Was I one of the lucky ones? No.
That might sound like a weird question, so let me back track. Over the past few years, I've seen embroidery artists (mostly on Instagram) share about how they were approached by a publisher and landed a book deal. This is pretty much a dream scenario. Was I one of those lucky artists? No. In all reality, this doesn't happen all that often. Instead, I put in a lot of hard work and energy into landing my publishing deal.
Want to know how? Here's my process for reaching out to publishers without using an agent.
Find Your Niche
First, decide on what you want to write about. I had a few concepts in mind from clothing embroidery to botanical embroidery to landscapes designs.
Research, Research, Research
Next, do your research. This part is so important! Research what's already published in your field. By googling books and publishers online, I found that there were actually quite a few recently published clothing embroidery books. Not only specific to clothing embroidery, but many embroidery books included some kind of clothing embroidery element.
Looking up what's already in your niche is also doubly helpful, because it helped me discover the publishers who specialize in craft books that I could reach out to later.
By doing research, I decided to focus my proposal on desert landscapes. This felt very on brand for me, was something I loved, and I knew I could create patterns that ranged in difficulty while still exploring texture and pattern.
Write The Proposal
With my concept in place, I then moved on to my proposal. This was the part I was very unsure about. After doing some more online research, I found an excellent e-book by A Beautiful Mess on getting published that was written by an editor. While it wasn't specific to craft books, it was really helpful in better understanding what publishers are looking for when reviewing proposals and what I should focus on.
Review Submission Guidelines
Each publisher has slightly different guidelines for what they're looking for in proposal submissions. This part was also tedious and cumbersome. I found having my pitch letter, book outline, biography, and market research overview drafted a helpful start to tailoring my content to each publisher's wants and needs.
Hit send on that email. Drop the proposal in the mail. This part felt scary because I was basically sending my baby off into the great unknown. But I will admit, it did get better each time I sent a new pitch to a publisher.
Just like your cover letter for a prospective job, I found it helpful to tailor my pitch letter and content to each publisher I reached out to. Some publishers will list who you can contact and others will have a blanket email. Whenever possible, personalize!
It might seem like a good idea to email all the publishers you possibly can at once, but trust me, it's a lot of work. I found that pacing myself and having a goal of reaching out to a handful of publishers each month was a great approach.
Waiting Game + Rejection
This was the hardest part of it all. Many publishers stated on their website that they would only get back to you if they were interested in your proposal. Because of that, there was a lot of radio silence after sending out my queries.
There was also some rejection. Even though I loved my concept and thought I did an amazing job on my proposal, that didn't mean it was the right fit for every publisher. So yes, there were some rejection emails and some false leads, but I tried not to let those get me down, because I knew I had an amazing concept and just needed one publisher to say yes.
Do The Work
Even though I was still pitching my idea to different publishers, I continued to work on the content for my book idea. Sketching pattern ideas, stitching concepts, writing patterns I wanted to include in the book, etc. This helped me to not only feel passionate about the book but also have materials ready to go when we did officially start the book process.
Even if a publisher expresses interest in the proposal, they often need to take your idea to a pub meeting to pitch it to their team. Because of this, the publisher might recommend some changes to your pitch concept.
The concept I originally pitched was a book on desert themed landscapes. After talking with a few different publishers about this being a very niche concept, we agreed to expand the proposal to landscapes in general. It helped that I had other sample projects that I could provide as examples for the publisher to use in the pitch meeting.
I had a few publishers take my proposal to pitch meetings. It was disheartening when the idea didn't gain traction, but that's how it goes sometimes. Like I said, you only need one publisher to say yes.
Sign, Celebrate, And Get To Work
Now for the exciting part! Once the proposal gets approval from the pub board you have a book! Well, the approval for a book anyways. Prior to signing my contract, the publisher discussed timelines and reviewed my work so far. I would also recommend having someone (an unbiased professional in the field) review your contract prior to signing. If you have any questions about compensation, timeline, or details this is the time to express those because officially saying yes.
Then celebrate! I wanted to wait until my contract was signed to officially celebrate my book deal. My sweet husband took me out to dinner and made it very special.
Finally get to work! Pitching your concept is just the beginning of the process. It might seem like a lot of work, but it's just a small fraction compared to actually writing your book- which is why I continued to work on my book content while pitching my book to publishers. Thankfully that initial work made the process feel less daunting and more comfortable with the concept pivot of my book.
I hope this helps give more insight into the process for reaching out to publishers. I had no idea what this process looked like or what to expect before starting this journey. As I get further along in the book process I can't wait to share more insights.
Until then, you can find me stitching away on my landscape themed embroidery book, launching in Spring 2023.