Welcome to the first post in Crafting a Book, a new series hosted here and at the Stash Books blog that journals the process of writing and publishing a book. Many thanks to Stash Books and C & T Publishing for their support and for encouraging this blog series! And thank you so much for reading–I hope you’ll ask any questions you have in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer them!
For most authors, the first step in getting a book published is writing a proposal. Your proposal should be a polished document detailing the contents of the book you’d like to write and why it will appeal to your chosen publisher’s target audience. Each publisher has different things they’d like to see in a book proposal, and many of them give the details on their websites. There are several great posts out there about how to write a good book proposal (I like this series by Craftbuds, and these interviews at Sew, Mama, Sew! with former Stash Books acquisitions editor Susanne Woods). Furthermore, to be honest, a publisher or editor is better qualified than me to give advice on what goes into a successful proposal. Instead of telling you how to write a proposal here, I aim to give you a sense of what the process was like and what worked for me.
When I decided to propose a book for publication, I chose to only approach one publisher at a time. I browsed the crafting sections at my local bookstores and library, taking note of what publishers were out there, which ones I was most drawn to, and which ones seemed to be a good fit for my idea. I also looked at publishers’ catalogs of new and forthcoming books to make sure that my idea was unique enough to get an editor’s attention. Once I settled on Stash Books, it was easy to find the proposal guidelines on the C & T website (you can find them here if you’re interested), and I studied them carefully before getting down to the business of writing
One of the things I really liked about the C & T proposal process was that they provide an author questionnaire that explicitly requests the various types of information they need to evaluate your book proposal, essentially walking you through the process. When I first envisioned my book, I had an idea of how many projects I wanted to include, but I hadn’t given much thought to the number of pages or the exact number of illustrations that I would need–I didn’t even realize that a good proposal would need to be that specific. The questionnaire asks for these types of details, which helped me to really think through what I wanted my book to be and make sure my proposal was as complete as possible.
If you wish to write a project-oriented book, the proposal will also have to list the specific projects you will include. Although I know that some authors complete some or all of their projects before submitting a proposal, I submitted sketches that I worked up in Adobe Illustrator and packaged into a PDF. I also included photos of my previous quilts so that the editorial team would have an idea of the quality and style of my work.
Before I submitted my complete proposal, I wrote a query email to the acquisitions editor at C & T, Roxane Cerda. Roxane has been wonderful to work with, and I had the pleasure of speaking with her at Quilt Con. We talked a little about my book concept and she mentioned that she was open to giving feedback on my ideas so far. In my query, I included a brief description of what I had in mind and a few sketches of some of the projects I had designed. I also stressed what niche I thought my book would fill in the craft book market. I think this type of consideration of who will buy a book can be helpful, since that is a big issue–perhaps the issue–that a publisher will take into account when deciding whether or not to publish a certain title.
Once the ball got rolling with my proposal, it took about four or five weeks before I heard from Roxane about how the process was going. (I am a comically impatient person, so this was probably the hardest part of the process for me. It helped knowing that this was a normal amount of time to wait.) In my case, Roxane and the publisher thought the book might be more successful if we changed its topic slightly, and Roxane and I talked about how I could move the proposal in that direction. I ended up re-writing my proposal and developing a new set of projects. To be honest, when I first started re-writing I was nervous about whether I would be able to develop enough new projects to fill a book, but stepping up to the challenge led to a proposal I’m even happier with than I was with the original. The lesson here, I suppose, is to be flexible. Publishers and editors know their audiences, and I’m glad they guided me in the direction they did!
Then a little more waiting and lots of finger crossing, and one day I opened my email to find a note from Roxane telling me the proposal had been accepted! We had a follow up phone call to discuss the feedback the various teams at C&T had had on the proposal and to make plans about moving forward, and I’ll tell you a little about those next steps in my next post for this series. Until then, please click over to the Stash Books blog to learn more about the proposal and evaluation process from an editor’s perspective! Many thanks for reading, and I hope to see you back here next month for the next post!