Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Knitting Book Author's Thoughts

My latest book, Kristin Knits, didn't come out until mid-November of 2007. It missed the critical time for knitting book sales and caught only the tail-end of fall and Christmas sales. I was disappointed with the timing but that was out of my hands. I just had to accept it and be happy. And I was happy with the book and the placement it got in the big chain bookstores last winter. The sales were good too. Thank you Storey Publishing for taking a chance on me.

I just realized that this is Kristin Knits first official fall season. I'm hoping that it keeps selling this fall. I was speaking with a friend of mine in the yarn business the other day and we were discussing how hard it is for a book to get noticed these days. You go to a big book store and there's a huge bookcase full of knitting books. How does anyone ever pick one out, tell me. Luckily, Kristin Knits has a colorful spine label. Honestly, look at these cookbooks on my shelf - How do I ever find a favorite recipe? By the spine label of course!

It really is a rather difficult time for knitting book authors - there are so many choices and knitters only have so much money. But on the other hand, it has been rather easy to get a publisher to take a chance on a book and accept a proposal. When a book comes out, getting publicity is pretty important. The knitting magazines can only feature a few books in their book review section (and one magazine has dropped their book reviews altogether). Honestly, it is scary if I think about it. This blog helps if I can get people here. Teaching around and at Stitches does too but I can only go so many places. (By the way - there is still room in my Thursday afternoon Opening Day class at Stitches East. Click here for more info.)

I suppose with the economy in a downswing, there won't be as many knitting books published -- I think that will be a healthier marketplace for authors like me. What are your thoughts on this?


Patricia said...

publishing is a difficult business to say the least. However you have (dare I say it,) a cult like following because of your history with Classic Elite. When I see your name automatically I know the designs will be interesting, colorful and unique. I always buy the book, magazine, pattern that has your name because I know the quality of work that you produce.

Giving talks, going to stitches, going on tours all promote your work and designs. That is a necessary evil or break depending on how you look at it. It also gets your name out, promotes your designs and garners sales. Publishers like track records and more to the point they like when their authors do book talks, promotions and of course have the cult following!

There maybe some cutting back of published books, but there maybe innovative ways that knitting can be done that makes it interesting and fun for the knitter. We like to explore and challenge ourselves. Those books will always be in demand, and don't forget the internet. There are ways to further your career and get your designs out to reach a younger audience and interest them in your designs.

I'll try to see you at Stitches and say hi!


Jocelyn said...

I agree with Patty's points. Given the crowded marketplace, it's up to the author to get his or her name out there to remind people of who you are. Clearly, designers who made their name as a blogger have a built-in audience when they launch a book. Then, there's Ravelry. Some designers (e.g., Norah Gaughan) seem to have gone out of their way to be accessible to knitters there, and it has probably helped her. Other designers have gone the route of self-publishing (e.g., Twist Collective) to take greater control of their financial future. Some desingers (e.g., Annie Modesitt) are on the road *a lot* teaching classes everywhere. Obviously, there's a price to be paid there on the family front. TNNA and Stitches are a good way to touch base with other designers and see what else they are doing.

Michele in Maine said...

Blogging, appearances, ravelry group postings are the key in this marketplace. "Viral marketing" some call it, or grass roots marketing. It's the key to maintaining a foothold in the crowd. And of course, reputation and good book/pattern design help too!

Lynn said...

I think there will always be a market for worthwhile knitting books, like yours. There are a lot of 'fluffy' knitting books out there - I get the itch to buy a knitting book pretty often, but even I am not interested in fluff books. Just keep up the good work!

Dianne said...

You have such great name recognition and a definite style that is truly your own. As a former bookseller, yarn store owner and from my own personal taste, I know that appealing covers go a long way toward selling the book. Your use of color is practically a trademark-very unique in today's market and I think that helps your books stand out on the shelf.(Plus, your books have great content.)

Bonnie said...

Not much to add except I agree with Lynn that there are a lot of fluffy knitting books out there, and yours are not among them. It seems like there's a certain amount of "overload" at the moment - so many books, so many new online magazines, and far more patterns than one can ever knit. But classics like yours will stand the test of time.

Anonymous said...

I agree, too with Lynn and Bonnie. There has been too many knitting books over the last few years, and the fact that fewer are being published makes the ones that are new stand out.

I actually feel bad for good authors who have been published, say between 2002 - 2006, whose books were just treated like so many others. People who actually sorted through all the titles really could find some gems, but it was a lot of work.

Let's be honest, your books that came out during that period -- good as they were -- also never got the play that they really deserved. Fortunately, by the time Kristin Knits arrived, there were less new titles, so consumers could focus on your book, and connect the dots of your body of work.

When I had my store, I had a person who actually kept updated on all the new books, and ordered them because they were just too much for one LYSO to handle.

Now that there isn't such a rush, publishers will focus on quality, which will be more inspirational for knitters everywhere.

BTW, I've also noticed less cookbooks out there, which, frankly I could say the exact same things about. But fortunately, that new Jamie Oliver cookbook came out, so we can all be happy.

Anonymous said...

When I first fell "in Love" with knitting, I bought every book available. Now I scan the inside to be sure there are actually projects I want to make.
Your books never disappoint. I will buy anything with your name on it. I believe others feel this way too.

bensedin art said...

"Kristin knits" is my favorite knitting book. I learned so much about knitting and got so many ideas and inspiration. I found your book by blog.

Deborah said...

Kristin, I was very happy when your book came out last year. I'd done a class with the vest pattern (with your gracious permission) from the Classic Elite kits of the 1990s. Kristin Knits has been a very popular book at my LYS and it pops out easily on the bookstore shelves. I am a devoted follower of my favorite designers of well-written patterns, whose designs stand the test of time! I refer to your work often in my knitting classes(especially lessons in color!). Thank you!

Linda Urban said...

I worked at an independent bookstore for a dozen years and am now a writer of books for kids. Publishing is a tough business and it is always hard to get noticed on the shelves. You, Kristin, have a great platform (Classic Elite, etc.) and a recognizable "brand". This makes a difference and I think it will serve you well as the market continues to shrink.

The people who mentioned Ravelry and other routes to viral marketing are right on target. Your blog is an asset, too. By continuing to discuss the things you love best and are known for -- particularly your emphasis on color and pattern -- you strengthen and solidify your position in the market. I know when I think color in knitting, I think of you.

It will be interesting to see how soon the e-book market will have an impact on the craft world. Imagine downloadable books with space for a knitters own project notes! Places to experiment with alternative colorways on the screen! Ways to download errata as they become available. Plus, this decreases production costs and makes knitting books more affordable.

(A personal aside: My favorite knitting books are more than pattern books. The ones I buy have great writing and I learn something from them -- something that does not get outdated in the way that patterns sometimes do. Color theory, technique, modifications, history -- there has to be something else I can learn that makes a book worth returning to over and over and, therefore, worth adding to my bookshelves.)

Laura said...

If you write it, I will buy...

bernie said...

You write quality content, so that's why people will buy, regardless of economy. Your books aren't the same old recycled cardi's or whatever modeled by stick-humans ("models") in weird poses!
Your designs are inspiring in color choices and freshness mixed with an old-world flavor.