Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Stitching Books and Stitching a Life

It began with the idea for a book for children about embroidery. Melanie Falick and I had collaborated on Knitting for Baby and Kids Knitting (I did the illustrations and some projects for KK). She was taking a new job as Editor of the new Crafts Division at STC. She knew I was interested in doing a children's book on embroidery and asked me if I would do it for her. It was a great opportunity and a fun project to develop. I learned a lot about working with children and realized I wanted to keep going with the stitching thing.

I met with the people at Storey Publishing who are just across the Berkshires from me in North Adams and told them I was interested in doing a stitchery book based on home decoration. They visited my home and saw what I had done with it creatively - especially with my use of color. They decided they were interested and signed me on. That idea became my new book Colorful Stitchery. C.S. gave me a chance to show the world how easy it is to stitch and to teach some of my design methods which I have developed over the years. I am really proud of the book (both books that is) and now I just hope they start selling.

Selling the stitchery books has been another learning experience. First of all, it seems that all the press and book stores want to talk about and buy is knitting, knitting, knitting. Have you noticed how many knitting books there are out there right now? It is overwhelming. Every publisher in the USA is printing them. And they're not all good. It used to be if you wanted to do a knitting book, it was very difficult to get a publisher interested. When my first two books came out, they were the ONLY knitting books published in that season. No wonder they sold - there were knitters out there - just not as many as there are now. But the world has changed and now everyone is pushing knitting. It's good for knitting in general and for that I am very happy since I haven't abandoned my knitting roots. I've had a chance to develop the Julia line and if knitting wasn't big, that never would have happened.

Selling books is a complicated effort for the publisher's sales people. Most books get sold through a distributor - whether it is a book, sewing, quilting, or crafts book distributor. What never dawned on me when I was thinking about doing my stitching books is that if a publisher only has one stitching book, a quilting distributor doesn't want to pick it up (they must order 250 copies of a book to get distributor pricing). So now I have two stitching books with two different publishers and sewing and quilting stores throughout the USA can't get them because no distributor has them. Not a smart move on my part but who knew. Luckily, both STC and Storey are developing sewing titles which should help bring my stitching books along.

If a book isn't in a store, it isn't going to sell - that's the honest truth. You can only sell so many books to the on-line world - to perhaps someone like you who is reading my blog. There are still bookstores and people still buy books in stores. And then there is the chain thing. Chains (Borders, B &N, Michael's, JoAnne's, ACMoore, etc.) rule. If they don't buy my book, I don't sell books and I don't earn back my advance and make future money. Some of the chains have picked up my books, but not all. The buyers (who leave these companies at the drop of the hat) don't have a clue who I am, nor do they know what stitchery is. You can see my destiny is not in my own hands. It's all too scary to think about. Best I don't.

I have tried hard to get publicity for both Colorful Stitchery and Kids Embroidery with a small degree of success. One really big magazine who will remain nameless was going to feature CS but then things all fell apart (no reason that I was let in on) and a different book (that the company themselves published) was featured. It's difficult and frustrating to say the least. Some days I just want to throw in the towel and find a job I don't have to think too much about - just show up and get paid. But then I will have some small degree of success and a ray of hope will light up and I'll keep plugging along.

Yesterday the ray of hope came in my P.O. Box and my e-mail in-box. There was two copies of a magazine called Creative Home and two orders for a book and a kit. In C.H. there is an eight page excerpt on Colorful Stitchery with a nice interview by a writer named Sarah Egge. Sarah interviewed me back in March and put a lot of thought into the interview. I like that because lots of writers just cobble together an article from my website. Sarah worked hard and wrote a very nice article. Thank you Sarah.

I'm hoping this will generate some excitement and maybe some of the sewing and quilting distributors will decide to buy my books so the sewing and quilting stores will have them.
And then, stitchers and quilters can actually buy my books. If not, there's always my website people can order a book off of -- if they can find it.

So sorry about all the sordid publishing facts in this post. But just so all you out there in blogland don't think it's all wine and roses around this farm of ours. Kind of brings it all into reality, doesn't it? Back to work. Gotta go feed the pigs, the goats, the chickens, the sheep. And keep on plugging along on my next project. Spread the word for me.


Chef Messy said...

Yikes--sounds so complicated!

And here is where I'll gush...I have to admit--I'm your blog stalker. I discovered your stitchery book in a chain store here in Virginia several months ago, and ever since then I have kept an eye out for your work in the craft magazines and have repeatedly checked your website for decorating ideas and such. Even if it isn't all wine and roses out at the farm, I really think you are completely inspiring! I hope you don't stress out too much about the book distributing and that it all goes well for you! One way or another, I think you have many fans!

togbean said...

Keep faith! I love your work, your style, use of color. Please know that I continue to keep your books in stock on our shelves at the local mega book store and your name drops off my lips several times each week as I make my way round the Valley knitting groups. BTW thanks for the Fat Cat pattern! I have named mine Leon. Pop over and check him out!
;) Sara

Wanda said...

I'm gonna have to say that I love so much of your work. I've been intrigued by the different types of needlepoint and I'm going to search out your book. I've been looking for some sort of home decoration that didn't necessarily involve knitting. I hope more people pick up your book and that it begins selling. One thing is true, knitting is being marketed as the big thing, but there are a lot of knitting books out there, that as you say are not even good. Having more choices sometimes leaves me looking over some of those new books.

Paula said...

I love your style and WILL be ordering your childrens stitchery book for my niece and one for myself. Whoever said its just for kids? I stitch, knit, crochet, etc. but much prefer stitching. Keep up the beautiful work!

Robin said...

I have both of your stitchery books and love each one. I also just finished felting the fat cat fabric and will be cutting it out tonight. Such excitement! I find your colors delicious and your patterns very user friendly. I hope you sell more books and you find that pot 'o gold at the end of the rainbow. Thanks for your inspiration and hard work.

patty bolgiano said...

I wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your blog. I read it everyday. I also wanted to let you know that you have a tremendous body of work. You are progressing not only as a knitter/designer/stitcher but as a woman with a voice of her own. Yes wearing this many hats as well as being a mom, a wife, and a daughter or sister is tough. The textile industry like the book industry is difficult. Everyone takes textile for granted and they don't see the value of the jean, shirt, quilt that one uses. It always amazes me when I watch Antique Road show how frequently the beautiful wool rugs, and quilt are less valuable that the complete Star Wars action figures in their orginial boxes. You may have to hold seminars, go to book stores, teach a class to get the word out. You are an innovator and it takes a while for other to catch up with you. Hang in there.

On another note, while I love stitching and wish it could be my work, I must work outside the house. Everyone thinks Graphic Designers are so cool because they "draw all day" nothing could be further from the truth. People think they know good design because they took an art class or head the company, they don't, your work is constantly under a microscope, if the account is lost, you lose your job, no pension, healthcare maybe, finding another job not easy, competition tough--I can do the job for half of 30K--I'm a college graduate, not to mention upgrading your skills constantly, software issues I think you get the picture. It is hard out there in the world, nothing is safe or easy.

You can have a great boss or a truely lousy one. Been there a couple of times. We as individuals and artists have to think differently. We have to find a niche that we can become experts in and possibly make money from it. You are doing that now, and you are going to have to market not only the book but yourself. In some ways that is hard, but in other ways you are further ahead than you know. You are doing something you love, have a passion for and are good at. That truly is wonderful and there is a market for that. Take care and you are more successful than your realize

best thoughts your way and sorry this is so long.

Kathy said...

I was in a knit/stitch yesterday and asked for your kits -- they didn't have them, so I'll order direct. You have definitely awakened by interest in stitching!!

Anonymous said...

I just received your book in the mail today, 'Colorful Stitchery' and it honestly took my breath away, I LOVE it!!
With people coming for afternoon tea, I have, with gay abandon, put off cooking and have nestled in a favourite chair to devour every little detail.
I am in my final years of a secondary school textile and cooking degree, and Kristin your book will become a welcome addition to my future lesson plans!
Thank you ever so much for such a wonderful, inspiring book, and to own a copy signed by the author is priceless.

mathea said...

I ordered your book from Amazon along with a few quilting books just before finding your blog. The books arrived a couple of days ago, and I have hardly had time to look at the quilting books yet, as your book is so great! I consider myself a quilter, so that's no little feat! I have been doing cross-stitch ever since I was a little girl, and have dabbled in embroidery from time to time, but now I'm really inspired to take it up again.

Lena said...

hi kristin,
i found your blog through your link to mine, thanks!
i really enjoyed this post-- some of it i could relate to, and some was great insight for the future. i just saw Colorful Stitchery at a wonderful fabric store in portland,oregon. the book is beautiful! congratulations!


ps- i feel like we've met because i've heard your name so many times from melanie, but i don't think we have. so it's nice to "meet" you via the internet!

bernie said...

Nothing is ever easy, if it is done well. People assume if you are talented, then it is easy too. Nothing is further from the truth. Talent in a particular area gives a person an extra boost, but once you're in, it's all work.

Dawn Brocco said...

Hello Kristin,
I'm shocked - won't Unicorn Books & Crafts distrubute your books?

I've heard that you might be considering self-publishing your books, but the color cost is too high. I would be pleased to chat with you privately and tell you how I self-publish my full-color books. There's also a great (and private) email list for us indie designers, which you might find helpful, for self-publishing info.

Dawn Brocco said...
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