Writing a Craft Book

Writing a Craft Book

With Happy-Gurumi coming out in a few weeks (on March 10th!) I've been looking back on everything that went into making the book. I can't believe that it's been two years since I sent out that first proposal and started filling a bright pink binder with notes, revisions, and pattern testing. I've learned so much about what goes into publishing a craft book, both expected and unexpected, so I've decided to share some details of the work process behind Happy-Gurumi!

Writing a craft book

So I started out by researching publishers, doing Google searches and looking in the back of  the crochet books that I owned to see who was behind them. I looked for companies that mainly dealt with craft books because I thought it would be helpful to work with people who really knew the craft and how to crochet. One nice thing was that a few of these publishers already had submission guidelines available and this made it much easier to gather all my ideas and put together a serious proposal.

I ultimately decided to approach Martingale because they were dedicated solely to publishing craft books and had lots of crochet titles out, including the one that I learned to crochet from. Their guidelines required that you didn't send out your proposal to other publishers until they decided whether or not they wanted to work with you. I was ok with this because they were my first choice anyway. Looking over all their available books, I really liked their style and photography and thought it fit in with how I envisioned my own book.

So I downloaded their proposal guidelines, and got to work outlining what would set my book apart from all the others out there, the kind of patterns that would be in it, and things of that sort. Seeing as how I love to eat, my original idea was to have a book of just food patterns, including a birthday cake, milk and cookies, even a roast turkey! I took about a month to write out my proposal, revising everything carefully and finally sent it off to Martingale in March of 2013.

About two weeks later, I heard back from them and they really liked my crochet work! Yay!!! But they weren't sold on a book of just food patterns and wanted me to revise my designs to include other items such as animals. Hmmm. To be honest, I had become a bit attached to the whole crafty food idea so it was a bit disappointing to find that they didn't love it as much as I did. But after thinking about it, Martingale definitely had much more knowledge of the crochet book market, being in the publishing business since the 1970s, and if they didn't think that a full food pattern book was going to sell great, then it was something that I really needed to consider. Also, I was already creating little animal patterns for my Etsy shop it wasn't like they were asking me for designs outside of my crochet style, so I decided that I needed to be more flexible and open to changes.

Craft book process

The next few months were spent emailing back and forth with Martingale, sending new design ideas, refining the initial proposal, and working out all the details. Finally after several revisions, my proposal was accepted and they offered me a contract! Whoo hoo! Onto the actual book writing!

I had about six months to write the final manuscript, which included the patterns for eighteen projects, an intro, bio, instructions for learning how to crochet, taking photos of all the designs, and creating the projects for the final book photography. Originally six months seemed like plenty of time to get everything together, but honestly I could have used a few more months!

Writing a craft book, test pieces

I really underestimated how long it would take me to turn my drawings into actual working patterns. Now normally, I don't sketch out any of my designs, I just get an idea and start crocheting from there. But in this case, it really helped to have a quick doodle as a starting point for the pattern.

Some designs worked out right away (yay for the daisy!) and other took several days, even weeks to get right. It can get really frustrating to crochet many rows to see how a shape is turning out, only to decide it's terrible and not working, pulling out all those stitches to start over. I ended up with a ton of test pieces so that I could compare pattern versions side by side. The photo above is only a small sampling of the scraps I made for the book. If anyone needs a random ear or foot, let me know! =)

I also would flip flop between thinking a pattern was looking good one day to thinking it looked awful the next, which would prompt me to start over with the design. I just wanted the book to be absolutely perfect, but sometimes this strive for perfection made it difficult to accept a pattern that already worked fine. Eventually with the deadline approaching, I just had to move on.

 Test whale on left, the final version on the right.  Image from Happy-Gurumi by Vanessa Chan, Martingale, 2015; used by permission. Photo by Brent Kane. All rights reserved.

Test whale on left, the final version on the right.

Image from Happy-Gurumi by Vanessa Chan, Martingale, 2015; used by permission. Photo by Brent Kane. All rights reserved.

After some sleepless nights, I managed to get everything done and off it went to Martingale for editing! The next few months were spent working closely with my tech editor, who crocheted through all the patterns to make sure that they worked and catch anything that I might have left out. One thing that was hard to get used to was changing some of my crochet terms to fit in with Martingale's house style. For example, "dec" was changed to "sc2tog." Even though these were abbreviations that I saw being used in various crochet books that I owned and preferred, this was something that I had to adapt to. I never realized that the terms I used for my patterns might not be considered standard for other crochet publications.

When the majority of the editing was done, Martingale started the photography, sending me examples of how the photos would be styled in regards to lighting and props and asking me if I had any suggestions for the cover. It was nice to be included during this process, even though I didn't have the final say over what the photos would look like. Not having complete artistic control over the style and layout of the book was something I knew going into the book contract, but since I didn't have the resources and time to really do the photography for a whole book, I accepted it. And I ended up loving the photos! This is why is was so important to me to work with a publisher whose books already reflected a style that I liked and admired.

With the photos and layout done, I received full page proofs of the whole book so I could see how it looked and do one last check for any typos and mistakes. This was when the book started feeling real to me because it was no longer a bunch of separate patterns and pictures, everything was put together and looking great!

 Images from  Happy-Gurumi       by Vanessa Chan, Martingale, 2015; used by permission. Photos by Brent Kane. All rights reserved.

Images from Happy-Gurumi  by Vanessa Chan, Martingale, 2015; used by permission. Photos by Brent Kane. All rights reserved.

This past month has been focused on getting ready for the book's release, planning out promotional items, and really getting the word out. I can't wait to actually hold the book in my hands and flip through it!

Man, I've managed to ramble on quite a bit, but if you've made it down here and read though everything, thank you! I hope that sharing my experience helps anyone who might be considering writing their own craft book and I would be happy to answer any questions.

Happy-Gurumi is now available in my shop and on Amazon!

Homemade Sweet Red Bean Paste

Homemade Sweet Red Bean Paste

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Chewy Almond Cookies

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