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Decoupage Swag & More!

Conference season is coming! On top of the swag, bookmarks and business cards I like to bring, I take notes on a decoupaged clip board/notebook holder. It is fun to make and shows my covers (although now I have to update it since I’ve just had a few more books come out – yay!).

 

 

I’ve received complements and questions about my note pad, and thought I’d share how you can make one of your own to carry around at conference. You can also decoupage other things to use as swag.

Here are some simple steps for Decoupage:

1. Choose a canvas. It can be anything from a book cover to a light switch plate to a jar. If it’s your first project, you might want to stick with something flat.

2. Choose your Mod Podge. There are shiny or mat finishes.

3. Find the background. What is the underlying theme you hope to depict? Maps or music or dragonflies or even just polka dots might speak to your theme. You can use scrap book paper, napkins, tissue paper, etc. Don’t glue it down yet.

4. Find pictures or letters. You might want to check out decoupage projects on line to see what you like. Some people prefer to totally fill up their canvases. Others like to leave a lot of background showing. If cutting out letters (you can use stickers), go for dark or standout colors. Pictures can be found on line or in magazines. Also check out calendars, wrapping paper, non-valuable comic books. Really anything flat and thin can work, even fabric.

5. Arrange items on the canvas first to see if you like how it looks.

6. Glue down the background with Mod Podge. I use a wide brush to coat the canvas and lay the paper down, starting in the middle and working outward. Wrinkles can occur. Some people don’t mind wrinkles (me). For others, wrinkles can drive them crazy. Pros use a roller to try to get out all the bubbles and wrinkles.

7. Mod Podge over the background. Don’t leave puddles. Keep the coat even. Remember it dries clear.

8. Now glue on your pictures and letters. You don’t have to wait for the background to dry. Mod Podge over them.

9. Add stickers, little items or final touches. Decoupage over everything once more in an even coat. Actually you can do as many coats as you want depending on how much exposure the project will get (ie. Shoes, you’d want many coats and probably an acrylic sealer).

10. Allow to dry completely (a week probably) before stacking with other materials.

Decoupage can be an easy, cheap and fun project, which you can personalize with your book covers or brand images.

Do you decoupage? What have you created?

Crafts for Authors: Making a Tote Bag

This is the first in a series of blogs I hope to write about crafts for authors.  This is not to be confused with writing craft, that’s an entirely different subject.  So take your hands off the keyboard — this blog is about sewing a tote bag.

Image 1 - finished toteAuthor’s note:  the tote I’ve used as an example in this blog is the one I’m giving away as part of my Merry Christmas Giveaway, which you can enter hereA winner will be announced on December 23, 2015.

This project requires a sewing machine and some basic sewing skills.  Once you have a working pattern, you can make a lined tote bag in about an hour.  If you’re planning to make a bunch of them — for example, as table giveaways at a luncheon or signing event — you can cut several bags and put them together like an assembly line and the sewing time goes way down.

What you’ll need:

  1.  About half a yard of cotton fabric in two different, but complimentary colors. 
  2. Heavy-duty fusible interfacing
  3. Some newsprint or other wide paper, a ruler, and a square to make your pattern.
  4. A sewing machine, thread, scissors, etc.

Step One — Making your pattern

  1. Using newsprint or wide paper, lay out a rectangle with the dimensions of your tote.  The tote in the project I used for this blog was 17 inches wide and 13 inches tall.  Once you’ve laid out a rectangle in the finished dimensions, add 5/8 or 1/2 inch all the way around for your seam allowances.
  2. Cut two 2 inch by 2 inch squares from the bottom corners of your rectangle.  When you’re finished, you should have a paper pattern that looks like this.Image 2 - paper pattern
  3. Take a moment to mark the position for the straps on the top of the pattern.  The straps should be attached about 2 or 3 inches from the center line of the pattern if you folded it in half.
  4. Cut a second rectangle that’s 4 inches wide and 14 inches long.  This is the pattern for your strap, and when cutting out strap pieces you will place this pattern on a fold, so the final dimension of the strap piece will be 4 inches wide and 26 inches long.image 3 - strap pattern

 

Step Two — Cutting out the tote

  1. Using the paper pattern for the tote bag, cut 2 pieces for the outside of the tote, 2 pieces for the tote’s lining, and two pieces in the fusible interfacing.
  2. Transfer the markings for the position of the tote straps onto your main fabric. 
  3. Using the pattern for the strap and remembering to place one end on folded fabric, cut two straps in your main fabric, and two straps in the fusible interfacing.

Step 3 — Making the Tote

  1. Following the manufacturer’s directions, fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of the tote bag pieces (not the lining), and to the wrong side of straps.   image 4 - interfacing
  2. Pin the tote’s pieces right sides together and sew the side seams and the bottom seams together.  Press the seams open.image 5 - side and bottom seams
  3. Pin the tote’s lining right sides together and sew the bottom and one side.  On the second side, leave a gap of several inches that is not sewn together.  You will use this gap to turn the tote bag in step 10.  This is important, you must leave a gap in this seam.  Press the seams open.  Here’s a photo of the lining with the seams pressed open, and the gap that’s needed for turning the tote in step 10.image 6 - hole in side seam lining
  4. The next step is making the bottom corners of the tote.  Pinch together the cut corner so that the seams on the bottom and side match up in the center.  Pin, and sew.  Do this for the bottom of the tote and the lining.image 7 - corner seam
  5. Making the straps:  Fold up 5/8 inch on both edges of the strap pieces and press.  Then fold the strap pieces in half lengthwise and press again.  Pin, and sew a narrow 1/4 inch seam along the open edge, then top stitch the folded side.image 8 - press seam allowance straps image 9 strap detail
  6. Pin the finished straps to the tote, one strap on each side.  The ends of the straps should be even with the top of the bag, and the loop of the strap should hang down, as shown. image 10 - pin the straps
  7. Make sure the tote is outside out, and the lining is inside out.  Then place the tote inside the lining and match up side seams.  The right sides of both the lining and the tote should be together, and the straps should be hanging down into the fabric from the un-sewn top edge.image 11 -- joining lining and bag
  8. Sew the bags together along the top edge.
  9. Turn the bag right side out.  This is where you’ll need to use the gap in the lining that you created in step 4.  If you forgot to leave one you’ll have to rip the seam. 
  10. Top stitch around the top of the tote, near the edge.image 12 topstitching top
  11. Pull out the lining and stitch the gap in the lining created in step 4, close to the folded edge of the seam allowance.image 13 - stitch gap in lining

Voila, you now have a tote bag worthy of filling with books for deserving readers. 

image 14 - finished tote bag

Questions? Please feel free to post a comment.  Also, I’m looking for other authors who make things for readers.  I’d like to make this craft blog a regular feature here at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood.  So if you have any ideas, this is the time to share them.

Decoupage Your Promo

As authors, we are creative people. Some feel that their creativity lies only in the written word, but I believe that creativity is broader within people. It just takes a little teasing to bring it out and a willingness to risk, mess up, and learn. It is a great way to exercise the far reaches of the brain, sweeping out the cobwebs by tossing around ideas.

When I’m not thinking of plot twists and what makes my characters tick, I like to try out all sorts of fun crafts. I sew, knit, etch glass, cut and glue. For fun I search the internet for crafting ideas and visit craft fairs for inspiration.

Today I want to teach you a craft that I’ve found very helpful to my writing. Decoupage.

Before delving too far into a new writing project, I create a collage with elements of setting and characters to help me visualize. A collage is really decoupage, so it was easy for me to expand the craft. At writing conferences, people invariably ask me what I write. So I created a portfolio with all my covers decoupaged onto it. Pretty, isn’t it. And so much fun! On the other side I have inspiring quotes and images.

Notebk front notebk back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I plan to decoupage shelving in my house next and a new phone book. Oh, and light plates. Really you can decoupage most anything. I’ve even seen high heels decorated with Mod Podge (decoupage glue) and printed out images. The possibilities are endless!

decoupage shoes

You can decoupage blank books or journals to give as swag, as well as little prize boxes or canvases that represent your books or your author brand.decoupage tins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some simple steps for Decoupage:

Mod podge drawers1. Choose a canvas. It can be anything from a book cover to a light switch plate to a jar. If it’s your first project, you might want to stick with something flat.

2. Choose your Mod Podge. There are shiny and mat finishes.Mod-Podge

3. Find the background. What is the underlying theme you hope to depict? Maps or music or dragonflies or even just polka dots might speak to your theme. You can use scrapbook paper, napkins, tissue paper, etc. Don’t glue it down yet.

4. Find pictures or letters. You might want to check out decoupage projects on line to see what you like. Some people prefer to totally fill up their canvases. Others like to leave a lot of background showing. If cutting out letters (you can use stickers), go for dark or standout colors. Pictures can be found on line or in magazines. Also check out calendars, wrapping paper, non-valuable comic books. Really anything flat and thin can work, even fabric.

quote mod podge

5. Arrange items on the canvas first to see if you like how it looks.

6. Glue down the background with Mod Podge or other glue. I use a wide brush to coat the canvas and lay the paper down, starting in the middle and working outward. Wrinkles can occur. Some people don’t mind wrinkles (me). For others, wrinkles can drive them crazy. Pros use a roller to try to get out all the bubbles and wrinkles.

mod podge tech1

 

 

 

7. Mod Podge over the background. Don’t leave puddles. Keep the coat even. Remember it dries clear.mod podge tech2

8. Now glue on your pictures and letters. You don’t have to wait for the background to dry. Mod Podge over them.

9. Add stickers, little items or final touches. Decoupage over everything once more in an even coat. Actually you can do as many coats as you want depending on how much exposure the project will get (ie. Shoes, you’d want many coats and probably an acrylic sealer). Let coats dry in between. Allow to dry completely (a couple days probably) before stacking with other materials.

mod podge roller

Decoupage can be an easy, cheap and fun project. Sweep away the mental cobwebs and stretch into a different realm of creativity. It will benefit you on many levels.

Do you decoupage? What have you created?

Decoupage

How to Make Excerpt Booklets at Home

Hello, everyone!

Not to stress you out, but it’s October, a slippery slide to the holidays and the new year when we make resolutions about conferences and promo. In an effort to prepare and plan, I have perused swag sites and read views on author swag to increase sales. 

Although there are a lot of fun swag ideas out there (which I also use), I’ve read on several author loops that book excerpts are more likely to lead to a sale than, say… a pen or koozie. Since I don’t have the funds to have mini-books made professionally (which are gorgeous), I began to look into how to create my own excerpt booklets. Big exhale.

Booklet Ex1

There are several sets of instructions online using MS Publisher, which I do not have and can’t afford to buy. So…I had to make mine in MS Word. It took me an entire weekend to create my templates for 8, 12 and 16 page booklets. And since I am a wonderfully nice person (because I’ve recently had my caffeine), I am going to share them with you.

So what if you aren’t an author or don’t want to share excerpts of your book? You can use these little booklets for lots of things: family cookbooks, how to clean each room of the house, tips on surviving chemo (which I plan to write), and phone numbers or birthdays for everyone you know. Your kids could make little books or lists of likes and dislikes. The possibilities are endless.

So here’s what you do:

1. Decide what excerpt you want to showcase. It could be first kisses from each book in your trilogy or the meet scene or first chapters if they are short. I used two excerpts in my 16 page booklet (a pivotal scene and the first kiss).

In the 4 ¼ X 5 ½ inch booklets at 11 point Times New Roman font, I can fit about 240 words on one page. If you take the page numbers out of the template, you can fit another line on each page (but I like page numbers).

2. Choose a template below (I have 8, 12 and 16 pages. Personally I like the 16 page one.) Click on the link and choose to open it. It should open in Word. It will look stacked until you click Enable Editing. Then it should open so you can start inputting your own words.

3. Copy and paste your book cover or booklet title Booklet Title page. Copy and paste what you want on the back on the Back of Booklet page (maybe your back cover blurb).

4. Start filling in your excerpt, single spaced, following the page numbers I have on each page of the template. Yes, they look like they are everywhere, but this is what I spent all weekend figuring out. It is a little tricky figuring out how much you can fit on each page. If the page numbers at the bottom are missing, you can add them in little text boxes.

5. To draw a text box: go to Insert, then Text box, and click draw text box. Then click and drag to make the box where you want it. Once it is there it is hard to move. If you want to move it, I recommend deleting it and drawing a new one where you want it. You can then insert pictures or page numbers or words into the text box.

Fill up your booklet with excerpts, contact information and maybe some fun stuff. I have a cookie recipe in the back of my baking witch book, BROKEN.

Booklet Ex2

 

 

 

6. Now to print. Try this with one copy first. Set the printer to duplex printing, turning on the long side. I printed in grayscale until I knew it was how I wanted it, since color costs. Sometimes you need to go back and tweak the size of the text boxes or margins.

7. Pick up your two double sided sheets (for the 12 and 16 page booklets, only one sheet for the 8 page booklet). Without separating them, cut them down the middle. When I have a hundred of these to do I use a large cutter to speed up the job and keep things straight.Booklet 7

 

 

 

 

8. Fold both sets in half and insert the middle into the outer pages. Staple the edge using a stapler that can reach the middle (after checking to make sure the pages are aligned sequentially). For the 12 page booklet, leave out the blank pages.

Booklet6

Booklet 5

 

 

 

I am considering printing book cover stickers to put on the front to make the cover look fancier. I may put some gold stickers on the front of each with any awards the book has won or “Excerpts” to draw attention. Some authors buy glossy, professional postcards for the covers, and make their own interior pages. I hope to do this next time.  

Even if the booklet is obviously made at home, it still gives potential readers a sample of my writing, something that will entice them to buy the whole book (hopefully). I give them out at conferences and to librarians. They give much more information than a bookmark, and I can make them at home.

 

 

So here are my templates so you don’t have to yank your hair and curse like a seaman.

Booklet Template 8 pages

Booklet Template 12 pages

Booklet Template 16 pages

Anyone else have pointers for creating these cute, easy to carry booklets? Also, if anyone has a great idea for author swag that you’ve seen increase sales, by all means, share : )

Awesome #RWA14 SWAG!!

Frequent Ruby Readers may remember that I’m one of those annoying people who doesn’t seem to be influenced by most promo and marketing approaches, and alas, swag is no exception. I know, I’m horrible. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t some awesome swag on hand at the Romance Writers of America’s National Conference recently held in San Antonio. It also doesn’t mean I didn’t pick some up. 😉

Following are some of the items I collected at RWA National. If I notice a trend in the swag I picked up, it’s that the swag was a) useful/edible, b)  eye-catching, or c) it tickled my funny bone. 

Clockwise, from 12:00-ish:

SWAG HAG

A purple mini-notebook and orange breath mints from Aliyah Burke. I love purple, and orange is my favorite citrus flavor. (Useful/edible)

A bottle opener from Sarah M. Anderson, cleverly branded with “Percheron Drafts”, a setting from her Beaumont Heirs series. (Useful)

An unusual and beautiful mirrored compact from Susan Sheehey. (Useful/eye-catching)

More orange mints. Yeah, I took two. I told you I was horrible. (Edible)

From our own Ruby Sister Sara Ramsey, a sticky notepad that still makes me snicker. It reads: #regencyworldproblems

napoleon took me to russia and all I got was typhus (Useful/hilarious)

At the center, more mints – these ones reflecting book covers. Love the black containers, Dina Haynes  and Lynda Aicher!  (Edible)

Tasty mint gum, with book cover, from Teri Riggs. (Edible)

Lip balm from Annie Oortman of AnnieEdits. The label reads, “Editing is a bitch. I’m not.” LOVE IT. See Me: horrible, above. (Useful/funny)

More lip balm, and other awesome stuff, from Melody Anne, who I’ll talk about more in a bit. 

No conference attended primarily by women would be complete if people weren’t complaining about the temperature. 😉 The meeting spaces seemed to be either too hot or too cold, hitting very few attendees in that “just right” Goldilocks Zone. But never fear! The Goody Room had us covered. 

Cold hands, warm heart?

Bless you, Amylynn Bright, for including the life-saving Hot Hands chemical heating pads in your goodie bag! I should get brownie points for restraint because I only took one. (Useful – to me!)

For the women who were too warm, there were a number of awesome fans to choose from, including this clever cowboy-themed fan from Linda Gilman. (Useful – to most!)

If I had to choose a single promo and swag MVP for the conference, it would have to be New York Times best-selling indie author Melody Anne. In addition to outspending some publishers by supporting the conference at a platinum level, Melody’s name was visible everywhere: on the small, exceedingly useful notebook found in everyone’s conference bag. On a glasses/screen cleaning wipe (at about 10:00 in the first pic). Her latest release was advertised on elevator clings. Somewhere along the line, I picked up a bookmark advertising free downloads for four of her books. I picked up her swag in the Goody Room, a bag containing the cutest little black book holding sticky notes and adhesive page tabs (10:00 above, half-covering the glasses/screen cleaning wipe), name-brand lip balm, and a good quality pen, all emblazoned with her name. Being an indie author, she also bore the cost of furnishing her own print books for both the Literacy Signing and the Indie signing.

Melody Anne? I think brand name domination has been achieved!    

Did you pick up any swag at RWA National? Tell us about it! Did you have a favorite item? Did any item strike you as cool or unusual? Will any item increase the chance that you might actually buy someone’s book?

Let’s dish!    

 TamaraHogan_TemptMe_100px

TEMPT ME, Book Three of Tamara Hogan’s award-winning Underbelly Chronicles paranormal romance series, was nominated for a 2014 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense, and for a 2014 Booksellers Best Award.  Learn more at www.tamarahogan.com.

Buy yours at:  Print | Kindle | Nook | Kobo | iBooks  | ARe | Smashwords | Createspace

 

 

Marketing That Clicks: What Works On You?

I usually ignore Facebook ads that pop up in my newsfeed, but today, I saw one that made my heartbeat quicken.

The ad was from the Facebook page of Bulgari, the maker of several perfumes I adore, announcing the release of a new Omnia fragrance.

“Omnia Indian Garnet,” it said. “Click to Experience.”

Indian Garnet? It sounded heavenly. I began to salivate, imagining a warm, heady juice, rich with the spices of India. I wanted to smell it! NOW! But how could I experience a fragrance online?

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