How to Write a Craft Book: Insider Tips from Publishers

July 17, 2015 in News

Have you ever dreamed of writing a book? I started my career as a travel guide editor, and working in the publishing business gave me the itch to write a book of my own. In fact, I pitched several book ideas to a publisher before discovering my niche in the industry. In 2013, I wrote my first sewing book with Stash Books, and my second book is coming out this December.

Because I still work behind-the-scenes as a book editor and marketing writer, I also get a rare glimpse into several aspects of the business. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of chatting with many craft book editors as well as marketing and sales staff at publishers about breaking into the business. Here are some of their best tips on how to write a craft book proposal, more in-depth thoughts about the publishing process and the best way to get a publisher interested!

What is something about the life of a craft book that would surprise the average person?

How many people are involved in making a book come to life! In addition to our talented and dedicated authors, there are 40 people who work at Martingale. We publish more than 50 books each year, and every person leaves their mark on every book in some way.

Jenny Wilding-Cardon, Editor at Martingale & Co.

 

About how long before a book’s release does a publicist start thinking about creative ways to promote the book?

We think carefully about a book’s audience/community from the acquisition stage, when we’re deciding if the book is right for Arsenal. Our craft books are rich community objects. We’re attracted to books that grow out of craft and artistic communities and speak with and belong to those communities as well. Both Yarn Bombing and Hoopla are books that collect, explore and showcase the work of a vibrant community of artists, creators, crafters and makers: They include patterns and profiles from a wide range of fabric and textile artists from all over the globe.

I usually meet with authors quite early in the publication process (when the book is still in editorial, so months and months before it will be a real, spiney book),  especially if we’re going to be planning a tour. We talk about the book launch and events, tabling/speaking opportunities, who should receive review copies, contest ideas, book-related swag. I’m a one-woman marketing department on most of our titles, so it’s always the best when I can be a tightly-knit publicity tag team with our authors.

Cynara Geissler, Marketing Manager for Arsenal Pulp Press

 

 

What are the basic components of a good book proposal?

  • A short one-to-two sentence summary of what your book is about or aims to do.
  • An outline. Organize what you would like to see go into a book by using an old-fashioned outline. Divide what you want to present into sections (which could go by technique or theme) and include details such as what projects might look like and what techniques will be used for each.
  • Good sample projects! Think of a portfolio. You don’t want the acquisitions editor to have to use her imagination to see that the prototype you whipped up in an afternoon can actually look much better if you were to spend some real time on it. Show your best work. Your BEST. Great first impressions are incredibly valuable.
  • Contact info and platform. Include your full name as you would want it to appear on a book, address, phone number, e-mail and blog/website URL. Also let the acquisitions editor know how you plan to promote the book. Will you sell the book at workshops you teach at? Will you mention various things from the book to your Facebook friends? An impressive platform will set you apart from someone else with a similar proposal.
  • Look for submission guidelines at a publisher’s website.

Tonia Davenport, acquisitions editor at North Light Books

 

When considering a new craft book proposal or query, what catches your eye?

Originality, technical skill, and doing their homework. New. This doesn’t have to be intimidating—a few paragraphs explaining your book and why you want to write is generally fine. Take the time to research competing books, and be able to articulate how yours is different. Be as specific as possible: a vague proposal of “15 cute knitting projects” with no further details won’t get very far. SEND IMAGES, but please do not send actual projects unless the publisher asks for them. Not everyone works in a company office, and it’s far too easy for projects to get lost or, innovative ideas or beautiful work will always catch my eye, but a well-crafted proposal will keep my attention. Most publishers post proposal guidelines on their websites, and potential authors should really check those first. Look at what other books a publisher has done, and make sure that your general topic fits with their publishing program. If you are a quilter, you don’t want to approach a publisher who specializes in jewelry. Interweave doesn’t publish books on paper craft, so a card-making proposal isn’t right for us, though it could be perfect for someone else. And even if your children’s picture book has knitting in it, understand that craft publishers may be reluctant to take on such a project.

Understand what you need to do: If you have an book idea but are not sure where to start, a query letter is fine. This is simply a brief email asking if we have any interest in x, along with a sentence or 2 about your background. If you want to do a book on lace knitting, but it happens that we are already working on two or three, it can save you much time and effort to know our interest up front.

When it comes to sending a formal proposal, we don’t want a complete manuscript, but we do need an outline and summary of your ideas, accompanying images of projects, and a brief writing sample to get a sense of your voice. This doesn’t have to be intimidating—a few paragraphs explaining your book and why you want to write is generally fine. Take the time to research competing books, and be able to articulate how yours is different. Be as specific as possible: a vague proposal of “15 cute knitting projects” with no further details won’t get very far. SEND IMAGES, but please do not send actual projects unless the publisher asks for them. Not everyone works in a company office, and it’s far too easy for projects to get lost or misdirected. Let us know about yourself: your experience, any classes you teach, designs you publish, blogs or websites. And email is by far the best way to send in your proposal!

Be courteous and professional. If you think current books on a topic are lacking information or don’t cover something yours does, that’s a perfectly fair argument you can make. Simply saying other books are boring or ugly is not. Your presentation speaks as much about you as your proposal does. Proof-read for spelling errors, and make sure you are clearly stating your ideas. And I have to be honest, a proposal that begins with “Hiya!” or “Hey, craft lady’” doesn’t strike the best opening note.

Show us your best: when I look at images of your work, I’m looking at both aesthetics and technique. Your projects may be adorable or beautiful, but sloppy or poorly finished work rings an alarm bell. Make sure seams are straight, edges finished, wirework smooth, loose ends woven in, and everything is as polished as you can make it. This is your baby—you want to show it to its best advantage.

A proposal is like an audition, and the author should put as much effort into it as they would into their work.

Allison Korleski, Acquisitions Editor for Interweave Books!

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Stay tuned for next month’s post, in which we’ll hear from authors about their take on writing a book. Is it what they expected? What was the process like?

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