Does Your Craft Book Proposal Stand Out?

I’m happy to welcome Tonia Davenport to Craft Book Month! Tonia is the acquisitions editor at North Light Books (a division on F+W Media focusing on craft book titles). She is also a mixed-media artist and a jewelry designer.

Tonia is here to tell us some more about how to write a craft book, including putting that proposal together and selling your idea to the right publisher for your work.

Tonia Davenport

Tonia, how did you get into your career in craft book publishing?

I get asked this question a lot. Prior to working as an editor, I had been a professional picture framer for ten years (with a Bachelor’s degree in Visual Communications [a.k.a., commercial art/graphic design]). I absolutely loved framing because it exercised both halves of my brain as well as let me work with my hands. But after ten years I felt I had pretty much mastered the art and I was ready to grow in a new direction.

I had adored building something to house art and after having seen an employment ad for a craft book editor’s position at North Light, a light bulb went off when I considered the possibility of building something to house craft instruction. I had been a craft book junkie for years and was very excited at the prospect of “building books” which I hadn’t really thought of before. While I had no formal education in English, nor any job experience in editing, I did have a passion for books, making things and writing. In fact, my mom tried to encourage me to take that path in collage, but I chose the art route.

I am a firm believer in the power of intention setting. I got the job—my dream job, really—and it’s been a rewarding, fun and fascinating journey ever since. (I’ve had the job for eight years now.) Believe in what you know you can do.

Take Along Knitting book
How does a book goes from a mere concept to a reality?

It takes a special kind of concept for a book to work well—a concept composed of three key elements.

First, the content must be extensive enough to fill at least 128 pages. Many times people have really great ideas for using a small handful of techniques on a whole lotta projects and the projects all look GREAT. But the process used to make them is the same. So there just isn’t enough to say to keep the book compelling without being repetitive. As my coworkers love to say, these are ideas that would make great magazine articles. It takes not a few great ideas, but many great ideas to fill a book.

Second, the concept must appeal to one of our core audiences. On the F+W Media Craft Team, we have several categories that we publish in, including sewing and quilting, knitting and crochet, jewelry, papercrafts, scrapbooking and, of course, my personal favorite, mixed-media art. Within each of these categories, we have unique audiences with different needs and likes. What works as a papercrafting book for one publisher, may not work for another. As editors, we get to know intimately what our audiences have come to expect from us in terms of project styles and technique levels.

Stitched Whimsy

Third, the bottom line is, your art or work must be attractive and of good quality. I realize this can be subjective, so I will say it has to be attractive to the acquisitions editor. Again, we know our readers and we are seasoned at being able to tell if they would be inspired and excited about a project or not.

So, with those three components in mind, a proposal is developed from a concept and submitted to an acquisitions editor. It is reviewed and if it’s deemed worthy of pitching the concept to the board that approves publication, it’s fine-tuned, presented and  approved.

It takes roughly one year from the time the book is proposed until it hits the bookshelf. The “reality” of the forming of a book involves many people: the author, the acquisitions editor, the production editor, the designer, photographers, stylists, production managers, marketing experts and sales people. Each of these people touch the book as it goes from a concept into a published work.

Twisted Stitches book

What are the basic components of a good book proposal?

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

New Dimensions in Bead and Wire Jewelry

How do you see the craft book industry changing with the technology available today? (E-books, e-patterns, blogs, etc.)

Good question! It’s becoming more and more challenging for publishers to compete with content available on the Internet. We are simply having to rethink ways of delivering content apart from just the printed form. This can sometimes make the justification of publishing a book more of a challenge because we have to ask ourselves, “What will this paperback book offer the reader that is exclusive and cannot be easily found for free online?” At F+W Media, meeting the changing needs of enthusiasts is top priority and we are changing daily to keep up with the digital needs of our audience—constantly making improvements and rethinking how we do things. There is a lot of excitement over new possibilities.

Mixed and Stitched book giveaway

Do you have any tips for aspiring craft book authors?

Go to the bookstore! Look in the craft section (as well as on your own shelf) and see what pops out at you. Look through books and, note who the publisher is for books you like. Equally important is to see what’s already out there. Decide what you can do differently. Know not only what your competition is going to be, but who might be best suited to publish your book.


North Light is generously giving away a copy of Jen Osborn’s new book Mixed and Stitched to one lucky Craft Buds reader! To enter to win, just leave a comment on this post telling us something you’ve learned from this interview or a question you have about craft book publishing. We’ll draw a winner this Friday, 9/23. This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to comment #21, Jil!

Also this week, stay tuned for a review of Mixed and Stitched and some other fun surprises.

Online Quilting Class

Winner! Out of 106 comments, the winner of the Sewing with Oilcloth giveaway is #20, Valerie, who said, “I’ve never done it, but I am interested in trying it for Christmas gifts!” Congrats Valerie!

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  55 comments for “Does Your Craft Book Proposal Stand Out?

  1. Heather dela Cruz
    September 19, 2011 at 9:42 am

    Interesting! I knew ZERO fun facts about craft publishing before this post, so I learned quite a bit. I bet this dear lady has seen a little bit of everything come through her office… What a fun job!

  2. Paula
    September 19, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Very interesting! I especially loved reading about the basic components of a good book proposal; very helpful. Thanks for the giveaway!
    ap_lemos at yahoo dot com

  3. September 19, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    …”compelling without being repetitive”…is the phrase that’s whirling around in my brain after my first read of this interview. It just makes sense and it’s exactly how I determine which books I buy from the ones which I only borrow from the library. I also appreciated the bullet list of the basics for a good proposal.

    Thanks for an informative and helpful interview about making a stand-out craft book proposal.

  4. vickie boteler
    September 19, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    I have been mulling the idea of writing a book on making recycled beads, and this is giving me some great ideas on how to proceed. thanks

  5. Traci Johnson
    September 19, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    I learned that if you pursue your dream, you can really achieve it! I love how Tonia started out and where she is now. Thanks for all the great info on submitting a craft book proposal…very worthwhile.

  6. September 19, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Great description of what’s necessary for this process, Tanya! I think this is wonderful advice for so many out there who would like to put their art-making ideas into print. Having an awesome editor (like YOU) doesn’t hurt either!

  7. Elizabeth McDonald
    September 19, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    I liked the idea of presenting your very best work along with the book proposal – makes sense~!

  8. September 19, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    I had no idea you need enough content to fill 128 pages – that sounds like such alot!
    Great interview – thanks

  9. September 19, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    I learned that it takes enough content to fill at least 128 pages, but only 1 – 2 sentences to summarize it. Thanks for the giveaway!

  10. September 19, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    More great ideas…thank you so much guys!!

  11. Liz
    September 19, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    What this post hammered home for me was the idea that writing the book is only a small part of the whole process. I was aware of the need to preparation and promotion, but this post reminded me that you can’t just write a book in a vacuum, hand it over to a publisher, and then sit back and wait for the royalties to roll in (or not). A book is an investment more than creative time and energy, it can be a hard slog before and after involving many people (something that is quite daunting for a mostly one woman band like myself).

    A book proposal is a job application and just as sweat generating (and scary).

    Thanks for a great post.


  12. Linda
    September 19, 2011 at 4:42 pm


  13. Lee
    September 19, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    I had no idea all the work that goes into a book proposal – the whole deal sounds very time consuming. Will make me appreciate even more any book i own! thanks!

  14. Patty D
    September 19, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    I learned tips for putting together a proposal ,.. Something on my bucket list

  15. September 19, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    Glad to see the that publishers are addressing the “what’s already available on the ‘net” issue. I buy quite a few craft books. If, in thumbing through, I see a good bit that I could already get online, I’m definitely going to pass it up.

  16. September 19, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    How very cool! Although, I don’t think I’ll be publishing any books (at least not in the near future)I found very interesting to read about the work that goes into a book to make it stand out from the content available on the net. I still fall for real books, love every inch of them, and love collecting them too 😉
    Thank you for the awesome giveaway…

  17. September 20, 2011 at 10:28 am

    I learned to summarize in 1-2 sentences and then start with an old fashioned outline and to have enough to fill 128 pages!

  18. Tania
    September 20, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Everything is possible if you have a dream and work on it. The tips are simple and accurate. Excellent giveaway.

  19. Indianna
    September 20, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    The technology section was interesting…. I’m waiting for a book with a QR code link to show me how to put a zip in…..I’m not clever enough to write it though!

  20. Molly P
    September 20, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    I enjoy the personal aspect of learning and mastering a skill and crafting it into a career you love. Knowing how to make your product attractive and inviting to readers, editors, and buyers is very important. Thank you for the tips and the intro!

  21. jil
    September 20, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    To do what you know and to give it your best are not new but I found it refreshing to hear those things mentioned by Tonia. It is really helpful to have a mudmap on how to get from ideas to the reality of a book as well, that is the toughest part for me, to visual the process.

  22. Cat
    September 20, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    I learned that I want Tonias job!!!

  23. September 21, 2011 at 8:33 am

    I find it interesting to know how to deal with the online competition. It must be pretty tough to get something unique enough in a book that readers couldn’t find for free on the internet (although in my opinion, a good book will always be better than anything online).

  24. September 21, 2011 at 8:36 am

    I’d like to have a chance at winning this book. I don’t do mixed media and it looks like it would be a good intro to techniques to use.

    I love books and would much rather have a book for instruction than sitting at the computer trying to figure it out.

  25. Marcia K
    September 21, 2011 at 9:12 am

    It is good to have a great example of your project, and to have simple sentences to explain your project.

  26. Gill
    September 21, 2011 at 9:18 am

    Really interesting! I think the only thing I would have guessed was having lots of good samples to show!

  27. MaryBeth
    September 21, 2011 at 9:25 am

    Does the publisher take the pictures for your books, or does the writer usually do this? Just wondering.

  28. christy
    September 21, 2011 at 9:58 am

    i learned that she had been a professional picture framer for ten years

  29. September 21, 2011 at 10:06 am

    It’s so overwhelming to know where to start. thank you Thank You THANK YOU for summing it all up!

  30. Paskiaq
    September 21, 2011 at 10:19 am

    I learned that you need to make up samples to show the publisher…totally makes sense though! :)

  31. September 21, 2011 at 10:32 am

    Hi, I dont think I am creative enough to write a book but I thank you for all the info anyway. I would however love to win the book. Thanks for the chance :-)

  32. September 21, 2011 at 11:19 am

    I learned from the interview how important good photos are for a book submission.

  33. Wendy Hatton
    September 21, 2011 at 11:21 am

    I didn’t realise it took so long to get a book published. How nail biting it must be for the author!

  34. September 21, 2011 at 11:51 am

    I’m loving this post and need to print/bookmark it. I’ve been looking for more info on publishing a book. I heard the process was long an painful. Thank you so much for this post and for this giveaway. This book looks like so much fun! fingers crossed!!!

  35. September 21, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    I learned that I’ll not be submitting any proposals any time soon. 😉

  36. Donna Bowes
    September 21, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Never thought about the samples! Great post!

  37. September 21, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Wow, this post was very imformative! It answered questions that I didn’t know I had! I had no idea it took a whole year for your book to hit the shelf. Reading this makes me appreciate the whole process more. These books look amazing!

  38. September 21, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    I learned that it’s important to summarize your book in two short sentences. That would be hard, but if you get the right words, the customer should want MORE.

  39. September 21, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    It’s been good reading about the challenges of getting a craft book published. The free content online has limited the number of craft books I’ve bought in the past 3 years. Thank you!

  40. September 21, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    It’s interesting and very true that they have to come up with reasons you need the actual book, rather than similar content for free online.

  41. Debra L
    September 22, 2011 at 1:53 am

    It really takes alot for a book proposal!

  42. MelodyJ
    September 22, 2011 at 1:56 am

    What makes for good sample projects? What one person sees as good is not good enough for another.


  43. September 22, 2011 at 3:11 am

    One of the ways to get inspired is to go to the bookstore and have a look around.

  44. Hueisei
    September 22, 2011 at 8:28 am

    Thanks for the tips on craft book publishing!
    I prefer to learn from book rather than sitting at the computer trying to follow the sewing instruction…

  45. Marie P
    September 22, 2011 at 9:26 am

    I love Tonia’s passion for what she does. As I read her statement about believing in what you know you can do, I felt so empowered by knowing all the things I can create…I felt more confident in promoting what I do best, my sewing! Although I don’t have enough material for a book, I was certainly inspired by all the info. Thanks for the article and the giveaway!

  46. Kat Groenbeck
    September 22, 2011 at 9:38 am

    I couldn’t sew if my life depended on it… But looking at that book would sure be eye candy for my creative spirit…Scrumptious!

  47. September 22, 2011 at 10:39 am

    Very good information! I was very inspired and will be working toward the 128 pages of content (which was new info for me)until I reach my goal of some day having a book published…Thank you!

  48. September 22, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    What I found interesting is Tonia’s path to her current career. I have a BA in editing and I’ve always been fascinated with professionals in the publishing business. Thanks for the giveaway!

  49. September 22, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    Well, I knew absolutely nothing about putting together a proposal for a craft book, so everything that I read was new and interesting to me! Thanks for all of the wonderful information and for a chance to win such a great book!

  50. September 22, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    It seems like many craft books being published these days are by bloggers. Are the publishers seeking them our or vice versa?

  51. September 22, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Everything I see in this article is inspiring. It’s good to know that one should check for other publications and see what could be done differently. Thank you for this!

  52. September 22, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    I’ve often wondered what an editor was looking for in a craft book. I own tons of them & some I refer to often for projects, some I like because of the eye-candy, & some just end up forgotten on my shelf. It makes sense to have several different projects, I think that is why I like Misty Mawn’s new book (different publisher, sorry!) but it has everything that draws me to look at it over & over again. With that said, I wonder if the market will turn to more personal stories, studio peeks, journal writings, for inspiration, rather than tons of how-tos. Personally that is what I enjoy most, is peaking into what makes an artist tic, how they work in their studio, what inspires them, etc. (just my thoughts). Thanks Tonia, Katariina

  53. September 22, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    I found it interesting that you have to have a portfolio with sample ideas rather than present the whole book. Thanks!

  54. Jen Osborn
    September 23, 2011 at 1:41 am

    Ton a is AMAZING at her job & I never could have gotten Mixed and Stitched published without her help, guidance, and critical eye for what works and what doesn’t. Creating a book from start to finish is like giving birth to a dream, and having an great team helpin you makes all the difference in h world! Thank you so mch for giving away a copy of my book!!!

  55. Patricia Pinkston
    September 23, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    It takes roughly one year from the time a book is proposed until it hits the bookshelf.

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