Thursday, June 14, 2007

Over the Kitchen Table Knit Chat

I have just read an interesting post at The Knitting Curmudgeon (June 12, 2007). I enjoy Marilyn’s dry sense of humour and honesty. Today she posed a question about knitting bloggers becoming authors. I have found the comments very interesting. You should probably read all the comments there before you go on with this post.....

This fall, as by now all of you know (sorry), I’ve got my new book “Kristin Knits” coming out. This is the 8th book I have done (one – Kids Knitting - I only illustrated). The publisher (Storey, the same as Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s) took my book and named it Kristin Knits. For the record, the title was totally not my choice – I thought it should be called Colorful Knitting to co-incide with my last book Colorful Stitchery – but what do I know, I just write the book. Most publishers do what they want, following all their bells and whistles forecasting, focus groups, trend watching, marketing people, sales people mumbo-jumbo. The author is a conduit to their product. Once the author turns their version of the book in, their job is done. The publisher turns it into the book. They hope the author doesn't become "difficult" and voice their own opinion.

In my humble opinion, being on the outside as only an author, but a knitting and craft book author who follows trends, news, and publishing somewhat – I think most publishers are just grabbing at straws. A lot of publishers – but not all by any means – are not experienced in publishing knitting books. But the trend now is for knitting books. Knitting books are selling, knitting is still in the media brouhaha and so they (many publishers inexperienced with publishing knitting) are all hopping on the little bandwagon. I, for one, do not know how far and long the little bandwagon will travel. The blogs on the web are an easy place for a publisher to find an author. Writing samples are there, projects abound. An editor can find a good blog and mold it into a book with a bit of work. The blogger has an audience that is usually built in sales. But not all bloggers' books are going to sell to the mainstream, non-blogreading knitting world (like most of my friends who knit, my mom and my sisters who also all knit).

It amazes me the crap that is out there in bookstores. I personally do not buy a lot of knitting books. Cookbooks, artbooks, farming books - yes. Knitting books - I look at them with interest but I usually don't buy them. And I’ve been lucky enough to know the publishers and have gotten the ones I want for free over the years. (I'm a frugal Yankee! Now my contacts have dwindled and so I might have to spend some hard-earned cash.) It takes a real lot for me to buy a knitting book. There has to be good wordy content, historic and ethnographic information and possibly some really drop-dead photos - then maybe I'll buy. If I want to knit something, I design it myself.

If you have been in the yarn business for a while, you know that sales go up and sales go down in a natural cycle. I totally missed the most recent crazy upward boom cycle. I guess it was unfortuante. But thinking back on it, I most likely would have been paid the same amount, knowing my situation, and worked 80 zillion times as much. I quit that gig and chose to lay low and take care of my child. I looked from the outside in with amazement as knitting continued to gain momentum and press ad infinitum. I am not at all sad that I missed the boom. For me, knitting isn't a trend – it’s a bunch of wooly (although beautiful) string and a couple of sticks that make a beautiful loopy end-product that you can wear and enjoy.

Knitting is just one of my interests. At this point, I consider myself an artist (okay, not famous, but an artist – that’s what I am) who works in a bunch of different mediums. Color is my thing and the way I translate it right now is paint, pattern, knitting, and embroidery. My art is an amorphous thing, not stuck in any one genre or technique.

Back in 1999, I wanted a change after all those (16) crazy years of the yarn and knitting thing. I chose to go in a different direction – one that I dearly love – embroidery. I wrote two books - Kids Embroidery and Colorful Stitchery. Although beautiful books which I am so proud of, they didn’t sell as well as I had hoped. And so, when I had the strength and felt I could tackle the whole knitting thing again, I proposed a new book which has become this thing called Kristin Knits.

How well will it do? I sincerely do not know. I hope for the best and move on. I started my blog last year so that I would start to be known again to the knitting world. There's a whole bunch of knitters who have never heard of me nor would recognize my work if they fell over it. I doubt many of them read this blog. This blog was something I could do from my little basement office, find a voice, and call it my own. I have loved doing the blog and it has become something I didn’t think it would ever become. I’ve shown sheep giving birth, I’ve let people in on the nature that flourishes here in our little corner of the world. I’ve introduced people to chicks and sustainable agriculture and sunflowers. With my blog, I’m trying to get my word out on how I think about color, design, and handwork – whatever kind it is – and how my little family and I live - hoping people in the city who may not have the opportunity will learn something. This blog is a lifestyle thing – and it reflects who we are.

I’ve heard from people all over the world which has been the most fun part of it all. I check my silly stats to see how many people have read me and where they are from. My blog is my way of connecting with the outside world without leaving my physical space. Right now this thing fits into my life with my daughter, The Farmer, and our farm and fills a part of my life which I don't have now (water cooler chatter).

I don’t know if my blog will help the sales of my book – I sincerely doubt it. I haven’t had any publishers knocking down my door because of my blog. Maybe it does happen but I think you have to be a bit more outrageous in your writing and life than I care to be.

This leads me to this question. If I were a big-time publisher, who would I be chasing? What genres would I be looking to publish? What is the next big thing? I wish I knew. Unfortuately book SALES ($) are what publishing is all about here in the USA (and not only publishing but every business - dollars, dollars, dollars). Publishers (and all businesses) are all just trying to stay alive and competitive in this harsh business environment.

I think we as knitters should be happy there are so many choices out there to pick and chose from. Do you remember what it was like in 1995 when my first book Knitting the New Classics came out? I’ll remind you – it was the ONLY knitting title published that fall season. My how fickle we knitters have become – complaining there aren’t any decent books out there. We should remember what it was like then and be happy. I for one am. Now, if I have an idea and want to get it pubished, I’ve got a better chance of a publisher taking a financial risk on it than then. How long will it take for the tides to turn the other way? Who knows? I have chosen to take advantage of it now, while I can and move on.
Not that any of us are beoming rich on it.


Laurel said...

I do remember 1995. Okay, a couple of days in there right after New Years are still a little fuzzy, but I remember first finding your book very well. I remember 1997, too and I still to look to both of those books, if not for actual pattern sources, certainly for inspiration. I'm a lot more cautious about the knitting books I buy than I was before the "boom" -- as nice as it has been to have a lot of choices, much of what has been offered has not been worth the choosing. What I know for certain is that any book with the name Kristin Nicholas on it is synonymous with the promise of some good knitting and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on it.

Jenny said...

I think it is great you have another opportunity to write a book and are taking advantage of it. Your style is very unique and I love it...(I found your blog through an old Country Living mag that featured your house and I was swept away by the color.) Go with what works and do what you can...that's my WAHM mantra. For those at the KC who find books by bloggers offensive to their sensibilities...oh well,go read something else. (And tell me the truth, I'll keep it to myself, I your house always that neat and clean, or were your closets fit to burst on photo day?)

Adrianne said...

Of course we remember you! You're the reason for all the green! :-)

Kim said...

I found and read your blog because of your reputation. I buy knitting books for the quality of the content, not only for the author's name. I also only read blogs that are positive, informative and cheerful, and try to avoid those that tend to be mean-spirited. I have been knitting since I was a young girl in the early 70's. I guess having "knit thorough the slumps" makes me appreciate all that is available to knitters today, but at the same time, I won't waste my knitting time or money on fads. I knit for the pleasure of it, as an outlet for my creative energy and to make something beautiful and useful. It is my hope that my sweaters will be passed down and used long after I am gone. Perhaps the discerning knitter in me is not a publisher's target spender, but as in every other market, there is a wide range of items and quality available for purchase. One only has to look to find his or her niche. I hope that quality books from knitters such as yourself can continue to be published for knitters like me who appreciate them. I thank you for sharing your vision, inspirations, and talent.

Mia said...

I still love your Knitting the New Classics. I forgot how I found your blog. And like you I am picky about the knitting books that I purchase. Cookbooks, romance, biography, history and photography books are all easy for me to spend money on. Knitting books are a whole different story. So many of them are full of patterns that I will not wear or are poorly written. I also will not buy a book just for one or two designs. I did recently buy a book that had 3 designs that I liked but I also had some store coupons that I could apply. But there are other designs in the book that I can modify to fit my tastes and style so I know I will use the book. But that is rare. I will be waiting patiently for you new book to be published.

Anonymous said...

Kristin -- I loved "Knitting the New Classics." I still wear and get compliments on the sweater I knit from it, and it's been over 10 years. That's the hallmark of a "classic" design, one that I look for when deciding which designs will occupy my limited amount of knitting time. I can't wait to see "Kristin Knits," no matter what it's titled :)

I'm enjoying your blog very much.


Penny said...

I wish I had words of wisdom.. I think you are living your dream* and I know I'm trying to figure out what mine really is -- I know it isn't in the highly AC'd office in the busy city. I find such inspiration from you and love the sheep and all the photographs.

One could say I benefited from the recent boom.. I finally got the hang of knitting (I have crocheted for years) and that has helped me tremendously. Don't stress too much about the title. I don't get this new fad of naming books with the author's name in the title but what do I know? I'm picky about what books I buy but donate as much as I can to my library so they'll buy a copy. I do look forward to Kristin Knits ... I've recently started to really discover colour and want to play with it.

*dream = highly varied in definition and interpretation.

marit said...

Well said! You have a unique style, both in art and in writing, that I appreciate very much. I don't remember how I found your blog, but I've been reading it ever since. The mixture of your art, your words your life at the farm and with your family is what makes your blog worth reading. I haven't seen any of your books (doubt if they are translated into Norwegian).
Keep knitting,keep writing, keep up the good life. You are an inspiration!

Lisa said...

Kristin, I love reading your blog. I've tagged you - hope this isn't a repeat!

Kathleen C. said...

I have always figured live and let live... or in this case let write. It's no skin off my nose if somebody who has a blog wants to write a book, or somebody who writes a book want a blog.
I read as it pleases me.
Or not as it doesn't.
About six months ago I read in somebody's blog about their need to let go of the negativity around them. I realized I needed to do that too. It sucks the energy out of you... all that disapproval, tsk-tsking and sneering.
I did a sweep of my bloglist and deleted all those who (I felt) dwelt on how stupid/ugly/incompetent the world around them was. Or got their laughs from making fun of the life and work of others.
And I (almost) never read their comments.
So if the blogworld wants to get their panties in a twist over too much attention being paid to bandwagon jumpers who they feel don't deserve it... let them.
I'm not going there.
Uhm... unless this post counts as going there...
Okay, then I'm not going there again!

Kathleen C. said...

After reading my comment I realized that the last papragraph could be interpeted as *me* calling the authors "bandwagon jumpers". I just wanted to clarify that I'm not... I was trying to describe the feeling that I got from the comments of some others.
And I also forgot to say how much I have always enjoyed this blog, Kristen. I truly appreciate the glimpse into your life... the whys and wherefors of farm and country life as well as a bit of the oddity that is the design/publishing world.
You write an interesting, thoughful and thought provoking journal.

Willow said...

I figure I have the choice to read or not read a blog (Kristin, I read yours because you are professional in every sense and you have class) and I have the choice to buy or not buy a book. Nobody makes me do much of anything I don't want to do. So if people are bothered by a blogger, don't bother reading.

I for one am thrilled to have more options in knitting patterns and design books. I can look at them at the bookstores, knit shops and libraries and choose to purchase one. I spent the 80s in a tropical third world country and missed my knitting so much. When I returned to the US in 1990, it was hard to find classy knitting patterns, so I'm happy there are so many options now.

Misstea said...

You wrote Knitting the New Classics? It's one of the first knitting books I bought, and somehow, I never made the connection. Mostly because all my books are in boxes... but that's not important.

I followed the comments on KC's blog with some interest, but didn't feel the need to add my own. Much of what I felt was said by others.

But, I do like your blog, and the picture it paints of rural life - a life that I left as soon as I could, but I find myself feeling a little nostalgic as I grow older. This is a link to those memories. If that makes any sense.

Brigitte said...

Kristin, if I were a publisher I'd make a book "Colorful Life" which would cover all the mediums you're working with, plus farming, gardening, cats, your house and country life in general. Yes, it would be about a life and about creativity. As a buyer and reader I'd just love it! I own and love your book "Colorful Stitchery", it's the kind of book which really makes a difference for one's life. Okay, for one's craft life, but life nonetheless. I found your blog through Jane's "yarnstorm" blog which I also tend to visit with pleasure.
Right now though I'm looking forward to your new book, no matter what the title is! :-)

Kym said...

Kristin -- I sought out your blog after realizing that everytime I love, Love, LOVED a particular pattern or piece. . . it was one of yours! I'm driven by color in all of my "hobbies" -- knitting, sewing, decorating, gardening -- and so appreciate your eye, your style, and your blog. Thank you for sharing yourself with us. I can't wait to purchase your new book.

Kary said...

All I can say ... is "Amen" to the "Curmudgeon's" post and "I can't wait for YOUR book"!

I love texture, color & UNIQUENESS! You combine all of these in your pieces - for which I am thankful.

Keep BloGGing & keep writing those books! I enjoy them all!

Peggy said...

Just this spring did I purchase your Knitting the New Classics and I am creeping along with knitting one of the awesome sweaters featured. I clearly remember not being able to find any updated knitting books or patterns and having to drive over an hour to find a quality yarn store (not that that has improvement much in my neck of the world). I can't wait for the new book and I look forward to reading your blog. I love seeing the color pictures you put together and your lovely, quaint farm. Thanks for all those wonderful gifts.

Irene Johnston said...

I have been reading your blog since its inception and have find it immensely enjoyable and educational to boot. I have been a great fan of your knitwear designs from when you were with Classic Elite. Since you left their patterns are now completely mundane and boring. I especially love your ethnic styling and color choices and I am looking forward to your new book. Please hang in there with your knitwear designing, hopefully this time it will be more lucrative with the great increase in knitters. Thank you for taking the time and effort to blog.

Lorie said...

I enjoy all aspects of your blog, and I for one, sort of like that knitting, quilting and the 'home' arts are popular. For many years there was a snobbery in 'high' art vs. 'low' art. It was a crime to admit that I liked homemaking, romantic, or nostalgic things. Maybe it comes from getting older, but in the end if you are untrue to your calling, it will show. I love your blog, and am drawn to your diversity in crafts. I'm the same way, not to mention your color sense! It is dynamite.

susan b anderson said...

Hi Kristin, Kids Knitting is one of the main reasons I contacted Artisan Books with my own knitting book idea a few short years ago. I absolutely love that book and it inspired me to write a book of my own. I am now working on my third book for Artisan. I started my blog well after the release of my first book. So I kind of worked backwards.
I have been a long time fan of your knitting and embroidery books and your yarn. I just recently discovered your blog and am enjoying it. I will buy your new book sight unseen. I thought you might like to hear how you helped an unknown knitter from Madison take the leap into the publishing world.
You have great insight on being an author. Thank you for sharing.

ColorJoy LynnH said...

I agree with the praise about Kids Knitting... the illustrations are wonderful as are the projects. I teach kids from ages 5 to 17 at a walk-in neighborhood center owned by my city, and even the young ones get inspired even if they don't make the projects verbatim. I've had many kids make the backpack over the years.

I, too, consider myself an artist, with color my primary "medium." I work in animal fibers (knitting and feltmaking primarily), polymer clay, and embellishment including fingernail polish on found objects if I'm so inspired.

Knitters so often start with one idea and change color, fiber, fit, collar, sleeve, even gauge, you name it. And then they tell me they are "not creative."

That was the biggest reason I started my own blog. I felt that folks tossed away any respect of their own talents if they were not making art which could be framed on a wall, perhaps in a gallery.

But food can be art, and gardening, and for that matter raising children (which I never had the courage to try firsthand).

I adore your blog, loved the stripes, love your observations of color, love the embroidery (my first fiberart, I learned it in perhaps 2nd grade or so from my mother who does not knit).

Thank you for choosing to share your time with us.

knittingiris said...

I remember 1995 and when your book came out that year as well, and all I can say is that I love every bit of the knitting brou haha that's going on now. It certainly was easier to keep up on the new knitting books back then!
Yes. I'm still looked upon as that geeky knitter who is never seen without yarn in her hands or her bag or car by most people I know but at least I know there are SO many others out there like me, whether they've joined the knitting craze last week, three years ago, or have been knitting for upwards of 40 years or more.
The knitting boom is over????? Wow. News to me. Well, that isn't going to stop me....although embroidery and quilting are calling my name again after a long hiatus.
Enjoying reading from your "insider" perspective.

knittingiris said...

p.s. It must be so difficult putting so much work into something and then having to give up so much control of how it's going to ultimately turn out. It would make me crazy. You handle this so well.

chrisknitz said...

Your Knitting The New Classics is one of the first books I bought when I started knitting in 2000. I love classic designs. I am looking forward to your new book coming out. I know you will have beautiful and tasteful designs. I don't begrudge knit bloggers publishing books, but I find most are not of a quality to inspire me to buy. Just like all these "new designers" who promote big gauge/easy/unfinished knits. They are not my style, but if they suit someone else, more power to them.

Pura said...

I'm a knitter beginner and i like to look at others fantastic work - i'd hope to be an expert some day ;)
nice site you've got.
Greetings from Spain.

Carol said...

Great post, Kristin. It's fascinating to hear your perspective. And I'm glad you have a blog. I enjoy hearing about your non-knitting life as well as your artistic endeavors.

I am eagerly awaiting your book, and I look forward to seeing whatever you design, for Nashua or wherever. It's true that we have an embarrassment of riches on the publishing front compared to a few years ago. And I think there are some real gems being published. (As well as some duds.) I am confident yours will be one of the gems. Definitely.

Heidi said...

Thoughtful comments (this from someone who works in the book biz). I will say that there are several bloggers out there about whom I've thought, "They'd make a good book author" and lo and behold they got contracts. Maybe someday I'll work in craft publishing, since that is one of my passions. For now I write and publish about religion and spirituality. In some ways, I think it can be better to keep one's work and hobbies separate.

Connie said...

I have your book Knitting the New Classics, it was one of my first and I still look at it. I also have Colorful Stichery (but my neighbor borrowed it and hasn't given it back yet!). I enjoy your sense of design and color and I know I can preorder your next book and I will love it.

Julie said...

Hello Kristin,
I love your colorful stitchery book. Mine is very worn, and i read it at night before i go to bed. I am lookiing forward to your knitting book.
Thanks for inspiring me! It was your book that got me into embroidery.
I also quit an industry( i was in the flower business for twenty i am home with the kids and raising chickens and growing flowers, and finding my niche with art.I really liked how you said you don`t just have one medium as an artist. I think with my ADD i couldn`t just pick one! ha!
May I add you to my bog list??
thanks so much!