How to Write and Publish a Craft Book Part 4
I've got some big news I can finally share. I've sold my seventh book! Insert trumpet flourish here! I can't share any of the details of the contents, but I can say that it's a jewelry focused book with a fresh twist on what is already on the market. My book projects and instructions are due in house by July 30th. So I have my work cut out for me. It's not a lot of time, but I can do it. I work well under pressure, like most designers I tend to work to the deadline anyway. Might as well make it sooner than later to avoid the inevitable procrastinating. Plus, this is the fun part! I get to create something new!
I would like to branch out and write some books that aren't jewelry focused, but for now that's the niche for which I am known and in which I do well. In a rough economy when publishers are really taking a hit financially, they're unlikely to take too many risks. People spend a lot of time being absurdly stubborn and relentlessly specific about what they want to do and how it has to unfold. Then they make a litany of excuses for why things aren't working out. More often than not it's because they're not willing to be a little flexible. Take some yoga. Bend a little. Or you can just dig those pretty little heels in and keep insisting that you're way is the only way and see how far that actually gets you. Publishing a book is all about the fine art of compromise. I wish I could say it was just about fine art, but that would be a lie. It's about making money. Money pays the rent. Then you can make all the fine art you like and not have to worry if it sells because it's not feeding your family, it's feeding your soul. There is nothing romantic about starving. You can't eat your conviction for dinner and your kids can't wear your stubborn pride to school.
Once you've sold your book, you'll be presented with a contract. Do not sign the first contract. DO NOT SIGN THE FIRST CONTRACT. Period. Read every single word and go over all of the math with a calculator and a fine tooth comb. Make sure you understand what it all means and ask a lot of questions if you don't understand. Set up a time to meet with the contracts person over the phone to talk about the contract in detail. Ask for specific clarification of anything you don't understand. Ask why you can't have more, why this has to be like this or that, go over every line for specifics. You can negotiate a better deal, but you have to ask for what you want. You need to know what you want first to do so, so you'll need to figure that out for yourself. I can't tell you what you want. Ask to remove anything you don't like, they may say no, but you should ask anyway. Ask for more money, ask for fewer restrictions, pay attention to what rights you are signing away and if you don't want to say, give the TV and movie rights away, ask to remove that clause. Be willing to walk away if the deal isn't good. Even if you are desperate, do not negotiate from a place of desperation. They liked your idea enough to buy it, so you should get paid well for it. The first contract is not a good deal. Trust me.
Making a craft book is a huge undertaking. You will likely be spending countless hours on the designs, instructions, text and concept. Then you will spend countless hours on the editing and organizing. Then you will spend countless hours on PR and Marketing. Make sure you get paid well for your time, but remember that your craft book is only part of the equation for making money, the other part comes from the notoriety you create that you can parlay into other paid opportunities.
I like to take a Sharpee to a printed copy of the contract and start marking out things I don't like. It's fun. Whee! Just keep a fresh copy so you can see what you've slashed out when you talk with the contracts person. Everything is negotiable. You may not get everything you want, but you will have to ask to get it. Ask, ask with conviction. This is not the time to be shy or timid or flaky. Be a diplomat and a pirate. If you don't negotiate a better deal I can guarantee that you won't make much money. If you don't make much money, you have only yourself to blame. The person who creates the contract does so with their best interests at heart, that's called good business. Now you respond with your best interests at heart and get a good deal. Negotiate.
It took me six books to finally get a really good deal. Had I hired an agent, I'd probably have done better sooner. You can also opt to show the contract to a lawyer. You may want to do that because they'll probably find things you won't. Craft books don't make a lot of money, so it can really eat into your royalties if you have to give a percentage away to lawyers and agents, but on the other hand it might make all the difference in your profits. It's a balancing act. You have to make some big decisions, so educate yourself.
Once you've signed the contract, the work begins. You need to take this seriously. Meet your deadlines, do quality work, focus on the tasks at hand. I recommend that you make a plan. Figure out how much time you have, how much work you need to do, double that because things will always take longer than you expected. Once you've signed your contract, been assigned to an editor and you've got a solid plan, it's time to start making a craft book.
I'll be back with some advice about that soon in my fifth installment in How to Write and Publish a Craft Book.