Peek Behind the Scenes: my Book Proposal!

My new book, Modern Baby Crochet, was released last week… and I’m so excited about it!

Modern Baby Crochet

The seed of a book is planted when you write a book proposal and submit it to a publishing company. I thought it would be fun to share some of what goes into writing a book proposal… who knows, you may want to write one yourself!

Getting Started

I knew that I wanted to do a crochet book full of nursery patterns… but you need more than that for a book proposal. A publishing company will expect you to explain what makes your book exciting and different from all of the other ones on the market.

crochet argyle afghan

I had a look at the books on the market, and saw that there was a place for a book full of modern nursery decorations, particularly using ‘non-standard’ nursery colors like greys, rainbows, neon brights and neutrals.

The process of submitting a proposal varies by publisher, but Martingale (the publisher of my last 3 books) makes it easy: a proposal packet is available for download on their website!

Other Things to Think About

Although the particular questions you are asked to answer vary by the publishing company, here are some basic questions you can expect to see.

  • What makes you qualified as a designer? What other work have you done?
  • How is your proposed book different from what’s already on the market?
  • Can you demonstrate that there’s a market for the book you want to write?
  • Do you have enough projects for a book? Are you including reference material beyond the project instructions?
  • What’s your timeline?

Filling out this type of information for my proposal was easier because I’ve written two (successful) books. But, even though I didn’t need to convince the publishing company that I was capable, I still needed to carefully articulate the concept behind this book and explain why it would be fabulous!

Samples Sell!

No matter how amazing your idea is, your proposal might get passed up if it isn’t obvious to the publisher that your idea is fabulous.

It’s important to include as much information about your proposed designs as possible, including sketches and maybe even samples.

Since I typically design stuffed animals, I thought it was important to include (miniature) samples of a few of my nursery designs.

I made a little afghan:

mini rainbow afghan

Which, as you can see by my hand in the picture, is only about a foot long. However, even a tiny piece helped to convey my idea for a rainbow-colored granny square afghan:

rainbow granny square afghan

I also crocheted a very tiny circle:

small crochet sample

… that showed the start of the pattern for my Monochromatic Spiral Rug:

baby rug

Obviously, the size isn’t too important… but it is key to use the samples to demonstrate stitch detail that might not be illustrated in a sketch or written description. For the rug, I was interested in showing the join of the rounds, the non-circular overall shape and the slight spiral of the rounds.

This tiny cutie showed off the basic triangular shape…

triangle toy

… that would turn into the Crinkly Triangle Toy!

Then the hard part… waiting!

After you’ve followed the publisher’s instructions very carefully and submitted your proposals and samples, expect to wait a month or two to hear back from the publishing company. The decision is usually made by an acquisitions team that might only meet every month or so to discuss new submissions.

In my experience, if the publishing company likes your concept but thinks it needs a little tweak, they’ll contact you to discuss instead of tossing your proposal out right away.

published by Martingale Publishing

This is what happened with my first book, Cuddly Crochet. I had proposed a book of stuffed animals, and they asked if I’d be interested in adding some baby items. And I was happy to!

How to Publish a Craft Book: 7 things you need to know to get a contract

This Monday, I was lucky enough to speak on a panel with Abby Glassenberg (author of the Artful Bird and Stuffed Animals), Kari Chapin (author of The Handmade Marketplace and Grow Your Handmade Business) and Jennifer Urban-Brown (editor at Roost Books) about publishing a craft book.

Craft Publishing Panel brookline booksmith event

It was a fabulous bunch of ladies and a lot of super-helpful information about publishing a craft book came to the surface. But what about those of you who couldn’t make it to Boston to see us? It’s not fair that you should miss out, is it?

So today, I’ll tell you some tips for getting started publishing your own craft book.

traditional publishing

1. Consider how a book fits your life

When speaking on the panel, we all agreed on one thing loud and clear: writing a book isn’t for everyone. You probably won’t become rich and you’ll spend at least a year of your life (maybe not solid, but at least a year from idea to finished book) working on it.

You need to be passionate about your topic. I, personally, view writing a book as a leg of my existing business. Before beginning this adventure, make sure you’re ready!

2. Everything you need is online

Craft publishing is easier today than it has ever been before. Many craft publishers post their proposal package/submission criteria on their webpage! You don’t need the email address of an editor or inside information… following the proposal package instructions carefully is enough to get your book idea read!

3. Shop around

Not all craft publishers are the same. Some publishers may specialize in ‘niche’ crafts (zombie-themed basketweaving, perhaps?), while others may have strengths in particular crafts (such as quilting). Before sending in your proposal, spend some time researching different publishers.

craft books on bookshelf

This isn’t hard: walk around your bookstore and look at the available books. Which publishers catch your eye? Which suit your style (modern, quirky, etc.)? Publishers are likely looking for books that fit within their existing market.

4. Sell yourself and your ideas

When you send in a proposal for a book idea, you need to sell yourself. This is your one chance to get your ideas in front of an editor’s eye.

A good proposal:

  • follows all of the proposal guidelines, and includes all requested information
  • is well-thought-out, including a table of contents and photos/samples of project ideas
  • contains information about your professional experience: evidence that you can really write a book!
  • discusses market information: what makes your book different from others on the shelves? Are people interested in the craft you have to offer?
  • looks clean and professional (including a nicely-designed, but not over-the-top package, if that fits your brand)

5. Expect revisions

Between all of us sitting on the panel, we’d written 6 books. At least half of those book proposals elicited a, “gee, it seems like you’ve got great ideas, but I’m not sure this exact one will work…”

Don’t be discouraged! That’s good news! It means the publisher likes you and wants to work with you on an idea that will make a best-selling book.

It’s not unusual for your plan to undergo serious revisions due to suggestions by the publisher. Keep in mind, the publisher’s business is publishing: they give good advice!

6. Don’t get discouraged

You didn’t get an encouraging ‘let’s talk!’ phone call from the publisher? Don’t despair. Maybe your idea just wasn’t up the publisher’s alley. Maybe you didn’t provide enough evidence that pastel-colored polymer clay tiaras are the next big thing.

keep trying

Keep trying. Think about your concept a little and try another publisher.

7. Prepare to negotiate

You’re getting a contract? Congrats!

But they want you to finish the book in 4 months? Or pay for your own photography? There’s no ‘right answer’ for what makes a good contract, but it needs to be something that you can live with.

Many authors negotiate their contracts, so don’t be afraid to ask questions and get something that can work for you.

And then the work begins…

Once you land the book deal, the real work begins! Tips for how to actually write the book are a topic for another day!