Sunday, November 27, 2011

Reading, Reviewing, and Sharing a Love of Books

This weekend I've thought a lot about books.  We'll blame that on my sister, Sam.  Over Thanksgiving visits, Sam sent me the link to saying, "You'll like this."  Trusting sisterly judgement and always intrigued by things having to do with books and reading, I gave it a whirl.  And a whirl.  And another one, just for good measure.  Wow - I spent literally hours on this website.  Score one for Sam.

So, the basic premise, for those of you like me who've managed to never see this website before, is sort of like a cross between Facebook and your own personal record of what you've read, when you've read it, and how you felt about it.  Once you get logged onto your account, you can create a list of books that you have read.  You get to rate them up to 5 stars, and if you feel loquacious, you can even write a review about how your felt or summarize the book so you'll remember it later. 

Then, enter the friends.  You can connect with friends already on the website, but, if that's not enough social networking for you, you can hook into your Twitter and Facebook feeds.  I did this, and now apparently every time I even update what page I'm on or rate a book, it Tweets for me.  (We may have to rethink that, because I'm a voracious reader, and that might get to be too much for my fellow twitter-ers). 

Another plus - reviews.  If you're a reader like me, you probably talk about reading with your other reader-friends.  You know who they are - the people that also read for pleasure and can plough through books like nobodies business.  For years, my reading experiences have included:  reading all the books by favorite authors (and eagerly awaiting the next), slumming to new shelves in the library and just picking up books whose brightly colored spines caught my attention, OR.....getting book suggestions from my fellow readers.  Once  you're in the "reading" group, you quickly develop those friends with whom you pass books around and around and around with.  Some of my books go to 4 people before coming back to me, and I'm on the receiving end as well.

Well, with this new website, now there are more options for reviews.  Of course, it's a "smart" website, which means it will take into account books you've already read and how you rated them, and then give you the computer's pick of what you might like.  (It's scary how accurate that computer is).  But, then you have all your online friends.  You get to see what they are reading and how they rate and review books, which gives you a good idea if you'd like to read it as well.  You might even find some of your favorite authors, and see what they are reading or what they've recommended.  Score!

One of the feature's that Sam mentioned to me that caught my attention was Give-Away Books.  Wow.  Someone gives away books for you to read and review?  Sounds like my kind of thing (well, I guess depending on topics).  So, I decided to check this out.  Sure enough, when I went to look on their page, there were 28 pages of multiple listings of all sorts of books that are being given away.  Now, it's kind of like a drawing.  You choose which books you are interested in and submit your name.  And then, if you get chosen out of the hundreds or sometimes thousands of entrants, you'll get a book.  I love the phrasing in the rules for how winners are chosen: "If more people are interested in a book than there are copies available, we will pick the winners at our discretion. The factors that go into our algorithm are: randomness, site activity, genre of books on your shelves, current phase of the moon, and more."  I've tried what I could to improve my chances of being chosen (rated lots books of several different genres that I've read, written several reviews, and participated on the website a lot.  Fingers crossed.)

Back to my activities that kept me on the website for so long.  First of all, I chose some of my favorite authors, and went back and rated all the books I could remember off the top of my head that I'd read.  That number climbed amazingly high - quickly into the hundreds.  You're supposed to write when you read the book.  Most, I'm afraid, I left blank.  Who remembers when you first read a book?  Especially one you're reread many many times because you love it?  (Some of them I cheated, and looked on to see when I reviewed or bought the book, but not many - that takes a lot of time).  So, as of right now, my number is up to a respectable 400+ books.  I have many more than that on my shelves alone, not even thinking of library books or borrowed books, or even books at school.  But it's a start.

Then I searched around.  Joined a few book discussion groups about topics or authors that I'm interested in.  Also - found some of my authors on the site, so followed them to see what they are up to and what they are reading.  Checked to see if any of my friends were on the site (no they aren't - or I'd already know about this this).  Invited a few select bookish friends to join to play with me.

However, the real time-hog are the quizzes.  Based on books you've read, there are quizzes available created by other members that test your knowledge of what you have read.  Now, I'll be the first to admit, when I read a book I am totally in the book, experiencing it.  When I love it, not a lot of deep thinking going on.  That may be why I can reread the books over and over again.  Objectively I do know what is going to happen next, but I re-experience it each time.  But, with some of the books that I've reread a lot, or studied, or are the basis for many literary themes - I do know a lot of details.  So, that is pretty addicting and fun for me to try that.  Not that I'm amazing at the quizzes by any means.  There is one quiz - the Never Ending Book Quiz.  It has thousands, if not more, questions.  I think it just picks a random set for you to try until you get tired.  And your scores just accumulate.  You can skip if you don't know the answer (well, you should, if you are in this for the scores).  Just last night I got on this, and there went a couple of hours.  600 questions later, my score is in the 50% range.  However, I did amaze myself with how much I remembered from classical literature and my school days (and how much I could somehow intuitively guess).  Because most of those questions were not about books I would choose to be quizzed over.  LOL.

So - if you are a reader, and interested in playing on a website with other fellow readers, look me up.  I'm the one that is always reading. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Today I'm just an Etsy-Listing-Fool. One of my goals this weekend was to dig out stuff from my craft show tubs that is not on Etsy, and put it up there. I especially wanted to take advantage of the big sale weekend. (Black Friday, Small  Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday).  In my store, I've listed everything is 25% this Friday through Monday with coupon code SMALLBUSINSAT112611.  I also registered my store with American Express Small Business Saturday.  Last, but not lease, I've been putting up my store URL and classified ads all over the internet.  Like this:

Part of my goal was to add listings in small groups a couple of times a day through the weekend.  Two purposes - it does take some time to type up the long form involved with listing items (and taking pictures, if needed, and editing them too) and by the time I put several up, I'm ready for a stretch break.  And second - when your listing is first added, it shows up briefly in the top of the searches, so it is more likely to get noticed.  So, if the entries are spaced out, I'm more likely to attact more people to my page.

So far - 20 new listings in the past 24 hours.  Wow.  And so many more to go. How did I create so much stuff and just take it to craft shows instead of putting it online? LOL. Here's to hoping this sparks some sales.  So far I can tell it's definately sparked a lot of people passing through the store or listings.  Etsy has a neat feature (somewhat addicting), which allows you to see your shop statistics - like how many visitors you've had in the last hour - to the shop or an item, which items have been viewed, and if they came from etsy, a link, or a search engine.  Most of my traffic seems to come from direct links - which probably means when I post on Facebook or Twitter, or from direct classified ads that I put up online that have a link to my store in them.  Which goes to show what I've suspected all along, that my shop has a much better chance of selling stuff if I actually spend time tending to it instead of ignoring it.  Hmm....

For today's projects, I've pulled out things that I take around to craft shows, but have not put online yet.  The latest treasure I've found are my beaded lanyards.  I don't mind making lanyards, although those seed beads can be tricky to get threaded on the string.  I like the bright colors, the fun shapes of hte beads, and jewelry-like final product.  I wear beaded lanyards each day to school to hold my school ID badge.  I'm not super-fashionable about it.  I have several in the closet at school, but usually wear the current one with all outfits until I manage to catch it on something and break it. 

16" Yellow & Brass Butterfly Beaded ID Lanyard - FREE SHIPPING  17" Purple & Pink Flower Accent Beaded Lanyard - FREE SHIPPING   16" Green Beaded ID Lanyard - FREE SHIPPING   20" Multicolored Heart Accent Beaded ID Lanyard - FREE SHIPPING   19" Red, White, and Blue Patriotic Beaded ID Badge Lanyard - FREE SHIPPING  18" Red, White, and Black Dice Beaded Lanyard - FREE SHIPPING

And just for fun, I found in the tub a Monkey Bow that I've made.  Usually I make bows to go on the little girls knit hats I make, but this one I just turned into a bow on a spring locked clip.

Green & Brown Polka Dots Monkey Hair Bow

Now, back to the grindstone. I've got pictures to take of products, Photoshop Editing to do, and then listings to create.  My goals for this weekend - to get through the rest of the scarves and start the listings for the hand knit wash clothes and scrubbies.  And maybe, just maybe, if I am super efficient and still game, I'll go on to all those baby hats.

Happy Shopping to All.  :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's that time of year again.  Time to bake, cook, and get together to visit with family and friends.  I feel I'm doing my part today.  Early this morning, I snuck back to the grocery store to get all our last minute items and to buy a few ingredients to make my special peanut butter cream pie (special request from Dad- his favorite).  Since I've been home I've cleaned a little, made 2 pies, cooked brunch, and started laundry.  Not too shabby for a day off.  I'm looking forward to a nap later this afternoon - my reward for all my hard work.

My other goals for this afternoon include finishing cleaning house before my house guests get here and taking pictures to post some new items in my Etsy store.  I hope to get several more items added quickly, so they will be available for this weekend's big shopping spree.  At this point, I've done what I could to take advantage of our almost instinctual-urge to go shopping the weekend after Thanksgiving.  I have set up a special weekend sale code (SMALLBUSINSAT112611) that will allow customers to save 25% on their purchase.  I've also registered with American Express for Small Business Saturday - so that my customers who use their American Express cards on orders of at least $25 will get a $25 credit on their next statement.  (Very cool).  I've got a few more things to tweak before this weekend, but overall I feel that the store is set up well and looks ready for our big sale.

Also this weekend, I look forward to a lot of time visiting with family members, which means time to knit.  This afternoon I need to go back into my stash and pick out which projects/yarns I will be carrying with me as I go from house to house to visit.  I've got a few projects started, but they are at the point where you need to think as you knit, so I may need to get some new yarn out and start something that involves a lot of basic knitting or stockinette stitches (I've found that the more involved I am in the discussion, the more likely I am to miscount or lose my pattern....which unfortunately I don't often realize until several rows later).  I've had a few requests for some items, so perhaps I can start of those.  Popular requests so far:  special winter hats and fingerless gloves.  This brisk fall weather is starting some of us thinking about bundling up for winter.  :)

Happy Thanksgiving.  During this time, I stop and think about all the things I'm thankful for in my life - my family and friends especially.  I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.