Friday, January 09, 2015

How A Book is Made + How You Can Help My Family

Yesterday I announced that I will be selling signed copies of my new book Crafting a Colorful Home: A Room by Room Guide to Personalizing Your Space with Color on my website and shared how the book came about. I am selling books along with offering FREE SHIPPING, an illustrated BOOKPLATE and a set of 5 assorted POSTCARDS to all those who order books from me. I love to sell signed copies of books because it helps me generate some money to help support our family and farm. (Click here to order.) I promised an explanation of why it helps when readers buy directly from me so here goes.....

Writing station in the kitchen ©Rikki Snyder
Writing a book is a real labor of love. You put your heart and soul into it, give your life away to it, and then you just hope people will read it and buy it. I'm sure some of you would like to know how writing a book works. Recently there has been some good discussion about this on the internet by other authors and I feel that it is time for me to share my experiences - as an author and illustrator of eleven needlework and craft books. 

For me, it goes like this. I work on a book proposal and talk it over with my agent Linda to see if she thinks any publisher might be interested. (I have not always had an agent but in 2012, I decided that I needed help in placing my books with different publishers and I also needed to know that I was not "screwing myself" by signing a bad deal. It was a really grown up moment for me when I realized this. Yes - I was 54 years old but some of us are slow learners.) My agent Linda looks over the proposal and gives me advice on what to change, how to make it more appealing, finding a different direction or telling me that the idea is basically not salable. I find the Book Proposal stage of any book incredibly helpful. By the time I am done with the proposal, I can tell if I am even going to want to write the book.

I set the proposal up in Adobe Indesign, adding my own photos and illustrations so that it looks appealing to a publisher. Once the proposal is ready, Linda sends it out into the publishing world and then she waits to see if any publisher is interested. Sometimes my proposals bomb. Sometimes they morph into a different project, and sometimes a publisher will take the book just as I have thought it through. Linda negotiates a contract and an advance for me. I sign, they sign, and then I get to work with an editor. My advances have been anywhere between $3,500 and $15,000. I'm thinking some of you might be a bit surprised by this amount considering the long period of time that it takes to write a book. Authoring is not the road to riches but it has its own rewards. I really wish advances were more but for me, they haven't been.

My past books Photo by Rikki Snyder
Upon signing the contract, a check for HALF the advance is sent to Linda. She takes a 15% commission and sends me the remainder of the advance. With that money, I have to fund all the projects, make them, write the book and instructions, pay taxes, live, and send in the completed manuscript on time. The time frame is anywhere between six months and a year and sometimes longer, depending on what season the book is going to be published in. I always try extremely hard to make my delivery deadlines to maintain my reputation with publishers.

After the editor goes through the manuscript, there are always changes, re-writes, tweaks, additions, subtractions, etc. There is a lot of work with an editor and assistant editor and a lot of reading and re-reading and re-writing. A photography date is chosen. Photography is so important for the visually centered books I do. I usually am able to request the photographer I would like to work with although they are not always accepted. For Crafting a Colorful Home, I chose Rikki Snyder, the photographer who introduced me and my home to the world in September of 2012. The next photo is Rikki during the shoot. She is tiny but a powerful, creative, and talented force and I LOVE working with her! 

For Crafting A Colorful Home, Rikki and I planned two different shoots of 4 days each in September and October of 2013 (yes, that long ago - I told you books take a long time!). Before each shoot, I had to clean like a mad woman and get the house ready for its big moment. Our shoot days are long - from very early morning to sundown. They are creative days, full of moving furniture, objects, looking at computer and camera screens, cooking and baking for the photographer and whoever else comes to help - sometimes I ask a friend to come, sometimes the photographer brings an assistant.  (We were lucky to have Sarah Zimmerman come for one of the shoot weeks. Sarah is also a photographer and the woman who introduced me to Rikki.)

The photos are edited and processed by the photographer and go to the editor. (I do not pay for the photography - the publisher does although on some book deals the photography cost is the responsibility of the author). The pages start to get designed and laid out by a Book Designer. A Copy Editor goes through the manuscript and I have to respond to all the queries and do more re-writes. The lay-outs and designs are finalized (I get to see them and put in my 2 cents although there is no guarantee the publisher includes my thoughts in changes.) 

In the midst of this, the cover is designed with the photos that have been sent to the publisher. I have nothing to do with that and only get to see the final pick that the publisher has made. I always cross my fingers that I will like it. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. Covers are a very big deal and publishers with their sales teams and marketing departments obsess over the right look for the book. After all, it is the cover that makes you pick up the book in a bookstore or perhaps purchase it on-line, right? What do you think about the cover of Crafting A Colorful Home?


While this other stuff is going on, I am working on the illustrations for the book. These are my responsibility and I do not get paid extra to do them usually although sometimes I am lucky and there is extra money in the book budget to pay me. (I have illustrated other books for flat fees for other publishers too - I love that kind of work!). First, I do rough illos (that is what they are called in bookland) and then once the editor okays them, I fix and change anything that needs to be done. I transfer the line drawings to paper and paint them in gouache. Then I scan them to my computer and send the digital files to the editor. 

Kristin Nicholas Drawing Photo ©Rikki Snyder
The book is then laid out by the book designer. That must be like a giant jigsaw puzzle - picking the photos, matching them to the relevant type, cropping the photos, fitting in with the page count which has been established in the beginning so the publisher knows how much it all is going to cost to print. You probably have not ever thought about the size of pages, weight of paper, number of pages, book dust jacket (or none which seems to be the way it is going these days) which all determine the shipping and selling costs. 

The pages are printed out in black and white and sent to me along with a color PDF. I have to re-read and make any corrections to the manuscript. At this point, I can only make minimal corrections. This is the last time I see the book. (For Crafting A Colorful Home, it was the beginning of April 2014.)

After this step, I really do not hear much from the publisher at all. Sometimes I will be asked to help look for people I know and admire to supply "cover quotes" for the book. Some publishers send marketing questionnaires to help their publicity departments market the book better. It is a whole lot of dead time and gives me time to plan future projects and try to catch up on all the other stuff that has fallen by the wayside.

After the final read-through, my agent will put in for the second half of the advance although sometimes it is done sooner. That is usually the last money I will see for any book because I usually do not earn any more money past my advance. (The only book I have earned past my advance is Color By Kristin although I know the folks at Classic Elite probably are still collecting royalties on the first books I wrote while I worked there - Knitting the New Classics and Knitting Today's Classics). As you can see, craft book publishing is not the road to riches. I clearly need to find other ways to make a living!

Bookshelves in my kitchen. Pillows by me and patterns available on my website. Photo by Rikki Snyder

Many years ago, I saw a television interview with the author Janet Evanovich. I had never heard of her before but because it was on network t.v. and she was a big time best-selling author, I paid attention. I was impressed with Janet's story because she had her entire family working for her, selling signed copies of her books, building a website, packing them in her basement, etc. These were the days before Amazon and on-line shopping was not very common. I decided I would copy her and have a website built so that I could sell my books too. 

Because craft book writing is not the smartest way to try to make a living, I thought I should try to supplement my advance by reselling the books and earning the spread between wholesale and retail. For my first few books, this plan worked great and I was able to sell a few hundred extra books which turned into a nice chunk of change which was very helpful for our family. My direct sales of my books has dropped off significantly since 2009 because buyers are now more comfortable with ordering from Amazon - clicking a few buttons and done - voila. (I also have not had a lot of books coming out.) That customer comfort with Amazon is also the reason so many bookstores are going out.

Jon Katz, the "dog and animal" author frequently writes about how publishing is changing and how he is trying to find new ways to make money writing. I gather that at one time he made a very nice living writing books about dogs. I have followed his blog for many years. He has a subscription on his blog and is publishing ebooks.  He also works with a local bookseller in his tiny town of Cambridge, NY and they have been selling thousands of his latest book. I think he is single handedly keeping that little bookshop alive. What a story! 

I love what Jon is doing, but for me, because craft books do not sell nearly as many copies as dog books, I have to try to generate the book sales for myself. What does that mean to me and my family financially? Here's the thing - like I said before, I have not earned any royalties past my advance on any of the books I have authored except one. Chances of me earning any more money past my advance on Crafting a Colorful Home are slim - although as always, I am really hopeful. What's an author to do? Sell them herself. Sign them, wrap them, pack them, address the packages, and take them to the post office to send to you! I have a chance of making a little less than 40% of the retail regular cost of each book sold at regular price and the money will go directly into my family's income. Pretty much a no-brainer. 

That is where you guys come in. Order a book from me and know that you are helping me keep doing what you come here for - farming, photography, cooking, authoring, crafting, colorizing, inspiration, stories and more.

I am sure some of you are thinking the question - "What happens when I buy from Amazon or some other bookseller?" The answer is that those sales go towards my advance. I have to pay off my advance before I see anymore money from the publisher. I will earn about 25 cents per book towards paying off the advance on each book that gets sold by another bookseller. Also, most bookstores purchase books and have the option to return them forever. It doesn't seem to matter how many years ago they were published - the publishers still take the books back and that offsets in the negative any advance. I know because I have books that are out of print and I still see those negative amounts on my royalty statements that come in twice a year.  

For those of you looking to delve more into this subject, here are some good articles. Diane Gilleland's article from her Craftypod blog is entitled Is it Worth It To Write a Craft Book? You can read it here. Abby Glassenberg has an excellent series on Publishing Craft Books on her blog While She Naps. Read them here.

Bottom line is - I want to sell a lot of these books. Can you help me/us out? Click here to order from me - free shipping $27.95
Click here to order from Amazon for $20.88, you add on the freight, and I will receive a few cents via my afffiliate link. 

Thank you friends! Leave questions in the comments and I will try to answer them. If you know of anyone who might be interested in buying Crafting a Colorful Home or learning more about how authoring works, please pass on this article. Feel free to share the article on your Facebook page too. You can click the little widget below. Every little bit and all links will help.


Pammie said...

I ordered my book from you yesterday and am excitedly waiting to receive it ! Thanks for all you do, Kristin. Love your blog, Creativebug classes and patterns.

Lee said...

I tried a couple of times this AM to order a book and the PayPal button didn't go through. Will try later from a different computer but you might want to check that.
Can't wait to get the book!

Enviro Granny said...

I ordered a book from you yesterday and am SOOO excitedly waiting for the end of the month when it will arrive. Thank you for your cogent explanation of the business of writing and publishing a craft book. I had no idea of the complexity and the sale issues. From now on, I'll buy all my craft books directly from the author when possible.

Sarah TX said...

I really like the cover your publishers chose for your new book. It's an aspirational scene (ie, I look at it and think, "How cosy! I want to pick up that kitten and sit right down!") but also it seems very accessible/attainable. I think, "If I get this book, I can make this my home."

Just my two cents.

Kristin Nicholas said...

Hi Lee - Try again with the ordering. I have been getting plenty of orders so not quite sure what is happening on your end!

Thanks everyone for the comments and reading. I know how busy your days are.

Enviro Granny - Yes, every time you have an option to order directly from the author it totally benefits the author exponentially. I decided to explain it all because I think it makes it clearer how book sales and distribution works. An educated consumer is a great thing!

Thanks everyone for the orders. Keep em coming!

Sarah Z said...

You truly are the best! What a labor of love that this book is!
I hope it will yield great results, both in sales and giving you connections to people who don't yet know how awesome you are!!!
Thanks for the explanation about writing a book too.

Meg C said...

Congratulations on your beautiful new book. You asked what people think about the cover. it's lovely, except that I wish the wicker chair wasn't gray (or maybe it's my monitor making it look that way). Otherwise: stunning.

You've said no to this idea before, but I wonder about having your books available for sale when you attend the Winter Market in Amherst (and you do the Northampton market, too, don't you?). I realize knitters in the booth can take up a lot of time and energy and possbily put off some lamb buyers. But I wonder how many people would pass the table and see that book and do a double-take? You know best, of course, since you're the one who's right there. Maybe I'm just one of those impulse buyers (ME? NO!). Thanks for this superb entry, and keep up the good work.

Meg C said...

Sorry, this is embarrassing, but I meant to ask a question about craft books. Who arranges for the test knitters, and who pays them, or do you try to enlist friends? I always wonder who all those test knitters are.

Sorry, won't bother again.


Kristin Nicholas said...

Meg - I will be bringing the new book to the Amherst Winter Market so if you want to pick one up there, no prob. I cannnot sell it until the 20th of January so that would be the 24th. No mkt on MLK weekend.

As for having the books for sale there at the market, I had them before xmas and didn't sell a one. It isn't worth the work hauling them around and having no sales. Also, copies can easily get damaged in and out of the car, the weather, etc and then they can't be sold. Also, I find most of the people at the markets are there for food not books so as much as you would think it would work, it hasn't for me in the past. I don't want the books to cut into the sales of the meet. Plus I pretty much love being an anonymous wife of The Farmer.

As for the test knitters for books, I have to take care of all that and pay them. Sometimes I get friends who volunteer for test knitting. Sometimes I knit the projects myself. Sometimes I pay knitters. Frankly, it is one of the worst things about doing knitting books.

For this new book, I have 2 afghans in it which a woman made for me. I made all the other projects myself.

Adaliza said...

Oh WOW - firstly WOW at your awesome book and secondly WOW at all that stuff that goes on behind the scenes. That's a long process and so much work. My husband wrote academic books and it was always a nightmare which seemed to be quite a stressful experience. His publisher was lovely though and a great fan of Flora Puddleduck! Maybe I should write a story book about Flora!!!! Good luck with your book sales.

Auntie Shan said...

In the Words of a successful Sci-Fi Author of my past acquaintance regarding Publishing, "KEEP YOUR *DAY* JOB!" -- Actually, I think She made more money doing Q&A workshops at "Conventions"! And, selling Her Books THERE!

Anyhoo... CONGRATS, Kristin on your Latest "Baby"! -- BTW, I just added a Notice onto my Blog's Sidebar with "Instructions" to come VISIT *HERE* and to BUY your Book! - Granted, my "Stats" are low, but hey, you never know..?

Claire said...

Wish I could order it direct from you but unfortunately the cost of posting it across to the UK is prohibitive, and I certainly would not expect you to post it for free over here. However, I will still be buying it, because it looks so inviting and I do have a fair few of your other books and love them.

Terry said...

Hi Kristen!

My name is Terry. I receive your blog by email and love it! I apologize for not commenting often. I bought your book last night directly from you. I look forward to receiving it. Thank you for this very interesting article. I will share this article on facebook. I have a blog, with a small following, but I will share the link to your post there also. I wish you great success with your new book. Oh, and your question about the cover - I love it! It is a photo of things I love, wicker, books, plants, the color orange, the gorgeous lamp shade ... I love the cover!

With abundant good thoughts,

mn_bird said...

This was a great post! I did not understand how all of this worked. I generally try to buy books directly from authors, when I can. It's good to understand how this benefits the person who created the content.

Mouse said...

Loved this blog post, I would be happy to order one of yours books but I am in the UK and am sure postage would be a nightmare!
I will just have to enjoy from afar. Keep up the good work though. Best wishes for your book sales. Dawn.

Kristin Nicholas said...

Hi Mouse! You will be able to buy it in the UK as Roost is distributed by Random House. It will be available there on February 20th and I see it on that big old book site in the sky.

Tsoniki Crazy Bull said...

Thank you for posting about this process! I love the behind the scenes stuff the most. I love the projects of course, but behind the scenes is fascinating. :)

Val , Kate, The Cute Kitten ,Razzy, Kepsey,Darwin ,Charon and Echo. said...

Any chance of your books being released as ebooks? I really don't mind buying direct from you but would def prefer an ecopy
All the best Val

Kristin Nicholas said...

Hi Val - When you do a book for a publisher, you also sell your digital rights to them too. Which means the publisher is in charge of doing all the digital sales, distribution, etc.
I really do not think that this book will translate well digitally but who knows where it will go. Thanks for your interest and comment.

Anonymous said...

The answer is not to write books but sell patterns via pdfs which is not the same as a kindle book which can't be printed out. You can do 'books' of patterns too. I bought a great pdf book about about appliqué. All the profit is yours. Look at 'while she naps' blog, she has a breakdown of sales and money earned for both books and patterns. It's interesting reading.

Kristin Nicholas said...

Hello Anonymous. I am a big fan of Abby's podcast. I was even a guest last summer. I love her sales breakdown and have found so many of her articles very helpful. I publish my own knitting patterns as pdfs and sell on my website and Ravelry. This book would not be good as a PDF and I never would have gotten it out there like a real publisher does. Thanks for your comment and advice.

calicodaisy said...

Thanks for the informative post, Kristin. I understand the need to create and share regardless of the return! My book arrived earlier this week, and I'm enjoying reading through, however, now I am going to go back and start again and think through all your details knowing that each page is a great piece of work! -- michele