All Systems Go!

In this newsletter:
*** The Great Good News
*** New In The Shop
*** Upcoming Events & Current Projects
*** Cool Things Friends Do
*** And The Lucky Winner Is ...

Now available in the shop: *** Christmas and Greeting cards *** Middle Earth New Zealand photo wall calendar

The Great Good News

So now it is official: A couple of weeks ago, my business plan was approved for the Enterprise Allowance Grant, and as of 14 September, I am now officially running my new web design business!

As a thoroughly productive start to this new venture, the same day my latest website went live: is a small-ish portfolio website for my good friend and ex fellow early musician (as well as former flatmate), Julie Comparini. Julie is a singer specializing in the performance of medieval, renaissance and baroque music, as well as interdisciplinary theatre projects – some of which she has developed and directs herself. Her other activities in the past have included helping to run a small film festival in her chosen home town Bremen, and occasionally she goes off to do some exciting stuff in her native California. The website is bilingual, English and German (French, apparently, is coming soon!).

Despite her specialization in early music, Julie has one leg firmly planted in contemporary culture. For her website, she wanted me to use some of her own photography to develop some background graphics, rather than rely on historical imagery as one might have expected. And to be a little bit different, we decided to use a typewriter font rather than the ubiquitous Verdana or Arial. Not that there are a great many choices for fonts to use with html – just in case you wondered why nearly every website you go to uses the same old couple of fonts.

Of the handful of drafts I showed her, Julie chose a warm golden-brown colour scheme with a flittering light effect in the background, and an overlay of simple boxes which resize themselves according to the size of the viewer’s screen. One slight problem was that Julie didn’t have a whole lot of decent photos of herself – but fortunately I was stopping by in Europe earlier this year, so we took the opportunity to improvise a quick photo shoot in a nearby park, which resulted in most of the photos you can now see on the site.

It was Julie’s suggestion to integrate her Myspace page into the site, to provide an easily updateable calendar, and some music samples (though I think the present layout of her profile might need a bit of a tune-up, ahem I should talk to her about that!). It turned out to be a great time saver for both of us – I didn’t have to implement the functionality, and she won’t have to update her schedule and audio samples in two different places. Besides, that way she can funnel the traffic from her site straight to her Myspace page and gather more page views – seeing that a lot of people seem to think that is a measure of musician’s quality – and of course she can use her Myspace profile to promote her own website, too. Savvy, says I !

So, if any of you want one of those yourself – you know where you can get them from! :D

New in the Shop

I’ve set myself a goal to add a new item to my online shop at least every two months from now on. This month, I’m actually doing one better – after putting my Middle Earth New Zealand calendars up for sale last month, I ALREADY have a new product to announce. Christmas cards! At least, this is how you might use them, though they don’t have a particular seasonal theme. I ordered a batch last week and am now waiting for them to be delivered. I expect they will go on sale in a week or two, but if you’re really eager, of course you can order them now! They are blank cards, with no greeting or message (and of course the printed cards won't have a copyright notice on the front!)

Christmas and Greeting Cards now available in the shop - click here

I still got several of my calendars left as well – this is a limited edition, and when they are gone they’re gone, so don’t be too long about making up your mind! I’ve had some really nice feedback about them, too.

Buy calendar:

Size: A4 when folded. Printed on quality paper stock by local boutique print shop in Greytown, Wairarapa.
€ 14.00/ US$ 18.00 plus € 4.00/ US$ 6.00 shipping and handling, to anywhere in the world.

Limited edition of 100 copies, individually signed & numbered. Pre-order now - calendars will be ready to ship from approx. 21 August.

Pay in Euro:

Pay in US $:

Orders within New Zealand: please contact me to arrange for payment by cheque or bank transfer. The calendars are NZ $ 30, shipping within New Zealand is included.

Special offer:

Buy a 2012 Middle Earth New Zealand calendar and Travels in Middle-earth CD together, and pay only € 27 / US $ 35 + € 7 / US$ 10 shipping! (full price: €33 / US $ 40 + € 8 / US $ 11.50 shipping)

Pay in Euro:

Pay in US $:

Upcoming Events and Current Projects

I’m quite excited about the opportunity to give a talk and Q&A session at the Hutt Valley Community Arts “Arts Hub Forum" series this coming month. It will be a first in what I hope will become a fairly regular occurrence! The talk goes under the title “Harness the Power of the Internet – online Promotion for artists” and will take place on Tuesday, 20 October from 11 am to 1 pm at the Petone Community Library meeting room, Britannia Street, Petone. Admission is free – to book, or for more information, please email or call 04 568-3488.

As part of my new business activities, and in order to spread my vast knowledge to the wider public and aid the process of officially establishing myself as an “expert”, I have recently started a new blog (doubling as business newsletter). Please feel free to subscribe, either to the email version or the blog’s RSS feed! But don’t worry, I will also continue this newsletter, which will, as usual, focus more on my artistic activities, travel, and general rants about life.

The resounding title of the new blog, “Snake Oil Antidote”, was directly inspired by some of the market research I’ve recently been doing into “The Competition” and what they have on offer – and more particularly, by a private conversation I had a couple of months ago with a wily fellow who thought he could somehow rope my considerable CSS skills in to make him some easy money, while making me do most of the work.

The aim of the blog is to not only keep my valued readers informed about what is going on with my web design business, but also to share some knowledge and shed some light on the mysterious process of web design and web development. So that hopefully in the future, some less than savoury snake oil merchant can’t scare you out of your money by wildly throwing around nasty terms like, uh, http. Now http, that one is really scary. You wouldn’t want to meet that in a dark alley, would you? Well, I wouldn’t want to be in a dark alley – let alone a business – with a fellow who adopts that sort of marketing strategy.

A nice side effect of doing all this research and testing of social networking sites and online promotion strategies, is that it also helps to promote Asni the Harper as well (who, though defunct as an active performer, still would very much like to continue selling her CDs.) My latest online profile is on Reverbnation, which, I have to say, has some pretty nifty features for a musician, especially a self-promoting one. It also makes me feel important every time I check my profile, by invariably proclaiming that I am number 1 on the charts for “classical” in Wellington. No, I haven’t gone and checked if there actually is anyone else. Hey, leave me my cheap thrills!

Please do check out the profile, and if you click the button and become a fan, that will help to make me feel even better about myself. Hey, last time I looked I was number 12 for ALL the bands in Wellington! (who also have Reverbnation profiles. Ahem.)

I am also continuing my social networking promotion project on Myspace and Facebook for the Hutt Radio people, who have made a great amount of progress since the public meeting in August. They've found a studio space and a sponsor who bought them the transmitter they so badly needed to go on air and keep their frequency license, and are now at a stage where they can actually look for volunteer DJs and plan to fill some air time slots! So if you happen to hear my charming German accent broadcasted across the Hutt Valley one sunny day, do not be overly surprised.

Cool Things Friends Do

Among the many cool people I meet online, there is the occasional budding fantasy writer. Shawna Reppert is a longtime acquaintance from a couple of internet forums. She is one of those clever artists who have discovered and are making the most of the opportunities the internet is throwing their way - and networking with other artsy people one meets on internet forums is high on that list!

A while ago, she asked a few people to proofread some drafts for her first novel, "Stolen Luck". I begged for a copy, and was quickly pulled in by the sophisticatedly decadent and sensual atmosphere of wine, gambling, and pretty boys (or rather, elves) which she creates in a few pages. Recently, I stopped by on her website again and discovered that she'd written another novel in the meanwhile. "Ravensblood" sets a much darker tone. The main character is a young woman who is trying to redeem herself in the eyes of others - and herself - after being the apprentice and lover of a much feared dark wizard. I had a read of the sample chapters she has put online, and now I really hope she finds a publisher soon, so I can read the rest!

Please have a look at Shawna's website, and the sample chapters of her novels she has posted there. Her hope is to attract some attention from potential readers, which she can then use as leverage to get the books properly published. If you do like her work, please leave a comment and express your support. Of course, if any of you publish books, or know someone who does ... get in touch with her right away! :)

And the Lucky Winner is ...

When I sent around emails asking people to please complete my market survey questionnaire for my web design business plan a few months ago, I promised I’d build a free website for someone. And the lucky winner is --- Alana Schmidt, aka Inkibus, a young artist, photographer and costume maker who lives in an out of the way corner of Arkansas. She is one of a group of artists and illustrators whom I’ve known for quite a while on the internet, and who have, on several occasions, been extremely supportive. When I sent out my plea for more people to fill in my survey, several of them replied within half an hour or so!

Alana herself went out of her way to give me helpful information – she didn’t just fill in my survey, but wrote me a whole long email about her experiences with the family business. Her parents, back in the day, did the hippie thing and moved to the woods to farm for their own supplies and build handcrafted furniture. Given the remote location, the business is conducted nearly entirely through their website. Alana and both her siblings are firmly integrated in the operations, as well as doing various creative things on their own.

I’ve started drafting a small site for her, whose main aim will be to provide a focus point and portal to her various online presences and internet shop fronts. One thing that came out of my market survey was that several of the artist people felt that they were promoting themselves in lots of different places on the internet, but it was hard to keep track of them all. So the idea with Alana’s site is to test if I can create a site that solves that problem. It might also turn out to be one possible solution to the question, “how can I offer websites that are cheap enough so artists can actually afford them (and not kill myself in the bargain)?” - That would be a good goal.

Arohanui, from Asni