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.


November: Month of books at

Pinhole Cameras: A DIY Guide. By Chris Keeney, Published by Princeton Architectural Press (June 8, 2011).

This is avid photographer and pinhole camera expert, Chris Keeney’s first book, nicely published by Papress – I love their quirky and quality mix of design, diy and architecture books. In Chris’s book, he claims that you can turn any container into a pinhole camera – exciting to experiment with – there is something about this old style of photography that is very raw and very real – and such a contrast to our digital age. Great for kids to experiment with these projects too – teaches about light and lenses – good diy practical science at work!

Images from left: SPAMera Medium Format 120 Film Pinhole Camera :: Lavazza Espresso Coffee Can 5×7 Photographic Paper Pinhole Camera :: Romeo y Julieta Cigar Box Pinhole Camera

Publish Your Photography Book by Darius D. Himes and Mary Virginia Swanson, published by Princeton Architectural Press (March 23, 2011).

Insightful and informative guide to getting a photography book published. Industry insiders Darius D. Himes and Mary Virginia Swanson, take you through the steps of producing and publishing a photography book.

This book will help you to understand the publishing world and the process of getting a book to press – from submissions to contracts and the digital revolution you will come to terms with what you need to do to get started. Once you have that contract or you have decided to self publish then the authors take you through the next stage – the design and production. From there it’s onto marketing and selling your book in this very competitive market. Along the way you will hear from industry professionals and be able to read case studies and access a multitude of resources. Good luck my friend!

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While I was researching where to get the 2009 whipup calendar printed, I came upon a lot of options, but I had a list of things I considered necessary and some other things that I could do without. [note there are ton of self publishing sites out there – but I am limiting this post to sites that also double as a marketplace – who handle the sales of the product as well as the production]

My necessary list:
1. reasonable international postage costs: considering that I live in Australia and that whipup is an international site with readers from everywhere, and that the contributors for the calendar were also from all over the globe, this one was at the very top of my list. I was going to go with but when their shipping went up (by an extraordinary amount) I really needed to reconsider my options.

2. great quality: I wanted the finished product to look great – I read about a zillion reviews of all the different print on demand places – and tested out two options – by getting proof calendars printed.

3. easy to use interface: I signed up at a lot of these print on demand websites and some of them were so clunky to use – I had difficulty working out what to do and wasted a lot of time. I consider myself reasonably internet savvy and so if I have trouble navigating a website then I think others might too. Uploading images needed to be efficient and the calendar templates needed to be simple to use.

4. Marketplace: It had to have a shop front that handled payment and checking out. I wanted to be able to sell these calendars to the public through the print on demand website I was making them with. The checkout needed to be really simple, and available to everyone.

My not so necessary list – but would be nice:
1. I thought that having a few calendar options to choose from would be nice – perhaps paper options and calendar templates – with options to include extra information in the dates area – put in holidays and special occasions, and also to include text if I wanted – to caption the images. And it would be nice to have the back cover show all the images that were on each month.

2. I didn’t really want to make a lot of different products – but having the option to make prints, cards, t-shirt, badges etc would be nice down the track. I also was thinking about small booklets or photo books – and plenty of places do these – but not many do all of these things – and if they do then the quality tends to suffer.

So in inclusion:
1. Redbubble: was my chosen print on demand site for getting this calendar printed. It filled most of my requirements. Reasonable shipping costs, the base price for the product is more than other places (eg base price is $5 less, but shipping $100 more!). Shipping within Australia (for 1-2 calendars) is $5, shipping to Europe is under 4euros, shipping to the US is about $5 as well. As the Australian dollar is so dreadful right now – international buyers get quite a bargain!

There is only one calendar template with redbubble and it is not configurable at all – but the calendar template they do use has a clean and simple design and they good quality art art paper. Uploading images and using the site is super easy – setting up an account to sell does require filling in a lot of information – including tax info. Checking out is easy – with a calculate shipping option after you put in your address. Redbubble don’t do a lot of different merchandise, cards, prints, calendar and t-shirts is it, this means that have more quality control – but if you want more you will need to look elsewhere.

2. Is wonderful in so many ways, which is why I was quite heartbroken when they chose to increase their international shipping from $15 to $120 for one calendar – you can see why I couldn’t use them in the end. However if you are in the US or if they ever do return to sanity with the shipping, then they have some very good options – lots of photo book and 3 calendar options. I have had 2 different sizes printed with them – the small cheaper calendar and the big linen one – both turned out really well. The small one is gloss only but the big one has a linen paper and gloss option. Also the calendar making wizard is easy to use – highly configurable with lots of templates available and inserting dates and extra text is simple – and there are discounts for bulk orders.

3. Other print on demand sites:
Image kind: for selling framed prints – I didn’t get very far with this – they do cards, but otherwise its only prints but have heard good things about quality.
– zazzle: I was really considering this option – I had read good reviews about the quality and service – and there are lot of options for different merchandise. I was a little put off by the busy website. But I did like the fact that you can test drive the products – create a calendar – almost instantly, without first signing up. Their are lots of calendar options – cards and badges too – and the calendars have a few templates to choose from and are easily customisable.
– Cafe press: one of the first print on demand marketplaces – mostly consisting of commercial slogan based products and novelty items. However you can set up your own shop front and link to it directly from your site. There are a few different calendar options available – none of which I really liked – but certainly there is choice.
– blurb: is a print on demand book site – mainly used for photo books – you can also sell your products in their marketplace. You need to download the blurb software, which has pre-determined themes and layouts – I have heard that it can be a bit difficult to use (quirky with some bugs) and sometimes limiting, but that the overall product is excellent. I have heard also that international shipping can be very expensive (and they don’t do calendars).
– createspace: is owned by amazon which means you can make your book available for sale on amazon. I have heard mixed reviews about the quality, shipping and the service and some unhappy reports about the amazon link up. I am still not sure about this one… anyone had any experience? (uhm no calendars either).
– viovio: a photo book publisher and marketplace, I have read some excellent reviews about the outstanding quality of the print and binding, lots of sizing options available. There are also lots of options to create your book, you can upload a pdf that you have pre-designed, you can use their drag and drop templates/wizard or their design software – all this allows for complete design freedom. Prices seem competitive – I have not heard any bad reviews at all (but no calendars).

Please add your experiences with on demand publishing services in the comments.