artistic development / books

so you want to write a book…

Earlier this year I signed on with C&T publishing to write a book which is why I haven’t posted any new work in a while. This will be my third book and I’m very excited about it. I can’t talk about any details yet but I can tell you that it will be making it’s debut next pexels-photo-272980fall at Houston Market. My first manuscript deadline was 9/1 and I’m happy to say that I beat it by a couple of weeks! That means that I can now take a little time off from the things I have to do and focus on the things I want to do and one of those things is to write about writing a book. So let’s start at the beginning of the process and how it all starts…

The first step begins with the proposal and each publisher has it’s own proposal process so check with the one you want to submit your idea to and review them. Choose a publisher that has experience publishing the type of book you want to propose and has a presence in the market that your book will sell to.

But before you put your idea into proposal form, do your research! Spend some time looking for other books that may be similar to the one you want to write. How is your books-bookstore-book-reading-159711book different? How will it stand apart from all the others that are available on the topic that you want to write about? Whose your audience and why will your book appeal to them? Have you mastered the techniques and processes that you want to write about? Are you willing to put the time in that writing a book demands? I spent a lot of time on this step and made sure I did my homework before I started the submission process. In fact, I had the idea for my book for a year before I even considered it and over that year I spent a lot time drafting and refining the TOC (table of contents) and thinking about what I wanted to cover in this book and who the audience was going to be. Because I was branching out into a new “modern” (see what I did there, I gave you a little hint about what the book is about, shhhh, don’t tell!) area of quilting audience I wanted to make sure I understood them. I even went to QuiltCon to immerse myself in the modern quilt community. After my trip to QuiltCon I was really excited and confident about my idea and was ready to take the plunge.

The C&T proposal process is pretty straightforward but requires quite a bit of documentation. There’s a comprehensive questionnaire to fill out and you’ll also need a proposed table of contents, some samples of your writing as well as sketches or images of the proposed projects that your book will include. You’ll find it here.

It’s important not to rush through the proposal process! You have to take your time with it and make sure that the information your submitting is complete and what the night-85645publisher wants and needs. Publishers get a lot of submissions to consider so do your homework and make sure your submission is complete otherwise you may reduce your chances of it being taken seriously. Once you’re ready, hit the send button and then be prepared to wait for several days, weeks or even months for a response depending on the publishers schedule for reviewing submissions. My timing was fortunate and I only had to wait a few weeks for a response and was happy to hear that they did want to work with me!

The next step was to have a call with the acquisitions editor assigned to my book. I was fortunate again in that what I submitted was pretty much spot on and I didn’t need to make many changes to the TOC or the direction of the book. That hasn’t always been the case though and with previous books I had much more work to do before I could get to the contract step. The difference between those situations and this one was that I have a lot more experience to draw on and I used what I had learned with the previous books to guide me with the proposal for this one. The acquisition editor took me through all the steps that C&T uses to publish a book, and believe me there are a lot of steps and deadlines to work through! It’s a bit more involved than when you self publish a book (more on that in another post) but the benefit is that there is a lot of support and documentation to help you through the process and in my case a really terrific editor to provide me with feedback and guidance.

So what comes next? Before the writing can begin you have to get the contract signed. contractI’m fortunate in that because I’ve authored two other books I have previous contract negotiation experience to draw on but that may not be the case for you. You should read the contract very carefully and make sure you understand what you’re committing to, what the benefits to you will be and what your obligations to the publisher will be. If there is something in the contract you don’t like, then ask to have it changed. Never sign a contract that you’re not happy with or that you are unclear about and if you’re really unsure about it, then have it reviewed by a lawyer who can clarify it for you. Contract negotiations can make some artists uncomfortable but remember, once you sign your name to it you can’t change it so it’s in your best interest to make sure you’re happy with it.

Now it’s time to write…

The writing process can be a lonely one. You’re locked up in your studio designing and making projects, creating step outs, drawing illustrations and writing, writing, writing. You can say you’re writing a book but you can’t share any images of the projects which can be difficult if you’re used to posting regularly on social media about what you’re working on. And to make matters worse at this stage your contact with the publisher is startup-photosprobably pretty much nil depending on who you’re working with. This is typically how it works with most publishers although my experience with Interweave was much different. I submitted each chapter to my editor as I finished it so I had continuous ongoing contact and feedback on my writing which was great. But that’s not the usual way it works and you will probably have to wait anywhere from 4-8 weeks from the time you submit the final manuscript before you get the edits back. That kicks off another round of re-writes and edits to get the manuscript to the point that it’s ready to go to layout. Then there are two or three more rounds of reviews and edits, months go by, you wait by the mailbox and then just when you’ve given up hope that you’ll ever see it you pull a package out the mailbox and you’re holding your finished book in your hands – a great day indeed!

And that’s pretty much the process of writing a book. A few things to keep in mind before you decide to do it:

It’s a loooooong process so make sure you’re ready to make the time commitment.

It’s a lot of work – sure you’ve written magazine articles and long blog posts but that doesn’t compare to the amount of work that goes into writing a book. It’s not just about the writing. It’s the designing and making the projects, creating the step outs, drawing the illustrations, taking photos for the designers and professional photographers to use as reference, numbering all the images/illustrations, tagging/packing/shipping all the projects and supporting materials etc etc all while you put everything else on your to do list on hold.

It’s up to you to help market and publicize your book. The publisher won’t do it all, you bear a lot of the responsibility to get the word about your book out there.

So why do it? Well there’s a lot of satisfaction in writing a book and seeing your work in book form. The first time I saw my book on the shelves of Barnes & Noble it was an amazing feeling – and it still is. And as hard as the writing process is, I enjoy it. I like to share and pass on what I know and help others explore new techniques and realize their creative potential.

Wishing you all the best in all your creative endeavors!

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