From Blog to Book Deal: Q&A with Jessica Levitt

Please welcome Jessica Levitt to Craft Buds! Jessica is a first-time author of a new book about modern quilting. You may have also read her popular blog, Juicy Bits, where she shows of quilted creations and her fabric lines.

The book is titled Modern Mix: 16 Sewing Projects that Combine Designer Prints & Solid Fabrics (Stash / C&T Publishing) and includes 7 quilt projects plus 7 Quilts + pillows, bags and gifts.

Jessica Levitt

Jessica, you must be thrilled to see your first book in print. Was this the fulfillment of a long-standing dream, or something that just transpired over time?

Yes, I’m absolutely thrilled, but funny enough, it was never my dream in life to write a book. In fact, in school I kinda hated writing. I was never bad at it, but it wasn’t my thing and I have a degree in engineering so I didn’t have to do that much in college. But when I started my blog, all that changed. I love writing there because I can write like I’m having a conversation with my readers. And it’s so rewarding to be able to share all the work, that I would do anyway, with the world. So, now I’m hooked. And the idea of making beautiful projects and having a real, live, printed book in my hand that I wrote is amazing. I can’t wait until I see some of the projects people make from my patterns!

Pebble Road Quilt

Can you tell us about the process of pitching your book? How did you go about choosing your theme and communicating that vision to a publisher?

Certainly. The theme of my book was pretty obvious to me since I love modern quilts and sewing projects that use solid fabrics. I wanted to show readers many different ways to use them in their projects while still enjoying their favorite prints. Although quilting is my first sewing love, I knew I didn’t want a book that was only quilts because I love variety. I think it’s nice to have a cohesive theme that neatly ties all the projects together and makes your book different from all the general sewing books out there, but I do know it’s not 100% necessary. If you simply have a distinct style of your own, that can be enough.

When it came to pitching the idea to a publisher, I treated it a bit like a book report. I know every author does a totally different type of proposal, so this is just one approach, but it is important to know the publisher’s guidelines. For mine, I wrote a summary introduction of the book concept. I had the potential projects already divided into chapters. I completed one full quilt top (the one that ended up on the cover) and wrote out the full directions for it, including illustrations to show that I was capable of writing clearly. For the other projects I included computer sketches or pictures of similar previous work that I had done with a short description. The publisher had a couple of questionnaires to fill out, and I also included a small photographic portfolio of my work to give them an idea of my style and potential.

I sent all this information in as a hard copy, but I think many publishers prefer them electronically now. Then it becomes a waiting game. In the end, they didn’t want to include every project I pitched and I was free to alter some as needed, so the final book didn’t look just like the proposal. For some projects, they even asked for more information, like fabric selections, etc.

I was reading about your trip to quilt market when you pitched your fabric line Timber to several manufacturers, and you said it was a bit nerve-wracking. Did you feel that way with the book as well?

Honestly, not really. That’s because I didn’t have to pitch it cold to a bunch of publishers. In fact, my publisher, Stash Books, an imprint of C&T, approached me. Their acquisitions editor noticed my blog and asked if I was interested in writing a book. I probably wouldn’t have done it if she hadn’t made me think of the idea. So I met with her when I was at quilt market and talked about the process, and when I was finally ready, I submitted only to her. And don’t think I’m super-special or anything. They ask plenty of designers for submissions and then can choose from amongst those. A blog is a great way to get known and also to direct them back somewhere when you do submit a proposal.

I know that it often takes more than a year to publish a book. What parts of the process were you most involved with, and what has the waiting game been like?

Yes, it seems to take forever. I did the bulk of the writing and sewing last summer so it does feel like along time ago. Obviously I was most involved in the writing and sewing. I had more that 6 months to do that all that, but it’s never enough time! I think next time I’ll probably do more projects up front before I even submit a proposal, so there is less work to do. It made for a crazy, busy summer. After I sent in all the projects and text, then the editing begins. Stash is excellent at reviewing the text and illustrations to make sure they are both clear and easy to follow, and technically accurate. There are several rounds of edits, and for each one, we went back and forth, making it the best book possible. At the same time, they take the photos and start the design. I had input into both processes. Basically I gave them guidelines and lots of examples of my vision for the book. But they took it from there and did the photos and design on their own. Finally I requested changes or reshoots as necessary. It’s so cool to see the basic Word document turned into a pretty picture book, but waiting for your advance copy is torture!

Modern Mix Book

Can you tell me about one of your favorite projects in the book, and how you came up with the idea?

That’s a tough one. I get inspiration from anywhere and everywhere.

The cover quilt, called Pebble Road, actually came the from the quilting idea first. I love round “pebble” quilting like that. I wanted to make a really big quilt (it’s king size!) that had a lot of impact but that was relatively easy to piece, so I got the idea to do a stripe of circles that really pop. I love the bright Kaffe Fassat fabrics with the grey background.

Another favorite is the Diamond Strands quilt. For that one I wanted to feature large pieces of large-scale print fabrics, so I made them into vertical stripes. And, I’m usually not one to use templates, but I loved the idea of diamond shapes rather than squares because it’s more unusual.

There are also a lot of fun smaller projects. I love bags, and in this book the Essentials Bag is one of my favorite. It’s a great size for carrying a wallet and a few other essentials. I wanted something that came together relatively easy and was a fun showcase for some print fabrics.

Modern Mix bag

Do you have any advice for an aspiring author or fabric designer?

Oh boy, if someone has the answer to balance, I want to hear it. I struggle with that constantly, but when I get it right, it can be so rewarding. I guess my advice it that you don’t have to rush into anything. Figure out what your goals are, and then give yourself some time to get there. I took my time submitting a book proposal, waiting until I was ready to make it a real priority, and I’m so glad I did. I want to make sure I get enough time with my kids as they’re growing up, so that means sometimes passing up on a work opportunity. But I can’t say enough good things about blogging. Sometimes it can be a chore and I neglect it (like this summer), but it has helped me so much. There is a ton of inspiration out there as a reader, and if you get a decent following, it can open you up to a lot of opportunities. To get yourself more known, my advice is to offer something for free. I’m not talking just giveaways, but patterns, etc., that people will keep coming back to. And devote some time to communicating with other bloggers.

 

Giveaway!

Stash Books is generously giving away a copy of the book Modern Mix to one lucky Craft Buds reader. Leave a comment with something you learned from this interview for a chance to win. We’ll pick one winner on Friday, September 30th. If located outside the U.S., winner will receive an eBook. This giveaway is now closed, congrats to #23, Jenelle!

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  48 comments for “From Blog to Book Deal: Q&A with Jessica Levitt

  1. Indianna
    September 27, 2011 at 7:54 am

    It was interesting that the acquisitions editor noticed your blog and asked if you were interested in writing a book. This is encouragement that somewhere out there, someone that matters might read your blog…..and something good will come from it!

  2. September 27, 2011 at 8:20 am

    ooh, this book looks fantastic! i really love the quilt on the cover, and the rationale behind it. i’ve never had the attention span for a king size quilt, but i think i would for that one!

    thanks for such a great interview. it was really interesting to read, and one thing that really struck me was how much control you had over the book, like with reshoots, etc. i think i assumed that by that point, stuff was more up to the publisher, so it was cool to learn otherwise!

  3. September 27, 2011 at 8:24 am

    I thought it was interesting that the cover quilt evolved from the quilting pattern. That’s cool! I usually decide on the quilting pattern after the quilt top is made.

  4. September 27, 2011 at 8:25 am

    I found the proposal description very interesting. And I like your idea of doing more projects before the next proposal to save time when writing the book.

    All the projects are gorgeous and I love the idea behind them all – mixing the designer fabrics with solids! Very fun!

  5. September 27, 2011 at 8:39 am

    Looks like a fun and inspiring book. I’m headed to Amazon to take a better look!

  6. SewLindaAnn
    September 27, 2011 at 9:04 am

    I’ve learned, once again, that exposure, exposure, exposure is key to being successful in the “business.” It’s been wonderful to see all the talent in blog land that wanted to take it further, or didn’t even think about it get the opportunity to be creative on a whole next level. Thanks to publishers for keeping it fresh out here!

  7. amorette
    September 27, 2011 at 10:50 am

    i would have thought for sure you would need to make more than one quilt top for a pitch! interesting. i love that stash approached her too- this looks like a great book!

  8. Kate
    September 27, 2011 at 10:53 am

    Great interview — it always fascinating to discover the process behind the production of a book. Your notes about developing a relationship and then submitting to a single, well-prepared individual were very interesting.

  9. September 27, 2011 at 11:16 am

    I learned that quilting is Jessica’s first love.

  10. Gill
    September 27, 2011 at 11:20 am

    I love the Essentials bag!
    Thanks

  11. September 27, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Thought this was a great interview, knowing the process involved in taking the first step is always a great help,the book looks great.

  12. Linda
    September 27, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    VERY INTERESTING!
    NEAT INSIGHT INTO THE PROCESS OF ACTUALLY MAKING A BOOK!
    I LIKED THE ESSENTIALS BAG ALSO.
    THANK YOU FOR SHARING+HAPPY STITCHING!

  13. Heather dela Cruz
    September 27, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Great interview! I learned that I want to stay on the READING side of books, not the publishing side.. =)

  14. September 27, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    I think it’s cute that she thought of her book pitch as being like a book report. :D

  15. Lynda Loomis
    September 27, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    I love all the new blogs and websites……but there’s just something about the photos in books, the feel of the paper ….next to the texture of the fabric…as I’m sewing – it’s the wonder of the creative experience!

  16. Leonore
    September 27, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Thanks for sharing the process of “pitching” your concepts to the publisher. I am looking forward to seeing your book.

  17. September 27, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Interesting interview! I learned that importance of waiting and patience when publishing a book – wait until the time is right!

  18. Mary Lou
    September 27, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    I learned that sometimes the publisher will approach the writer rather than the writer having to submit to several publishers. I also found it interesting that something as quick and easy as the essentials bag would be included in the same book as something as advanced as the quilt on the cover.

  19. Marcia K
    September 27, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    When writing a book it is important to know the publishers guidelines.

  20. Beth
    September 27, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    I was really interested to hear that the publishers contacted you after reading your blog. That never would have occurred to me.
    PS I LOVE the quilt on the cover :)

  21. Lindsay
    September 27, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    I thought this was a very interesting interview. I didn’t realize how much work went into the proposal for the book, I guess I assumed most of that happened after the proposal was accepted – shows what I know!

  22. Deb
    September 27, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    Great interview! It’s great to see an engineer that’s not afraid of writing! And I learned that sometimes you need to wait until you can devote a full effort to something – good advice anywhere, not just for getting published!

  23. Jenelle
    September 27, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    I think that waiting to see how the book pitch went would be the hardest part for me too. It’s amazing that just by writing your blog, you were already taking the first step towards being published. Congrats and thanks for the interview!

  24. September 27, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    I found the process of her proposal interesting- how she went about it, what she included, what she would do differently next time, etc.

  25. September 27, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    Really interesting interview. What I was most interested in was how the proposal was done, and how blogging was a great way for publishers to notice you. Congrats on both the publication and fabric line

  26. September 27, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    I liked the relatively detailed description of what Jessica included in her pitch pack. It makes perfect sense and seems to give all the information that a publisher would need.
    Thanks!

  27. Debra Lee
    September 27, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    I absolurely love the quilt on the cover. The process as a whole seems lika an awful long time!

  28. September 27, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    It seems daunting the entire process of making a book come true. I don’t know if I could stand all the waiting between doing the writing and sewing and seeing the final book be done.

  29. Allison C
    September 27, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    I learned that it can take a very long time to publish…I never would have thought a whole year! Seems like a whole lot of work though so I’m sure it adds up. Love the cover quilt!

  30. September 27, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    Gosh I learned so much. Thanks for the great interview. Her tips on the process of pitching the book (the book report info) was really great.

  31. September 27, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    I learned that life takes unexpected turns. I would like to be an engineer when I grow up, but maybe my life will take a turn like Jessica’s did. I’d like to be open-minded because who knows? Maybe I’ll end up writing my own book about sewing or quilting! :)

  32. September 27, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    I’m so glad to hear that there is no need to rush… take the time to be prepared… and about the editing and feedback process. It looks like a fabulous book!

  33. September 27, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    This book looks RIGHT up my alley! I learned that I must must must make something that has a gradient done with strips. :D Okay, I also learned that having a blog is a good way to get into the book writing arena!

    I love mixing prints and solids and this book looks so wonderful, my fingers are crossed tightly. :D

  34. September 27, 2011 at 11:59 pm

    I learned…that I HAVE to have those red pillows! o.O

  35. Mom C
    September 28, 2011 at 12:01 am

    Just fascinating reading all you do to take a book from your head to published. Congrats on your stick to itivness and your great desire. Love to have a copy.

  36. Tracy Encizo
    September 28, 2011 at 2:35 am

    I’m so glad I read this interview! I’m working on a research paper about the process of writing a quilt book proposal and submitting it to a publisher so this is good information for me. Jessica, I admire your creativity and talent. I have previewed your book on Amazon and it is already on my Wish List. Best of luck to you. Craft Buds is an inspiring and informative web site!

  37. Hueisei
    September 28, 2011 at 3:34 am

    Thanks for the interview. I learned from her when she came to pitching the idea to a publisher, She treated it like a book report.

  38. September 28, 2011 at 8:11 am

    I would love to win Jessica’s book, Modern Mix, even as an e-book as I’m in Canada!

    Something I learned from this interview? You don’t have to be a professional designer or artist to design fabric, just inspiration and imagination.

    Thanks for the great interview, Jessica is a star!

  39. Ann
    September 28, 2011 at 10:07 am

    Looks like a wonderful book. Learned that I should be practicing writing directions and taking lots of photos if I ever want a portfolio to pitch. Love that bag and the string quilts.

  40. Linda Grogan
    September 28, 2011 at 10:17 am

    I am in love with Kaffe Fassat fabrics and have some in my stash. I would love to try your cover quilt! I have only made three quilts so far and am somewhat of a newbie. I would love the book.

    Linda Grogan

  41. September 28, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    I liked reading about the process. I’ve been thinking about submitting a proposal, but this has made me realize that I should write more projects before I do, since I have a full-time writing job (as a lawyer), and 6 months might not be enough time for me to complete everything if I don’t work things out first. I also need to start blogging regularly, which will be easier once I have a phone with a camera for in-progress shots.

  42. Carla G
    September 29, 2011 at 12:09 am

    What a great interview! I learned that the publishers didn’t want all the projects that she included in the book. So in the end the book didn’t look like the proposal. This looks like an awesome book – I would love to try some of the patterns! Thanks for a chance to win! :)

  43. Fran
    September 29, 2011 at 4:36 am

    It’s great to read about the whole process that Jessica went through & quite inspiring! I love the look of this book & the projects look fantastic but not too difficult to make. Thanks for a terrific giveaway.

  44. September 29, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Fascinating interview! I wouldn’t have had any idea how someone makes a book proposal – the details about the whole “package” were great to learn.

  45. Kim McM
    September 29, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    I was very interested to read how one goes about pitching a book idea to a publisher. Thanks for the tips and I look forward to reading your book!

  46. September 30, 2011 at 12:05 am

    Awesome! I so loved this series! The most interesting part was that she only had 1 quilt finished before the proposal!

  47. Beth T.
    September 30, 2011 at 12:53 am

    I thought it was very interesting to hear how the book was pitched, and how it changed from the initial idea to the finished project. Quite inspiring!

  48. September 30, 2011 at 10:24 am

    It just so amazing to me how quilt designers create so many wonderful projects. I thought it was interesting that the book was a direct link from Jessica’s blog. Great going! Thanks for the great interview. And the book looks very inspiring.

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