soap base

Is Melt and Pour Soap Handmade or Handcrafted?

By Lisa Maliga

Copyright 2015-2016

oatmeal cream & honey rebatch soap
Oatmeal, Cream & Honey Soap

I’ve heard and read the argument that any soap that’s made from scratch using oils, liquids and lye is handmade soap. I agree.

There’s the other side of the debate where soapers think that melt and pour soap isn’t handmade. I agree.

Some claim that it’s not handcrafted. I disagree.

I appreciate what made from scratch soap entails. Whether made for personal use or sold online or at crafts fairs, homemade soap is true soap. Those who are new to it may make some mistakes. Fragrances and colors morph, they’ll encounter science-fair worthy lye volcanoes, and they might inadvertently discover DOS [dreaded orange spots] that can appear days or even weeks later. Handmade soap can have a high learning curve for some people. That’s why melt and pour soap crafting is more appealing as crafters don’t have to work with lye and it’s generally considered easier. That may or may not be true as some melt and pour soap crafting techniques are more difficult to master, especially swirling and layering. Yes, even melt and pour soap crafting can be quite time consuming.

Melt and pour soap crafting is a legitimate craft. It’s not just slicing up soap, popping it into the microwave, and getting a perfect bar of soap each time. There are color and fragrance considerations. What, if any, skin-loving additives will you put in your batch? What type of mold will you use? How will you wrap and label your soap?

Nor is it buying a log of soap, cutting it up into a few bars, and wrapping and labeling them. 1. That would be an unscented and uncolored bar of soap. 2. It wouldn’t be handmade or handcrafted — it would be handcut!

Genuine melt and pour soap crafters use the best type of soap base available as they’ve learned what ingredients to look for – and what ingredients to avoid. As I’ve been hand crafting melt and pour soap since 1998, I’ve seen the two standard types of soap base [transparent and opaque] multiply into dozens of different bases such as: shea butter, honey, goat’s milk, avocado oil, yogurt, carrot oil, mango butter, SLS free, etc. I’ve also seen some highly talented crafters out there who make soap in a wide variety of colors and shapes. Handcrafting melt and pour soap has so many wonderful possibilities. Just go to Pinterest and type in the term “M&P” or “melt and pour soap”. You’ll be amazed – and inspired!

Let’s get visual. Here’s a photo of two different types of soap base, transparent and Castile. [Click to enlarge images]. 

soap base
blocks of soap base

A crafter will see this soap base as the raw material. How does it go from nicely wrapped blocks of soap to much smaller and more colorful [and fragrant] bars of soap?

There are several steps from slicing the soap base, melting it, adding colorant and fragrance and pouring the correct amount into a special soap mold.

charcoal cat activated coconut charcoal made by lisa maliga
Black Cat Soap

Here’s the end result. 

See how a raw base can be handcrafted into a dramatically colored and scented bar of soap?

To learn more about making this recipe and other soap crafting information, check out my eBook Organic and Sulfate Free Melt and Pour Glycerin Soap Crafting Recipes

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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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Soapmakers/Bath and Body Products Crafters – Do You Want to be Interviewed?

Copyright 2015, By Lisa Maliga

peppermintblizzardI’ll be featuring a soapmaker and/or bath and body products crafter every Wednesday on my blog. If you make and sell soap/bath and body products, including: aromatherapy products, body butter, lotion, bath bombs, ANY type of soap, perfume, lip balm/body balm, shower gel, salt/sugar scrubs, shampoo, candles, etc., please let me know!

Currently seeking participants who sell at a crafts fair, farmers’ market, boutique, bed & breakfast, or other retail establishment. Do you have your own website? Sell on Artfire, Etsy, eBay, Face Book, a blog, or an online mall? Open to anyone who sells anywhere – but the interview will be in English.

This is completely FREE! Share how you began making your own products, why you sell them, and what [or who] inspires you. I’ll send you a list of 12 questions and you may answer all of them or only a few. Please include links to any photos—four photos per interview is the recommended number. Don’t forget to add your shop’s URL/blog/social media links will be shared in the interview. This is a great way to get free publicity!

If you’d like to be interviewed, send an email to: lisa_maliga@msn.com Please use “Interview with a Soapmaker/Bath and Body Products Crafter in the subject heading.

All interviews will be seen as a keyword-friendly post with your name/company’s name in the heading. All interviews will be on my WordPress pagehttps://lisamaliga.wordpress.com

I’ll promote the interview on my Face Book page, both my Twitter accounts, Tumblr and Pinterest.

Thanks so much & Happy Crafting!

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happy birthday melt and pour soap recipes mini soap cake

Melt and Pour Soap Presentation

By Lisa Maliga, copyright 2015

happy birthday melt and pour soap recipes mini soap cakeThere are several eBooks on melt and pour soap crafting available online. This is wonderful news for those of you who wish to learn this rewarding hobby because you’ll be able to glean many helpful tips and recipes. I’ve written 11 titles, mainly concentrating on the basics that you’ll need to know, along with lots of additives that can customize your sudsy creations in many ways. Soap crafting was once a business for me, but now it’s a necessary hobby. I can’t be without soap!

I test each recipe and include photos of the process, along with the finished soap. So far, I’ve concentrated on recipes that contain a variety of additives, rather than on fancier soaps such as: swirled, 3D, stained glass, multiple layers and/or embeds. I’ve made these soaps in the past, and intend to do so again, but to effectively show such examples, that requires lots of photos. As I’m working on book #4 of the Yolanda’s Yummery series, I unfortunately don’t have time to make AND photograph any intermediate or advanced soap recipes.

However, I’d like to share a very basic presentation tip for packaging your finished soap. Here’s a brief excerpt from my latest soap crafting eBook, Happy Birthday Melt and Pour Soap Recipes.

Be creative! The best part about your soapy gift is that once it’s properly wrapped in cling wrap, you can decide how to present it to the birthday guy or gal. Since it’s not for sale, you don’t have to concern yourself with INCI terms and labels. You technically don’t even have to label it unless you want to. It’s up to you to list the ingredients as a courtesy so that if someone may be allergic to an ingredient they can regift your soap. To give you some ideas, I’m including the same soap with three different labels in the next section.

One of the simplest ways of presenting your soapy gift is to add it to a gift bag. Gift bags are easy to find in any discount store and they’re inexpensive. They come in such a variety of colors and sizes.

Ribbons also help make a lovely handcrafted creation stand out, whether wrapping the soap or a gift bag or box. If giving a gift bag of soap, you can line it with colorful crinkle cut shred or tissue paper—also available in a wide array of colors.

Say Happy Birthday with hand crafted soap! This unique book contains eight original recipes for all budgets along with melt and pour information and birthday soap presentation tips. Includes 30+ color photos.

LINKS: 

AmazonAmazon UKB&N NOOKKobo, Scribd

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Don’t Buy or Borrow Kindle Unlimited Rip-off eBooks

Copyright 2015 by Lisa Maliga

 bookscomputerJust after the July launch of the Kindle Unlimited program an author of a soap making eBook emailed me asking for a review. After reading it, I got the impression that everything within the 50 pages was regurgitated information. There weren’t any resource links. The recipes weren’t coherent—add some of this oil with some of this water and this amount of lye. Instead of getting a review, the author received an email asking about her soap making experience. Unsurprisingly, there was no response.

That was my introduction to a Kindle Unlimited eBook.

Books in Kindle Unlimited, KU for short, are only found on Amazon’s website. None of the titles are available at Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Oyster, Scribd, Smashwords or other online bookstores.

While free for authors, readers pay $9.99 per month for the service that “…allows you to read as much as you want, choosing from over 700,000 titles and thousands of audiobooks. Freely explore new authors, books, and genres from mysteries and romance to sci-fi and more. You can read on any device.”

kindle unlimited logo Read this title for free and get unlimited access to over 700,000 titles.

Authors with books in the KU program generally price their titles from $0.99 to $9.99. They can also give a title away for up to 5 days during each 90-day period their title is enrolled in the KU program. If free, anyone can download the book whether they are KU members or not. Another huge benefit for the KU author is the borrowing part of the program. Whenever a KU member borrows a title, the author receives up to $1.40. The amount varies every month but it’s always more than one dollar. Even if the book is priced at 0.99, the author still gets $1.40 [or whatever the amount is that month] PER BORROW. That’s why every single rip-off title is enrolled in this program.

There are many excellent titles in the KU program. But I’m going to concentrate on the rip-off titles that are often plagiarized from websites, blogs and Pinterest. By reading this article, you’ll learn how to avoid downloading rip-offs.

[For the record: I won’t tackle fiction because that’s a lot different, especially with series, serials, billionaire romances, erotica, and alphas, etc.]

A rip-off title is usually less than 50 pages in length. Of course, regular nonfiction titles may also be brief, so I’ll point out the many red flags that boldly signal a rip-off. Again, this is only for nonfiction books, as that’s where I have the most experience as I write about soap crafting. I’m going to expand it to include all bath and body/bath and beauty books. However, even if you read and write about real estate or farming, you still should find this article helpful.

 redflagThe Formula

Soap making books begin with the history of soap making. For other bath and beauty books, the opening pages will let you know how toxic commercial lotions, lip balms, sugar and salt scrubs, bath bombs, etc. actually are.

redflag LONG titles with up to 30 words. This is called keyword stuffing.

Example title: Homemade Body Butter: 25 Natural Body Butter And Lotion Recipes To Keep Your Skin Smooth And Feeling Moisturized! (How To Body Butter, DIY Body Butter, Natural Body Butter And Lotion Recipes).

I’ve only changed a few words, but this is how some rip-off books are marketed. It’s not necessarily wrong but it’s clumsy!

redflag Nonexistent book contributors

Every author credits him or herself, but there are also other contributors that can be added like editor, foreword, photographer, illustrator, introduction, preface, translator and narrator. I’ve found books that have ‘body butter’ as an editor, ‘lotion’ as a foreword, and ‘soapmaking’ as an illustrator. Doing this exploits the entire Kindle publishing program and if found should be reported.

redflag Not crediting stock images.

redflag No author biography

Interested in learning about the author? If there’s no bio, there’s no way of knowing how much knowledge they have pertaining to the subject they’ve written about. There won’t be any sort of email address, website, Etsy page or social media information such as Twitter or Face Book. They have no blog or newsletter.

The lack of an author bio may indicate a new to KU author who is unaware that Amazon offers this free promotional tool. Alternatively, it might be a deliberate omission.

An author bio should indicate the author’s experience in making the products they are writing about, as they should be an expert in the field. Do they include their company name and contact information? Whether or not they own a business, or have owned a business in the past? How long have they been making B&B products? If they don’t make and sell their products, what qualifications do they have to write their book?

redflag Common American surnames

This is another way to lure borrowers and buyers—by using familiar surnames like Thomas, Brown, Mitchell, White, etc. It’s also how those from other countries make names seem more acceptable than their own. Authors who use several pseudonyms may do so to avoid detection. It’s also a way of using a name like a keyword – to attract more borrows and sales.

redflag Reviews

If a book has dozens of reviews, that might mean it’s often borrowed/sold. All of the reviews may be legitimate ones, especially if the reviewer indicates that they received a free review copy. To find a rip-off title, look beyond lots of 5-stars or 1-stars, or even no reviews.

eBooks may contain numerous 5-star reviews with only a smattering of bad reviews. Suggestion: read the bad ones. For example, a one star review written by a soap maker noted the amount of lye in a recipe in one of the rip-off titles was incorrect and the author had confused percentages and ounces. In other words, some “author” with no knowledge of soap making is presenting potentially harmful information. If a reader follows the instructions, that soap would burn their skin. Additionally, they would have wasted their time in reading the book and trying to apply the instructions, and money on buying ingredients and equipment. The responsibility of the author of any type of DIY book is to offer correct and accurate information. Sadly, the author of the questionable amounts has also written a dozen other titles in related fields.

A rip-off title may have garnered many positive reviews based on review swaps. I’ll go on record and state that I did a few of them from September to December 2014. Since then, I have completely stopped reviewing books due to the numerous rip-off titles I was getting.

redflag Proofreading problems

If the author is someone who is fluent in English as a first language, the quality of authorship ranges from excellent to riddled with grammar and “spell checkitis.”

redflag Poor translating

Foreign authors may have run the manuscript through an online translator resulting in unintentionally hilarious reading. My favorite was the one about heating your soap over a “weak fire.”

redflag Offer FREE bonus or gift in the beginning of the book.

redflag Enticing cover photo of the product[s]

All book covers should be enticing, of course. However, a rip-off will be revealed if the featured product[s] recipe and photo aren’t included inside the eBook. For example, a stack of oatmeal soap on the cover, yet there is no oatmeal soap recipe in the rip-off title.

redflag NO sample other than a table of contents or a legal disclaimer. The reader has to purchase or borrow the book in order to read more because there’s no actual writing sample.

redflag If recipes are included, they may be in a mixture of ounces, grams, tablespoons and teaspoons, which is very confusing for the reader.

redflag No medical or legal disclaimer. No safety precautions.

redflag The name on the cover may be spelled differently than the name on the book’s Amazon page.

redflag Rip-off titles can be heavily promoted and reviewed by bloggers. Unlike non-KU titles that only earn 4% commission on each title sold, bloggers may get up to 8.5 % on KU titles sold and/or borrowed.

In order to avoid being ripped off, please use this article as a checklist.

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”

Shopping for Soap Making or Bath & Body Products eBooks

Copyright 2014-2016

by Lisa Maliga

tapiocashampoobarKINCrafting books are always in demand, especially around the holiday season. In 2011, I published my first melt and pour soap crafting ebook. Since then, I’ve noticed a proliferation of other ebooks on all types of soap crafting methods, along with how to make other bath and body products. Many of them are written by authors who write about a variety of nonfiction topics.

Last month I was contacted by an author of a soap making book in search of a review. I was interested in seeing what types of soap it covered so I agreed to look at it. When I received the PDF copy, I noticed it had photos, always a plus, but the material seemed to be regurgitated. After reading it, I learned nothing new. Contacting the author to inquire about her soap making experience, I didn’t receive a response.

And that’s the problem with many of the newer titles; the author is just repeating facts they’ve either read online or in other books. Some of them aren’t avoidable, like the history of soap making, but others are. There have even been cases of ebooks that were “written” by authors who found content/recipes on websites, copied and pasted them into a file, and slapped their name on the content.

What I’d encourage you to do when buying nonfiction titles is to take a minute or two and see if the author is an expert in the field they are writing about. When it comes to soap, lip balm, lotions, perfume etc., see if they discuss how they make and/or sell the product[s]. If they don’t sell what they are writing about, then check to see how long they’ve been making the products.

MOREJOYmedOther tips on finding worthwhile ebooks:

~ How long is the book? Amazon posts an approximate page count, as do other online bookstores. Using the sample feature can give you a clue as to how long the book is, especially if it contains a table of contents. In fact, most nonfiction books should contain one.

~ What is the book’s price? Free. Well, why not take a chance if you have the room [and the time!] but for books priced at $0.99 and above, I’d recommend that you read the sample to see if it’s going to be of interest to you. Another gripe readers may have with a soap crafting book is that it might be about a different type of soap making technique than what they’re seeking. By checking out the sample you avoid downloading the “wrong” type of ebook.

~ Does the book include recipes? Does it only contain recipes? Are the recipes indicated by grams/ounces? Both? If it only contains recipes, does it give information that might be necessary such as safety tips, where to buy supplies, basic facts about soap and/or other body products? For those who make soap from scratch, recipes with accurate measurements are imperative as lye, oils, water and other additives must be carefully calculated.

~ Is a supplier/resource section included? I think it’s helpful to provide resources so that people can easily locate any of the ingredients that the author writes about. When I first began crafting melt and pour soap, I didn’t have any ebooks to read with lots of pictures and step by step instructions. Now all of us do, as there are many to choose from!