Last month Ann Shayne, one half of Mason Dixon Knitting wrote a guest post for about the process of self publishing – not the nitty gritty technical stuff, but the emotional creative stuff. I loved that post but I wanted some of that nitty gritty know-how too, so I asked Ann a few questions and here are her answers.

Ann Shayne’s life-affirming, fully realized page-turner of a novel, Bowling Avenue, is available on Amazon and Ann and Kay have been blogging at Mason Dixon Knitting since 2003. Her book is available in various ways via

Image courtesy Bryce McCloud.


Ann: What follows is excruciating reading for those who don’t care about it and fascinating for those who do.

Kath: How did you go with converting your novel to kindle? did you just follow the instructions on Amazon or did you get outside help? How easy/difficult was this process?

Ann: I created two formats of ebook, because I wanted the book to be available on the Barnes and Noble website (for the Nook ereader) and also on Amazon (for the Kindle). B&N uses ePub format; Amazon uses MOBI. I converted the Microsoft Word file using a brilliant piece of freeware called Calibre. The hardest part was to cook up the Table of Contents, which is essential for allowing readers to navigate through the book easily. Calibre added the Table of Contents automatically, but I didn’t figure that out until I’d wandered down a black hole of advice from self-publisher websites. [resources: Self publish with Nook :: Self publish with Kindle :: Calibre software]

My advice: stay away from anybody who lists a 62-step process for converting ebooks.They’re either crazy or love a practical joke. I did not have to delve into HTML to format my book, though you can find websites that say you must. If you’re nervous about diving into this process, pay someone to do the formatting for you. If you’re stubborn and cheap and impatient like me, use Calibre and be prepared to give yourself a bit of time to fool around with it. And it’s essential to test your files on every sort of reading gizmo you can find–formatting breaks down sometimes, and you can only see that when you’re looking at it on various ereaders.

I would not recommend formatting an illustrated ebook yourself–there are many peculiarities of formatting that can be nasty. For a straight text novel like mine, it worked well. As for the cover, my designer used the cover templates provided by Lightning Source and CreateSpace; they worked perfectly.

Kath: The print version that is available — i’m assuming that it is print-on-demand and you aren’t shipping them out yourself! Did you use Amazon’s CreateSpace or something else — can you tell me how the process went — did you just follow the online instructions and away you went?

Ann: I used two print-on-demand services: Ingram’s Lightning Source and Amazon’s CreateSpace. It meant twice the file uploading and account setup, but it’s worth it because I wanted bricks and mortar bookstores to be able to order the book without having to do business with Amazon. They can do that by ordering the book from Ingram, which is one of the largest book wholesalers. Lightning Source is a very sophisticated business geared largely toward traditional publishers who want to use print-on-demand technology. It’s not really designed for one-off self-publishing authors. You have to set up an account, have a name for your publishing company, and there are more costs involved in setting up your book. But they are true professionals, and their finished books look beautiful. That said, Amazon is an amazing company for authors who want to get their feet wet with self-publishing.

My experience with CreateSpace went absolutely smoothly. I designed the interior myself, following CreateSpace’s straightforward guidelines, then saved it as a PDF. Within a day of uploading, BOWLING AVENUE was available in a print edition in many countries all over the world. It’s astonishing, really, the ease of it. If I were a traditional publisher, I would be very nervous right about now.

[Resources: Lightning Source :: CreateSpace :: Ingram Books]

Kath: ISBN number — you don’t need one for kindle — but do you need one for the printed version? how does one organise this? — I am assuming there is some easy access online purchase thingy somewhere or other?

Ann: I bought a batch of 10 ISBNs from, because they were cheaper that way, they don’t go stale if you don’t use them for a while, and it makes me think I ought to keep writing books in order to use up my beautiful ISBNs. I used two on this project, one for the ebook and one for the paperback edition. If I do an audio or (highly collectible!) hardcover edition, those will require their own ISBNs. ISBNs aren’t required for Kindle, but I wanted mine to have one so that it would be accessible through databases beyond Amazon.

I wanted to use my own ISBNs because it would leave me the most options in terms of which channels I wanted to use to distribute my book. One basic thing in self-publishing is that you can simultaneously distribute your book through a variety of channels, if you have the energy and attention span for it. Some services such as CreateSpace will provide you with an ISBN for free, but it limits where one can distribute the book–namely, through CreateSpace. I didn’t want to be limited to one print-on-demand company.

[Resources: ISBN via Bowker]

Kath: Did you hire a professional proof reader? or ask friends and family etc… to proof read and copy edit it for you?

I hired a very blunt and compulsive editor who has been a book editor and designer for decades, Mary Neal Meador. I am fortunate because she happens to be my sister-in-law, too. Working with people you love is one of the best parts of self-publishing. Bryce McCloud, the artist who created the cover, is a pure delight. The kind folks at Ingram Lightning Source are right here in Nashville, so that’s cool too.

Having published two books with one of the largest publishers in the world, this experience has been nothing like that. I broke even within a week. I know sales information in real time. I will be getting monthly royalty checks, rather than twice-a-year royalty statements. I never have to guess about how many copies to print, because each book is created after there’s an order for it–there is no such thing as a print run! And no returns. And my book will never go out of print.

If the DIY impulse runs in your veins, self-publishing is absolutely the way to go. It’s the ultimate craft project.


Guest series 2012: I asked fellow bloggers, makers and creators to write on their creativity and focus their essay on one of four topics: creativity and health, creativity and business, creativity and parenting or creativity and process. I am very excited to have a wonderful lot of fellow creative folk guest posting here at over the next couple of months. Please welcome…

Diane Gilleland makes crafts, podcasts, ebooks, and online classes over at CraftyPod in Portland, Oregon. When she isn’t making things, she’s tending to the every whim of her cat Pushkin, and what’s wrong with that?

Image by Windell Oskay, via Flickr Creative Commons

Hello, Whipup! I’ve been a craft blogger for six years. (And in this odd, still-pretty-new internet landscape, that constitutes a long time ago!) When I started blogging, it was purely a hobby, but within a couple years blogging became the center of my livelihood – and I quit my day job. I think this is a little bit because I was lucky, and largely because I’ve worked very, very hard to develop income streams from blogging.

I’ve learned some valuable things about monetizing a blog over the years, and I thought I’d share some of them here. I hope these ideas give you some real-world advice and useful food for thought!

Where does blog-money come from?
It’s tempting to think that monetizing a blog works like this: you write great posts, people like them, and the money comes in. Maybe you take some advertisers, maybe you create a tutorial and everybody buys it, or maybe you get “discovered” – but one way or another, all you have to do is be worthy and the money finds you.

There’s a tiny handful of popular bloggers for whom that strategy might work, but let me tell you: for the vast majority of us, making money blogging means treating it more like a business. There really aren’t any truly passive income sources for bloggers – that is, if you want to make a reliable part-time or full-time income.

Image by Richard Elzey, via Flickr Creative Commons
Small Income Sources vs. Large Ones

You don’t have to be shooting for a part-time or full-time income from blogging, of course. There are plenty of methods you can use to earn smaller amounts of income through blogging. You can sign up with ready-made ad programs like BlogHerAdsGoogle AdSense and Project Wonderful. You can join a craft blogger marketing program like The Blueprint Social and find opportunities to do sponsored posts. You can place Amazon affiliate links in your blog posts. These are easy-to-implement options that don’t require much upkeep, and will earn most bloggers at least a few lattes’ worth per month, and perhaps more. And that may be plenty for your needs, and that’s great!

Traffic-based income vs. Skills-based income
…But let’s say that you want to turn your blog into that part-time or full-time income. Well, your first decision is a big, broad one: will you make money based on the size of your audience, or will you make money based on selling your skills?

If you have a large audience for your blog, then you have the option to turn that audience into a kind of “product,” and sell exposure to them to companies. You might start up an ad program for your blog and sell space. You might place affiliate ads or links on your blog. Or you might sell sponsored posts. With all of these options, the larger your audience is, the more income you stand to make.

Or maybe you want to get hooked in with a craft company – to be hired as a designer, or write a book, or host a TV show. In that case, you need craft company decision-makers to see your blog, and you can reach out and start conversations with them on Twitter and Facebook to pique their interest. But you also need to cultivate a large audience of crafter-readers. Your readers provide evidence that you’re worth hiring, because you come with a built-in audience.

In order to make that  reliable part-time or full-time income through any of those options, though, you’ll need a lot of audience. It’s hard to put a firm number on these things, but I think your monthly site visits should number at least in the tens of thousands.

What if you don’t have that kind of traffic? Don’t worry! You can always start out monetizing your blog based on selling your skills instead. There are practically endless opportunities there. All you need to do is figure out three important things: 

Image by splityarn, via Flickr Creative Commons

Important Thing #1: What are your sellable skills?

What forms of craft do you love to think about, and make, and share most? Usually, knowing your best crafty skills is a good first step to creating money-making options for yourself. What crafts or techniques are you good enough at to teach other people? What kinds of things are you great at designing? What media do you know especially well? What crafts do you do differently than anyone else?

There are tons of ways to spin these skills so they can be sold. You might produce PDF tutorials or ebooks to sell. You might teach online classes. You might teach live classes. You might sell your skills as a designer to small business owners. You might make handmade things to sell. (All of these options require a receptive audience, but we’ll get to that in a moment.)

More than likely, you also have several non-crafty talents – skills you’ve picked up at your day jobs, or through your education, or via the School of Life. These skills could be useful in monetizing your blog as well – how can you combine your crafty skills with your non-crafty ones to create interesting products and services for your readers? If you’re great at project management, for example, could you teach classes in project planning to crafty business owners? If you’re an accountant by day and a beader by night, could you write a simple ebook on accounting that creative minds can embrace?

Really, the question of what you sell comes down to our next important factor….

Image by BartNJ, via Flickr Creative Commons

Important Thing #2: What is your ACTUAL market for those skills?
This is a somewhat trickier idea. And I’m writing the word ACTUAL in all caps to make a big point: you may love to write about crafts, but that doesn’t always mean other crafters will pay you for it. You may love to make crafts, but that doesn’t always mean other crafters will pay you for them.

For many of us craft bloggers, our readership is made up of friends and kindred spirits. And while this is lovely for conversation, it just doesn’t automatically lead to income. In tight economic times, your readers have to make careful decisions about what to spend money on – and more often than not, this means your readers will be interested in buying things that solve some kind of problem for them, or that they have an actual need for.

…So if you want to make a decent skills-based blogging income, you have two options. The first one is to formulate some kind of product or service to sell to your existing readers. And if your readers are other crafters, then you basically need to figure out what those readers actually need. That might turn out to be something very different from the things you blog about or make.

For example, let’s say you’re an expert crocheter, and you want to sell hand-crocheted hats. If your blog audience is fellow crocheters, then they might not be the best market for your hats – they can, in fact, make their own hats. But maybe they’d be really interested in buying patterns for your hat designs, or learning your expert crochet techniques.

Or, if you’d rather blog about and make what you like, then your second option is to cultivate a new audience of people who actually need those things. So if you want to sell handmade items, and you want to use a blog to do it, then the people reading that blog need to be the people who need your handmade items. A classic example: let’s say you make quilted pot holders and embroidered dish towels. Are crafters the best buying audience for those items? Probably not – they can pretty easily make their own kitchen items. But people who love to cook? They’re a great market for your product! So, what kind of blog would appeal to them?

These are great big ideas, but they really just boil down to the same things that drive any successful business: what you sell has to have an ideal customer, it has to solve some kind of problem for that customer, and the customer needs to know it exists. … And that brings us to our third important factor.

Image by Jason Kessenich, via Flickr Creative Commons

Important Thing #3: How much time and energy do you have available for monetizing your blog?
To generate regular part-time or full-time income through blogging, you’ll need to invest basically part-time or full-time effort in developing, marketing, and supporting your business. Do you have that kind of time? If not, that’s okay – what DO you have time for? You can always start small (with some of the simpler options I listed above) and make adjustments as your income grows.

It’s important to be realistic in your expectations, and to understand that no matter how you choose to earn money blogging, in order to earn a sustainable income, you’ll be putting in plenty of effort. It takes time to write an ebook, teach an online class, produce a video, or write a pattern. It takes time to write the kind of blog content that keeps your traffic high (and attractive to advertisers) week after week.

You might want to pull our your calendar right now and set aside some regular blocks of time for working on your blog-based income.

Image by kodomut, via Flickr Creative Commons

Stay nimble, my friends
All of this may sound like monetizing a blog is really hard to do. Well, speaking from experience, it’s not the easiest thing in the world, but it’s well worth the effort. If you don’t mind, I’ll add one last slightly-challenging idea. Once you start making income from your blog, it’s no time to rest on your laurels! The blogosphere moves very fast, and it’s very likely that what’s earning income for you now won’t be the same thing that’s earning you income next year. To earn your income online, you have to be ready to keep a flow of new products or services, and change directions when your market changes – and that will happen regularly. Or, if you’re making your income based on traffic, then your nimbleness will involve keeping a stream of content that keeps lots of traffic flowing to your blog. And again, tastes change quickly online, so you’ll likely find yourself needing to change along with them.

All that said, I wouldn’t trade my little blog-based business for anything in the world. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also a very satisfying expression of who I am, and what I love doing. It’s worth the amount of effort it took to build up, and the amount if takes to keep it going.

If you want to go deeper into this subject and come up with a customized monetization plan for your blog, you can even take my upcoming online class. I’d love to help you find your best money-making options!


This is the third part of my Getting your craft book published series: in Part 1 — I covered the beginning steps, getting an agent and researching a publisher and narrowing down that big idea! In Part 2 — I talked more about a writer’s platform, writing a proposal and included a bunch of publisher’s links to their online submission guidelines. Today I am going to discuss what happens next … what to expect after you have submitted your proposal and received a positive response.

What happens after your proposal has been accepted?

When you have submitted your proposal to the correct person at the publishing house of your choice, you will need to wait, and wait and wait a bit longer. Generally the person you submitted the proposal to was the acquisitions editor whose job it is to find new books and new authors, they also then champion the manuscript (and the author) to the publisher.

Next the proposal goes to the editorial board — this is made up of the publisher, some editors, and the sales and marketing team, together they discuss the books uniqueness, its financial viability and its marketing capabilities. This board meets regularly to discuss the proposals that are being considered. There will likely be more than a few proposals considered, and not all will get through each round.

If your book is a chosen one, then you move up in the process and you will be assigned an editor, the person who will work closely with you on your book. This is the person who will be your lifeline to the publisher, the photographer and the designer, they will go to bat for you and will put you in your place, they will weigh up your needs and wants against the practicalities of the book publishing world.

Next it is contract time, if you have an agent they will deal with this for you, if not then you need to carefully read through all the points, have a lawyery type friend look it over for you if you can, make sure to ask about anything you don’t understand, royalty payments, digital rights, who pays for and is responsible for photography and illustrations, how much say will you have in the title, design and cover etc…

Payment: Every contract is different, you could be paid a lump sum which is an advance on royalties, or you could be given a set fee without the option of royalties, or you might not be given an advance at all — you may have to wait for a royalty payment until after the book is published.

An advance on royalties is usually paid out in sections, often part on signing and part on completion, and is not enough to quit your day job, it certainly won’t pay for the time you will be putting in, but it may pay for your supplies and tools. This advance on royalties is exactly what is says, it’s an advance on the future earnings of this book and if your book doesn’t ever sell enough to pay out this advance then the chances are you will never see any more money other than this initial lump sum. But if your advance does pay out then you will continue to receive royalty payments for the sales of your book – so it is important to negotiate what percentage on the wholesale price of the book you will receive.

Another to be aware of is that your payment may include the cost of photography (the step by step photos and/or the final beauty shots) and/or the cost of getting illustrations and patterns drawn up. If you can do these yourself or the publisher has budgeted for this then you are ahead, but be sure to ask those questions.

The writing and submitting process

Each editor and publisher is different about how hands on they are with the writing process, some editors will sort of just leave you alone once the contract is signed and until your deadline, other editors will want to see the manuscript at regular intervals and will want more input about your designs and the materials you use, so this is something to make sure to discuss before signing the contract.

The writing of the book can take anywhere from 3 months to a year or even longer, this is something that again will be in your contract and will be a negotiable point — be realistic when you agree to a deadline — writing the book and making all the projects will take longer than you imagine.

Once you have finished writing your book and sent it to your editor, you will then be back and forth with your editor and a copy editor and a technical editor and possibly another technical editor and the designers and illustrators for months and months, it will seem endless, your eyes will glaze over and you will be totally sick to death of reading and rereading your book.

Then the photographer does their magic — you may or may not participate in this step. You may have to organise and pay for the photographer yourself, or the publisher may have a budget for this, or the publisher may want total control over the choice of the photographer. Then the layout and designers do their magic, then the fonts and designs are worked through (again you may not have much say here either).

Finally you get a proof to look over. You have to look carefully — do the photos and illustrations match up? Are all the templates included? By this time there are no major changes allowed — just essential stuff. Then goodbye book — you won’t see it again for a while — months — before finally the book arrives in all its gloriousness on your doorstep — it was all worth it for this moment.

But it’s not over yet — now is the time you have do all that marketing you promised back in your proposal: blog tours, guest blog posts, book launches etc … but don’t worry you will have a publicist that you will work closely with, but you will still need to do a lot of the leg work yourself — use your contacts to get the word out there about your amazing fantastic book and just hope for the best!

More reading:


In Part 1 of this series I wrote about how to get started on getting published – I covered the beginning steps, getting an agent and researching a publisher and narrowing down that big idea! Today 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.

How to build your author platform

First up what is an author platform and why do you need one?

Publishing books these days has more competition than ever before (internet, ebooks, self publishers etc), so publishing houses, when signing up a new author, need to know that the book you’ve brought to them will sell, they need to know that you already have a fan base and that you are able to self promote your work – this is your platform.

You need a web presence – when a literary agent or potential publisher begins to research you, they’ll google your name to get an indication about your credibility as a knowledgeable person in your field. To get this online presence you’ll need a website linking to articles, publications and projects you have worked on.

You should start a blog and write about your creative process, your projects and share insights about your work. Write guest posts for other blogs and join a social networking group such as twitter or facebook so you can stay in touch with like minded creative folks. Consider making videos and making them available on youtube, teach online e-courses and publish a free e-newsletter.

Your platform doesn’t only live in the virtual world though, teach classes, host events, speak at conferences and at local events, or write for print magazines. You don’t have to do all of these things – begin with what feels right for you … if you have any other ideas please share them in the comments. 

Writers digest has a very thorough article about building your writer’s platform.

How to write a craft book proposal

So you have an idea you have yourself a bit of a platform and you have written a couple of query letters, now you are ready to write that proposal.

Many publishers have their submission guidelines available on their website and the format of these all tend to be a little different … but the basics remain the same. A proposal is a synopsis of the proposed book — yes, but also it is an introduction to you — so you really need to sell yourself at the same time. Here is what you should include in your proposal — but make sure to read each publishers submission guidelines as they all vary slightly.

A few things to remember when writing a proposal: they are long and detailed (20-30 pages on average), writing one will help you hone your idea but make sure not to ramble – be succinct and clear and organised, make sure to get a friend to edit it for you before submitting it.

  • Book title and book ‘hook’. You need to sell the book right from the first sentence — what is the hook that will make your book different and unique. Storey publishing give some examples of what a good ‘hook’ is on their submission guidelines.
  • Introduction to who you are: What makes you special, unique, interesting. Why are you qualified to write this book? What is your platform (see above). What are your main selling points, discuss your website, your previous projects and writing.
  • Introduction to your book idea: Give some background details about how you came to write this book or why you want to write this book — why it’s important and necessary and why others will think so too. This is where you discuss the scope and central themes of your book, the process of creating your book and the primary audience for your book.
  • A project and chapter outline of the book: More details about each chapter of the book — yes details, project examples and sample chapters.
  • Book promotion. How will you be able to help promote the book? (will you go on book tours, blog tours, promote it through your blog etc…). This is a very important part of the proposal, don’t gloss over this – ultimately the publisher wants to know that they will be able to sell your book. You need to show that you are able to self-promote your book and your work and that you are involved in your community.
  • Competing titles. You need to do some research here about other similar books on the market – and why yours is different or special. What is special about your book – and why will it sell – your final sales pitch.
  • Inclusions: A cover letter, your resume and some visuals*.

*Sending visuals with a non-fiction design and craft book proposal if very important and you can do this in a couple of ways. First take really good quality photos of your projects (they don’t need to be professional though as the publisher is not expecting you to be a professional photographer), then if you are sending the proposal by mail you will need to print these out and attach to your other documents, or if you are able to send your proposal digitally, then you can either send jpg images as an attachement or design them into a layout (using a photo editing tool) and send the images as a pdf, or upload the images to a private page on your website — this is called a lookbook. Don’t embed the images inside your document as this can make the document unwieldy and the text should be able to carry itself — the images and visuals are extra.

Craft and design book publishers and their proposal guidelines

When researching a publisher that you might like to send your proposal to, you should head to a book store and to their website to get an idea about the kind of books they publish. Don’t waste your time sending your proposal to publishers who don’t publish your kind of book. Make sure that the publisher you choose is a good fit with your aesthetic and with your topic.

  • Princeton Architectural Press, require a detailed proposal, they would like to see sample chapters, the introduction and more — they want to really evaluate your writing style and personal voice. They also encourage you to send in visuals, and in fact many publishers will require this — so consider putting together a Lookbook of some kind.
  • If you are submitting to more than one publisher at a time then make this clear in your cover letter, Chronicle books submission guidelines state that you should indicate whether your proposal is a simultaneous submission.
  • If you are submitting without an agent then most publishers, such as Lark Crafts, prefer to receive a query letter first.
  • North Light and Interweave craft publishers, state on their submission guidelines, that they are open to accepting proposals and queries in different formats, you can send them a query with images and they will help you develop your proposal and idea.
  • All publishers require you to discuss the marketing of your book in your proposal — big publishers such as Watson-Guptill publications and smaller publications such as Quirk books — all state clearly on their guidelines that the marketing aspect is very important, you’ll need a market analysis, competing titles and how you will be able to help sell the book.
  • Storey publishing puts a lot of emphasis on the ‘hook’, make sure that first paragraph really tells a story.
  • Shambhala (and their Roost craft/lifestyle imprint) have few specific guidelines (so follow the guidelines laid out above).
  • The proposal guidelines with C&T publishing and their Stash books imprint are friendly and helpful, make sure to fill in the questionnaire and contact the acquisitions editor with any questions.
  • Australian publishers — Penguin Australia are currently accepting unsolicited manuscripts for their non-fiction Lantern imprint and Allen and Unwin have a very accessible Friday Pitch for unsolicited manuscripts, however they publish very few craft books.
  • Cooperative press is a small new craft book publisher who are seeking proposals. Shannon Okey write a guest blog post for whipup about the publishing world and about cooperative press last year.
  • Martingale & Company are actively seeking craft book proposals – fill in their online form to receive a proposal package

Tomorrow I will be discussing what happens next as well as giving you lots of resources so you can gain more perspectives on this great topic.

I would love to hear your publishing success or not so successful stories — please feel free to ask any questions you might have too — I will answer them in the comments.


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.