I had been making things for most of my life, and writing about making things for a number of years, when I signed my book deal. For me, it came about through a serendipitous meeting or two, and I know how lucky I was. Your book may get to press differently – you may want to pitch to an agent or publisher. If so, visit their websites, research what books they publish, and find out how they like books presented to them (a first chapter and a synopsis; a finished book?). Alternatively, you may want to self-publish the book of your dreams!
However your book becomes a reality, you will need to write it at some point. Here are my top ten dos and don’ts for how to write a craft book, which I learned the hard way!
Get out your diary. You may have a deadline already, set down by an agent or publisher, or you may have a self-imposed finish date – either way, mark it in your diary and work backwards from there. WHEN are you going to write this book? Be practical. At first, it may seem feasible to fit writing around your job or children, but in reality you need solid blocks of time when you will be undisturbed, and factor in that you are going to need to rest, eat and see your friends too. Is it possible to take a week off to write? Also: consider what time of day you will be working. Making needs natural light, and there’s not a lot of that on winter evenings.
This may seem really obvious but get out there and see what is already published in your field. The local library is often a surprisingly up-to-date source of craft and design books, while the internet is, of course, a goldmine. Has anyone else done a similar book? If so, what’s different about your idea? Is there a gap in the market that only you can fill? And who is your audience: young or older, craft newbies or experts, how much money do they have, do they have children or pets?
This may sound silly, but your personality and individual style are important. When I wrote my book, I went with a lot of gut instinct and passion, which I hope comes through, but perhaps I could have thought more about what all authors need these days – a recognisable brand. It feels awkward, but try to describe you and your crafts in three words: urban, fast, fun? Pretty, vintage, cosy? This “brand” will impact on the style of your book, but should also run through your blog, Facebook page, Pinterest, Twitter and so on.
This links into point 3, but it’s also when things start to get fun. Think about what inspires you, what colour combinations you love, what styles are really ‘you’. Rip pictures out of magazines, make a mood board, get Pinning. I’m really into DIY-zine culture, which I wanted to be reflected in the look of my book.
Things change, projects may not work out, but if you have a basic list of how many projects you need and what sort of crafts they will be, it will help you and your book stay focused. Later on you can think about other content for the book – will you need a ‘how-to’ page or templates people can copy? Also, what about photography? Will you need to take step-by-step photographs of your projects at every stage, or will you need to make 10 unfinished pieces for a professional to photograph?
Obviously you’re not going to make everything in one go, but there’s nothing worse than getting to a tricky bit of a project and realising you need fabric glue or pink sewing thread. Also – do you have a good table and chair? I was lucky enough to have a big table to work on, but only dining room-style chairs, which hurt my back after long periods sitting still.
As I invented each project, made mistakes and practice runs, and had last minute flashes of inspiration, I made notes and diagrams in a notebook. But when it came to writing the actual copy, I realised that I had sometimes forgotten crucial steps or measurements, which slowed my process considerably. Write everything down, even when you press a fold or pin something in place. What seems natural to you may not be immediately obvious to your reader.
You’ve made everything, and written up all your instructions–- now’s the time to read it all again and check for mistakes. Read it again for style and readability. Now rope in your friends and get them to read it. If you are self-publishing, consider employing a professional editor. There’s nothing worse than a “mm” rather than a “cm” getting through to print.
Now the book’s getting there, think of a few titles to suit it. They may never get used, but it sums up what your book is about and is handy when pitching to an editor.
Writing a craft book is a LOT of work. Try not to leave everything to the last minute, and take plenty of breaks. You need to live a life too! Above all, don’t forget that this is meant to be fun!
Katie Allen is the web editor of www.thebookseller.com and www.welovethisbook.com. She also writes for The Simple Things and Mollie Makes magazines. Her debut craft book Just Sew Stories was published by Hardie Grant UK in October 2012, and features “25 spectacular crafty gifts to sew.” You can read Katie’s blog at katiestitches.wordpress.com and follow her on Twitter @KatieFQ