Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Zazzle calendar from Highton Ridley: Fine Art Raku Pottery Calendar 20...

Zazzle.com Logo

Zazzle calendar from Highton Ridley: Fine Art Raku Pottery Calendar 20...

A sequence of really beautiful photographs of hand-thrown and glazed pots following the Raku style. Every month a new image to brighten up the surroundings. Where would you hang yours?

Zazzle profilecard from Highton Ridley: Dog Grooming Service business ...

Zazzle.com Logo

Zazzle profilecard from Highton Ridley: Dog Grooming Service business ...

I just sold two packs of these!

Zazzle speckcase from Highton Ridley: Smile Please - photo time

Zazzle.com Logo

Zazzle speckcase from Highton Ridley: Smile Please - photo time

For the habitual snapper.... an iPhone 4 case specially designed to make their subjects smile!

Saturday, 23 October 2010

A new day job...

Sabbatical bye, byes

My sabbatical has come to an end, so that my 100% devotion to making and promoting my art now drops back to make room. The new contract I'm working on involves some travel, so there'll be lots of opportunities with the camera, once I'm settled in a bit more and it becomes more routine.

I can also see me working on more Zazzle designs when I'm stuck in a hotel in the evenings, 'real' work permitting!

My Zazzle store activities

In preparation for the end of the sabbatical, I finished off my Halloween series, added a new series for Christmas and filled out my Plymouth and Devon postcards range.

Here's an example from each:

One lady from the USA bought 6 of my postcards featuring Dartmoor Ponies. So thank you, Lucy of New Caney, Texas, your custom is very much appreciated :)

That's all for now, folks!

Until next time, take care, have a really great weekend and good luck in your endeavours!

don't be shy, say "hello" in the comments and your feedback isn't just welcomed but actively encouraged :)

Sunday, 10 October 2010

A couple of template updates and new stamps

New on the side panel

I've put a newsletter gadget at the very top and a poll gadget further down. The newsletter gadget let's you control whether you get any newsletters if / when I decide to send any.
...and the poll gadget gives me some feedback about you, one of my wonderful followers :)

Postcard follow-on

In my last post, I gave some examples of the Plymouth and Devon postcards I've been working on. This time, I've been working on some stamps to match.

These are US postage stamps and can be used on mail anywhere where you can use ordinary USA stamps. They add a great flair to mailings you send when you get back home to the States. So here's some examples:

full list here

I hope you agree that they make great souvenir stamps!

comments / feedback not just welcomed but actively encouraged :)

Friday, 8 October 2010

Postcards of Plymouth and Devon

Such a let-down in the shops

I've been keeping an eye on the postcards available in the bricks-and-mortar shops in the touristy parts of Plymouth, most notably the Barbican. If you've visited this great city you might have noticed that the ones in the shops don't really "zing" in capturing its real atmosphere.
Nor do they quite do justice to the wonderful scenery and interesting corners you might have discovered on your visit.

Well that's my opinion for what it's worth!

So I reckoned that I'd try my "take" on such things. I know that many folks—maybe you're one of them—really enjoy my unique approach to photography, especially the "fine-art" pieces that I do.

I thought I'd include a couple here to give a flavour.... enjoy :)
full list here

The historic Barbican area

The departure point for many a famous sea voyage or "defence of the realm" types of naval action. If you recall, after some false starts, The Mayflower set sail for the Americas in 1620 from here with a full load of Pilgrim Fathers, Mothers, their children and other puritans with various trades.

Plymouth Hoe—the "High Point"

It was here that Sir Francis Drake finished his famous game of bowls before setting sail against the Spanish Armada and home to the famous Smeaton's Tower.

Dartmoor National Park

The park spans almost 400 square miles and is truly outstanding in it's scenery. It can be a dangerous place for the unwary, too. The weather can change from a beautiful day of sunshine to so misty that you can't see your feet at the end of your legs! And cold, too, in the way that only fog can sap the heat.

And of course, it's famous for the Dartmoor Pony breed, one which can trace its origins, via the Exmoor Pony, back to the last ice age and before.

So, that's a little sample of my postcards... I hope you like them and perhaps enjoyed a little guided tour to remind you of some of the nicest bits—if you've been before, or as an introduction if you've yet to pay us a visit! 

comments / feedback not just welcomed but actively encouraged :)

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Today's Best Award for one of my Halloween postage stamps

Yaay! So Happy...

Today's Best Awards (TBAs) are given by the Zazzle Team each day to new designs in the Market Place that they judge to be, well, the best of those submitted today.

Here is the Creepy Coffin postage stamp that got a TBA yesterday, I hope you agree it's a great design and that you like it too!

There seems to be a slight bias towards new storekeepers in the selection of each day's awards, but as I'm not one of those, it's awarded purely on merit and I value it very highly!

More Halloween items

Pop over to my store section to see the rest of my Halloween range and see which ones would suit your family's Halloween celebrations.

comments / feedback not just welcomed but actively encouraged :)

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Spelling / grammar - so important to your sales and brand image

Not the grammar police!

This is important only because it can seriously affect your bottom line as a Zazzle (or other POD) storekeeper.

Bad grammar and misspellings can really put people off your store. People will forgive the odd misteak(!) but if they see repeated errors, they will get the impression that you don't care enough to get it right. And then they will go on to think that your "bad" attitude spills over onto your products and customer service.

This could mean that you turn away 10, 20, 30% or even more of your customers... and your bottom line will be reflecting that. By putting it right, that could represent a big boost—if I had a way of boosting my sales by that much, I would jump at the chance!

There's one type of particularly common error that I often see on the Zazzle forums, and even worse than that, actually on storekeepers' products!

What are these mistakes I'm on about? The most common are when someone uses:
  • your instead of you're (when they mean "you are")
  • their or there instead of they're (when they mean "they are")
If you have any products with such boo-boos on them, folks who know better simply won't buy them and that can't be good for your monthly sales! Worse, they may never come back to your store and you certainly won't get word-of-mouth recommendations!!

So if you struggle with this problem, here's a tip to help. Think how someone might say these words if they were speaking at a posh do. They would pronounce each word separately, rather than running them together like you do in friendly writing or casual speech.

Here's a bigger list that hopefully will reveal a pattern:
  • They are—in casual speech/friendly writing becomes they're
  • You are—in casual speech/friendly writing becomes you're
  • It is—becomes it's
  • That is—becomes that's
  • You will—becomes you'll
  • They have—becomes they've 
  • We will—becomes we'll 
Do you see the pattern?

When you leave out a letter or two, to give the reader a clue you use that little symbol called an apostrophe. When used in this way, it is given a special name—an apostrophe of omission. Yes, you've (you have) got it, it's (it is) because you're (you are) using it when you have omitted one / some letters.

So next time you're about to use the word "your", double check and see if you can say "you are" in its place. If you can, then it should be you're. Same for "their" or "there"—if you can say "they are" in its place (without changing the meaning), then it should be they're.

Another couple of gotchas

While on this subject, a couple of personal bug-bears of mine:
  • I should of done that—aaargh!! I should have done that...
  • mixing up compliment and complement
    I can pay you a complIment by saying something nIce about you; if something looks good nExt to something Else, it complEments it
Remember, this isn't the grammar police, this is a friendly tip to help improve your sales and your bottom line. But for your edification, here is the Grandma Police (hehe!)

Do you know of or see any other grammar errors on storekeepers' products that might be preventing sales? If so, we'd love you to share them here, so don't be shy, drop off a comment... (no need to link to them, that wouldn't be fair)

comments / feedback not just welcomes but actively encouraged :)

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Creating customisable drop shadow text in Zazzle's design tool

Creating a convincing text drop shadow in various graphics tools is relatively straightforward but if you want to use it on customisable text on your products for your Zazzle store, you have to use their design tool to do the drop shadow.

On chunkier or large fonts it's achieved fairly easily but on the finer script fonts or at small sizes it can be really tricky, if not impossible without this workaround.

The difficulty is that the minimum movement you can achieve with the mouse using their tool is sometimes just too much for those fonts and you end up with ugly gaps that make the whole look unconvincing.

The trick is to create the first copy, move it the smallest that you can and then copy and paste the original again. You now have the original plus two copies. The second copy is on top of the original and the first copy where you placed it. You then use the "Arrange->Space selected evenly (horizontally)" tool.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Here's the starting point and I want a drop shadow on the monogram text, "M & S"

So I copy and paste the text:

In this next shot, you can see that I've shifted into design mode, changed the colour of the pasted text to blue and moved it to the right by the smallest amount possible. The drop shadow is on top of the original text so I still need to move that layer behind the original. I'll do that next (by moving the layer in the "customise it!" so that it's second in the list).

So I've moved that blue text layer down and this is the enlarged view that the tool provides.

To my eye, the gaps are too big, I want the (currently blue) copy to be much closer. But I can't move it any closer because the smallest movement I can achieve would put it back directly under the original.

So back to design mode to prepare to copy and paste the original again, ready for the workaround.

In the next shot you can see I've copied and pasted the original again, giving me the three copies I need. The top two are the original text and its latest copy, both maroon and on top of each other. The third M & S is the moved blue copy.

So I'm now ready for the workaround. I've selected all three copies of the "M & S" monogram text and I'm choosing "Arrange->Space selected evenly (horiz)"

In the next shot, I've changed the latest maroon copy to green and you'll see that its layer is still the topmost of the three.

...and here it is in the tool's magnified view. You can see that the green text (topmost layer) sits between the maroon (original) and blue (first copy taken) and is just the right distance from the maroon.

The next step is to delete the blue copy, and move the green layer in the "Customise it!" section so it's second in the list, under the original maroon:

All that's left to do now is to change the green colour to a dark grey, so it looks like a shadow, and show you the magnified view:

For completeness, here's me making the text customisable. I select both copies and hit the little gears icon. By selecting both, they will be given the same "Product page label" and "url parameter name". This means that the customer will see only one box to type in their monogram but what they type will be applied to both copies.

In conclusion, I hope you've followed and understood the above and that you'll be able to apply drop shadows to your own customisable text, using the workaround when the standard way looks unconvincing.

I've only shown a drop shadow to the right but you can use the same principle to have the drop shadow placed right and down—I'll leave that to you :)

Happy Zazzling!

Comments encouraged and welcomed :)

Friday, 24 September 2010

The Zazzle forum

Where is it?

The Zazzle forum is to be found at http://forum.zazzle.com/

Once beyond pure beginner, the most important forums there are

    A gotcha

    In your posts, you can set text to various colours but unfortunately you can't use orange. If you try the following:
    Here's some ordinary text followed by some [color=orange]that is supposed to be orange[/color]
    what you'll actually get is:
    Some text followed by some Shockedrange">that is supposed to be orange
    This is caused by an overlap with the code for the 'shocked' smiley in the html that gets generated. So avoid using orange text!

    Forum: Ideas to promote your stuff

    My own estimate / guesstimate is that for every hour spent making, you need to spend three promoting.

    Most people are disappointed (in any sphere of selling their art / craft) when they produce great products and find they don't sell. Stuff doesn't sell itself, no matter how brilliant! You have to have potential buyers eyeballing them. And to get those eyeballs on your work means promotion, promotion and more promotion.

    So this forum is a great place to start. Many fellow Zazzlers recognise the importance and go out of their way to promote not just their own but also other people's products. And the act of offering to do so does at least four things for them:
    1. By posting a thread about their promotion opportunity, they have to put a link to where the promotion is taking place. The search engines will eventually pick up on that link. Bang! One benefit achieved.
    2. Of course, they'll be talking in their post what the promotion is about - the search engine spiders love that as it gives context for the link. Bang number two!
    3. People will visit the link and there's a good chance that some of them are potential buyers. Bang number three. Good for the promoter (they get referral fees), good for the storekeeper (they get a link to their store / product and royalties)
    4. Full time affiliate marketers looking for good designs to promote keep an eye on the Show and Tell forum, especially the "What's the last thing you sold" thread. Bang number four!
      Everyone's a winner!

      Great current promotions announced there:

      Forum: Show and Tell

      The Show and Tell forum is described as "Looking for feedback about your store or proud of a sale - announce it here!" and that's exactly what folks do.

      Again, posting in the forum with a link to your store / product achieves all four bangs.

      Other places

      Of course, the forums and other folk's promotion opportunities shouldn't be the only places where you promote but it is a great start!

      15th Feb 2012 Edit: One last thing to mention, make sure you use the tracker code facility. When you do, Zazzle will put the tracking code that resulted in the referral sale in the first column on your earnings tab under "Referral History".

      This way you'll get to know which of your referral activities are working - an absolute must!

      The way you use it is to place &tc=MyChoiceOfTrackingCode after your referrer id. Get into the habit and never forget.

      Note that neither the Zazzle-provided Blog Panel or Zazzle Panel support tracking codes - but, no sweat, there's a better alternative - my Zazzlit gadget.

      Used by many, many Zazzlers, it's a snip to use even for the technically dumbfounded! See the tutorial for adding and using it here.

      So, Happy Zazzling to all you serious Zazzle storekeepers. Until next time be safe, be successful :)

      Comments / feedback not only welcomed but actively encouraged, so don't be shy!

      Zazzle print from Highton Ridley: Desiderata poster

      Zazzle.com Logo
      CREATE  |  APPAREL  |  MUGS  |  POSTAGE  |  CARDS  |  POSTERS  |  GIFTS  |  ALL     

      Zazzle print from Highton Ridley: Desiderata poster

      The full Desiderata by Max Ehrmann Go placidly amidst the noise and haste... A single pillar stands contemplating new horizons, absorbing the wisdom of the years.

      This poem has inspired young adults who are coming of age since the 1920's and is as popular today as it ever was. It has been given as a gift by loving parents, grandparents, godparents and aunts and uncles as essential life-wisdom ever since it was written.

      They've found it to be one of the few ways for such wisdom to get past those raging hormones and support the upcoming generation through their rebellious years and beyond!.