Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Getting Published-- Step 2

I found this next step most interesting and a lot of fun.  Once you decide that you do want to write a book and you have identified your audience, it is time to search out a publisher.  I was willing to self-publish if need be, but for my purposes, the advantages of working with a publisher far outweighed self-publishing.  I will speak to those advantages/disadvantages in another post.

My first step was to do some internet research.  I wanted to see if there were any books out there on my subject matter, Wax+Paper.  There were not.  I then checked all of the table of content of books on handmade paper and books on encaustic technique to see if there were chapters in either book that combined the two media.  I did not find any material available.  That told me two things: one, that there was a place for my book on the market and two, that with the scaricity of books on either subject, combing the two mediums might be too nitch of a market to make a book viable.

I have been buying and collecting "how to" art books for years, so my next stop was to my own library.  I pulled those books that had been most helpful to me in the past and those books that had something in common with my subject, encaustic paint and handmade paper.  I found that many of these books had the same two publishers, Lark Press and North Light Press.  I expanded my research by taking a trip to both Borders and Barnes and Nobles and pulled additional books, checking for publishers. 

I put all of the Lark Press books in a pile and all of the North Light books in a pile and browsed through each pile separately noting what was common in layout, number of pages, how demonstration photos were shot, the ratio of words to images, etc.  I made notes for myself and then went to the web site for each publisher to look for their submission guidelines.  Most publishers have submission guidelines somewhere on their website, but it may take a little work to find it.  For example, if you google North Light Press, the closest site that comes up is their bookstore.  This site is for direct selling of their published books and didn't have the information I was looking for.  I did see that North Light is a division of F&W Media.  When I googled F&W Media and went into both "fine art" and "craft", I found submission guidelines.

It took several weeks to craft a great introductory letter and the materials for the proposal.  It is a good idea to send this to a couple of your friends for feedback.  The process of writing the proposal, outlining the chapters, talking about the audience, etc. was very helpful in really nailing down what I intended to communicate.  When I look back now at that original proposal and the actual book, I am amazed at how the development changed over the last two years.  I am pleased to say that the many refining steps I took led to a much stronger publication. 

A lot rides on the proposal.  It shows the acquisition editor how clear you are about the scope of the book, how well you handle the written word and how well you can follow directions.  Actually, following directions is probably more important than your writing skills.  If the guidelines asks for no more than 2 pages, don't try to impress by giving them more.  A publisher is a partner. While there will be room for creativity and initiative on the part of the author, this partnership involves a whole army of editors, photographers, designers, printers, shippers and sales associates tied to deadlines and specifics of number of pages, number of images, etc.  The proposal tells the editor that you can read the fine print and provide what is needed.

If you are lucky enough to know someone who has written for one of your selected publishers, then this would be the time to place a call or send off a polite e-mail asking for a contact at the company.  I was fortunate to have Patricia Baldwin Seggebruch  provide me with contact information to the aquisiton editor of Lark Press and gave me permission to use her name.   My proposal would have eventually come into the editor's hands, but that personal touch got an immediate reply.

In the next post, I'll let you know what happened! 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I personally never intended to write a book. I knew that the way I was working with handmade paper as an encaustic support was unique, but I was more intent in getting my work in traditional galleries than in getting my process of working with wax and paper out to other artists. A few years ago, I was invited to demonstrate at the International Encaustic Conference. I accepted the invitation because I was interested in getting back into teaching and planned to expand my teaching venues beyond Texas. It became clear to me very soon that in order to reach a wider audience for both my work and my technique, I would need to publish.

Writing a book is a year-long+ process, so I didn't make the choice lightly. I had to weigh the opportunities that a published book would provide against the time it would take me away from the studio. My husband and I had several discussions about this committment because it would also put house projects on hold. Charlie also knew that he would have to pick up some of my household duties at deadline crunch time. (Never once did money come in the picture. I'll talk more about the financial aspect of publishing in a future post concerning whether to submit to a commercial publisher or to self publish.) In the end, we decided that the benefits outweighted the difficulties especially at where I was in my career.

The first step, I believe, is to sit down with a pencil and paper and examine these questions:
  • Why do I want to be published? What benefits will that bring to my career? (The more you are known, the more e-mails there are to answer, the more charities ask for your donated work, the more there is to the business of keeping up with blogs, newsletters, etc. Count on spending more time away from the studio.)
  • If I needed to spend a year outside my studio, how would that effect my work and my career as an artist? (I multiplied the amount of hours I thought it would take to write a book and then subtracted those hours from the studio time and realized that my art production would be cut in half! In fairness to my local gallery, I had to withdraw.)
  • Make a list of all of your weekly responsibilities with home and family. Which ones can you let go? (Do you need to play bridge twice a month?) Which ones can you hire out (Is this the time to engage a house cleaner?) Which ones can be delegated to other members of the family? (If your oldest could take over lawn care in exchange for more privileges, how much time would you now have?)
  • What skills do I have to write a book? (You will need a high level of organization, a commitment to deadlines, self-motivation and good interpersonal skills.)
  • Who would be my audience and what is unique about what I would be sharing? (Remember that you will need to sell 10,000 or so books. Even if you get a publisher to accept your book, the author plays a big role in getting books sold.)
These questions are not meant to scare anyone serious about getting their technique out there. Like any other business endeavor, it is important to look seriously and consult liberally before setting on a path that will take you life and your work in new directions. If, you have done your homework and have decided that YES, I do have something unique to offer. I do have a audience for my book. And, most importantly, writing a book would be a big PLUS for my art career, than you are ready for STEP TWO.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

When it is on Amazon, it is Official!

Study 1
I'm calling this Study 1, because I don't have access
to the titles of the works in the book.  This will be
given away in a drawing open to the first 50 people who
purchase the presale book on Amazon.

Wax + Paper, Techniques for Combining Handmade Paper and Encaustic Paint (whew! that's a mouthful) has appeared on Amazon for presale.  Amazon  The presale price is almost a third off of the retail price!  What a deal.  Attending a lunch with the sales team of North Light in Cincinnati last month, I learned a lot about how getting a book to market works.  The big retailers will order books based on the number of presale orders.  Wouldn't it be fun to sell out BEFORE the book actually became available?

I like a challenge so I am setting up an incentive program, beginning NOW. The first great incentive is the Amazon presale price ($8.50 off the retail price).  You will notice, though, that the cover image is not yet available on their website.  So, one of my incentives will be the "great reveal."  For the first 50 people who pre-order the book from Amazon, and send me a copy of the receipt by email ( I will give you a sneak peak at the cover.  Your name will also be entered in a drawing for some of the art works from the book that I will be giving away.  I plan to add new incentives until the Spring, so keep posted.

The experience of writing a book has been fun and exciting...and yes, a lot of work.  I've had several requests from aspiring authors who want more information about the process of getting an idea to market.  I will be using this blog in two ways: to talk about my experience and provide relevant information for someone who might also want to get published, and to give a sneak preview of some of the techniques from the book.

Thanks for following!  I welcome your comments and look forward to distributing all of the art created for the book to lucky winners throughout the world.