Book Ideas from Unexpected Places

Blogged under Getting Craft Work Published, Publications from Moi by Tammy on Monday 25 January 2010 at 1:23 pm

Admittedly, I need another idea for a book like I need a hole in the head. I mean it. I have tons and tons of ideas, especially when it comes to making jewelry. I have even written on here previously about how I don’t need people to give me their ideas.

Sometimes these ideas come when I do not expect them, when I’m really trying not to even think about the next book. I’m in the thick of things right now with a book project that has taken over my life, more so than I remember ever happening with previous books. In fact, my husband is helping me a lot with this book project, so he also has no life. We are prisoners until this puppy gets done.

So as I said, I have really, really been trying not to think about future book projects right now because this current one has been all-consuming. However, it happened just the same. My mom has started to make jewelry, and after various emails and phone calls from her with questions, I finally suggested she try to use one of the 7 books of mine that she has in her possession. I mean, hello! I actually have given her books on this; why all the questions?

Finally, I spoke with her again on the phone and tried to explain about crimp beads this time. As I tried to explain to her about how it basically works with crimp beads and the different sizes and crimp tubes versus the actual round bead type crimps, I directed her to a page in one of my books.

But she continued to ask questions, and at first, I wouldn’t listen to her because the instructions and illustrations are right there, and in fact, she was asking about other jewelry techniques now that had nothing to do with crimp beads. She was all over the road. It reminded me of when I have gone out to eat with her sometimes, and she wants to order something that isn’t on the menu. If it isn’t there on the menu or if there isn’t something remotely close, then why would you even think of ordering a different dish?

Finally, after I was probably almost yelling at her over the phone in frustration, I realized what she was trying to explain to me. She was lost. She was trying to navigate through the books like someone who was ordering a dish that isn’t on the menu. And, ding! the light went on in my head, and I have to give her all the credit for my latest book idea.

I probably have said too much already, so I won’t go into more details. I’ve done this before and gotten sort of “bitten in the you-know-what” by it, so you would think I’d learned my lesson. Any way, I have yet another idea to add to my list, and it just reminds me that sometimes I really need to shut up and listen, even to or perhaps especially to people who know nothing about something I know tons about.

Photographing Crafts

Blogged under Crafty Biz, Getting Craft Work Published, Publications from Moi by Tammy on Friday 27 November 2009 at 10:53 am

One of the reasons we didn’t have any company like we usually do during Thanksgiving - other than the fact that I’m writing like a wild woman lately and my house is a disaster because of this - is because our guest room (aka sewing room, storage room, etc.) is now a photo studio. We have set it up in order to take photographs of the jewelry we are making for a new book my husband and I are working on together.

Above is a picture of the set up. All of this, other than the extra table lamp in the center, came in a very cool kit I got off Amazon.com. It includes the tent, white and black backdrops, and two adjustable lamps with two special high out-put photographic fluorescent bulbs, 45 watts each. This kit got some excellent customer reviews, and I have to admit that I agree. It has really made a difference to have this set up while working on this book.

I know photographing crafts and jewelry especially can be very challenging, and while there are lots of way to make a tent yourself, I think considering this whole set up (not including extra lamp, camera, and of course, camera tripod) is worth the money.

Creatively Expose Yourself!

Blogged under Crafting a Career, Getting Craft Work Published by Tammy on Wednesday 18 March 2009 at 7:31 am

After speaking at a writing workshop last weekend, the creative energy came home with me, and I decided to dust off some old creative writing pieces of mine. I’ve been mulling over my next major writing project, and I’m really torn: part of me thinks I should write some kind academic piece that will be a total PIA to get published, few people will read, and I won’t get paid for, but if it were to get published, even in the tiniest little no-name journal, it would be another bean to add to my CV; part of me thinks I should get another jewelry proposal together and get back out there and get another jewelry book published and some more checks rolling in; and then part of me thinks I should finish that ancient novel manuscript I’ve been working on for a ridiculously long time that probably won’t ever be published but at least I can say I finished it.

So, obviously, I’m torn.

However, I did make some progress in this dilemma and sent out an old creative non-fiction piece I’d written for a college class a few years ago. I sent it to a small journal with my fingers crossed and an uncomfortable feeling of angst. It doesn’t matter if you are sending your jewelry piece out there, favorite art work, or personal essay; we all have to expose ourselves somehow when we literally put our work out for criticism, and hopefully, acceptance.

It is so easy not to expose yourself. It is safe. It is a comfortable place. However, if you want any kind of recognition, you can’t hide your creative work under a rock and hope someone famous will come along and trip over it and discover what a brilliant and talented artist you are. Just ain’t gonna happen! Probably won’t even happen in your dreams.

So, this is a challenge for all of those closet creative types or anyone who has hesitated to send out that book proposal, approach that gallery with your portfolio, or whatever it is that you have been avoiding with the idea that you could come back with a big sore spot on your you-know-what: Do it today! Yes, you will feel that same angst, but you may also feel something wonderful down the road.

Writers’ Links for Book Proposals

Blogged under Getting Craft Work Published by Tammy on Tuesday 10 March 2009 at 6:22 am

This Saturday, 3/14/09, I’ll be in Fort Pierce, Florida at the Indian River State College Writer’s Weekend giving a presentation on “Creating Book Proposals.” Below are some links that attendees or really anyone who is interested in publishing non-fiction or fiction works might find helpful:


Web sources:
Nelson Literary Agency
Predators and Editors
Writer Beware
About.com Freelance Writing
The Fiction Editor, the Novel, and the Novelist
Writer’s Digest
How to Write a Query

Small Presses/Publishers:
American Short Fiction
The Journal
Glimmer Train
Pineapple Press

Books:
Your Novel Proposal: From Creation to Contract by Blythe Camenson & Marshall J. Cook
The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner
Making the Perfect Pitch: How to Catch a Literary Agent’s Eye by Katharine Sands


Craft Some Special Snuggles

Blogged under Charity Crafting, Getting Craft Work Published by Tammy on Sunday 28 December 2008 at 11:16 am

Doesn’t this cute kitty look snug and secure in his Crochet Snuggle Tubbie? This is just one of the free project ideas offered at the Snuggles Project website for those interested in stitching and then donating blankets and other items like the tubbie pictured to animal shelters. The Snuggles Project is one of a number of projects initiated by Hugs for Homeless Animals, a non-profit group dedicated to helping homeless animals.

What I like about this project, besides the fact that I’m a huge dog and cat lover, is that it is very doable for someone like me. I do give to a few local shelters as far as monetary donations as well as the Human Society, but I’d like to do more without getting over my head as far as time commitments. This way, I can make and donate items on my own schedule.

The organization offers a world-wide shelter directory to help locate shelters in your area, and I was able to find a number that are nearby. Again, this is a plus to me because I really like the idea that I’m helping out in my local area. I know there are charities all over the world, but if I can help on a local level I’d rather do that first.

I’m still planning to work on items for the Linus organization, but I think these are both worthy charities. I think the hardest part will be getting something like this little tubbie out of the house because I can imagine that my own cats would love something like this.

Crafty Writers and Rights

Blogged under Getting Craft Work Published by Tammy on Sunday 24 August 2008 at 8:31 am

The topic of copyrights and craft writing came up recently between myself and some fellow crafters, and I thought this was a good item to include in my Getting Craft Work Published series because it is a really important topic for crafters and and writers.

As I mentioned in another blog post about how to submit to magazines, there are a boat-load of magazines out there these days for craft designers to submit work to. While this may not appeal to everyone, magazines can be a really good way build a reputation for yourself in your chosen craft field as well as promote other work such as a book or product you have which you hope to sell. I’m sure you’ve seen this done before where a magazine will have a project and it is either from a book or it is from a kit which you can purchase from the author of the project. But, even if you don’t have a book or gizmo to push, by publishing in magazines you can get your name out there and recognized so that other opportunities (like books and gizmos) may eventually come your way.

When you do get work accepted for magazine publication, you’ll receive a contract to sign and return to the publisher. Among other stipulations in the contract, you will be required to agree to a certain type of copyright. Now, let me put in a disclaimer here: I am not a copyright expert by any means, but here is what I know. Ideally, most writers prefer to give North American rights, which basically means the writer allows the publisher the rights to first printing of the work, but the writer owns the work and can republish it at a later date. However, I have rarely seen this offered, especially in the craft publication world. Instead, they often ask for all rights, both hardcopy and on-line, which again “basically” means they can reprint it anywhere, anytime, for any reason, and not have to provide any compensation to the writer. If they want to publish a book and include your project and not even give you a copy of the book, they can. If they want to slap it on a t-shirt and sell it at the mall to a million people and not even give you a t-shirt, they can. And, very often, publishers will reuse your work, so it is best to just assume they will if you do agree to this.

Now, when they do buy the rights to your project, unless it states otherwise in the contract (they all can be very different depending on the publisher) they are purchasing your words and images, not the actual jewelry design. So if you created some super fabulous bracelet design, they do not have the right to make a zillion of them and sell them on QVC.

Whether or not giving up all these rights to your ideas is worth it or not is really a personal decision. I wrote for a number of different magazines for years, and it worked for me back then because I was building a reputation for myself as I got to know publishers and editors in my industry. (All of whom I found on a personal level to be very nice people by the way). It also helped me get into the book writing business. Now, my circumstances are very different. Writing a how-to article for $75 (the low end of the pay scale for most magazines) and giving up all rights to my work forever is not as appealing to me. I’m not saying I will never submit to magazines again, but it is not something I plan to do in the near future because it doesn’t provide me with anything but a $75 check, which I feel is not enough compensation for what I’m giving up.

As I end this post, I just want to clarify that I’m not poo-pooing craft magazines. They have to make money, and it is a very tough market for all of them these days. Magazine submissions can be a good way to earn a little cash and kudos as you form a craft career, but at some point, many of us come to a realization that it just may no longer fit our needs.

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So, You Have a Few Craft Book Ideas, What Next?

Blogged under Getting Craft Work Published by Tammy on Tuesday 22 July 2008 at 6:31 am

Here is another article as part of my series in Getting Your Craft Work Published.

Even if you have never written a craft book before, anyone who is really into crafting seriously from time to time might have a book idea or two pop into her head. For those with more veteran book writing status, the ideas are probably coming out of your ears if you are anything like me. Of course, I’m not saying these are all good ideas, but they are a place to begin.

Once you do have an idea or two, what do you do next? Which one do you pursue and which one(s) get set aside on your back brain burner?

Well, unfortunately, the ideas are the easy part of this whole process. I can’t tell you how many well-meaning friends and family members have said to me, “Oh, Tammy, I have a great book idea for you.” As if I need their ideas, like they are doing me some kind of favor, which I believe they are sincere about.

So, first let me say a few things about your ideas. Do not try to push them off onto someone else, like me, to do for you. If you think it is a great idea, then go for it, but I doubt you’ll find any professional writer/crafter sitting out on the side of the road begging for design and writing ideas. Just isn’t going to happen.

If you have an idea and you are ready to take it on yourself, my other advice is to be careful who you talk to and how you talk to them. If it’s your mom, I think you can trust her (wink), but if you want to talk to an editor about it, document it. A casual phone conversation can easily become hazy after a year or two while a detailed email complete with a working title, table of contents, project overview, and project images attached may be more easily remembered. I’m not saying it protects you from someone borrowing your idea, and actually, you can’t even be sure your great idea wasn’t someone else’s at a publishers and already in the works. However, let’s just say I’m talking from experience here.

Once you have decided that you are ready to take on one of your great ideas, the next step is to figure out which one. Here are some things to think about as you try to focus on one:

  • What sort of titles are out now that have a similar focus? Make a list by either using Amazon or actually go to a bookstore.
  • How does your book idea add to what is already out there? How does it do it better or fill a void? You’ll want to include this type of information in your book proposal.
  • How are you positioned as an expert in the topic? Are you more of an expert in one book idea than the other (for example published work or awards you could point to in your proposal to show that “you” are the right person to write this book)?
  • Since it’s a good idea to have completed projects in the proposal, which of the book ideas do you already have some projects finished for that you could add to a proposal right away?

Answering these questions can help you narrow down and focus on one book idea at a time, which I know can be difficult. I’m actively talking with an editor now about one book idea and have four on my back burners, so that’s kind of the story of my life!

How to Submit Craft Work to Magazines

Blogged under Getting Craft Work Published by Tammy on Wednesday 2 July 2008 at 5:48 am

In lesson one of this series on getting your craft work published, I talked about some of the basic skills you need and then I followed it with lesson two where I talked about doing your homework on the various publishers out there. Once you’ve done your homework, you have probably narrowed down your list to a few magazine publishers to approach about your craft work (we’ll stick with magazines in this lesson since they are a good place for the novice craft writer to start), and hopefully, you have at least a few ideas to pitch to them. Or, at the very least, you need one craft project or finished piece that you feel would appeal to the magazine’s audience.

The next step is to find out how to submit your idea, and you’ll need to submit one idea to one publisher, not one idea to multiple publishers. That’s a major professional crafting and writing rule because if one publisher accepts it, you will only alienate other publishers if you take back your submission. That is simply wasting their time, and they won’t appreciate it. So, go for the publisher at the top of your list first. If you get turned down, simple move on to the next one.

Once you have picked your first publisher to contact, you’ll need to find out its submission guidelines, and unfortunately, not all magazines have the same guidelines. Thus, you can’t assume that you can just send in your query in any old format. There are specific rules to follow for each one. The good news is that 99 percent of the time (thanks to the WWW), you will find author submission guidelines posted on the publisher’s web site. In fact, Cyndi Lavin of the Jewelry and Beading Blog actually compiled a list of links to a slew of jewelry and beading magazines. So, if you are a jewelry designer, check out her post and bookmark it. She saved you a lot of work! If you are interested in submitting to other types of craft publishers, no worries, just head over to their web sites and look around. Most will have links visible on their home page that will direct you to the authors’ guidelines.

When you locate the guidelines, read them carefully and do your best to follow them. Normally, they will include information such as what type of crafts they do and do not accept and possibly a theme calendar; what type of format they accept work such as electronic or hard copy, Word, Word Perfect, .jpg, .tiff, all types of formats you’ll need to send your information in to them (and most accept only electronic submissions these days); what the actual format of the proposal should look like (one page, 12 point Times Roman font, etc.) along with how long it is; and I think you get the picture. They have a list of rules to follow, and you need to follow them.

Once you send it out, it is time to wait, and how long you have to wait really depends. I’ve head editors get back to me in a day and others get back to me three months later. Most will at least tell you they received your submission, but it usually takes awhile for them to evaluate it.

If you get rejected, which of course happens as it’s the nature of the beast called craft publishing, you go down to the next publisher on your list, and repeat the same procedure I just explained. More than likely, you’ll have to do only some minor changes to your submission before sending it out, but chances are you will have to do at least a few changes to it.

And, that’s the basic process. One word of caution, though. As I wrote in previous lessons, you really have to expect some rejection, but that does not mean your idea is not good. It may just not be right for that particular publisher. So, if you feel you have a winner, keep knocking on doors until one opens for you.

Do Your Craft Homework - Know Your Market

Blogged under Getting Craft Work Published by Tammy on Tuesday 17 June 2008 at 9:26 am

I posted lesson 1 already, so now we are onto lesson 2 of my series on getting your craft work published.

School teacher that I am, one important lesson I feel you must learn right away is that homework is critical to your success. Luckily, you aren’t taking one of my English classes which requires writing essays for homework. Instead, your homework is much more fun, but it is still equally important and has a purpose: for you to “know” your market.

Learning about the craft publishing market and specifically about it in relation to your topic(s) niche is important because you need to be part of this conversation. To do that, you must first “listen” to what is going on, and the best way to do that is to familiarize yourself with publishers and their publications. For example, if you want to break into magazines, then read the magazines in your topic. If you want to write a book, you need to read what has already been published on that topic.

I’m not saying that you have to subscribe to every craft magazine and buy every craft book ever published. Obviously, there is just no way most of us could afford to do that, and you don’t have to either. That’s one of the cool things about brick and mortar books stores these days. Spend the afternoon reading, taking notes, and maybe sipping a cup of coffee (or in my case tea) at one of your local Barnes and Nobles, Borders, or whatever you have nearby. Bring a notebook and pen. Take notes. For example, if you are researching magazines, you’ll want to ask the following questions:

  • What type of magazines are published in your topic? What are their titles/publishers/web site URLs?
  • What sort of focus do these magazines have? Are they high-end-artsy? Country crafty? Mixed media?
  • How many of the articles are written by the magazine editors, and how many are written by freelancers?
  • What type of freelancers are writing for them? Do they include brief bios? If so, read them. What kind of experience do these freelancers have?
  • What is the difficulty level of the crafts they publish? Do they have a mix of difficulty or are they mainly for beginners?
  • Do the how-to articles include components that are very unique or do they use materials that are easily available at a local craft store?
  • What type of audience do you feel the magazine is targeting? Hobbyist? Professionals?

These are a just a few questions to get you going, but you see what I mean - study the publications so that you have an understanding of them before you decide to enter into this conversation. This will help you narrow down which magazines are the best for for your particular craft style.

Basic Skills for Craft Publishing

Blogged under Crafting a Career, Getting Craft Work Published by Tammy on Saturday 7 June 2008 at 12:52 pm

So, here’s lesson one on how to get your craft work published starting with a question or two:

  • Are you able to meet deadlines no matter what?
  • Can you string words together into basic grammatically correct sentences?
  • Are you okay with following specifications?
  • Can you handle rejection without getting too freaked out?

If you answer “no” to any of these questions, then move on and read something else on this blog because craft publishing is not for you. And here’s why.

Deadlines! ugh! When you commit to producing a written work and finished craft project for a client (which is what a publisher becomes), then you are signing a virtual contract. Granted, you may not have to sign one that says you’ll have the work to him/her or else, but it won’t take long to burn bridges with editors if you don’t do what you say you will do. It doesn’t matter that your glue didn’t dry in time or your baby came down with Bing-Ling Flu. It’s not that they don’t care, but they also have deadlines to meet, and if you can’t support them they won’t be around to offer you future work.

Grammar? I don’t know no stinking grammar! I realize that grammar can be a frightening word for some people, but if you are going to get published, you must be able to actually write well. And, that includes grammatically correct text. Sure, your editor may find a few comma splices to fix, but other than that, if she has to totally rewrite your work, she could have just done it herself in the first place. Why does she need you?

Expect some specs. Every book, magazine, or web publisher has its own way of putting words and images together. Some of the books I’ve been working on recently are super duper heavy when it comes to codes and specific format requirements. This is the less glamorous side of writing, but it saves publishers oodles of time if everything is in the proper place before they publish it. Most will have guidelines (more on that later in a future blog post) as well as template requirements and all kinds not-so-fun format specifications for you to follow. If you feel squeamish about this, you’ll need to get over it.

Dear Joan, thank you, but… Finally, there’s the notion that more than likely you’ll get your share (and then some) of politely worded emails and/or letters thanking you for your “interesting/unique/unusual” project; however, they do not feel it will fit within their current publishing scope or whatever. Basically, thank you but no thank you. They won’t tell you why your projects are not accepted because their job is not to critique your work. Before jumping to the conclusion that there is something wrong with it, consider any other number of reasons why it wasn’t accepted: too seasonal, too similar to a project they had already, not the right colors they are looking for, too easy, too hard, too [fill in the blank]. But, expect it and learn to deal with it. Feel free to cry for a few minutes, but then suck it up, and find another publisher to send the project off to asap.

If you’ve been seriously thinking of becoming a published craft designer, then seriously think about these questions.

That’s it! Lesson 1 is ova! Feel free to list your answers in the comments section. I know there is a lot more to talk about, and I plan to in future posts as part of this series, but these I felt were the 4 top questions to consider first.
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