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.