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! 

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