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.

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!

Your Projects: Craft Book Month

Craft Book Month has been such a blast so far, with some great projects being linked up on the main post. Here are a few things you’ve shared so far!

Jennifer linked up her Dreaming Under Dresdens Quilt, which was inspired by the book Material Obsession. Gorgeous!

Dresden Plate Quilt

Kelly’s handmade skewer book was a project from the book Handmade Decorative Books. What a cool method of book-binding!

Handmade Skewer Book

Sara stitched up the Blossom Bag, which is a free pattern. It’s from the Amy Butler book Style Stitches, and looks fabulous in Echino fabric!

Blossom Bag from Sew Sweetness

Anja whipped up a darling windbreaker from the book Sewing Clothes Kids Love, and it even has a fun media player pocket on the sleeve.

Sewing Clothes Kids Love

Amorette linked up this Quick Change Tabletop Set from Amy Butler’s Little Stitches for Little Ones book. Great fabric choice, and super functional project!

Quick Change Tabletop

And Mary finished up a huge, colorful quilt from a pattern in Passionate Patchwork by Kaffe Fassett. We are super impressed that she’s been working on the Handkerchief Quilt for the last two years, with fabric that she’s had stashed since 2004!

Handkerchief Quilt

If you haven’t yet, you still have a couple weeks to link up your project from a craft book for a chance to win prizes! We’ll announce the random winners from all entries received by September 30.

Free Patterns from Books: Kids’ Toys + Winner

We’re in our third week of free patterns from books after looking at patterns for the home, and patterns for bags. Up this week are kid’s toys and softies!

From Craft Challenge: Dozens of Ways to Repurpose Scarves (Lark): Hoppy the Bunny


From Sockology (Stash): Be Free, Piggy Softies


From Make Stuff Together (Wiley): Appreciation Banner


From Girls World (Chronicle): Glitter Badges and Chloe Paper Doll Bag

From Socks Appeal (Stash): Striped Owl Softie


As we’ve mentioned before, you can use one of these patterns to participate in the Craft Book Month linky party through the end of September! And, our winner of the book Sewing for Boys by Shelly Figueroa and Karen LePage from Wiley is Cat, #30 chosen by, who said, “I am getting ready to have a little boy in 6 weeks . . . would love to get to play with this book! Plus the authors are going to be teaching in Portland soon.  One more reason to move to Portland!” Congratulations Cat on your win and your little guy! I’ve sent you an e-mail.

And don’t forget, you still have until Monday to enter the giveaway for the book Sewing with Oilcloth!

Sewing with Oilcloth Book Giveaway

Sewing with Oilcloth book stack

Kelly McCants (a.k.a. Modern June and Oilcloth Addict on Etsy) has just released her first book, Sewing with Oilcloth.

The book is published by Wiley and incorporates sewing projects with oilcloth, laminated cottons and chalk cloth, a fabric you can actually write on like a chalk board. Fun!

Remember this free pattern we shared last week? This Chalk Cloth Table Runner is from Sewing with Oilcloth!

Here’s a video showing a sneak peek of many projects in the book and the materials used.



One Craft Buds reader will win a copy of this gorgeous book, plus a sampling of oilcloth from Kelly’s shop. To enter, just leave a comment on this post telling me about something you’ve sewn with oilcloth or what you like about it. One winner will be announced on Monday, September 19. Update: The giveaway is now closed. Congrats to commenter #20, Valerie!

Thanks Kelly! For more peeks at this book, check out some previous stops on the blog tour:

Thursday, September 1: MADE
Friday, September 2: Craft
Monday, September 5: True Up and Craft Gossip
Tuesday, September 6: Oilcloth International
Wednesday, September 7: Average Jane Craft
Thursday, September 8: Prudent Baby
Friday, September 9: Craft Sanity
Monday, September 12: Crafty Pod
Tuesday, September 13: Sew Mama, Sew
Wednesday, September 14: Apron Memories
Thursday, September 15:  Here!

Book Review: Sewing for Boys

Earlier this week we interviewed Shelly Figueroa and Karen LePage, the authors of the book Sewing for Boys (Wiley). Today I’m sharing my review of their book! I’ve been excited about this book since the moment I first heard about it months ago. As the mom of a little boy, I find lots of patterns for cute little dresses and tops for girls but not nearly as much for boys. This book is full of great clothing patterns with fun extra details that get you excited about sewing boy clothes.

I love the way this book is designed. It’s spiral bound so it lays flat, the patterns are in a nice sturdy envelope inside the front cover, and there are great illustrations and photos. One of my favorite parts about the book layout is that there are photos of every project in the front of the book. It’s so easy to browse through all the patterns this way. There are even more photos throughout the book so you get a really good feel for what your final product will look like. Each pattern sheet in the envelope is numbered so you can easily find the pattern sheet you are looking for. Also, each project is rated with a difficulty level. All those little well thought out details in the layout alone made this book enjoyable.

There are six total chapters including a chapter of clothing for each of the four seasons. There’s also a chapter for on the go items including a playmat and toy bag. And lastly is a chapter for items that repurpose your scraps or old clothing items into new things like a patchwork blanket. There are 24 projects total. Sizes available vary by project, but overall they go from 0-6 months to 7.

As for the patterns, there’s a great variety of clothing for inside and outside for all seasons. Every item includes extra details that make your project look like it was done by a professional. The directions are easy to follow and there are diagrams to help you out along the way. If you need any extra help, there’s a glossary in the back that will assist you with sewing terms and techniques.

My Project

It was a tough choice deciding what pattern to make for this review because they are all great! Some of my favorites were the ralglan T-shirt, the Luka hoodie and the reversible “two-in-one” jacket. In the end I chose to make the Easy Linen Shirt. First I traced the pattern onto sheets of paper then I picked out my fabric. Rather than purchasing new fabric, I cut my pieces of a gray knit shirt of my husband’s that he never wears and re-used the existing hem on the bottom of the shirt for the hem of this new shirt. I had a scrap of dark gray knit that I used inside the collar.

The instructions were easy to follow and I didn’t need to use my seam ripper even once on this project (amazing)! As I’ve mentioned, there are extra details in each pattern that makes your clothing look professsional. This pattern was no exception with topstitching around the arms and shoulders and extra tips on how to finish the seams to make them extra comfortable and durable. The fit was perfect for my son (I purposely made it a little large) and this’ll be a great shirt to easily pull off and on during fall weather, and to wear layered in the winter.

Want to win a copy?

Head over to our interview with the Sewing for Boys authors, Shelly Figueroa and Karen LePage. Just leave a comment on that post for your chance to win! This giveaway is now closed.


Craft Book Month at Craft Buds

Sewing Apps for iPhone and Android

While we’re focusing most of this month on printed craft books, we wanted to highlight some digital applications for iPhone or Android smartphones that can assist you as you’re purchasing and cutting fabric for all those great patterns!

Android or iPhone

Jo-Ann Fabrics (Free for Android or iPhone): Browse products, check out customer reviews, find a store and best of all, save your coupons! You can load coupons and show them to the cashier for a discount rather than using a printed coupon.

Quilting Calculators (Free for Android or iPhone): From Robert Kaufmann Fabrics and Quilter’s Paradise is this great collection of eight free calculators.1. Fabric Measurement Conversion, convert between decimals and fractions. 2. Backing and Batting Calculator, calculate how much yardage is needed for the backing and batting of a quilt. 3. Piece Count Calculator, shows the number of fabric pieces that can be cut from a large piece. 4. Pieces to Yardage Area Calculator, fabric needed to cut a set amount of a certain size piece 5. Binding Calculator, calculated fabric needed based on quilt dimensions and binding strip width. 6. Border Calculator, shows the amount of fabric needed to create borders. 7. Square in a Square Calculator, calculates dimensions of a square within a square block. 8. Set-in and Corner Triangle Calculator, calculates square size needed to create unfinished triangles.

iPhone only

Fabric Stash ($4.99): When you’re out shopping do you have trouble remembering what’s at home in your stash? Use this app to snap photos of your fabric along with any notes you may want to include such as measurements, where you bought it, price and more. You can view your stash according to color, style, manufacturer or project.

Pattern Pal ($4.99): Use this app to keep your patterns organized with name, brand, number, notes and photos. You can also track the fabric and notions needed for each pattern.

Quick and Easy Quilt Block Tool ($3.99): Browse 102 quilt block patterns and view cutting instructions and yardage requirements for each block in five sizes.

Quilt Index ($0.99): Browse through thousands of historical and contemporary quilt photos. You can also view the quiltmaker and quilt pattern names, dates and more. 

Yardage Calc ($2.99): Convert between yards and meters or calculate how much fabric you’ll need when buying a different width than whatis specified on the package.

Android only

Quilt Binding Calculator ($0.99): Calculate the length and width of fabric needed for single or double-fold straight grain binding.

Note: To download the apps, go to the Android Market or the iPhone App Store depending on the type of phone you have, search for the app and download it directly on to your phone. If you have any favorite sewing apps that we’ve missed, let us know in the comments!

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