Abby Glassenberg wrote an outstanding piece this morning (I pulled the title of this post from hers) about the Craft and Hobby Association‘s recent creation of a blogger membership category, and Quilts, Inc.‘s decision last year to tighten their credentialing requirements to effectively exclude most bloggers from attending the Quilt Market trade show.
Both organizations seem to have good business in mind. The CHA wants to foster the relationships between professional bloggers – whom the President and CEO of the organization described to Abby as “a valuable asset to the craft industry” – and established businesses. He went on to say: “We are looking for bloggers to be multipliers and influencers for the industry and not go to the [CHA Mega] Show for free stuff. We are additionally developing Show guidelines to help blogger members better understand the do’s and don’ts of networking and business development at the Show.”
At the same time, Abby reports that, “The two Quilt Markets that have taken place subsequent to [Quilt Inc.’s] tighter credentialing have been described by attendees as quieter and more business focused.”
It seems to me that these two trade organizations have different views on how bloggers fit – or, more importantly, have the potential to fit – into the role of “professional” in the industry.
What is a professional blogger? Right now, some – very few – bloggers are able to make a significant part- or full-time income directly from their blogs through the selling of advertising and sponsored posts, and through affiliate programs. These – very few – bloggers make all of their income through blogging.
Even just a few years ago, building up that kind of blog-generated income simply wasn’t possible. Blogs weren’t seen by major advertisers as worth their time or money. Times have changed.
But most bloggers do not draw significant income from ads and affiliate relationships. It’s time, I think, to revisit the importance of diversifying income streams, and how trade shows can play into becoming a professional, period. Not a professional blogger; just a professional.
For the vast majority of bloggers who want to draw a significant income in the crafts industry, blogging ain’t gonna do it. That significant income is going to be cobbled together from any of a wide variety of other sources: selling ebooks, selling craft patterns, writing or designing for paying publications, teaching online classes, teaching in-person classes, teaching or speaking at conferences, consulting with other businesses, writing books, licensing designs or patterns, etc.
And how does an ambitious blogger start to work in those ways? By becoming a professional. By meeting other professionals. By establishing relationships with companies that will pay them.
Sure, I imagine this growth into professionalism could be possible to achieve entirely online, but there’s no better way to do it than in person. Starting now, bloggers will have an in-person opportunity at CHA shows that they won’t have at Quilt Market. Not only will they be able to meet representatives of all sorts of craft businesses at CHA, they’ll be able to meet each other. In a business context.
Ten years ago, I joined The National NeedleArts Association – the trade organization for the yarn industry – and my career was made because of that decision. Attending trade shows allowed me to establish relationships with yarn companies that would supply yarn to designers for the books I wrote. Attending trade shows allowed me to establish relationships with publishers I would end up freelancing for and writing books with. Attending trade shows allowed me to meet designers I worked with from afar, and those relationships continue to be important to me even now – both professionally and personally – years after I switched my focus away from yarn, exclusively. I ended up working for Interweave as a direct result of the relationship we established at a trade show. My Craftsy class came about because of an acquaintance I established through industry networking.
I miss attending TNNA shows. Reading Abby’s post this morning, I found myself wishing that my current work would fit nicely into some trade category or another so I could attend a trade show every year. But I don’t use commercial craft supplies in my work anymore – yarn, fabric, or otherwise. I don’t have much to offer such companies and I need pretty much nothing from them. One day, maybe I’ll find a good reason to make the expense of attendance worthwhile again. For now, I just love me some Twitter and Instagram.
The lessons I learned and the skills I developed at trade shows affect all of the business I do. Through them I became a professional. A professional individual. I learned how to understand someone else’s goals and how they might fit well (or not) with my own. I learned how to follow up with people. I learned how to build relationships over time. I may not attend trade shows now, but because of trade shows I know how to do business. I know how to mix business and pleasure. I know how to pitch people I don’t know, and I know how to pitch people I do know. I know how to assess the possible marketability of an idea I have, and I know how to assemble a team to get that idea made.
The role bloggers can play in an industry is huge, because bloggers have limitless potential for becoming professionals. Not just for making money from their blogs by presenting other companies’ products to their audience, but for populating the industry with fresh ideas, perspectives and skills. Some of the bloggers who started attending TNNA around the time I did are established industry professionals now: they host TV shows, a steady stream of their work appears in magazines, they write books, they teach at national conferences.
If TNNA hadn’t invited bloggers to attend their trade shows – and they sure did experience some pretty uncomfortable growing pains because of it – would this new cohort of professionals have been able to succeed, and in so doing add so much to the industry? Would Clara Parkes have been able to build Knitter’s Review into such a grand platform for her book and yarn work? Would Amy Singer have been able to quit her day job to run Knitty.com full time? Would Robyn Chachula have established the relationships and connections that led to her becoming such a prolific designer, author and TV host? I know I certainly would not have been as successful in my own career, and I certainly would not have learned such important lessons that have enabled me to transition into other kinds of work.
Which is all to say, good on CHA. Good on them for taking the position that they can nudge bloggers into professionalism, and that doing so will be beneficial to everyone involved – including the consumers they aim to serve.
I have no doubt that Quilt Market is quieter and more business-focused now that fewer bloggers are there, but I wonder if maintaining a focus on business-as-status-quo is a forward-thinking enough position to take. Ambitious bloggers will go elsewhere, where they’ll learn the ropes of professionalism and establish the relationships that will lead to whole new kinds of business in the future. Those relationships won’t be made at Quilt Market, but they most certainly will end up contributing to the landscape of the industry.
What has your experience been as a blogger? Do you want to establish yourself professionally? Do you attend trade shows, and are you welcome there? If you have a good tale to tell, please tell it!
I feel like this is the first week of the rest of my life. Funny how I only vaguely realized that the book tour took up so much space in my brain for pretty much all of 2014, eh? I mean, I could articulate that fact at any time during the last ten months, but it still didn’t fully set in until this morning, when I was all, “Whoa. I’ve got some wide open space before me. This is awesome.”
As I wrote in my newsletter on Friday, “wide open space” does not = nothing to do. I returned home from my travels with pages of notes on ideas both new and old, only one of which is related to the idea for my next book. Over the next few weeks, I’ll experience a mighty shake-down, the result of which will be an ability to focus on the most immediately viable of all the ideas.
Anyway. Home. I’m over the jet lag that kept me down last week. My kid has recovered from the most intense parental absence he’d yet endured. And I’m thinking about all sorts of things I want to tell you, some of which I want to get out into the world before I dive into the week. Here goes:
- I did a podcast interview with Elise Blaha Cripe, and she was so much fun to talk to that I wish we’d had a chance to sit down in person together for approximately nine hours. Alas, here’s our half-hour chat.
- Some blogger love for Make It Mighty Ugly from Poppytalk and Shalagh Hogan (who wrote about our book-tour event at the Smithsonian [more from me about that soon!]), and Rose City Reader is reading from the perspective of her creative experience at work in her law practice (I hope she follows up on that!).
- I’ve ordered books and bookplates, and assuming I can get a shop up and running in the next week, I should be able to send signed books and stickers out in time for holiday gift-giving. Stay tuned! (Twitter, Instagram and my newsletter are probably the best ways to stay up-to-date.)
- I Skyped into a Michigan library’s Mighty Ugly workshop on Saturday morning, and it was a ton of fun.
Great fun this morning w/Kim Werker, making ugly creatures, & battling those inner demons who tell us we can't create! #mightyugly
— White Lk Twp Library (@whitelakelib) October 25, 2014
- Throughout Make It Mighty Ugly, I refer to my love of the CBC Radio show Q, hosted until yesterday by Jian Ghomeshi. Yesterday, the CBC fired Ghomeshi, and the story involves some very serious allegations against him, related to physical and sexual abuse. I reserve judgment until verifiable facts are available, but I will say this: when the Toronto Star described his accusers as “educated and employed”, they made this a story about our collective inclination not to believe women when they say they’ve been abused. This is the best analysis I’ve read about this whole thing. In a larger feminist context including Gamergate, I hope we do some serious, fair, public discussing of how some men treat women who speak up.
- Ann Friedman wrote about this two years ago, specifically regarding workplace harassment. It’s important to read it today.
Ok, that’s it for now. I have things to edit, other things to write, soap to make, emails to send, and news media to obsessively check. Have a great start to your week!
I’m home! I have so much to tell you about the book tour! Many ideas, many wonderful people, much love and creativity and making.
But first! I returned home with this idea that there’s enough time before the holidays that it wouldn’t be utterly impossible to try to offer signed copies of Make It Mighty Ugly for sale in time to treat yourself or some friends or loved ones.
Naturally, I’ll only do this if enough people actually want signed copies. So please fill out this very brief survey! It’ll take about a minute, and it’ll allow me to gauge whether I’m just having a bout of extremely over-inflated ego, or am onto something you’ll really enjoy. (If you’re of the opinion that this is a fabulous idea, please urge your friends and strangers to back you up, because it’ll take me some time and money to make this happen, and though I’m eager to put all that in, I’d prefer to avoid it if it actually won’t be worth it.)
I’ll sell the books at list price of $18.95 in the U.S. and Canada, plus worldwide shipping (from Canada). I can’t guarantee delivery by the end of December, but I will work hard to make that happen.
Ok, so please take a few seconds to fill out the survey so I know if I should set all this up! And if there’s something else you think would be a good idea instead (or in addition), there’s an option in there for you to share liberally.
Thank you, dear readers!
I got home on Tuesday afternoon, with enough time to collapse into bed for a nap before our home-town book event that evening. I spent Wednesday tooling around doing errands with my mom, and I spent yesterday knitting in a fog of exhausted contentment. Today I’m getting all the work done before Leanne, Betsy and I head to Toronto on Monday for the East Coast leg of the tour.
(Note: Apparently, I’m still exhausted, for this post is riddled with exclamation marks. Be warned!)
We had so much fun in Portland, Seattle and Vancouver. If you came to an event, thank you! You made it so much fun!
Here’s a rundown in photos:
We had a lovely time with some very interesting people at our workshop with Maker’s Nation at Tillamook Station. (Our last tour workshop is Saturday the 18th in Brooklyn!)
Then we did our event at Powell’s, moderated by Kate Bingaman-Burt (who illustrated Make It Mighty Ugly). Powell’s, man. It’s pretty much my favourite place in the world, and to do an author event there, well. It was special. It was very, very special.
I wrote about Kirsten Moore’s daily-bird-drawing project in the book, and I was so excited that she brought her planner with her. Here she is, with a close-up of last Sunday’s bird-in-progress alongside her note about coming to our event.
My publisher, Sasquatch Books, is in Seattle, so we started off our evening there. I’m so proud that my book is amongst these beauties on their front-list this season!
Kate at Sasquatch made earrings and a necklace just for the book event! They even matched her dress perfectly. And she made us a mix CD of Seattle songs! Such a special evening.
Marlo Miyashiro was our moderator for this event, and she led a really fun conversation.
Home-town event! Man oh man, was Tuesday night fun. It was incredible to celebrate with so many dear friends, and new friends! Some people came because they heard about it on the radio that morning, so that was pretty freaking awesome! (You can hear the interview I did on the local morning news show at around the 2-hour-45-minute mark here.)
The event was at Hot Art Wet City, and the show they had on was, well:
Made for some pretty hilarious photos from the event. Though we’ve become pretty ace at providing our own silliness:
So many people came! It was magical. (That’s my dad with his arms crossed, looking bored out of his mind. He insists he had a good time, though.)
We each did a brief reading:
And by the end of the night, we were fried.
Monday we’re heading east for events in Toronto, Philadelphia, Boston, New York, and Washington, DC!
We hope to see you there!
We kicked off the book tour last night at The Booksmith in San Francisco! Rena Tom asked us questions about agency and gender in craft, and about our respective careers in craft and writing about craft. I have a lot to think about, kids. A lot to think about.
Right now I’m sucking down coffee, getting ready to start the day. Here are some pics from last night, featuring Leanne with the sandwich board about the event, and me with Sonya Philip, whom I interviewed for Make It Mighty Ugly. (I can’t figure out how to make links work as I write this on my wee iPad, but I’ll try to remedy that when I have more time!)
Tonight! Lisa Congdon will host us in a panel discussion at Diesel Bookstore in Oakland! 7PM!
Tomorrow, at the ass-crack of dawn (credit to a friend from university for introducing that one into my daily vernacular lo so many years ago), Leanne and I will go to the airport to fly to San Francisco, where we’ll meet up with Betsy for our first book tour event (at The Booksmith).
After that, it’ll be an event every day but Saturday, in San Francisco, Oakland, Portland, Seattle and Vancouver. Then we’ll be home for a week before we hit the east coast for the second leg of the tour.
I’ve got my U.S. SIM card ready to go, so there will be much Instagramming and tweeting throughout the adventure. (I will, however, likely be quite slow to reply to email and to questions and comments in my Craftsy class. FYI.)
Rena Tom has already tweeted that she intends to bring up the topic of craft and gender, so tomorrow night’s event is sure to be sparkly and possibly even intense. And Kate Bingaman-Burt may or may not bring up Joss Whedon at the panel discussion in Portland on Sunday.
If (when!) you come to an event, please don’t be shy! I’m so excited to see you.
In five days, I’ll be getting on a plane. For an honest-to-gods book tour. With two of my favourite women. To visit you. And bookstores. And crafty spaces. My head is spinning.
In addition to the signings and panel discussions we’ll be doing in every city we visit (please come!), Leanne, Betsy and I have developed a workshop we’ll be offering at three venues only – at MakeShift Society in San Francisco, at Tillamook Station in Portland (hosted by Maker’s Nation as part of Design Week Portland), and at MakeShift Society in Brooklyn.
We’ve created a 90-minute progression of exercises that build on each of our strengths and interests, combined with the goal of walking participants through a thoughtful, creative-demon-busting experience.
The workshop will begin with an abbreviated Mighty Ugly exercise, during which participants will make an ugly creature. Then Leanne will take over, focusing the next half-hour on crafting a story for/about/related to that creature. Finally, Betsy will conclude the session with a focus on mending – is there ugliness that can be smoothed over? Fixed? (Should it be?) How does mending fit into our experience as crafters, artists, humans?
Because we developed the workshop together, in such a way that weaves each of us into it, we’ll only be offering it when we’re together. Which, for now, looks to be only during the west-coast and east-coast legs of this book tour.
Which is to say, next month will likely be your only opportunity to take this workshop!
We’re all quite excited to do this together, and we’re very interested to see what we learn from our participants as we go. Please come on this adventure with us. Because we’ll be traveling very light by necessity, and also to make things more fun, we’re asking all workshop participants to gather up a bunch of scrap materials to bring with them – bits and bobs from the recycling bin, fabric scraps, yarn bits, toilet-paper rolls, pop-can tabs, whatever. Scissors and glue, etc. will be provided. Oh, and we’ll probably have some books on-hand to sell and sign, if you’re interested!
Here are the details and links to register:
- Workshop at Makeshift Society San Francisco: Friday, October 3rd, 6:30-8:30pm
- Workshop at Tillamook Station in Portland: Sunday, October 5th, 11:00am-1:00pm
- Workshop at MakeShift Society Brooklyn: Saturday, October 18th, 1:00-3:00pm
On the fence about doing a workshop? Leave a comment and I’ll do my best to convince you to come. Because you should definitely come. It’s going to be amazeballs.