And sometimes you just know: It is time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.
~ Meister Eckhardt
I'm sitting at the table, fondling the rough proofs of The Joy of Color. Such an incredible feeling, seeing the nearly end result of so many years of effort (still on track for a September delivery).
When you come close to completion of a major project it's easy to think that each step that got you there was planned and inevitable, but an honest backwards look confirms that the process is anything but linear. And when you are looking in from the outside the process can feel intimidating, like something unobtainable to a mere mortal, but I made a lot of mistakes along the way, wasting time, effort, and money and I had to confront a number of emotional sticking points as well.
In class I often say, "Your sweater will not change the world, but the process of creating it will change you." That's how I feel about creating The Joy of Color.
I'm going to spend the next few blog entries talking about self-publishing: Why did I choose this route? What are the advantages and disadvantages? How do you get started? How long does it take? What support to you need? What would I do differently? What does it cost? How do you market your book?
Why a book?
I had developed a step-by-step method for designing very personal and complex (or simple!) Fair Isle garments, and I'd been teaching workshops for several years based on this method. After each workshop I would refine and expand my handout until it was the size of a small book. At the same time people were asking me if I would come and teach on the east coast (I'm in California) or in England or New Zealand, but the costs of having a teacher with tons of materials travel are difficult to absorb.
So I thought: Why not expand my handout to include all the stuff I talk about in the workshop, and try to give people who can't come the experience of being there? For better or worse, "How hard can it be?" is my default position.
- In high school I was the assistant editor of the yearbook; after Gingko was born I returned to the University of Washington to earn a certificate in Technical Writing and Editing from the School of Engineering and began a 20-year career in technical and production editing (I am the world's worst proofreader, though--sigh). Plus, I'm a major reader, as anyone who has been to my home can attest. So the world of creating books wasn't foreign to me. Plus I had some of the page layout skills needed.
- I'm a rather diffident and shy person--I'm not good at marketing myself--and deep down I thought that if any publisher had been interested they would have approached me, as I knew they had approached any number of my colleagues in the fiber world.
- I envisioned a book for the kind of knitter who is obsessed with manipulating color and pattern, who is fascinated by a discussion of how to make, say, an easy no-flare vest arm band, who wants to explore something new. Who welcomes creative challenges. I didn't want to have a collection of patterns--I wanted a book for the person who appreciates patterns but feels driven to make their own. Few publishing houses would be likely to gamble on such a work (I guessed--I never contacted any publishers).
- I wanted to write a book that would have lasting value and not be relegated to the remainder table after a year or two.
- Modern publication methods make it easier than ever to create, print, and distribute your own book. It's a natural evolution from "Sure, I can design my own complex sweaters" to "Sure, I can create my own book!"
- I enjoy a challenge and love to learn new things, so self-publishing seemed like it would be fun. Trust me: there's lots to learn in this process.
- I wanted to earn money from my work. Traditional publication methods do not result in much payback for the author.
- Most importantly, I had a very strong vision of what I wanted The Joy of Color to include and how I wanted it to feel: fun, accessible, detailed, encouraging. I didn't want to compromise my vision.
Arguments for Going the Traditional Route
- Although the author does not earn much from each sale, the publisher carries the financial and practical burdens of editing, photography, design, printing, storage, distribution, and marketing. This is HUGE and can't be underrated overrated [a good editor would have caught this before I hit Publish! It's hard to edit your own work.]
- Many of us need the external deadlines imposed by the traditional publication route.
- The editorial compromises in the traditional process often result in a much better book.
- Although self-publishing is easier than ever, the details of the process can be murky and difficult to puzzle out.
Next week: How I Started
P.S. I've decided to start responding to comments in the comment section rather than privately as I've been doing--please check back!