How to get your craft book published: Part 1

by kath_red on January 12, 2012

in Resources

I have written a couple of craft books and have written a lot of craft book proposals. I am here to tell you that it is a lot of work, and won’t pay you enough to quit your day job any time soon. But what a published book will give you is confidence to pursue your dreams.

In Part 1 of this series today I will explain how to get started on getting published - I cover the beginning steps, getting an agent and researching a publisher and narrowing down that big idea! In Part 2 I will give a bit more gritty info – how to build that author platform, write that proposal and some publisher’s submission guidelines to get you started. In part 3 of this series I will be discussing what comes next – negotiating the contract and writing the book.

Publishing a book is great for improving your platform, changing the direction of your career, and finding new and interesting opportunities. A year ago I worked for the man (3/4 time) at a magazine, I did the layout and design, it was a great job – very flexible for a working mother, but my creativity was being dampened down and opportunities to move around within the company were nil. On the side I worked on my blog and a book, and then pitched for a second book — I decided it was time to quit the day job and work from home doing some freelance stuff.

It was scary, I took a long time to make that decision, I agonised over it, the whole family discussed nothing else for weeks, months, but finally I just had to make the decision on my own and it was incredible. Straight away I felt free, creative, energised.

As soon as I put myself out there, opportunities came my way — a series of books, some freelance writing and editing and I had more creative time to start up new projects (Action Pack magazine) — I am so on fire! So while that craft book of itself won’t be enough to quit your job — the benefits of unleashing your creativity and being rewarded for it are huge — both personally and professionally — you really can make your own path!

So while I am no expert at this craft book publishing business I do have a few tips and secrets I can let you in on … so read on if you are considering writing a craft book and are wondering where to go to next.

Find a literary agent

Many publishers do not actually accept an unsolicited manuscript*, for example Abrams books (who publish Stewart, Tabori and Chang imprint) do not currently accept proposals without an invitation first. Chronicle books on the other hand do accept unsolicited proposals, however if they are not interested you may not hear back from them.

*An unsolicited proposal is one that you send without an invitation to do so — to get an invitation you need to either 1. go through an agent; 2. write a query letter and get a positive response to forward your proposal; or 3. know someone.

  • An agent is also a great sounding board for your ideas, you can pitch your general concepts to your agent who will help you narrow them down and give you some sound advice, if you already have a publisher then you can work with them on your second or third book to narrow down the idea to something you both want to publish. If you don’t already have a publisher, and I am presuming you are reading this because indeed you don’t, then you need to develop your idea and write a proposal.
  • Finding an agent. I have been told this is not easy — ask some friends for recommendations, and then send a formal (spell checked) query letter to them: outline who you are, if you have a ‘platform’* and what your book idea is.
  • A good agent will also help you refine your proposal, work through your ideas with you, pitch your proposal to various publishers, broker and negotiate a deal, look through your contract and get you a better deal. If you don’t know anything about publishing or contracts then really — an agent is your best friend.

*A writer’s platform is how well you’re known and how big an audience you have, this could be how many blog readers, twitter followers, etsy sales you have, or it could be how many articles you have had published in print or online magazines or websites (all those free tutorials you wrote as guest blog posts on bigger websites count towards your writer’s platform). These days having a writing platform is essential to getting published.

If you don’t have an agent though — all is not lost — you can still write and publish a craft book — it will just require you to do all the legwork yourself.

[Edited to ad: An agent will take a cut of your payment - there is no up front fee - their payment is usually in the form of a percentage of royalties]

Lots of ideas for a book — but you need to narrow it down

So you want to write a craft book, you have a lot of ideas but first you need to do some research and find out which of your ideas is likely to sell: Research the craft blogs, the book stores, etsy and find the gap in the market — find your niche.

  • Once you have an idea or two this is where you can discuss it with your agent, or best friend — brain storm the selling points and then write it all down. F+W Publications (North Light imprint) are unique in that they accept half formed ideas and are prepared to work with you to develop your idea.
  • Now research your publisher and send out a query letter*. Check their guidelines and contact the correct person, make sure to write a formal letter without any spelling mistakes — eek! Check it twice, get a friend to edit it for you – this is your first impression. You can send out multiple query letters to several publishers that you think would be interested. On the Lark Crafts website, they state that they like to receive a query letter before you send in a proposal and if they are interested to know more they will request a full detailed proposal.

*A query letter is a brief of your proposal: you should explain your idea in detail, the main theme, the audience, the techniques you will cover, what projects will be included. You will also need to include your resume, your skills, your ‘platform’. What is your expertise, give examples of your writing and any previous publications. Include relevant posts from your blog or links online to your work as well.

Now visualise your book: You don’t need to write it yet, but you do need to narrow down a few things:

  • The title and the concept are important to give you and the publisher a first impression of what this book will be about — and who it is aimed at. This is the ‘hook’.*
  • A chapter breakdown will help you organise the book, and give the publisher an idea about what to expect. This is where you give your book its bones — how will your organise the book — difficulty levels, themes, materials — how many projects, how difficult are they, how many variations will you make.
  • Project samples: get making, make a few projects and see how they fit, photograph the instructions, write out instructions, what level of instruction are you going for — how skilled are the readers of this book — will you be providing photographic steps or will you rely on illustrations?

*A hook is a catchy phrase, an attention getting sentence intended to instantly grab the readers attention and reel them in. This hook can be a personal anecdote, an interesting fact, an amusing quote or a challenging question.

Tomorrow I will discuss writing your proposal, give some publishers resources and tell you what happens next! Feel free to ask questions in the comments and I will answer either in the comments or in tomorrows post.

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ana January 12, 2012 at 9:36 am

Thank you for this interesting article! I still need some practise to do it, but some day it will definitely be a part of my to-do-list…I’m looking forward to read next parts…

2 abbyglassenberg January 12, 2012 at 10:52 am

I think it is amazing that you are sharing this wealth of information, Kathreen! I have been through this process twice, without an agent, and it is intense. It is important to mention that the agent takes a cut of your advance and your royalties (I’m sure you’ll be covering all of that in the next installments) and it is possible to negotiate all of this without one. It’s lots of work and it stretches you in new ways. I’ve learned so much!

The more information we share with one another, the better off all of us are. I love writing craft books and I think you said it well when you said that it gives you the confidence to pursue your own path.

3 kath_red January 12, 2012 at 5:17 pm

Hi Abby – yes – agent takes a cut of your payment – and I just edited the post to add that in – in case folks don’t read the comments.

4 Karin Van Voorhees January 12, 2012 at 12:27 pm

I am an editor for a jewelry-book publisher. Your advice is spot on. We don’t require an agent, we do accept unsolicited proposals, and we are willing to work with artists to develop their ideas. That said, the well-written, well-planned proposals rise to the top of the pile! Any artist who can define the “hook” and the unique selling features of her proposed book is 10 steps ahead of the pack!

5 kath_red January 13, 2012 at 4:46 pm

thanks Karin – does your publishing house have submission guidelines I can link to?

6 Kelsi January 12, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Thank you for sharing this! My question: how do you create a platform, say a blog, and still have creative energy to do your work. How do you make sure your blog doesn’t become your work? How do you avoid all blog and no craft? Thanks!

7 kath_red January 12, 2012 at 5:21 pm

A platform is a way of showing the publisher that you have experience and that you will be able to market the book. There are whole books written on creating a platform – but a good place to start is writing a blog, yes it takes a little time and energy – no you don’t have to write a post every day – but yes you do have to develop/join a community. A blog can take away your creative time if you let it – but it also has huge benefits in terms of getting your work out there and getting to know a community of like minded creative souls.

8 kath_red January 13, 2012 at 4:45 pm

I have covered this in a little more detail in part 2 of this series – cheers

9 Katherine of Kitten's Lost Her Mittens January 12, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Thank you so much for writing this! I’ve had an idea spinning around in my head for awhile now, but now idea on how to get started on transforming it into a book. Thanks so much for the first steps! I really appreciate you sharing all this information. I look forward to the next post!

10 kath_red January 13, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Good luck with your dream

11 Pascale January 13, 2012 at 6:14 am

Thanks for sharing this information, Kathreen – I have been playing with the idea of writing a book for quite a while now and your information is really helpful!
Cheers,

Pascale

12 kath_red January 13, 2012 at 4:44 pm

You totally should!

13 luvinthemommyhood January 13, 2012 at 12:15 pm

This is awesome Kathreen! It’s a dream of mine to have my own book one day and you cleared up a few of the things that I’ve been wondering about.

Congrats again on your successes..so inspiring!

14 isumi musuki January 13, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Very useful information appreciate for share this topic special Thanks.

15 Laura January 18, 2012 at 11:06 am

Great series, Kathreen! I’m nearing my deadline and this cleared up a lot of things I didn’t understand. I’m looking forward to seeing this one finished, but tossing around ideas for the next one.

16 Ching January 27, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Thanks for sharing your knowledge! My husband just popped the idea of writing a craft/sewing book to me a few hours ago and I’m so glad I found your article. I quit my day job a few months back and you are right, there is a burst of creativity flooding in! Besides running an online store on Etsy, I’m currently writing and photographing craft and sewing tutorials as a freelancer for a website as well. I’m enjoying the challenges of thinking of new projects to work on (although it does get stressful at times after going through rounds and rounds of sketches and notes, but it is rewarding finding the solution), although writing a book never occurred to me until today. Hmmm, what do you think of publishing ebooks?

17 kath_red January 27, 2012 at 6:38 pm

Diane discussing publishing ebooks quite a lot on her website – you should spend some time going through a few of her posts on the subject
http://www.craftypod.com/category/indie-publishing/ebooks/

18 Ching January 29, 2012 at 5:49 am

Ooh thanks so much Kathreen! :)

19 Jamie February 17, 2012 at 1:02 am

This is such a great post! Can you provide a range of what percentage the literary agent charges in fees? Thanks!

20 kath_red February 17, 2012 at 1:12 am

The agent receives a percentage, usually 15%, of any advance and all Royalties.

21 Belynda Farias March 8, 2012 at 12:32 am

Thank you for this information, it is my first step into becoming published.
Much joy!
-Belynda

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