This summer I’m going to be taking part in a talk called Break Through In Blogging with a brilliant company called Creative Hub. I recently did an interview with them. You can see the original interview here
Hannah Read-Baldrey is a familiar face on the London craft scene. Since creating and co-writing the acclaimed book, ‘Everything Alice,’ she has gone on to write four more books, each selling in 10 different countries, as well as becoming a popular YouTube craft and baking presenter, and running the successful blog, CoutureCraft.co.uk, all whilst bringing up her son, Teddy (busy, busy)!
Hannah creates and models her contemporary designs for leading craft magazines such as The Craft Network, The Craftseller, HobbyCraft, Tesco, Crafty, and has recently designed the John Lewis Christmas 2016 craft kits for Avec UK.
Hannah also works as a photographic stylist represented by agent Sarah Kaye, on advertising projects with clients such as John Lewis, Waitrose, Harpers, Debenhams, Clarins, Cath Kidston, Vogue and Red Magazine. Collectively, her books have sold over 100,000 copies and she is releasing a new one soon…
Hannah will be delivering a writing workshop at our ‘Breakthrough in Blogging’ event this year in July.
1. Hi Hannah. Thanks so much for doing this interview for us, and for agreeing to speak at ‘Breakthrough in Blogging’ this year. It sounds like you have had an interesting and diverse career and have got your finger in lots of different pies. Where did it start for you?
1. “Thanks! Yes I have managed to do so many wonderful things. I’m very lucky. I have always been creative, so naturally I made my way to Art School, studying Theatre and Costume Design at Central Saint Martins. After this I spent a couple of years working as a set design assistant on movies as well as studying acting at night school at Central School of Speech and Drama.
My career has lead me from films, to TV, to photo shoots, to books and to blogging and presenting. If I was to define myself, I’m a stylist who is a craft and baking author, that loves presenting and blogging. I started CoutureCraft.co.uk about 15 years ago. Being creative, I have always loved recording the things that I do: either drawing, taking photos, writing or filming, essentially diary making.
I felt like I needed an outlet. I remember being at my parents cottage in Dorset and discussing a name with my family. I decided on Couture Craft to combine my love of fashion and craft.
I set up first CoutureCraft.co.uk blog on the blogger platform (subsequently I have moved to WordPress) and I did a shopping post about winter accessories. I didn’t actually expect anyone to read it, especially as back then there weren’t platforms such as Instagram and Twitter to easily advertise it to the world, but they did and I actually got a comment!”
2. For those that are looking to publish a book, what is the best way to go about this, and what is the process?
2. “Okay, so I had no idea about publishing when I first started. When I got married I had a loose Alice In Wonderland theme to my big day (not cheesy I promise). I had always loved the story and I thought it lended itself so well to a craft book. At the time I was working with HobbyCraft with my lovely friend Christine Leech, who is also a Graphic Designer/ Art Director.
So we joined forces with another friend – a photographer Tiffany Mumford and shot what’s called a blad. This is a few pages, so in our case, a few potential projects for the book. I created a cover illustration and we provide a rough contents list. We printed off 10 at the local printers and stapled the pages together to form mini books.
At the time you could buy a book called The Writers Guide Book. But now there is something similar called the Writers Market, and this is a directory of all the publishers and agents, etc. We scoured the pages and came up with a list of names. One of which was Quadrille Publishing, which stood out as the Quadrille Dance is in one of the stories in Alice. We found their addresses and posted them off with a bit about us. Then waited and waited and waited.
Over time we had three publishers come back to us who wanted to see us, and we also had lots of rather off putting emails saying it was a “passion project”, “not commercial enough” etc.
The first publisher to our delight that wanted to see us was Quadrille. We arranged a date and met at their then Tottenham Court road offices. In the reception sat Gordon Ramsay and Cath Kidston books (Christine and I were silently screaming eeekkkk).
We had a meeting with the commissioning directors, which went well. Yet about a week later I got a phone call from them saying they wouldn’t be able to commission it. But that’s when I had to pull out the big chat guns, so I sat on the phone and persuaded the editor that we had another offer (we didn’t).
We really wanted to work with them and had an unusual position of being able to design and style the book between us, ie, it wasn’t going to be that expensive comparably. Another two weeks later I was away on a photo-shoot (ironically for Cath Kidston) and got the email with an offer! Whoop! After this I came to realise that only 1% of book proposals get commissioned.
that book became an international bestseller, and I think has sold around 60,000 copies worldwide”
3. Obviously you’re quite well known for your interest in arts and crafts, and you demonstrate this through your blog. Would you say that the skills developed through writing various books have contributed to your success with your blog?
3. “The purpose of a craft and baking blog, is to get the readers to make whatever you have crafted and baked. When I wrote my first book I had no idea of how to write a “how to”. The editor did on occasion send back my writing and asked me to look at it again!
I waffled on and perhaps didn’t have the skills I have now developed to edit my own work. Being slightly dyslexic, this didn’t help either. But after writing and writing and writing I have discovered a brilliant formula.
– Give your project a catchy name.
– Write your process as you are making.
– Number the steps to your process (you can remove this later).
– Get each line as short as possible and re-read to check it makes sense.
The simpler and more concise the steps the better. I hope that as my writing and projects have become clearer this has reflected on people using the blog.”
4. You mentioned that you’re a ‘photographic stylist.’ What exactly does this mean, and what form does it take, i.e. what type of projects do you do?
4. “Being a photographic stylist means I source props and/or clothes for photo-shoots. I need to know where to get unusual props from quickly and have good contacts with PR agents. It’s a job that you learn on the job. You need to be creative and have a very precise eye when you are on the shoot, making sure everything is in its place and looks good.
But you also have to be logistical and highly organised, and working big scale in the film industry taught me so many lessons. The rolling work means you have to be looking ahead to the next thing constantly and sourcing continuously. I like working in photography as its not quite such a demanding pace!”
5. What is your secret to building a big following on YouTube and through your blog, Couture Craft?
5. “I think building a following is all down to consistency in photography and writing, regular posts, original ideas and time. Followings take time to grow. Using social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have also helped spread the word.”
6. And how has your presenting linked in to this? Has YouTube, your blog, social media, and your books helped you to secure presenting positions? And what type of things do you present at?
6. “I love presenting. If you had asked me when I was 5 what I wanted to do, I would have said ‘be a presenter.’ The Internet has opened up opportunities for all sorts of people to present away from mainstream TV. Especially in the craft and food industries, where it is really helpful to literally have someone guide you.
My first presenting job was for Hobbycraft on their website, for whom I presented my project for years. I then got picked up by Tesco Magazine and Red Magazine, working on various craft projects. Then after I released my book, ‘Girls’ Night In,’ a big internet company called VideoJug got in touch, where I worked on their wedding and home channels.”
7. What are your thoughts on the ‘underdog,’ ‘Ridiculously Rich By Alana’ winning the most recent BBC Apprentice series?
7. “Sorry my love I didn’t watch it!!!”
8. Any general advice on how start-up bloggers can build a following, build their brand online and monetize their work?
8. “For all you start up bloggers out there, its important to find your voice. What do you love? Gaming, food, craft, fashion, etc? There are so many people blogging now, so what makes you different? A great name helps a lot with a blog, so think long and hard about what you want to call it. Handbag.com, Gloop, PerezHilton all stay with you, like any good marketing. Do you have a logo or a namestyle? You can easily get someone to design this for you on People Per Hour or Etsy…
Go into a blogging platform and have a play, get to know the tech and how it works. It’s really important to get to grips with this, to allow yourself to add widgets such as social media icons and even monetisation. If you want to you can join affiliate programs such as Amazon Associates, Rakutan and Affiliate Window which pays you per purchase through your blog. Make sure whatever brand you choose to list reflects your brand. I have made the decision not to list through affiliate marketing on my blog.
I do however work with brands who sometimes send me products to test. You can get to this stage by getting in contact with the brands or their PR agencies and raise awareness of your blog. To do this its good to create a sheet describing your blog, with screen grabs and traffic listings.
If you are lucky and they feel you fit into their brand they may want to pay you to test product or give you freebies.”
9. In such a crowded online marketplace, how have you managed to stand out in what you do – online and through your blog/YouTube channel?
9. “I have stood out because I work hard and am passionate about what I do. It’s simply my lifestyle. I’m continuously writing and posting on social media, which takes dedication and you have to love it, as you may not always get a huge financial reward. I also have been lucky enough to been exposed to multi media channels, working across platforms is often a good way to gain new followers. Some people my follow my Instagram feed but never read my blog.”
10. And last but not least, what exciting projects and/or dreams and ambitions have you got lined up for the next few years?
10. “Well I’m currently writing my 4th book, ‘FlowerBomb! 30 Floral Crafts to Blow Your Blossoms…’ Which I’m really excited about, to be published in Spring 2018 with Pavilion Books. I am looking forward to growing the blog and my following even more in the next few years and ideally developing a product brand alongside this.”
Thanks, Hannah! We can’t wait to see you in July…