So you want to publish a book…
|Do you experience a teeny-tiny bit of book envy when one of your favorite crafty bloggers writes a fantastic, new book? Are you passionate about your craft? Do you want to write a book? Susanne Woods is an acquisitions editor for C&T Publishing, and she offered to answer some of our burning publishing questions today.
Sew,Mama,Sew!: You’re an Acquisitions Editor. Can you tell us a little about what that entails? What is your work like?
|Susanne: I have the coolest job I can think of! You know you hit the jackpot when you are getting paid for what you would be doing if you had spare time—reading blogs, looking through magazines, browsing bookshops and Amazon, attending craft fairs and quilt shows, looking for trends in the worlds of retail and fashion. I am always keeping my eyes open for new ideas and content to figure out a way to translate and identify trends. I also spend a lot of time developing books with our existing authors so they continue to publish with us as their career grows.|
Basically, an Acquisitions Editor is the first line in the publishing process and is the major advocate for the project as they often decide what projects to propose to the rest of their team for potential publication. I am always searching…
SMS: How did you get started in the field?
Susanne: I was actually an intern at C&T when I was in the final year of my English degree and before I went to New York University to study in their Publishing Course. After the course, I went on to work in New York at Workman Publishing, then moved to London for six years to continue my book publishing career where I focused on illustrated publishing—art, design, cooking, gardening. Anything with pictures.
|SMS: How did you end up with your company?
Susanne: I met my husband in London and we decided to move back to the US near my much-missed family to open our own business. We were going to open a bookstore but the competition was too tight. I have always had an interest in furniture and design so we decided to open a furniture consignment store (www.chameleonconsignment.com). Four years and two lovely little boys later, I was approached by C&T about this amazing opportunity. I have been a quilter for years but the possibility of combining my fabric addiction with my book addiction seemed the remotest of possibilities. Talk about a dream job opportunity.
SMS: Can you tell us a little about your company?
Susanne: C&T is such a dynamic company and is an industry leader in the fabric world. The staff is all so passionate about their work and our authors leave me truly awestruck. This is an especially exciting time for us as a publisher because we have been able to grow with the craft industry and it is such a privilege for me to introduce so many innovative and exciting authors for potential publication. C&T itself is 25 years old and having such a respected reputation with the fabric manufacturers and fabric stores certainly makes my acquisitions easier. Most anyone who has worked with fabric in their crafting knows the C&T name and probably has quite a few of their books on their shelves.
SMS: We have a lot of really talented readers who would probably love to get a book deal! Can you fill us in on how the book publishing process works? What are publishers looking for?
Susanne: One of the most surprising comments I hear from first-time authors is how intimidating the prospect of submitting a book proposal is. Just bear in mind that often publishers want to find you just as much as you want to find them. I’ll be posting a series on the C&T blog about the Acquisitions process where I will go into a bit more detail for those who want to know more, but here are my Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts for anyone interested in submitting a book proposal:
Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts
#1 Don’t let concern about your writing skills prevent you from submitting. We have Developmental Editors to help with that.
#2 Don’t wait to complete the book before submitting your idea. At C&T, we just request a sample chapter, an outline and photographs of a representational project for the book.
#3 Do create a strong presence through teaching, blogging, pattern writing, craft fairs, Etsy sales, creating a fabric line and anything else that might both show your commitment and demonstrate interest in your style, your creations and yourself. Create publicity about yourself and your business to make the marketing and sales departments drool.
#4 Do ride the wave. The best time to publish and establish yourself is when you are busiest—when you are working on a fabric line or when your pattern business is really taking off. The more components you can coordinate to be advertising at the same time, the less time it will take you in the long term. It’s a lot easier to really gain a groundswell of excitement about your work if you can juggle all the balls at once.
#5 Do your homework with regard to the publisher you want to work with. The more you know about their list of titles they currently publish, the better able you are to sell yourself as a natural fit. Think of it in the same way as you would applying for college.
#6 Don’t submit to multiple publishers at once. Publishing is a funny old animal. There is a lot of unspoken etiquette and this is one.
#7 Don’t tell. In such a small segment of the publishing industry, any editor prides themselves on finding the next success. Competition is high. Friends and family-fine to talk to. Blog and industry shows-not fine.
#8 Don’t expect to make a million dollars. Publishing is not a high profit business, so really look at how a book will increase your profile, not create it.
#9 Do be prepared for the project to take a year. Right now, I am acquiring for our Fall 2010 list with finished projects due in Fall 09.
#10 Do be afraid of self-publishing. Free up your time and capital to grow your business in other ways. Take advantage of the marketing, publicity and fulfillment of a publisher. If you feel your idea is that good, just negotiate a better contract. Talk to your acquiring editor about having a big input in the design if that is the concern.
And a bonus #11 is the show-me-the-money advice: When deciding on a publisher to submit a proposal to, look at the retail prices they charge for their books. The money you see from your book will be based in part on the retail price. A lot of publishers try to keep their prices low, like $25 for a 256 page book. Because C&T is a premium publisher, we would set the retail price of $25 for an 80 page book. Same money, ½ the work.
SMS: How could someone find a publisher?
Susanne: Of course, I would suggest C&T first! Another good way to determine which publisher might be a good match is to look at your bookshelf or the books you check out from the library. Go to a bookstore. Who publishes the books that you like the most? Also take a look at where the publishers advertise themselves. Because of the big boom in the craft industry, I have seen a lot of publishers come in and dabble in the sewing world. Be a bit careful here. If they are only publishing a few books in the craft category they won’t be publicizing your book at Market, or at the CHA shows or online. Their publicity departments won’t necessarily know where to submit review copies to spread the word and the marketing departments won’t know where to best spend their advertising dollars…
C&T Publishing staff
At C&T, we are really working to cater to new customers entering the sewing world as well as publishing titles to our core quilting audience. Because it takes us about a year from acquiring a book to seeing it in the bookstores, you won’t see the results of a new direction right away. So take a look at who the Acquisitions Editor is, how long they have been there, and what their vision for their list is. I recently started at C&T so you won’t see the titles I have acquired until Fall 2010—publishing is a slow process.
SMS: What is the best way to approach a publisher?
Susanne: Publishers usually have set submission guidelines which can often be found on their website. The C&T submissions guidelines are here. Be sure to follow them carefully as publishers are not only looking for good ideas, they are also looking to weed out those who just made their first tea-cozy and think they have enough for an entire book.
SMS: If someone sees a book in their future but they aren’t quite ready to contact a publisher, what sorts of things can they do in the meantime?
Susanne: #1 Publishers like to create books representing collaborative projects. If you are reading this, chances are that you have some blogging friends. Don’t be shy in asking a selection of 10-12 people to come together and each contribute a project or a few projects along a single theme.
#2 If you have a blog or a shop or are creating a few patterns, take time to reflect your personal style in your logo and the design for your blog and/or shop, or magazine articles where your work is published. You can use this to support a consistent look in a book proposal.
#3 Demonstrate your ability to effectively teach. C&T have refused many presentations where the core work is good, but the student work isn’t. If you can’t teach it, you can’t publish a high quality instructional book. Either online or in person—establish yourself as an effective instructor.
SMS: Can people contact you if they have more questions about the process?
Susanne: I LOVE my job, love the industry and am always excited to help. Feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
We’d love to hear and learn more… Do you have any experience with the process? Are you hoping for a book in your future? Share in the comments!
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