On Monday evening I spoke on a panel at a bookstore in Boston with two other craft book authors and an editor from a craft publisher. We talked about how to write a book proposal, we discussed what editors are looking for, and we shared our experiences writing and marketing craft books. It was a terrific discussion.
The panel got me thinking about what goes in to creating a great craft book and what makes craft books sell. It also made me think about the issue of secrecy and the idea of “the big reveal.” Specifically, keeping the content of a new book under wraps while it’s being created so that it’s content will be “fresh” once it hits bookstore shelves.
I woke up this morning to find a newsletter from Interweave in my inbox. Interweave is the publisher of my first book, The Artful Bird, and, after being bought by F+W, they began sending out a special enewsletter to their authors. This one included answers to "Frequently Asked Questions From You."
Here are they are. From the Interweave Author Newsletter, May 24, 2013:
Asked Questions from You
Q: When can I talk about my book in my blog/website/workshops, etc.?
A: We know you are excited about your book, and want to shout it from the rooftops. Be aware though, that books have a long lead-time—as much as 2 years from the time you sign your contract. While people might be excited to hear about your book, interest can wane when they realize how long they have to wait. It’s best to talk about your book in a slow reveal.
Once you have your contract, it’s ok to mention that you are working on a book and mention Interweave. Don’t talk about the subject beyond the broadest strokes (“knitting” “quilting”). As the months go by, you may want to drop little tidbits without giving anything away. “I sent in my book projects last night!” “I’m getting ready to go to Colorado for my photo shoot.”
Q: Can I show things from my book?
A: It’s not okay to show projects or photos—you want to keep these under wraps, particularly if you are featuring a new technique or design idea. You should feel free to show the box of yarn or the pile of fabric that arrived for projects, but not the projects themselves. If you are doing a photo shoot, it’s great to talk about your trip, maybe showing travel photos you took along the way. This will help build a sense of excitement among your fans as they follow your progress.
That’s one approach. In fact, it’s more liberal than some. An author recently told me she can’t reveal the topic of her new book yet, much less the cover or title, even though the book is coming out this fall.
Why bring this up? Because I think these words of wisdom are based on assumptions and not real data. Many (all?) of you are craft book buyers and readers, and some of you are also craft book authors. How does this strike you? Is this what you would say to your authors if you were a craft publisher?
There's a sharp contrast here to a recent announcement by Stash Books. Stash will be doing a blog series in conjunction with a newly acquired author about the entire process of creating a new craft book from both the author’s and the publisher’s perspectives. Here's their announcement, taken from the Stash Books blog:
We are launching a new blog series about the process of writing a book with us – specifically, with Stash Books.
When newly acquired author, Casey York, approached us with the idea of her writing a blog series about her own experience of proposing, writing, editing, and actually making the projects – we thought – what about taking that one step further?
What if we wrote about the process of writing her book from our point of view?
What happened when we received her proposal? What do WE do with the items she submits – from beginning to end – we plan to share the process of Crafting a Book!
Stay tuned for the first post in this series towards the end of this month!
This idea seems really fresh and new to me, and more in keeping with the behind-the-scenes approach taken by craft and lifestyle bloggers now.
The author, Casey York, emailed me a few weeks ago to tell me about the project. Here's an excerpt of her blog post explaining what she's doing:
Based on the attendance at Quilt Con’s book publishing panel, there is a lot of interest in book writing in the on-line quilting community, so I’m also excited to be announcing the beginning of a new series here in conjunction with the Stash Books blog.
“Crafting a Book” will detail the publishing process from the author’s and editors’ points of view. I’ll describe the my experiences putting together a proposal, what happens early in the development of the book, writing the manuscript, and other steps as I work through them. I’ll also be happy to answer any questions you have to the best of my ability, although keep in mind that my perspective is only one of many that go into producing a book like this.
Over on the Stash Books Blog, my editors will weigh in on their end of the process. I hope this series helps all of you aspiring authors out there get a better sense of the steps a book goes through on its journey from concept to finished product, and perhaps prepares and encourages you to propose your own projects in the future!
I really applaud Casey for approaching Stash with this idea, and Stash for taking her up on it.
I understand that book projects should be fresh, and that book ideas get old if they're overly discussed. I get that books have a two-year lead time and that’s a long tine for consumers to wait for a new title to be released. But is secrecy necessary, and is it best? Will you be less likely to buy Casey's book after reading about it for so long?
On April 1, 2011 I announced that I was writing a book about soft toy design. The book came out May 7, 2013, two years and one month after the announcement. If you were around then, did your interest wane? (You can tell me. I’m okay with honesty.) And how many of you were even around then?
I asked Lark, the publisher of my new book, about the question of secrecy when I was signing my contract. Here's what they said, "Regarding sharing info about the deal/new project: go forth! And going forward, I really trust your instincts with regard to your readers!"
As you can see, my publishers disagree.
Okay, so here's what I'd like to talk about with you:
The web moves fast and there’s a lot to see and read all day, all the time. Is it really necessary to not “talk about the subject [of your book] beyond the broadest strokes” as Interweave advises?
Is secrecy more important now than ever? Every one of us has to ability to show anything we want, any time we want, to an audience of many. Perhaps it’s more important in today's media landscape to remind authors to keep quiet?
As authors it’s in our best interest to drive sales. Is Casey shooting herself in the foot? Is Stash? Or is their bold move one that will bring you closer to both author and publisher, and bring your mouse closer to the "buy it now" button when the book is released?