Today is the day my new book comes ashore from the proverbial boat from China to the F+W (North Light Books’ parent company) warehouse to get shipped to all those stores and individuals who thought the subject matter or cover looked interesting enough to pre-order it.
When a book is being promoted, you will hear all sorts of cool things about it. You’ll see pictures, read excerpts, and possibly read about a blog hop or other ingenious way to garner excitement. The one thing I never read about, however, is how that book came into being. Since I’m both a new F+W author, as well as someone who’s familiar with how publishing works, I thought maybe you might also want to know how a person—possibly yourself—goes about writing a book.
I’m no different from all of the other authors in the F+W family—creative folks who had an idea or a talent and wanted to share it with the world. I, too, followed the process of getting a book published. That means I came up with an idea, made some sample art work (in my case mixed-media jewelry), wrote a proposal and pitched it to Tonia Jenny, longtime acquisitions editor who, thankfully, thought it was a decent book idea.
Tonia and I spoke some more and she asked me to refine the proposal just a tad. Then she went about her job of creating her PI Sheet (project information sheet), the supporting document to the proposal that gets pitched to the Pub Board. My art samples were sent in advance of the review meeting so the folks who who sit on the Pub Board could see them in person. As an artist and potential author, I tended to think of these people as company big wigs who held the fate of my book in their hands. It was like elementary school all over again where I wanted to impress my teachers. In some ways they are like this because it’s a core group of people who hold the power to accept or reject book ideas. However, it’s not nearly so dramatic.
For these folks, the review meeting is kind of like shopping. There isn’t any emotion attached to the other end of that proposal. It’s business. What they’re looking for are details. Is the book topic solid? Is there a need in the market for it? Is it new or interesting or offers a different viewpoint than other books covering the same subject? Are the projects compelling? Are there enough techniques covered? Is there enough variety? Is there a good mix of beginning, intermediate and some advanced techniques to keep people interested? Also, don’t forget the reason for business in the first place; can they make money on the book? No one goes into business hoping to just cover expenses. It’s got to be profitable.
The morning of the meeting, I was working from my home office/studio as usual and wondering how it was going. I had asked Tonia if she’s ever had a proposal rejected at a review meeting. She assured me that most of the time things go smoothly, but that “yes” rejection is always a possibility. Yikes!
I was so excited to get a text from her saying the book was a go. I got the green-light to continue the process, which was to sign a contract and then make all the deadlines Tonia had set out in her PI sheet. I had about five weeks to make the art projects I had outlined in the proposal and then photograph them. I had asked to do my own photography for the book—something which is not often done—and had received a tentative OK. That meant I needed to send sample photos to Tonia and the Art Director quickly to ensure I was truly capable of taking book-quality photos.
Weekly update meetings with all the wonderful F+W people ensued, which I was not part of and don’t really even know about. The working title of my book changed to what you see now after the tech person ran it through Search Engine Optimization and other Internet-related stuff. Editors debated the name and Tonia kept me informed on a need-to-know basis. Honestly, I didn’t worry about it. If you want to write a book, my best advice is never be married to your title no matter how great you think it is.
The next step was meeting my manuscript deadline, which came about six weeks after the art deadline. Next, we shot all the step-out photos and I generated the QR codes that I wanted to put into my book. Being a firm believer in social media, I wanted to offer a “bonus” to my readers by embedding QR codes that linked to six videos. After all of this, I was done for a while on my part.
Tonia created a visual thumbprint rough draft of the book for the art department to follow. The images went to Kelly O’Dell, the fabulous graphic designer for my book, for approval and the manuscript went to Tonia for editing and then a copywriter for proofreading. The thumbnail was given to Kelly a few weeks later to complete the designed layout. Tonia wrote the back cover text, which is the most important marketing tool after the cover (She did a fabulous job with everything). The completed files were uploaded to the printing plant in China (99% of all books sold in the United States are printed in China by the way) and here we are: Full circle to Release Date, which is TODAY!
All told, the process took 18 months almost to the date. Writing Making Metal Jewelry was completely do-able and fun. It was nerve wracking sometimes, frustrating others (like when my butane torch broke during step-out shooting), personally enlightening (when I wrote an essay on the perils of perfectionism) and extremely satisfying. I truly wish everyone who has ever wanted to write a book has the chance to do so. It’s hard work, not immediately profitable (as in there is no pay other than a small advance while you are doing it) and an incredible personal accomplishment.
When I held my advance author copy in my hands for the first time a few weeks ago, I called Tonia on the phone to thank her, again, for all her hard work. She said to me, “Jen, it’s not over. It’s just beginning.”
And so it is…
Jen Cushman is a natural storyteller who found mixed media art a decade ago and never looked back. She is drawn to the imperfect, the funky, the quirky, the artsy and the authentic: be it people or objects or art. She writes a business advice column for artists at CreateMixedMedia.com and also for Belle Armoire Jewelry. She’s also the Director of Education and Marketing for Susan Lenart Kazmer ICE Resin®. To learn more, visit her website www.jencushman.com or follow her blog at www.jencushman.wordpress.com.
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