Friday, September 20, 2013

Behind the scenes - a book proposal

Eeep! So much radio silence over here!

Remember when I thought I had the scourge? Well, friends, that was but a precursor for what came next. Last week I lost 6 pounds from a horrible stomach virus. 6 pounds! The upside here is that a shirt I'm making that was a smidge small is now going to fit ;)

I figured since I haven't been sewing I'd show you a part of what I have been finishing around here...

So, a few months ago I wrote a book proposal. I've wrestled over the last couple weeks about whether to share that information here for a few reasons:

-the book world is so secretive
-I didn't know what my plan was
-I didn't want to announce my failure to the world

I've decided to post about if for a few more reasons:

-I'm sure there are other people who want more information about writing a book
-I thiiiink I know my plan now
-I've decided that this whole experience is not a failure :)

 Anyways, back to the book proposal. Back in April I put together 43 pages of a proposal. Yep, 43 pages. That thing was hefty. It included my run-down of why my book was unique, my perspective as a quilter, and what the book was all about. I also included a table of contents [this is useful because it showed exactly how I wanted to lay out my book as part of the way I was structuring the presentation of my concept], an introduction, the instructions for a sample project, the mock-ups of all my projects (15 total), and a portfolio of my work.

Now, what happened after I emailed all that in? I don't want to say which publishing company I sent it to, because I don't want to affect anyone's opinion of them in particular, I just wanted to comment on the experience as a whole. So I sent it in and they confirmed that they received it and then I waited. Aaaand I waited. I'm not a patient person, so this part was killer!

The person I was in contact with was very friendly and helpful. I really, really appreciated that. I could email and ask for the status and she would get back with me in a couple days. I was always torn between feeling like I was being annoying, and wanted to make sure that nothing was falling through the cracks. I always argued with myself for several days before I would finally give in and email her, ha.

 So in July I heard back that my proposal had passed the first editorial review board. I was kind of shocked. I was elated. I had to bring myself back down to earth real quick. The review board asked for some additional projects that showed my concept for their review at the second board. They just wanted pictures, not projects mailed in, which made it easier. But I sewed like a madwoman for a few nights after work!

 At this point I was interested in knowing exactly what happened in the proposal process, so I asked my contact, and she sent a pretty helpful answer:

"Should your proposal pass, I'll contact you to let you know and to arrange a phone call where we will go over our publishing process and our deadlines. I'll then work with you to set your deadlines and make sure we have a final table of contents (we can get requests for changes or suggestions during any point in the process.) Next, my Publisher will offer you a contract.

Only after all of that would you need to send in a sample project, so you should be okay for now. Usually the deadlines are: contract, table of contents, sample project, first draft, projects for photography, everything else (author bio, etc). Those steps can sometimes be compressed or combined if there is a significant reason to move very quickly, but for most books you have time to complete each of those steps."

Does anyone else think it's crazy that no actual projects are needed in their hands until after a contract is signed?!

 My book proposal made it to the final editorial review board. I honestly was freaking out at this point. It's hard to not get your hopes built up at something that you've been so emotionally invested in. I felt like my designs were a part of me at this point, an extension of the kind of taste level, sewing point of view that I have.

 I am not writing a book with this particular publisher. I had a phone call with my contact and she was very helpful in explaining why. At the final editorial review board, they decided that while they loved my designs and felt that they were absolutely fresh and unique and had not been seen before, they felt the subject matter needed to be authored by someone who is known nationally for teaching sewing, ie, someone who teaches at conferences and conventions.

 I'm not ashamed to say that I cried after I got off the phone. I was sad and then I was angry. I want to make it known that I thought this publishing company is absolutely fair in wanting a nationally-known name. It certainly makes sense from a business perspective. It's just hard to reconcile with the books I do see popping up from bloggers and such. Not that I'm knocking any of them at all. That's amazing for them. It's just incongruous with what I heard. And this might just be a requirement for my subject matter, or for that publishing company. My contact did say that she would be happy to be a resource for me going forward, because she thought that I had a great proposal, and that they would be happy to review it again after I had some teaching experience.

 What am I going to do now? I really did feel like a failure for about a week. It took several talks with my boyfriend and friends to see that taking a chance and putting together a proposal at all is what made this a success. Making it to the final editorial review board is also a success. Feeling so strongly about my concept and my designs that I am excited to tell people about it is a success. I did not know what to do with the proposal though. Send it to another publishing company? Produce and sell the patterns myself? Submit the designs individually to magazines? Where did I want to take this?

 And so, you can see my quilt up there at the top of the post. One of the designs from my book. All pieced. No glue or pins or anything to sew those full circles. My plan? I will submit to another publisher, and I will make it known that I've tried to be transparent on my blog, because there's so many unknowns in the sewing book world. A little knowledge is a good thing, and if the fact that I wrote about my experience means that I won't have a shot at a book, then so be it.

 I hope that this was interesting and insightful to anyone else who has wondered what happens behind the scenes when a blogger goes "oh and I wrote a book," and I hope that all of us continue pushing ourself and our goals, in spite of, and because of, roadblocks. It may look like a failure in the heat of the moment, but maybe it's just preparing us for something that is a better fit.

Happy Friday everyone :)


  1. Wow! You are way braver than I ever could be! Congrats on trying!! And maybe I'm a bad person, but I never look at who writes the quilt books I look through at the store - I go straight to the projects!

  2. Congrats on going through the process. You could always sign up with amazon and write and publish it on your own. A friend of mine has done that and the book is amazing quality and you have a lot of freedom. CreateSpace is the amazon company that does this.

    Also there are books on how to do this with amazon....

    Just an idea

  3. The last big name author quilt book I bought was good but very light in content and not worth the price charged for the name. I will not be making another purchase like that without actually seeing the book in person first (I ordered it off of Amazon). We need fresh ideas. It is their loss. Good luck with the next publisher as I hope to be able to read your book one day soon.

  4. Good luck! I know it was bad news but not the long-lasting kind (like an illness). Just brush yourself off and figure out another way if this is your goal.

  5. Rebecca, Your quilts are wonderful. I am impressed with your photography, and the outdoor staging.( I reviewed your tab for your finished quilts.) I totally disagree with the publisher's explanation for not going forward with your book. Please keep looking for another publisher, and don't give up on this. You are very creative and I, for one, would love to have a book once you do reach this goal. Very best wishes to you, and I will pray God will bless you. I never know if I am a no reply blogger, but my email is

  6. Way back in 1995 or so, I had an idea for a knitting book I wanted to write. I thought the knitting world needed a book on finishing techniques, so I put together a detailed proposal (much like you did) and sent it off to several publishers. I got rejection letters from all but one. From that company I got an actual phone call. The person I spoke with said they were very interested in the idea, but they had just hired a new acquisitions editor and she would have the final say. A few weeks later I got a letter saying they were passing on the idea. I called the acquisitions editor and asked for some feedback. She said that a book on finishing techniques for knitters wasn't "sexy" enough and that no knitter would pay money for such a book.

    I was so angry that I marched out into the living room and told my husband that I was going to write this book and publish it myself. Remember, this was way back in 1995 when desktop publishing was in its infancy! I eventually did write a small book, had it printed and comb-bound by a local printing company, and began selling it. That book launched my knitting designer career, and I went on to write two more books (also self-published, but in much more professional form). Believe it or not, that little book I wrote and published in 1996 is still selling 17 years later!

    I also went through the "you're not a big enough name to teach for us" issue with a company that used to put on knitting conferences all over the country. Then I pointed out to them that their request for teaching proposals stated quite clearly that "you don't need to be a big name to teach for us--please send in your proposals!"

    Stick with it. Sometimes things that seem like doors closing at the time actually turn out to be blessings in disguise. And do look into self-publishing; it's so much easier now and you can get a really professional-looking product.

  7. What a journey you have been on and look at the experience you have already gained. It's hard to put yourself out there, so to speak. I admire anyone who would go after a dream. Take this as just part of the journey not the end result. I would definitely continue to pursue your dream - you've made it this far!


Messages from friends :)