Today, I’m thrilled to be presenting my Q & A with Amy Adams. If you are unfamiliar with Amy’s whimsical softies, go to her website right now and check out her gallery.
Amy’s first solo book with Stash Books, Countryside Softies, was released in 2011, although she has contributed projects to various other books, including Little Birds and Countdown Calendars, also published by Stash. Her work has appeared in numerous magazines both here in the US and in her native UK. She is also the web editor for the UK sewing magazine Homemade with Love, and is featured on the cover of their August/September print issue!
How did you initially get interested in publishing a book? What did the proposal process look like for you–any tips for readers thinking of proposing their own books?
The idea of writing a whole craft book myself had been on my mind for a while, and I had just been gearing up to putting together a proposal when I was approached by the acquisitions editor for C&T Publishing. Firstly, I was asked if I would submit ideas for a collaborative book called Little Birds, and secondly, was I interested in doing a full book myself, which of course, I was. The publisher provided some guidelines to follow which fully explained what I needed to put together. One of the tasks I had to complete was a sample chapter, and for that it made sense to complete a chapter of birds as then both books could select from these designs, and in the end, this full chapter was split between Little Birds and my book, Countryside Softies.
The advice I would give to anyone wanting to write a whole sewing book, is you really need to be able to recognise and identify with your target audience. For the projects, think about the skill level each one is aimed at, and design appropriately. Look at other sewing books and read the reader comments on websites like Amazon, they can be a real eye opener as to what has worked and what hasn’t from previous publications.
What was the writing process like for you? What were some of your favorite parts of the process? Least favorite? Were there any aspects that you found surprising?
The writing was lengthy, but it never became a chore. The timetable I followed, which I set myself, was to design and make all the animals, then write up the introduction chapter which included the bulk of the ‘how to’s, then the animals themselves were split into topic sections, finishing off with all the templates. As I was preparing instructions for each project, one of the worries I had was it all became very repetitive, but that’s because I was writing up all 28 projects one after the other. Most crafters won’t be sewing all 28, they will pick and choose their favourites. My favourite part has to be the initial designing and making of the animals, the least favourite I think would be putting together the part made items which were to be photographed for the step by step instructions.
The most surprising would be how straight forward the whole process was despite the publisher being in America and me in the UK!
I’ve always heard that the deadlines in craft book publishing are intense, and now I’m experiencing that first hand. How did you juggle making so many projects in this type of time frame?
My background is working in manufacturing, I worked as a Designer for Coats Crafts UK for 12 years putting together craft kits so I have a wealth of experience writing up instructions to draw upon. With Coats, everything was on a tight deadline, so that side of it was something I’m very used to and don’t get phased by. I find having a strict deadline makes it easier to time manage efficiently.
Your book focuses on softies, and I imagine making the how-to illustrations/photos was particularly intense. Were there any elements of the design/construction/instruction-writing processes that were particularly interesting?
When I started working 3 dimensionally, I felt I developed a style which translated well into written instructions. The materials, i.e. felted wool, are very forgiving and easy to sew resulting in projects easily accomplished by beginners. My time with Coats Crafts UK was often spent creating craft kits aimed at enticing a bigger audience into sewing, and I believe that theme continues in my own personal design work. I’m very clear in my instructions that once the body of the softie is made, when it comes to adding the applique fabrics and character features, there is no right or wrong way and that each sewer must aim to create something of their own with it’s own quirks and personality.
I made the whole instruction writing process easier on myself too by discarding any techniques that I found complicated on the basis that if I was struggling, anyone attempting to work from the pattern would find it even trickier. Plus, the process of building up a softie is pretty much the same for each one, as in body, then applique, eyes then ears etc, so once you’ve made one, the next will be easy!
What was it like working with a team of editors?
That was fine, the people I worked most closely with were the Editor who co-ordinated all of the aspects of the book, the Technical Editor who went through all the stitching instructions and diagrams with me to make sure we hadn’t left out anything and the Designer who did the page layouts as we had a few discussions in the beginning about the feel and look of the book.
What kind of design input did you have in producing your book? What was it like working with a design team?
The Designer asked me for some input on the look, and one of the pointers was that I don’t always use capitals, hence the wording ‘Countryside Softies’ on the front cover is all lower case. I had graded each project with a skill level (easy, moderate and slightly tricky) and she came up with little toadstool icons to depict this. But mostly, I just left them to it, although I have to admit I wan’t totally convinced with the front cover initially but was forced to eat my words when the book won Silver for design in the 2012 PubWest Book Design Awards in America.
How did you promote your book once it was released?
I organised a blog tour spanning 2 weeks and visited blogs all over the world which was fun. Each blogger chose how they were going to angle their post, some made a project, some wrote a review and some asked to do an interview with me. It kicked off with a free brand new project which was featured on Whip Up.
Are there any other parts of the publishing experience that you found particularly interesting?
Once the book was out, the main factor any author is going to be waiting to hear about is firstly sales figures and secondly feedback ie reviews. I always knew the book I had written had a very niche market, but am pleased to report that it has sold better than I expected, and (so far!) all the reader reviews on Amazon have been favorable.
If you would like to learn more about Amy and her work, you can find her on the web at the following: