The rewards of writing a book go way, way past the money stuff.
A fellow craftsperson wrote me recently. She’s been asked by a publisher to write a book! Excited and a wee bit overwhelmed, she asked if I had any suggestions or comments.
You know me. I got a million of ’em.
But for your sake, and for the sake of the customer who is waiting patiently for me to ship their order to them this week, I will be succinct.
Yes, I wrote a book on carving stamps. It was the first of its kind, and I’m still proud of it. I’d love to write more books someday. (Anybody out there in the book publishing world listening? Helloooooo….?)
If you are considering writing a book–especially if a publisher has approached YOU about writing a book–
Why especially if a publisher asks you? Because half the work is done. You don’t have to send out dozens of book proposals and then wait for all the rejections. You don’t have to second-guess what kind of book they’re looking for. You don’t have to prove yourself–they’re already into you!
Don’t expect to get rich from it, or even make very much. It’s possible, of course, but not likely.
However, the publicity, the credentialing, the excitement, the entire experience, will be worth it.
So how much money are we talking about?
You will be given an advance to start writing the book. An advance is money paid out by the publisher before actual publication, in anticipation of what the book will bring in dollar-wise.
As the book sells, your advance is deducted from the royalties due you. If the book outsells their expectations, you get a royalty check. If the book doesn’t sell well, you keep your advance but you don’t get any more money.
I was paid an advance of a couple thousand dollars for my book. Now, this was before publishing took a major hit and before we bailed out a lotta banks for a few billion dollars. I don’t know if that is industry standard anymore or not.
Despite good sales, I’ve not received a penny more in royalties. I am not the Harry Potter of craft book authors.
The advance was good money for me, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
But more than just the money, I’ve gained a lot in exposure, in web presence, in credibility as an author for writing that book. I got more writing gigs because of it.
And this was for a book that wasn’t even about my main art form. It was about my art hobby. If you are asked to do a book on your own art medium, you would benefit even more. I would have gotten a lot more mileage from my book if stamp carving had been my major art form, or if I’d written a book about my wall hangings or polymer work.
When you’re finally asked, is it scary? Oh, yeah. Exciting, wonderful, and yes, also daunting. Kinda like having a baby.
Things to keep in mind:
An editor will work along with you, so you don’t have to “construct” the entire project yourself.
Publishers also usually do their own photography, so no need to worry about that.
They may have a specific “recipe” or format in mind for the book–is it part of a series of other crafts? This will help you select projects, etc.
Most importantly, there’s another reason writing a book is like having a baby:
You really can’t change your mind halfway through.
A lot of people START books.
A publisher’s biggest fear is that you will not FINISH the book.
They lose a ton of money if they invest an editor, time, money and space in their publishing schedule…. then the author freaks out and refuses to complete the project.
So….Do everything you can to meet deadlines and work with their schedule. If you renege on the deal, you will find it difficult–if not impossible–to ever work with that publisher again. Probably any publisher. Word does get around….
Cooperate with their proposed format. The publisher asked me to write a book for their Weekend Crafter series. I got carried away. I was determined to write the compleat work on stamp carving (and no, didn’t spell that wrong, look it up. I think I scared my editor with all my grand ideas for additions and “improvements”, til she gently reined me in with the response, “You need to save that for your next book.”
Good communication is key.
One last tip:
Don’t be afraid to let the real “you” shine through. Whatever is distinctive about your personality–your quirky sense of humor, your way of turning a phrase–it is an asset. (Unless you’re mean.) Don’t get so caught up in the “professional artist” thing that you sacrifice your blithe spirit in the process.
And one last thought:
It may seem like a big, daunting project. But you will be working on it one section, one project, one chapter, one deadline at a time. Just like eating an elephant, you will take it one bite at a time.
In the end, it will be worth it in so many ways, things that will last long after the book is out.
I still get a kick out of people who show up at my shows, or my open studios, with a copy of my book in hand, and ask me to sign it.
I still love looking up the reviews of my book, and reading the wonderful things people said about it, and about me.
I still feel a frisson of pride when I come across my book on a store shelf, or when I display it in my studio.
I love mentioning oh-so-casually that I’m an author. I love remarking that both my husband and I are published writers, and our kids have had their work published in before they were out of elementary school. (Doug and Robin’s carved stamps appeared in another Lark book.)
I admit it, I am a small person at heart when it comes to being proud of my book.
Caveat: This was my book writing experience. Your mileage may vary. Your experience may be even nicer, or maybe not so nice.
But I still think it’s worth doing.