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How to Write a Craft Book Proposal

Craft Book Proposal

So, you’re thinking about writing a craft book proposal. Congratulations! If you have a unique book concept and are ready to take that next step, here are some tips we’ve gathered from the experts.

Do Your Research

Any good book proposal starts with research, and that includes craft books, children’s books, cookbooks and more. Search Amazon, your library and the bookstore for titles that are similar to your book concept. (This is assuming that you already have an idea in mind.) As you look through these books, ask yourself:

How is my book idea similar to or different than the competition? Find examples of similar books and take notes on who publishes them, how many pages, and read the reviews online.

Who would read this book? Is this targeted toward teens, their parents, a certain demographic? Is it for beginning crafters or highly-skilled artists?

How original is my idea? Is my idea too vague, with 5 or more printed books on the topic? Is my concept too narrow, with very few readers that would be interested?

Is the idea based on a trend, or is it here to stay? If based on a trend, keep in mind that books can take one to two years to publish, so the idea should still be fresh when books are being rolled off the presses.

New Releases Amazon craft books

Study Publishers

Craft book publishers vary widely in the types of books they publish and the number of titles they put out in a given year. Before approaching any publisher, it’s important to ask these questions:

What kinds of books does this publisher like? You can look at recent and upcoming releases on Amazon and take note if they seem to specialize in a certain craft (knitting, mixed media, painting, jewelry, sewing, etc.).

What is the publisher’s aesthetic? Is it more traditional or modern in approach? See if they publish mostly project and how-to books or topical books, such as a history of a particular craft.

Is the publisher currently accepting book proposals? If not, it should say so on their website.

Are their authors well-known? Some publishers stick to authors with a huge blog following or branded products on the market, while others seem to target up-and-comers. Although it’s not always a deal-breaker, having your own audience is becoming increasingly important in craft book publishing.

Does the publisher prefer for you to send a query before sending the whole proposal? A query letter is a one-page summary of your idea, with a quick author bio and contact information. The purpose of sending a query is to save you time (and the editor time) if they are not currently accepting book proposals like the one you’d like to write. For instance, ABC Books might have all Christmas craft books lined up through 2013, which means your idea is best suited to another publisher.

Is there a specific form or survey you need to fill out? If not, see the elements of a book proposal section, below.

Do they expect electronic or mailed proposals?

Does the publisher allow simultaneous submissions? If not, choose your top pick of publishers to work with, and let them review your proposal first before sending the info to anyone else.

Once you’ve determined that this publisher would be a possible fit for your type of book, search for their submission guidelines online. Here, the publisher will tell you very specifically how you can communicate with them. Follow these directions very carefully, as this will be your first impression!

Laptop sleeve by Martice on Etsy Flickr /Anastasia Egórova

Elements of a Book Proposal

Though publishers may vary on their requests, these are the most common elements of a craft book proposal.

Summary: Envision the book jacket text of your soon-to-be published book. What would it say? How would you sell your idea an convince someone else to buy it? An editor may love your work, but publishing a book requires a marketable idea that will sell books.

Table of Contents: A proposed outline of the book’s contents, which is subject to change but is a good indicator of the direction the book is going. This is where you would describe the proposed projects in the book and also list any introductory material or extras, such as patterns or a supplemental CD to be included.

About the Author: This is not the time to be shy. Sell yourself and include links to where you’ve been published before. How long have you been creating and what makes your work unique?

Market for Your Book: Who will buy your book? Specify an age range of the typical reader and state if your book is targeted toward busy-yet-crafty parents, school-age children or crafting bloggers. This is the time to reiterate that the information contained in your proposed book is more valuable than what can be found online for free.

Competition for Your Book: State the competition (remember the notes your took earlier?) and tell the publisher why your book concept will stand out from the competitors.

Sample Chapter or Project: If you are proposing a project-based book (with a number of themed sewing projects, for example), you should include photographs of a sample project and detailed assembly instructions. Mixed media artist Margot Potter suggests creating as many as 6 project samples. These should not be projects that you have previously published on your blog or Flickr account, but something new and unseen. Author Jessica Levitt submitted one large sample project, a quilt, as well as images of her previous work and sketches of her proposed designs for the book Modern Mix.

Length and Format: If you don’t know how many pages your book will be, look at similar books and make an educated guess. (You can find this information on Amazon.) Will your book include patterns or extras like a CD? Are full-color photographs or illustrations necessary?

Marketing Ideas: Do you have connections with any stores that may sell your book? (i.e., do you already sell patterns through a network of stores?) Do you have a blog following? Start thinking about ideas that you can implement to help the publisher market your unique book idea.

According to The Crafty Chica, her recent finished book proposal was around 30-35 pages typed and double-spaced. There are no hard-and-fast rules on the length, but remember that the goal is to provide the publisher with as much information on you and your book idea to make an informed decision.

Craft Book Shelf

Shopping Your Book Proposal

When you are satisfied with your book proposal, it’s time to send it off. While book proposals were traditionally printed off and mailed to the publisher in a hard copy, these days most publishers prefer emailed copies, along with digital photographs of sample projects.

An alternative to working directly with a book publisher is to hire an agent to represent your idea, and to “shop around” your book proposal on your behalf. The advantage to hiring an agent is that he or she will probably have some great industry contacts and might be able to save you from submitting to a publisher that is not a good fit for your idea. The downside is that an agent will take a cut of a published book’s royalties, so you’ll be splitting the commission with someone else. However, an agent may be able to negotiate a better deal for you, so working with an agent or going solo is really a matter of preference.

On the whole, the craft book industry is open to authors who work solo as well as those represented by agencies. In other genres, such as fiction writing, it may be more difficult to secure a book deal without an agent.

The acquisitions editor (responsible for “acquiring” new titles for the publisher) is the person who will review your proposal. You’ll need to allow several weeks for them to review your concept, so it’s not necessary to check in during that time frame. It’s best not to annoy the editor, and to be polite and courteous in all of your communications. This is also the time to make sure you are spelling his or her name correctly.

If a publisher is interested in your book proposal, you’ll have the option to review a contract and see if the terms are agreeable. The contract will most likely prohibit you from selling or publishing your ideas elsewhere during the length of the deal, so make sure you fully agree with the publisher’s terms and vision.

If the response is a “no,” it’s time to move on to the next publisher on your list! Take into account any valuable feedback or critiques of your book proposal and decide if you want to revise the proposal before sending it to the next publisher. You’ll want to allow another several weeks for review.

If you’ve made it to the end of this submissions process with no successes, you may be disappointed, but there are still other avenues for you to see your work published! Consider submitting a few projects to magazines or websites to get a little more experience or publishing new tutorials to your personal blog to drive traffic your way.

Remember that a publisher reviews so many book proposals on a regular basis, that it’s not realistic to believe that you will succeed on your first try. Try, try again! Give it some time, and a slight twist on your original idea might be just the ticket to success.

More Resources:

  • We love these book publishing tips from multi-book author and mixed media artist Margot Potter.
  • Check out this Q&A with acquisitions editor Susanne Woods of Stash Books at Sew Mama Sew.
  • The CraftyPod podcast on craft book publishing discusses working with an agent (do you need one?) and talks about trends in book publishing as crafting in the blogosphere increases.
  • How to Get An Editor’s Attention. Allison Korleski (Interweave Books) discusses craft book publishing and answers reader questions.
  • Does your Craft Book Proposal Stand Out? A helpful Q&A with Tonia Davenport of North Light Books.


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Book Review: Sewing in a Straight Line

Brett Bara is the go-to sewing gal for Design Sponge. She’s also released a new book, Sewing in a Straight Line (Potter Craft), and I was recently lucky to win a copy on her blog tour.

Sewing in a Straight Line book

Because I am hooked on sewing projects for the home, I probably would not have purchased this book just based on the cover. But do not be deceived, as there are equal amounts of apparel projects and home projects to sew, like modern quilts, pillows and these cute Folding Flower Bowls (video tutorial here). And yes, you only need to use straight lines to sew a round bowl!

Sewing in a Straight Line Bowls

I think what I love most about this book is that Brett really makes you feel like you can sew anything. Any material, any project. The cover project, Sewing School Skirt, teaches lots of techniques like making button holes, pleating, and attaching a waist band. But all of the projects are geared toward teaching techniques, allowing you to start with the curtains or square pillow and increase your skills along  the way, until you feel up for the challenge. And there are more surprises, like the Heavy Metal Bag, sewn from leather (can also be made with woven fabrics).

heavy metal bag

If you like sewing fashion-forward projects and also want to sharpen your technique, this book is fantastic. I appreciate Brett’s fabric choices (many samples from Mood Fabrics in New York and some modern IKEA prints), and the projects lend themselves to maximizing your fabric. For instance, the City Girl Tote and Easy Zippered Pillow (video tutorial here) both use only 1 yard of home decor fabric. You’ll want to stock up on heavy- to medium-weight interfacing to make many of these projects, but the actual fabric requirements make the projects pretty affordable.

Sewing in a Straight Line Baby Quilt

Three quilts and a pieced duvet cover round out the collection of home projects, and there are some sweet gift ideas as well, like the Mr. Bunny and Ms. Kitty softies.

Bunny Kitty Sewing in a Straight Line

There are also a few projects in the book that are easily accomplished in an hour or less, like the 1-hour Skirt (video tutorial here) or the 60-second belt. Materials like hardware for the bags and decorative belt elastic may be difficult to find unless you live in the Fashion District, so plan to order online or go with a basic substitute from your local fabric shop.

Sewing in a Straight Line City Girl Tote

My Project

Flipping through the pages of this book gave me the confidence that I could, indeed, sew with difficult fabrics. I decided to try my first-ever silk chiffon sewing project and whipped up the “Easy Breezy Blouse” (pictured above) from Brett’s book.

Easy Breezy Blouse, Hanging

I seriously underestimated how long it would take to sew this blouse. Perhaps because the word “easy” was in the title! In theory, the project is easy. It’s sewn together with four large squares of silk chiffon, cut to your measurements, so no pattern pieces are required. This is typical throughout the book, and is a welcome reprieve from cutting out pattern pieces.

The book provides clear-as-day instructions on how to sew French seams as well as how to sew a tiny 1/8-inch hem for this blouse.  But, as I’ve learned from watching Project Runway, sewing with silk chiffon is no walk in the park. It takes practice to work with a material that “sheds” so easily along freshly cut edges and each hem must be carefully ironed and trimmed before sewing, which ups the sewing time. I didn’t use a stop-watch, but this project took me at least 6 hours to sew, from the fabric store to the final ironing and fitting.

Easy Breezy Blouse, Dressed Up

Still, I’m happy with the results, and I never would have attempted this shirt had it not been for the vote of confidence from Brett, in the pages of her new book. I highly recommend Sewing in a Straight Line, and I’ve already planned out my next 4 to 5 projects from that are must-makes.

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!

Free Patterns from Books: Jewelry + Winner

In our fourth week of free patterns from books we’re looking at jewelry tutorials. If you missed the past weeks in this series, we’ve also highlighted patterns for the home, bags, and kid’s toys and softies!

 

From New Dimensions in Bead & Wire Jewelry (North Light): Magnoliophhyta Earrings and Dragonmoon Choker

 

From Modern Expressions: Creating Fabulous and Fashionable Jewelry: Parquet Earrings

 

From Wired Beautiful (North Light): Double Loop Earrings

 

From Handcrafted Wire Findings (Interweave): Make Your Own Kidney Ear Wires

 

From Interweave Press: Assorted free beading projects

 

As we’ve mentioned before, you can use any of these patterns to participate in the Craft Book Month linky party through the end of September! And, our winner of the book Mixed and Stitched (review found here) is commenter #21, Jil (I’ve sent you an e-mail with more information Jil!).

 

Book Review: Little Bits Quilting Bee

Little Bits Quilting Bee

You probably known Aussie crafter and blogger Kathreen Ricketson as the founder of Whipup.net. You might have also seen her book Whip Up Mini Quilts, with 20 smart designs for patchwork wall quilts.

Her newest book is also for quilt lovers, and it’s all about sewing with pre-cut fabrics. Little Bits Quilting Bee (Chronicle Books) includes 20 quilt designs from Kathreen’s studio, 5 each from the represented types of pre-cuts (charm squares, jelly roll strips, layer cakes and fat quarters).

The book’s 20 designs range from traditional (with modern fabrics) to whimsical/inventive, with standouts like “Cloud Song,” a bright solids quilt from charm squares with raindrop applique and cloud-shaped quilting.

Cloud Song Quilt

“Constructivist” is Kathreen’s answer to sophisticated boy decor, and it has an adult appeal, especially with her woodgrain quilting technique.

Constructivist Quilt

“Electric Spectrum” is a take on the classic log cabin, and “Rhombus” uses a strip-piecing technique. The cover quilt, “Dress Circle” is suitable for layer cakes, but isn’t an incredibly new idea. Essentially, it’s a drunkard’s path quilt using appliqued circles instead of set-in circles. Although many designs are takes on classic quilt designs, the projects in this book are beautiful and are likely to inspire new to intermediate quilters.

Modern quilters who enjoy creating their own designs or stray toward improvisational piecing are likely to become frustrated by this type of book, which is perfect for those who like to quilt from patterns. A pattern pocket in the front of the book includes enlargeable applique patterns for the quilts that require it. The book includes full-color photographs and illustrations. The matte pages give it a bit of a “green” feel.

5 Flavors

The book shows off a variety of fabrics, including solids and prints in recent and older lines, like Lush by Erin Michael for Moda. Kathreen also makes up many of her own fabric combos from Japanese prints, polka dots and stripes, which adds a nice variety to the charm pack and fat quarter quilts. The final quilts of the book show off some really innovative designs, including “5 Flavors” (channeling Life Savers candy) and “Summer Sundae,” a delicious take on a quilt for a little girl’s room.

Community Quilting

My favorite aspect of this book was Kathreen’s introduction to “Community Quilting,” in which she shares her expertise on virtual quilting bees, quilt swaps, guilds and sewing circles and charity or fundraising quilts. There are resources in the book for quilters who are looking to get more connected with others in their craft, which is a valuable aspect of the online crafting community.

Little Bits Quilting Bee

Quilters: Do you prefer to create quilts from pre-cuts or from yardage? Do you use pattern books like Little Bits Quilting Bee or create your own quilt designs?

Book Review: Mixed and Stitched + Giveaway

Jen Osborn’s new book Mixed and Stitched (North Light Books) shows off mixed-media techniques that combine cloth, paper, stitching and printing.

Mixed and Stitched book

Her technique is not polished or precise, but that’s the appeal. The book starts off with “Forget-the-Rule Techniques,” which shows off a process Jen calls stove-top alchemy (dyeing fabrics in the kitchen). She also delves into drawing on fabric graffiti-style and the proper tools for sewing together unusual items, like fabric and cardstock, chipboard, photographs, ticket stubs and more.

Mixed and Stitched bird pillow

In addition to techniques, the book includes 16 projects to get your imagination flowing, including the Feather Your Nest Pillow, made with hand-dyed fabric and designer prints.

Mixed and Stitched Apron

The Art Apron is the stunner of the book, with the main panels salvaged from pants and skirts. The apron gets dressed up with pretty patchwork, pockets and decorative stitching. She also smartly uses the already hemmed edges of pants to create the new bottom “hem” of the apron. Isn’t it gorgeous?

Each project has step-by-step photos to show the tutorial, so the book reads very much like a sewing blog, which is a plus in my book.

Mixed and Stitched bag

The Out-and-About Purse is a stand-out with its stitched fabric leaf and vintage button embellishment. The photography in this book is bright and crisp, and the projects have the appropriate air of whimsy for a mixed-media project book.

The book comes with pattern shapes you can photocopy, but the projects are made mostly from measurements and many do not require any pattern pieces. Jen includes some quirky, almost gothic embroidery designs (i.e. skull minus the cross-bones) in the back as well, which she suggests readers can copy to hand-dyed fabric with transfer paper and then stitch. Some of the designs are cutesy and not as edgy, like the “be a songbird” and “silly bear” designs.

My Project

After digging into Jen’s mind, I decided to try some mixed media art of my own. I enjoy making cards, so I though this would be a good way to break into a mixed media style like Jen’s projects.

Mixed Media cards

For these bird note cards, I roughly cut a rectangle of linen fabric to the size of the card front, and machine stitched to the cardstock. The sentiments were borrowed from the sayings in Jen’s book, and I printed them on regular paper using my computer and printer. The bird images are stickers. Some fabric, buttons and decorative stitching finished off the cards!

Mixed and Stitched book and cards

Overall, I think the projects in this book are awesome, and I’m looking forward to making an apron in the style of the Art Apron. What do you think of mixed media in your crafting?

Don’t forget to leave a comment on Monday’s post for your chance to win a copy of this book! We’ll draw a winner on Friday.

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