Sunday, July 27, 2014

Of Pinterest Inspiration, Decoupaged High Heels, and Harry Potter

Sometimes I like to play it a little fast and loose with the Mod Podge. I like crafting. What I lack in skill I make up for in blind enthusiasm and crafty naïveté. Because of this, Pinterest is a dark, dangerous place for me to lurk. Life can be going along at a merry pace when suddenly Pinterest pulls up in a van marked "free candy" or "DIY crafts" and I'm suckered in for the long haul.

Let's be honest, a Pinterest van would look WAY better than this
[photo credit: Randy Stewart via photopin ccAlterations by Gretchen Stull]

Have you seen the trend of upcyling old high heels by decoupaging them to fit your interests? Pinterest has dozens of examples. We're talking Deadpool, Disney, Doctor Who, and romance novels, to name just a few. As always, my thoughts quickly went from "That's so cool!" to "I can totally do that." And I had just the heels to start with:

Sure, they don't look like much, but these are the heels that taught me to love high heels. The perfect height and as comfortable as a pair of sneakers. I *love* these heels, and it shows--they're beaten to complete hell. So scuffed, I can't wear them anymore. And yet, I couldn't find it within me to part with them. Now, I'm glad I didn't.

Now the next step, what to decoupage them with? I had Mod Podge (I always have Mod Podge), but in terms of subject matter, the options were endless. I have a lot of fandoms. A ridiculous number of beloved nerdy fandoms.What to choose? When in doubt, go with the obvious. Because I had a very batter copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone lying around, and because the Harry Potter series will always be a great love of mine, I decided to turn my favorite heels into Harry Potter heels.

After a bit of snipping, a bunch of Mod Podge, and more time than I'd like to admit, here's the end result (excuse the awful lighting):

The uppers I covered with my favorite quotes from the book, overlapping them and securing each layer with a coat of Mod Podge (I could be a spokesperson for this product, I swear. "Change your life, buy Mod Podge!").

For the backs, I used the title and author name from the title page. 

I used an x-acto knife to cut "Harry Potter" from the gold foil embossing on the cover, and attached the name to the toes of the shoes.  

The soles may be my favorite part. I lacquered the bottoms purple, then used images cut from the cover to lay over the lacquering. It may be difficult to see with the glare (we have mainly natural light in my house, which is great for humans, bad for pictures), but it's Harry reaching for the snitch on the left sole, and the snitch zooming in over the words "The Sorcerer's Stone" on the right sole. 

I need to hit them with one last coat of finishing spray, and they'll be ready to wear. I have to say, I'm quite pleased with the results. 

What do you think? Up for decoupaging a pair of your own heels? What subject/fandom should be covered next? How would you improve upon the basic decoupaging scheme (does it include glitter? I bet it includes glitter...)? Let me know in the comments. Happy crafting!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Of NetGalley Approvals and Declines

In addition to writing and editing, I work as a virtual assistant for several romance authors. The duties I perform vary depending on client need and preference, but one of the things I do for several clients is manage NetGalley requests.

If you aren't familiar with NetGalley, it's a service that allows "professional readers" to request free digital copies of upcoming releases (generally Advanced Reader Copies or ARCs), ideally in exchange for a review. From their website:

Do you love to discover new books? Do you review and recommend books online, in print, for your bookstore, library patrons, blog readers, or classroom? Then you are what we call a "professional reader," and NetGalley is for you. Registration is free, and allows you to request or be invited to read titles, often advance reading copies, on your favorite device. ...
NetGalley is a service to promote titles to professional readers of influence. If you are a reviewer, blogger, journalist, librarian, bookseller, educator, or in the media, you can use NetGalley for FREE to request, read and provide feedback about forthcoming titles. Your feedback and recommendations are essential to publishers and readers alike.
There are pros and cons to NetGalley, as there are with everything. It can be a great vehicle for generating pre-release buzz. At the same time, some people like to use it as a library, requesting but never reviewing, or hoarding books without even reading. So yeah, pros and cons.

But after months of managing NetGalley requests (deciding whether to approve or deny a request for a title), and an angry email or two from declined requesters, I thought it may help everyone involved if the readers using NetGalley understood what can lead to a request being accepted or declined.

These are the methods I use. They are not rules put forth by NetGalley, nor are they standards that are universal. But, from this NetGalley manager's perspective, here's what I look for when decided whether or not to grant a request:

  1. Is your NetGalley profile complete? Have you populated your bio and interests? What about your sites and contact info? Have you uploaded a photo? Simple things, but if you aren't willing to spend the time to complete your profile, I don't have reason to expect you'll spend the time to review the title. I'll likely decline your request.
  2. Is your NetGalley profile complete with useful information? There are literally hundreds of user profiles that read like a love letter to the act of reading: "I've been reading since I was 3 years old." "Books have always been my solace." "I love to read!!!" All of that may be true, but NetGalley is a professional service. Not to sound callous, but I don't care if you've been reading since you were in-utero; the love of reading in and of itself does not help my clients (remember, these are FREE books you are getting, and authors get paid for SALES). So, if you are a NetGalley user, make sure your profile has useful information. Do you review for a known reviewer site? On a personal blog? At Amazon or Barnes & Noble? THIS is information that is useful to my clients, because those reviews can help other readers--paying readers--find their books. This is information that should be in your NetGalley profile. State that you review and, most importantly, provide links to your review profiles/sites. Make it easy, because if I have to search to find you...I'm not going to. Hundreds of requests come through at a time, I don't have the time to run a full Google search on each requester to determine whether or not approving their request will benefit my clients. Make it easy on the person approving the requests--use your profile to show them how you can help lead to books sales--and you're more likely to be approved. 
  3. What is your Approval to Feedback ratio? AKA, are you reviewing? NetGalley provides all managers with the number of titles you've requested, had approved, had declined, and the number of times you've left feedback on NetGalley. I know not everyone leaves feedback on NetGalley, and that's fine IF you are reviewing elsewhere. And if that's the case, send a quick note to the author (which can be done in NetGalley) providing the link where the review can be found. Why is this important? I understand that not every user is going to review every title; some readers will not review titles unless they can honestly provide a 4 or 5 star rating. But if you've requested 3 or 4 titles in a series or from a single author and not reviewed any of them, I'm not thinking you've chosen not to review because you didn't like the titles (why else would you keep requesting?); I'm assuming you want free copies of a series/author you enjoy, but aren't taking the time to review. That makes you a reader, not a professional reader, and that's what stores and libraries are for. This doesn't help my clients, so I'm not likely to continue approving your requests. 
  4. If you list as your primary review site, is your profile set to public? This is more a pet peeve, but there are a number of NetGalley users who only review at goodreads (according to their profiles), but have their goodreads profile restricted to friends-only. Unless you have thousands of friends, that review isn't helping my clients because it isn't being seen by more than a handful of people. I'll likely decline your request.
  5. Do you like the series/author you're requesting? This should be a no-brainer, but still. If you've requested a number of earlier books in a series/from an author and consistently given negative 1 and 2 star reviews, why would you continue to request books from this series/author? To be clear, I don't have a problem with the negative reviews. They definitely have their place, and I wouldn't ask anyone to artificially inflate a review or not review simply because they didn't like a title. Moreover, I'd argue that every series/author has a book or two (or more, depending on how prolific they are) that doesn't meet with expectations. But if you consistently dislike every book an author has to offer, why put yourself through the agony of continuing to read them when there are so many other options? There will come a time when I stop approving the requests. 
There are other criteria I use, but these are the big 5 determining factors on whether or not I'll approve your NetGalley request. If you are a NetGalley account manager, do you use similar criteria when deciding to approve or deny? If you are a NetGalley user, do you find these criteria fair, or do you think I'm missing something? Feel free to discuss in the comments.