Four art dragons in the shop

I decided to go ahead and list all four of the finished art-doll dragons, and put them on sale for “Smaugust.” (Hey, don’t look at me, I don’t invent these things.) It’s almost two months since any have sold, and I’m afraid the fancier ones are just too pricey. This is a shame because they’re really underpriced based on the amount of labor (and RSI damage) that goes into them, but maybe the market just isn’t there.

Of course, now isn’t the time to decide that… Spoonflower just had a sale on fat quarters and I sprang for a pair of extremely festive crowntail dragons, which are nearly as ornate as the greater sea dragon. So I’ll finish the purple one I’m working on and consider taking out some Etsy ads, and if that doesn’t work I’ll reluctantly move on to something different.

I have a display tablet!

Even the vertical mouse hasn’t really helped my wrist lately (probably because I tend to clutch it tighter than the horizontal one, negating any benefit of the wrist angle). I noticed the XP-Pen Artist 12 📦 had come down to ~$200, less a 5% coupon, so I sprang for it.

It’s going to take some tweaking to get it set up the way I want it, but it has enough buttons that I should be able stop bouncing back and forth to the keyboard soon.

I’ve been working on a few more composition book cover designs, including a Midori Traveler variant. I should have those in Friday’s post, unless I get too wrapped up in playing with this new toy.

Doing the boring part

I’ve had a pile of receipts accumulating on my desk, and I don’t really have the excuse of needing to restock anything urgently. It was time to get everything entered into my spreadsheets and GnuCash.

GnuCash is not great for inventory control, so I do some stuff in a pretty basic spreadsheet. It’s a little bit duplicated, and someday I’ll write a little utility to keep everything synchronized, but so far neither my sales nor purchases are too overwhelming.

The business is going pretty well, though I have to admit I didn’t really expect to be mostly a beanie dragon factory, and especially not an almost-exclusively-Pernese dragon factory. I find myself wondering what other fandoms are underserved.

I passed a milestone on Etsy, and my husband asked how that compared to my costs, and I blithely said “oh, I haven’t checked that lately…” So now I have, and the answer is: sales minus costs plus currently-listed items all balances out. Which is not a particularly GAAP way of measuring things, but I think it’s a good sign.

It’s about time to give the business its own bank account and credit card and so forth, which will help in keeping things separate… and in keeping me from getting too carried away with new dragon colors.

On which note: midnight blue and french blue beanie dragons are coming soon!

Woo! Commerce.

I took a break from sewing and set up a new server at https://shop.silverseams.com/. It’s mostly so I can post my fabric stash without cluttering the Etsy shop, but until I get the fabrics out and take some measurements and pictures, it’s just occupied with a couple of things that have expired unsold from Etsy, a snap tab, and a temporary listing for the new plush dragon. (Those will get moved to Etsy when I finish the other colors, but if they sell out of the local shop that’s fine.)

Bumbling through Etsy sales

Confession: I haven’t read enough Etsy how-to’s. Etsy’s own site is great for looking up answers but completely overwhelming for learning, and half the bloggers out there who purport to tell you how to do it are selling more blog ads than Etsy goods. So I just dove in and flailed around.

This week’s lesson for me was: listings never really die. See, I decided that Etsy’s option system was just too much: you can vary on two factors (size and color, for the beanie dragons) but you have to select one before it will show you what’s in stock in the other. So I decided to break them out into individual listings. You pay twenty cents a listing but, I figured, it doesn’t matter because the multi-item listings are serial listings. That is, if you list a dozen items in a single listing, you pay twenty cents. You sell one and it insta-lists another, even if someone buys three at a time, so at the end of the day it costs the same to list twelve items in twelve listings or all in one.

But.

Each listing creates a page. (Duh.) But what I just fully registered was: when that item sells out, you get the “sorry, try these other items” screen… which is full of other people’s items. When the multi-listing for beanie dragons ran out, the only other dragon it showed was the gold, and it was the seventh or so.

This explains why the reviews at the bottom of an item aren’t necessarily for previous purchases of that particular item. I assumed it just showed random reviews from that seller, and that may still be the case. But the past-sales page is a snapshot of the listings as they were sold, without regard to the listing page, so you’re free to reuse that listing number.

And so that’s what I’ve done: the multi-listing page is now the green 6″ dragon page, still in made-to-order status, so folks’ bookmarks will still point to a beanie dragon. And now I need to go do final work on those dragons to get pictures and move it to ships-immediately status, and make a couple more art-doll dragons so I can resurrect those links. Hopefully I can keep ahead of those, so I am always ready to renew the listing. (Yes, I just hoped for slow sales…)

Some more business musings

Much of my rambly business- and creation-process stuff gets relegated to Mastodon, but also much of my sales comes from Mastodon, so… maybe I should ramble about business and creation in other places? Let’s give it a go.

My Mastodon art account currently has 130 or so followers, but has a lot more reach because people like to share pictures of my dragons and whatnot. My Instagram account has 58 followers, of which many are non-nerdy folks I knew in Wichita, and of course you can’t (easily) share pictures on Instagram. I could run up the follower count in the usual way (by camping on hashtags and posting look-at-me comments on other people’s accounts but that feels, as the kids say, “thirsty.”

I had intended to use Masto as my spot to work through the learning curve on both making things and selling things, and I guess the natural result is that there are some non-thirsty references to the Etsy shop built into the things that people are sharing. Having realized that, and not wanting my account to turn into Messages From A Brand, I try to keep the shop references minimal in the share-likely posts.

In any event, Mastodon shows that getting the dragons in front of a (reasonably nerdy) audience gets sales, so I just have to figure out how to get the dragons in front of a larger audience. Buying Etsy ads seems to be a logical next step as soon as I get the shop properly restocked, but I’m not sure yet where to go from there.

There are offline options as well. Putting the dragons in my Friendly Local Game Stores is one possibility, though I’m not really priced for wholesale sales. Selling at conventions is also possible; I’m still getting used to the idea of living in a place that’s close to other places. That’s a lot of work, though, and we gave away our (aging) minivan when I inherited Mom’s little sedan.

I also had sort of envisioned getting more into the digital sales than the physical, so I really should be working on finalizing a pattern and its instructional pictures/video to try that out with… but I’ve been playing catch-up stocking dragons (including the art-doll ones; Gold/Sparkle is about to fly across the Atlantic meaning there are none in the shop right now).

I guess those are my goals for the coming week (or two): restock the beanies, list another art dragon (working on Stargazer, black with glitter-cotton galaxy wings), and finalize the orca pattern demo and a paid pattern.

Whew.

(Oh, and get the promised quarter keeper file posted.)

Pugs in the shop!

A small batch of made-to-order pugs is going up in the shop this morning, probably around 10am EDT. If you use the code SSOSSPUGS, you’ll get 20% off (so, $28 plus shipping) through the end of the month.

If you follow me on the silo that is Instagram, you’ll see a slightly-poorer discount because I love my blog followers more. 😉

Pattern testers needed

It’s approaching the time I will need people who aren’t me to test my patterns. People who have different embroidery machines, different experience levels, different stabilizers, different threads… whatever variables might be introduced, I’d like to run into them up front. Here’s what I’m looking for.

  • someone who has never made a stuffed animal
  • someone who has
  • someone who has little to no conventional-sewing experience
  • someone who has little to no embroidery-machine experience
  • someone who has a lot of embroidery-machine experience
  • someone who has a machine that doesn’t use PES files

And here’s what I’m offering:

  • a free version of the pattern(s) you test (I mean, duh. But also you get the final version)
  • a free version of any one of the other patterns (and if you decide you don’t ever want to make another stupid plushie as long as you live, it can certainly be Queen of Unfinished Projects or a custom design or something)
  • never-ending fame and fortune (okay, just credit in the pattern)
  • preferential “hiring” if this works out and I get to actually pay real cash money to testers down the road 🤞

And here’s what you’ll need:

  • an embroidery machine with a 4×4 hoop that can read PEC, PES, EXP, DST, JEF, VP3, or U01 files (if you have the wherewithal to convert from one of these to your machine’s HUS or whatever, that’s fine)
  • assorted threads
  • some minky or fleece or reasonably stretchy fabric; each critter takes anywhere from three to a dozen 5×5″ squares
  • possibly some bits of other fabrics (the test dragon’s wing membranes are quilting cotton, for instance)
  • fiberfill
  • a needle for hand sewing
  • a way to take pictures to send me (nothing fancy and nobody but me need see them; they’re just for “is this right?” or “look at what went wrong” or “look how it came out” purposes)

And here’s what I need you to do:

  • not flake (I mean, I get that life happens, I just mean don’t take a free pattern and run)
  • tell me what your skill level is
  • tell me what machine(s) you tried it on, what thread brand, fabric brand, stabilizer brand, etc. you use (as much as you’re able)
  • tell me how many tries each piece took and what caused any failures
  • tell me anything else you want to tell me about the pattern (“I got frustrated and gave up” is valid!)

The first test will be the orca, which is a simple little three-square critter and a good intro to how the three-dimensional ITH plushies work. The only hand sewing is closing up the tiny little turning/stuffing opening. If you’re interested, drop me a line.

Dragon drop

The dragons have dropped, and the larger queen immediately sold. Okay, it was a Mastodonian and I kinda expected it, but it was still kinda exciting

I still have a few more critters to list, but the dragons were the most complicated listing. Today was a little busier than I expected with non-Seams stuff, but I got the pictures taken and will work up the listings shortly.

… and sew more dragons.