t know the difference between melt and pour glycerin soap base from cold process soap from hand milled soap. Novice soapers who dump fresh fruit and veggies in melt and pour glycerin soap base [hello mold!]. People downloading free eBooks and making their first batch of lotion or a sugar scrub, minus preservatives. Others with little or no experience clamor to join the selling festivities on and offline at various crafty venues. Consumer, beware! 

I’ve included a section on premature selling in my latest eBook on marketing. I’ve also written an article about Melt and Pour Soap Basics. It took me six years before I began selling my soap and other products. During that time, I tested and retested recipes. I made many mistakes. I also invested lots of time and money, and gave away lots of soap to my testers before accepting a single dollar.

“No matter what method they use to sell their newfound wares, there are several problems with premature selling. One doesn’t bake a cake and decide to open a bakery. That may be their goal, but first they have to make dozens or hundreds of cakes in order to be a confident and skillful baker.” The Soapmaker’s Guide to Online Marketing

For the Consumer

If you want to buy handmade bath and body products online, make sure you check out the website very carefully. Any soaper worth his or her lye mixture will be able to convey their expertise. They know what type of soap they make, they know all the benefits of each ingredient, they usually mention how long they’ve been creating their handmade products. They may have photos or videos of their work area. There should be lots of testimonials from satisfied customers or peer reviews from other soapers. They might be a member of the Better Business Bureau, the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild, or the Indie Business Network.

When purchasing from a soaper offline you can tell by talking with them how much they know about their product[s]. How long have they been in business? Ask them what they use to color their soaps. Don’t ask for recipes or act like you want to make soap, unless they also teach soaping classes. Another way to test the soaper or salesperson is to inquire about the fragrance – is it an aromatherapy pure essential oil/blend of essential oils or a skin safe cosmetic fragrance? Soaps and/or other products with essential oils will generally cost a little more. Soapmakers usually are pleased to discuss their labors of love. Those who employ others to sell for them should also be well versed in what goes into these handcrafted products.

Beware and be aware of what you’re buying and we’ll all have a healthier and safer holiday season!

What’s So Great About Pinterest?

by Lisa Maliga

Copyright 2013-2016

The following article is an excerpt from the eBook “The Soapmaker’s Guide to Online Marketing.

Pinterest is relatively new, but as it’s photo-driven, your soapy pictures will be seen and hopefully repinned, by many potential customers. This is my favorite social media site because of the emphasis on photos. You can create hundreds of boards all focused on your favorite topics. For example, as a soapmaker it’s in your best interest to post photos of your soaps. Create a soap board and pin your pics. If you make salt scrubs, create a board for that. Are lip balms your thing? Have a lip balm board and pin your photos. But don’t just limit yourself to your business board. Create boards for other fun crafts and hobbies, food, drink, travel, DIY and organization, movies, music and so much more. For example, I’m a member of a large Chocolate group board with more than 34,000 followers and the array of pictures of chocolate is overwhelming! Most of the pins aren’t just photos – they lead to websites that include recipes. That’s why having a blog is another big benefit – you and others can share your photos, get more blog hits/website hits, and that can lead to more sales.

You can put your boards in alphabetical order, numerical order, group by subject, or in any order you’d like. Once you name your boards, and you can be as creative as you’d like, add an accurate description. If you’re running a group board, indicate whether personal/company advertising is okay in the description. 

sunshine kitty cat by lisa maliga
Sunshine

When it comes to pinning, you can like a pin, pin it, or comment on a pin. Pinning means you can add it to one of your own boards or add it to a group board. For example, a picture of a kitten may have originated from the Kittens group, so you don’t want to repin it there, but it would fit in well with the Cute Animals group.

If you upload a picture of your lemon scrubby soap, don’t neglect to add that into the description. Also, you can add a line like Sally’s Soap Site – Lemon Scrubby Soap. Remember, descriptions are keywords and this is another way to advertise your soap site for nothing other than taking a few minutes out of your day to pin pretty pictures! Yes, I encourage you to add your gorgeous photos to enhance Pinterest, and you’ll win more followers and potential customers if you brighten up their day with a bright and breezy quote or a picture of a field of lavender flowers or a tropical sunset.

There are people that won’t join Pinterest due to copyright/trademark infringement issues. That’s entirely up to each individual. According to Pinterest, they “Encourage artists to create great work by linking back to their pages, and leaving polite comments when you see pins that aren’t correctly credited.”

The Soapmaker’s Guide to Online Marketing is available at the following online bookstores: Amazon, Barnes and Noble NOOK, Smashwords and Kobo

the soapmaker's guide to online marketing, lisa maliga, ebooks, soapmaking, soapcrafting, online marketing