Craft Book Proposal: How to Get an Editor’s Attention

Allison Korleski Please say hello to Allison Korleski, Acquisitions Editor for Interweave Books! Allison is here with some very helpful information for aspiring craft book authors about how the process works. We are so excited to have her insight today as part of Craft Book Month at Craft Buds.

Welcome Allison! Can you tell us a little bit about your job as an acquisitions editor?

I started a little over a year ago. Before that I had been a buyer for a book store for many years, including craft and DIY books. I knew Interweave, and found what they were doing in terms of direct marketing and on-line and eMedia development to be really forward-thinking. (Speaking of which…we just started a new site called FlockShop.com, which offers limited-time deals on a variety of craft products—one item at a time.)

I work out of my apartment in NJ. On top of learning a new job, just getting used to working alone at home was a BIG adjustment. Setting up my home office definitely gave me a new-found appreciation of the IT department. I go visit Interweave’s main offices several times a year—usually for a week or 2 at a time. While there are things I love about working at home, I miss the camaraderie and osmosis of ideas one gets in an office environment, so this lets me have a good balance. The book department has around 14 people in it—that’s editorial, sales, production, and art. I wish I could effectively summarize what an amazing bunch of people they are. Finally, one of our book editors lives in NYC, so we try to get together at least once a month. Our goal is to establish an informal “Interweave East”!

Interweave Books What does your day-to-day work look like?

Day-to-day can vary. I’m generally juggling many proposals at any one time, all in various stages of development. I work with the authors, help focus and develop their ideas, create an outline for the book to give it shape, discuss the types of projects to be included, materials used, and skill levels to be covered. I also spend a lot of time researching designers, trying to get a feel for their style and approach, and an understanding of what sets them apart and makes them special. I troll blogs and websites, look at what is coming out from other publishers, look at trade and craft shows to see what people are teaching, and what trends are evolving. I travel to several shows a year—Quilt Market, TNNA, Beadfest, Tucson bead show, assorted fiber and knitting shows. I also attend the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany; Interweave works with several publishers in the UK, Europe, and Japan. I also spend a lot of time looking at magazines and craft books, and talk to people at my local yarn and bead stores to see what they are interested in. The research never stops. The one downside is that I wish I had more time for my own knitting!

Weekend Hats book

I’m more or less the gateway to publishing with Interweave, and I take that very seriously. I have a dual responsibility: to be the “face” of interweave, represent my company, find wonderful talent, and make sure that we continue to produce great books for our audience. At the same time, I also have to be an advocate for the authors I work with—to clearly represent their ideas and vision for their book, and make sure that gets translated into the final product. I really believe in every author and project I bring to our editorial group—there’s usually some sort of mind-meld that goes on—so I advocate for them as strongly as possible. All books need to get approved by our editorial group, which is made up of editors, sales and marketing, the editorial directors of our magazines, and others. I have to make a case for each and every book I present; I’m in the hot-seat every meeting, so I need to work with each author to make their presentation rock-solid from the beginning.

I spend much of my time talking with authors, going over what they’ve sent me, discussing projects, evaluating strengths and weaknesses, and discussing the next step. Sometimes we have a breakthrough and decide to change direction completely! At the same time I’m working with our art and production departments, assessing costs for each book, and keeping the author’s vision in mind while I assess what her book will need. I also handle all contract negotiations once we approve any book idea.

Crafters Guide to Taking Great Photos

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

Originality, technical skill, and doing their homework. New, 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.

Fresh Quilting book

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.

Spin Art book

After a book proposal has been accepted, what is the typical timeline for publishing a craft book (including writing deadlines, photo shoots, publicity, printing, etc.)?

It can vary. I typically assume the author will need 6 months to a year to complete the manuscript and projects, depending on what she has going on in her life, and make sure to discuss that with her. Once we have the manuscript and projects, it takes another year for us to create the book. We photograph everything ourselves, create illustrations and charts, tech-edit, film any accompanying DVDs, etc. Our marketing and publicity departments get into high gear a bit closer to the book’s publication date, and run full-throttle. A typical list of promotional efforts (blogs, interviews, print ads, Facebook, YouTube, and twitter, email campaigns) can run for more than 2 pages!

What books are you most excited to see in stores this fall? Can you tell me a little about how they came to be?

Oh—we have several! (Unfortunately, I was not at Interweave when these were acquired. Next season.) Mathew Gnagy’s Knitting off the Axis comes to mind, as does Connie Chang Chinchio’s Textured Stitches. Personally, I’m a sucker for interesting construction, which Mathew’s book has in spades. Everything is knit sideways or on the diagonal, and he really gets one thinking about the architecture of knitting. As for Connie, I’ve been a fan of hers for years, regularly picking out her projects in books and magazines. She has such a knack for creating knits one wants not only to knit but to wear (and wear and wear) afterward.

Textured Stitches

Jacey Bogg’s Spin Art blows my mind—the yarns she creates are works of art in themselves, and there seems to be a growing appreciates of yarn for yarn’s sake. Along simpler lines, Weekend Hats is a great collection of hats for every knitter—simple to complex, for both men and women, and perfect quick projects for giving and keeping.

Finally, we have The Crafter’s Guide to Taking Great Photos. It’s a non-tech-y guide specifically for the crafter/DIY audience: all those bloggers and people on Etsy who do great work, but need a little help showcasing it to their best ability. It shows how to get slick, professional-looking photos without a studio or professional equipment, and troubleshoots things like making your own lightbox, avoiding camera shake without needing a tripod, and how to highlight project details. It’s divided into sections on specific craft areas (jewelry, fabric, furniture, etc.) to offer advice particular to each.

Are you a crafter yourself? How do you spend your free time when you’re not hard at work publishing craft titles?

I’m quite an enthusiastic knitter, I do basic bead and wirework and have experimented at metalwork. (the resultant pieces were never worn, nor should they have been.) I’m a lousy enough sewist to really appreciate the talent of others, and I learned how to spin last year. Crochet is still on list—I can do some basic stitches, but do not consider myself a true crocheter yet.

I Am Cute Dresses

Giveaway!

Interweave is giving one lucky winner a copy of the new book, I Am Cute Dresses: 25 Simple Designs to Sew by Sato Watanabe. To enter, leave a comment telling us something you’ve learned about book publishing, or a question you have for Allison. We’ll choose a winner on Friday, September 9.

Update: The giveaway is now closed. Congrats to R Carter!

Craft Book Month at Craft Buds

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  49 comments for “Craft Book Proposal: How to Get an Editor’s Attention

  1. September 6, 2011 at 8:14 am

    Thank you so much for the interview and overview of Publishing. I was wondering what is the youngest age for an author Interweave has worked with over the years? Wasn’t sure if there is a market for youth writing craft books for other youth?

    • Allison Korleski
      September 6, 2011 at 1:40 pm

      I don’t know who the YOUNGEST author is, but many of our authors are in their twenties. Our publising program tends to be adult-focused, simply becasue that’s our audience, but there are other publishers who specifically publish books aimed at youth (I’m assuming you mean tweens-teens here, btw.)

  2. September 6, 2011 at 8:34 am

    what an excellent interview-and these new books look amazing :)

  3. September 6, 2011 at 8:42 am

    learning that it can be as simple as an inquiry letter to get a foot in the door is so helpful – and it gives me hope that it can one day happen for me :) Thank you Allison. My question would be: do you look at well known people in the industry for new books, do you look at popular blogs, or can completely unknowns get published too?

    • Allison Korleski
      September 6, 2011 at 1:51 pm

      Hi Melissa,
      I will look at anyone’s proposal, so long as it is an interesting idea and has great projects. Having a platform is a plus, but is never the sole reason we would publish someone. We often work with authors who have little to no publishing experience or are otherwise not well known. What’s important is to have a developed skill set and style–one that stands out from the crowd. You may have a lot to say, even if you haven’t yet said it publically.

  4. Amber
    September 6, 2011 at 11:32 am

    Thank you so much for this interview. So interesting! My question is, what is the average # of readers a blog normally has for your average published blogger turned author?

  5. September 6, 2011 at 11:46 am

    What an great article! Allison has a very interesting and busy job! Just curious if she ever sleeps!! Thank you for sharing all this publishing information. Love hearing what goes on behind the scenes!

  6. Debra L
    September 6, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    Pictures are really important. It’s what catches my eye and makes me pick the book up!

  7. September 6, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Really great article! I am looking forward to the whole series…I was especially interested in what a book proposal is comprised of

  8. Lee
    September 6, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    I did not know that the promotional efforts can go on for 2 years. alot of work – and I for one appreciate it all! thanks!

  9. September 6, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Thank you for the informative interview. The timeline was eye-opening!

  10. September 6, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    Thanks for sharing an inside perspective Allison. My question is: Once your proposal has been submitted, how long does it take for an accept/reject review to get back to the author?

    • Allison Korleski
      September 7, 2011 at 7:49 pm

      Hello AnneMarie,
      A publisher’s website or proposal guidelines will generally state how long it may take to get a response. We tell people it can take up to one month. That may seem like a long time when you are anxiously waiting, but the volume of proposals can be pretty big sometimes, and I like to give each one proper attention.

  11. September 6, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    Wow thanks for the great info. I learned much like how you advocate for the books you feel have value.

  12. Ann
    September 6, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    Very interesting interview. Good tip about previewing an idea before working out the full proposal would not have thought of that.

  13. September 7, 2011 at 2:14 am

    Hello Allison
    Thanks for this posting. I have often wondered about the world of publishing crafts books. I actually have a question for you and sorry if I am repeating someone elses question. I would like to know how the authors go about collaborating with suppliers in their books for example when you read a knit or crochet book the author/designer uses and quotes a particular yarn brand or a say dress making book uses a certain fabric designers line.

    • Allison Korleski
      September 7, 2011 at 7:52 pm

      Hi Jennifer,
      That can vary, depending on the craft. It’s fairly common for yarn vendors to supply book auuthors with yarn for a specifc project, as the yarn is then mentioned in the instructions. For other crafts, such as jewelry making, this is not the case, and the author must supply her materials herself.

  14. Hueisei
    September 7, 2011 at 2:29 am

    I loves Japanese Pattern book :)
    I normally bought a Japanese version, this is an English version. Nice!I loves to win the book!!

  15. September 7, 2011 at 8:50 am

    I can’t wait to get the taking great photos book! I know I can always appreciate some new tips in this area. I think what I am most surprised by is the timeline for getting a book published – a couple of years! It just shows how much time and effort goes into a book. Thanks for all the information and a great interview.

  16. Margaret
    September 7, 2011 at 8:51 am

    Interesting about how a query letter starts the process and how the project can shift direction. Thank for all the info!

  17. Sarah Preston
    September 7, 2011 at 9:25 am

    I learned how to take good pictures! I’d love to win the Cute Dresses book!

  18. christy
    September 7, 2011 at 10:25 am

    having a book published is a slow process that would need patience.

  19. MaryBeth
    September 7, 2011 at 10:41 am

    Start with something you love and do well, then proof-read, proof-read, proof-read!!

  20. Regina
    September 7, 2011 at 10:52 am

    the name of the game seems to be proof read and edit, oh and start with a great idea!

  21. Laura
    September 7, 2011 at 11:26 am

    This was very interesting! I’m familiar with Interweave because I worked at a bead/jewelry supply business. It seems that the craft world is catching on with the web in terms of spreading ideas, inspiration and learning new tricks. You mentioned that promoting a new book may involve using blogs, social media and the like. With the amount of information available about any craft online, do you feel the role of craft books to be evolving?

  22. Gill
    September 7, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    Thank you! This just goes to show what can be done if you have the passion and determination to see your work in print! I was wondering what proportion of ideas that arrive on your desk (so to speak!) actually make it onto the printed page?

  23. September 7, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    I liked her comment about how a good design will catcher her eye, but a well-written proposal will keep her attention. I think I learned how much work a book like these would be…much more than slapping a tutorial up on your blog. :)

  24. Pat V.
    September 7, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Thank you for an interesting look at how a concept can become a publication! I was surprised and excited to hear how open you are to inquiries and sharing info on what prospective authors should do. Very refreshing!

  25. September 7, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    I didn’t really know anything about the whole process of getting a craft book pulished. I was surprised to find out how long the process takes.

  26. Kelly
    September 7, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    I learned that I may not have patience to ever write book, but I’m glad someone does.

  27. September 7, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    Wow I’ve learned an awful lot, i.e. I knew nothing about craft publishing and now the thought of it scares me senseless! Good job I have no ambition to be published!
    thanks for the chance to win

  28. September 7, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    I didn’t realize it took so long for a craft book to get published. Thanks for all the insight!

  29. Meg
    September 7, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Great interview! I had no idea you could just an inquiry letter. Makes so much sense so not to waste everyone’s time!

  30. Regina
    September 7, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    the books are amazing…i’d love to have any of them

  31. R Carter
    September 7, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    6 months to a year is less than I thought it would take! once I actually have something to share with the world that is..

  32. laura
    September 8, 2011 at 2:53 am

    When you send in your proposal summary be sure to send images of your finished projects that will be in your proposed book.

  33. Jqluo
    September 8, 2011 at 4:07 am

    I do not have any sharing on book publishing, but I love to have a chance to win this book. thank you very much :)

  34. September 8, 2011 at 7:54 am

    This is a great article! I really enjoyed reading it! I have no questions though, but I’m hoping to still have the chance to win this book. Thank you! :)

  35. September 8, 2011 at 10:57 am

    What a great interview!! I learned that it is not as hard as I thought it was to get looked at for a book. Just sending in a proposal is doable!! Thank you for all the great info.

  36. September 8, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Thanks for all the information. I had no idea an editor did that much background work. Sounds like a really interesting job. I also did not know about a proposal letter.

  37. September 8, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    What an interesting article! What do you see as the new up-and-coming crafts, or as the new revivals (like the ones knitting and home-sewing have seen in recent years)?

  38. lorraine
    September 8, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    this was really helpful!..i learned about how to approach a publisher with a proposal which i will keep in mind for the future…traveling to all those shows must really be fun! thanks for the giveaway!

  39. Carmen
    September 8, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Thanks for a terrific interview! I’m trying to get my foot in the door in publishing, actually, so this was a fantastic piece for me to read. I’m always impressed by acquisitions editors and their ability to keep up with trends, or even anticipate them — I can only imagine this is exponentially more difficult now in the craft world, where tutorials are ubiquitous, word-of-mouth is very much a digital thing, and you may be marketing to readers of very different degrees of expertise. Kudos to her!

  40. Mal
    September 8, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    Thanks for sharing really intresting.. Not sure if Im am ready to write my idea’s but may be. Thanks for the great giveaway..

  41. September 8, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    What a great interview! My sister wrote a book for Interweave (Enchanted Adornments) and I helped as the technical editor for the book. Reading this now, I see where we definitely could have streamlined our proposal and saved a lot of time and energy.

    My question for Allison is… it seems like the market is being flooded with craft books, dozens of titles debuting from various publishers every season, what sets Interweave apart from the other craft book publishers and what is the stance of promoting the longterm success and longevity of a book title, so that they don’t end up in the remainders pile and the proverbial dustbin of craft books?

    • September 9, 2011 at 12:45 pm

      Andrew–here is Allison’s response!

      Dear Andrew,

      You ask an excellent question, one to which many in the craft and publishing industries wish they had the answer. The resurgence of interest in crafting and DIY has led to a big upsurge in craft and DIY books, all competing for attention. Every month new titles come along, and in the short-attention-span world of social media, people are always looking at the newest thing, so it’s easy to get overlooked or lost beneath the rising tide. There are publishing and marketing strategies that keep titles relevant though, even when they are not-so-new.

      Books that are more informative or reference-driven tend to have longer legs. A solid knitting primer can sell for years and years, even if the yarns used are discontinued or some of the projects begin to look a little dated. Trends in jewelry-making may change, but people will always want to learn basic techniques. A strong and well-written how-to book can remain a go-to reference for some time, particularly if it achieves regular word-of-mouth recommendation from one crafter to another.

      There is certainly a place for more trend-driven titles, but they may have a somewhat shorter life by their very nature. A book can feature exquisite projects and great instruction, but if it’s based on a certain trend or fashion (knitted socks or pearl jewelry, for example), it will be less popular when the trends change to knitted cowls or lampworked beads. An editor faces two challenges: trying to figure out what people will want to do next, and making sure that books on current trends have some lasting appeal.

      In terms of marketing, Interweave is always looking for opportunities to re-promote titles. Seasonality is a great way to do this: autumn is the perfect time to discuss and promote titles on warm cozy accessories; spring fever is an opportunity for titles that lend themselves to stash-busting, or simply feature the bright colors we all seem to crave after winter’s darkness. Holidays are ways to promote books featuring small or quick projects for gifts, regardless of the subject. Interweave does an immense amount of marketing of its titles—old and new. We are able to use our magazines, websites, and daily emails to draw attention to titles that readers may have missed the first time around.

  42. September 9, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Great interview!

  43. June 24, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    Allison: For 2 years I have been working on and developing a new craft. There is nothing like this out there. I’m new with a computer so things take time. I have taken many pictures myself and done some of the writing but not getting anywhere. Who can i get to help me? My craft is changing the looks and color of: eyeglasses,sunglasses,jewelry,shoes,animal collars etc. Thanks Dorene

    • July 11, 2012 at 11:05 am

      Hi Dorene,
      You might want to look into getting an agent who can help shop your idea, to give you an extra push in the market. If it is truly unique, you should have no problem getting noticed, but you just might need someone to help represent your idea. Try to look out for agents that specialize in non-fiction / crafting and lifestyle books.

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