Oof! What a crazy year it’s been (I say as if the last several years have been remotely normal) and I’ve gotten a million questions about what’s next. I feel you lovelies come to NightBlooming, in part, because you like buying from a person and there’s a lot of personal things threaded into all this.
This is going to be one of those meandering grab-a-cuppa posts, and I will have questions for you on some things. Part of the reason I’m doing this as a News update rather than an email is that I value everyone’s opinion, and I love reading the comments on a post like this–they really help me find my bearing because ultimately my job is to make you happy.
The big understanding I ask in return is that I am one (clearly crazy) person trying to do my best. I have a full time career on top of NightBlooming and on top of writing, a house, a husband, and they have all suffered in my distracted, overwhelmed absence these last several years.
It has been a crazy last few years...
- 2015: Published Rehabilitating Damaged Hair Naturally
- 2016: Published Coloring Hair Naturally with Henna & Other Herbs
- 2017: Published the DIY Garden Pergola Catio Guide
- 2018: Launched my Patreon.
- 2019: Published the first book in The Iyarri Chronicles, Heaven’s Silhouette
- 2020: Pandemic. Sales went bonkers. Published Mourning’s Dawn. Had surgery on my ankle that put me out of commission for weeks.
- 2021: More pandemic sales. Published Ascension’s Reckoning. Realized some big changes are in order for the future (this is a great read for more background).
- 2022: Launched NightBlooming.com, an in-house line of herbal products, and Lassëa Shampoo & Conditioner Bars.
... and while I've made good steps towards establishing a healthier balance, there's a long way to go yet.
The biggest checkmarks are done. The Iyarri Chronicles are published, and NightBlooming.com is launched. I’ve bled so much time and money into those two projects alone that I feel like someone who’s been at sea for years finally coming back to shore and trying to stop swaying where she stands.
The other factor at play is that NightBlooming means long hours on my feet, both making products and packing orders, and my foot is in a state.
Some of you will remember I had surgery in 2020 to remove a piece of broken bone from the center of my ankle and repair the place where the chip had fractured off from. This year, I started having wild amounts of pain again and a recent MRI showed that the site they fixed in the last surgery is trashed. Fixing it again is going to require a second surgery and a bone graft. The recovery from this is going to be even longer and more arduous than the first one and I’m putting it off as long as humanly possible and just looking to manage the pain in the meantime. I cannot tell you the number of orders I’ve packed limping around with ice on my foot, and I know the marathon production to get Lassëa into the store didn’t do me any favors. Between the spike in orders on Halloween and my foot pain, it took me nearly a week to get some of my orders out the door and that’s almost unheard of for me. I had a cortisol injection Monday and woke up Tuesday unable to stand or walk. It’s getting better (I had a not-uncommon rebound reaction to the injection and am doing much better today), but I have to be a bit kinder to myself and look after this foot (or my husband is going to nail the door to my craft room shut and tape me to my desk chair).
A lot of this post is going to be my thoughts on what’s next, why, and how you can help.
NightBlooming.com > Etsy
Having my own storefront was always the goal, but after the latest Etsy fee hikes that were downright predatory and motivated by greed and infinite stockholder growth, it became a necessity.
The great news is that since launching NightBlooming.com on April 20th, slightly more than half my sales dollars have come from there, and saved me literally thousands of dollars that Etsy would have otherwise pocketed.
The bad news, of course, is that the other half of my sales dollars is getting taken to the cleaners while Etsy continues to promote itself as the feel-good-handmade-ethical company it stopped being years ago.
The middling news is that I’m way down sales wise compared to 2020 and 2021, which I expected, but I am very slightly ahead of my 2019 sales, which is what I’ve been using for benchmarking.
I’m immensely proud of NightBlooming.com. It’s allowed me to:
- Have clean, informative listings that link to my other content. I want my customers to feel informed and confident, as opposed to low-information high-pressure to convert way Etsy listings are now.
- Offer loyalty rewards. Moonseeds have proven as popular as I hoped they would, and it really does reward my repeat customers.
- Offer exclusive products. There are some items that I just get hammered on fee-wise on Etsy. The 16 ounce Paperbottle Selkie Refill, and the 500g bulk bags of my herbal hair colors are two great examples of this. Offering them only here also encourages people to make the jump if they haven’t already.
- Connect more directly with you. There’s a sense of community here that Etsy just cannot touch, and it makes me glow.
I had to enlist professional help to get the site up and running, and to make sure all the really important stuff like site security, payment processing, and shipping integrations were set up properly. That cost several thousand dollars (on top of buying the domain from the person that owned it, (which was another few thousand dollars), but was worth it, and will continue to be a wise investment in the future of NightBlooming. The bones of the site are solid and running two storefronts is a pain in the arse and sucks up a lot of mental bandwith, but I’m getting better and better at managing it.
Goals for NightBlooming.com
- Getting more existing customers converted from Etsy to here.
- Writing more content in the Articles section and fine-tuning SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for it. This is a huge driver of traffic to the site (the article about How I Lightened my Too-Dark Henna to Natural Ginger Copper is one of the top ways new people find their way here). I have a giant list of content for this, but this got set on the back burner because of the new site and publishing.
- Establishing an actual marketing strategy including Google Ads, Pinterest, and continuing to do features in places like Enchanted Living (like my articles on Pre-Raphaelite &Victorian Reds and How to Care for Mermaid Hair.)
Plans FOR ETSY
- Streamlining my product offerings and listings there to the ones most likely to be attractive to new customers. Lassëa Shampoo & Conditioner bars are great example of a product that will do well on Etsy as Zero Waste Beauty and shampoo and conditioner bars are ranked highly in search.
- Making my listings there as eye-catching as possible by adding video content to them.
- Converting as many of them as possible to buying from NightBlooming.com instead.
Yes yes, but what about hair salve and other new products?
Killing my hair salves was the singular hardest decision I have ever had to make in my nearly 16 years running NightBlooming. To say that caused a huge financial hit to my business would be a screaming understatement, but I know it was the inevitable decision that had to be made, and the new goal of a One Salve to Rule them All is a much better, and much more sustainable choice.
What I can’t promise you is a timeline for it. I opted to launch Lassëa Shampoo & Conditioner Bars first because I knew they’d do well on Etsy and they were closer to the finish line than a new salve.
The longer post about killing my hair salves goes into the challenges with this project, but what needs to be done to make The One Salve to Rule Them All a reality includes:
- Perfecting the homemade conditioner base (this is going to be the biggest step as I’ve done this mostly to my satisfaction exactly once).
- Perfecting making the handmade conditioner base into salve in a reliable, repeatable way.
- Deciding on new packaging and sizes.
- Creating labels and branding for that packaging.
- Photography, including all those hand-scale images, promo shots, listing images, etc.
- Creating the listings (including assigning shipping weights and all the back-end stuff).
***by “next” I mean the next, and probably last from the ground up new product. There might be other things like new oil blends between now and then, but I consider those recombinations of existing ingredients than a wholly new product like Lassëa Shampoo & Conditioner Bars or One Salve to Rule Them All. Every new product is another plate I have to try to spin, and it’s already deeply challenging to keep up. [ Spoiler: I am not keeping up at all. ]
My short term focus is going to be on getting my existing products and inventory restocked. I waste a lot of time one-offing products for orders, and packing orders goes much faster when I have all my products made, packaged and in stock. This has not happened for nearly the last decade, and it’s the first and most important step to make this all feel manageable.
Continuing to focus on Sustainable Packaging
I’ve made huge strides to change my packaging to eco-friendly, compostable, and recyclable options. I wrote an article about Zero Waste Beauty at NightBlooming, and there are other products I want to convert yet. For example I’m exploring my options for moving Moondust Dry Shampoo from the glass and plastic spice jars and plastic sifter samples to paper tubes, and considering alternatives to the plastic tubs Thriae currently comes in.
All these planet-friendly options are the right thing to do, but they’re also way more expensive. A plastic baggie for an herbal hair color would run me about 3 cents, but the compostable pouch is 35 cents. I put a lot of thought into how to navigate these changes without raising my prices much, and being transparent about why, when I have to,
Returning to the world of the Iyarri on Patreon
Publishing The Iyarri Chronicles was my heart’s dream and I gave mightily to see those three books into the world, on my terms, independently.
To steal some words from Dear Sugar, these books were pulsing in my chest like a second heart, formless and unimaginable…and were the story I couldn’t live without telling. I didn’t know if people would think my books were good or bad or horrible or beautiful. I only knew I no longer had two hearts beating in my chest. I’d pulled one out with my own bare hands. I’d suffered. I’d given it everything I had. I’d finally been able to get to this point because I’d let go of all the grandiose ideas I’d once had about myself and my writing—so talented! so young! I’d stopped being grandiose. I’d lowered myself to the notion that the absolute only thing that mattered was getting that extra beating heart out of my chest.
I deeply neglected everything else to make that happen. My health, my husband, my house, and NightBlooming. When Ascension’s Reckoning was out the door, I went ditch-to-ditch getting NightBlooming.com off the ground and all the things that came with that.
But I miss my characters. Other people miss them, too, and I imagine the lack of Iyarri in the last year has been hard on others as it has been on me.
I won’t be publishing more books anytime in the foreseeable future, there’s just not the time or money for it. Heaven’s Silhouette has paid for itself, Mourning’s Dawn has about $1500 to go to break even, but Ascension’s Reckoning still has about $20,700 to go before it earns itself out.
But, I do want to continue to talk about the books and my inspiration for them (I have so many posts I didn’t dare make right away because they were spoiler-central), do a Chapter-by-Chapter walkthrough of the entire series, and write some short stories. For example, Corat talks about the Iyarri relic thief in Mourning’s Dawn and Ecanus mentions the captured Iyarri with the broken wing forced to fight in the Gladiatorial arena in Ascension’s Reckoning. These are stories I have in my head, that I want to tell.
All that content is going to be exclusive to Patreon, and I want to work out a schedule for regularly posting Iyarri-related content there
How you can help
So many of these things also get you Moonseeds as rewards, but they’re a gigantic help to me as I navigate everything I’ve talked about in this post.
- Register for an account and shop at NightBlooming.com instead of Etsy
- Encourage others to do the same! At the bottom of the rewards page is a form you can use to send a $5 NightBlooming coupon to your friends. You’ll get Moonseeds when they become a customer and place an order.
- Promote via word of mouth and keyboard. So many of my customers found me because their sister recommended one of my products to them, or they heard about NightBlooming on The Long Hair Community, Reddit, etc. If you see someone who could benefit from what I make, point them here!
- Write reviews. You’ll earn Moonseeds for every review you write, and this inspires confidence in new customers to try my wares. You can review any product so long as you have an account, so anything you’ve tried on Etsy, or the Iyarri Chronicles books you got through Patreon? You can review those all on NightBlooming!
- When I get my Pinterest game up and running, I’ll be asking you to pin content to help it gain visibility.
- Become a Patron. You come out miles ahead with the 15% off EverGreen Discount, get bonus Moonseeds every month, and have exclusive access to the Iyarri Chronicles and other content I post there. And honestly few things make me feel as warm and fuzzy as getting a new Patron or seeing someone return to it :]
- Introduce fantasy readers to The Iyarri Chronicles. My books are still very unknown outside a small circle of dedicated readers. You can get the books into your local library, recommend them for a book club suggestion, or just offer them as a suggestion to fantasy readers you know!
- Gift NightBlooming goodies this holiday season. I’ll be putting some of my favorites on sale around Nov 18 / sending out a discount code–details TBD I’m still trying to get my head around the fact that it’s already November. There will be a sale on Etsy, but I’m hoping that’s new-customer focused gift shopping. The discount / sale at NightBlooming.com will a great time to pick up some stocking stuffers and introduce others to NightBlooming! One of those items will be the Collector’s Edition of The Iyarri Chronicles with the Until the Skies Fall bookbag. It’s so eminently giftable. But you can’t go wrong with a gift-wrapped bag of samples, either!
Thoughts and comments?
I know this was a bit of stream-of consciousness and a lot to unpack, but I always value your thoughts, feedback, comments and questions.
Questions for you
– If you haven’t moved from Etsy to NightBlooming.com, why not?
– What can I do to make NightBlooming a better site for you to shop at?
– Any thoughts on the paper tubes for Moondust?
– If you’re not a Patron, what would encourage you to become one, even at the $2 tier?
-What else do you just want me to know? I laid a bunch of stuff out in this post! Tell me your thoughts / feelings / reactions.
Don’t forget, you also get Moonseeds for commenting on this update 🙂