How to write a book!

Well yesterday was a day I had begun to feel would never come! My first book finally launched on Create and Craft TV, and to my astonishment 1000 signed copies sold out in 15 minutes. After that the rest of the hour long show passed in a blur! So now it's over I thought I would tell you about the journey my little quilt book has taken!


I have had this book in my head for about five years. I have been demonstrating sewing and quilting techniques on Create and Craft TV (a UK shopping channel devoted completely to crafts) for over 6 years and during that time I have spoken to lots and lots and LOTS of viewers - many who are complete beginners. With the closure of many local sewing shops, it has restricted access to workshops in their local area, and not everyone is comfortable with the modern answer - "Google it". People still wanted books! And they wanted books for complete beginners - so that's what I wrote! It is designed to be used as a workbook - with lessons rather than projects, and it works through common ruler shapes - squares, triangles and curves. Hence the name "Quilt School". But enough about the book, (which is incidentally still available from Create and Craft  exclusively until 15th September - and then on Amazon from 16th September :) )!

So from a standing start 5 years ago, I added writing my book to my long list of life goals. I thought about it, planned it and wished for it. But wishing for someone to come and offer you a book deal is not going to help! So I was feeling despondent when I visited the USA in January 2017 for Creativation - the craft trade show in Phoenix. I couldn't work out why things weren't coming to my door after I was working so hard. But after a few long chats with my US roomie and prolific author Carolyn Schulz I soon realised what my problem was! I wasn't actually telling anyone who published books that I wanted to write a book. Doh! So I came home with renewed vigour and determined to knock on some doors! The next month was Stitches - the trade show at the NEC - so I grabbed a ticket and made appointments with two major publishers who were attending the event. I wrote a short 1 page document about who I am and what the book contains. I provided chapter headings and some pictures of the planned projects (sketches and EQ8 software can be surprisingly helpful at this point!).

Armed with my print outs, I attended the meetings and both companies made interested noises and promised to get back to me. Les than a week later I  delighted to hear that both companies liked my idea and would like to take it further. So now I had to choose. To be honest, my decision was pretty easy because one of the publishers was Search Press! It also helped that the commissioning editor included a copy of their Author's handbook which was choc full of information about writing a full proposal, and had an author's questionnaire which tells them what they need to know about your book and about you. So I completed the forms and sent it back with a much more detailed proposal than my humble 1 page original pitch. I thanked the other company for their interest rather than leaving them dangling - you never burn any bridges in this industry!

The next step was to wait to see if I got through the commissioning stage. This is a big meeting that everyone at Search Press attends to pick the books for the following year. They get so many book proposals, they cant possibly do them all. So in April I had the fabulous news that my book had been chosen! Yay! Then there is lots more to do, with exchanging contracts before you really start on the book. Next I went to the Search Press offices to finalise the Flat Plan. This is a huge document laid out on A3 sheets of paper that details exactly what is going to go on every page. This is the detail - there was no real way to start writing without it. So I spent the day with my editor Lyndsey and the commissioning editor Katie as we decided the order of the pages, and exactly what would go where. It was a very long day, and some things got dropped while other things I hadn't thought of were added. So in July, once everything was finalised, I sat down and started the book properly.
Time to get stitching
Many hours were spent making, writing, re making, and rewriting everything. Items were made more than once to ensure that the requirements were correct, and measurements were double, treble, quadruple checked. I began to think it was never going to be done. My Dad was terminally ill at the time, and much of the beginning of the book was written in the hospice. I would read what I had written, and he would correct my grammar! Dad passed away in October and the book deadline was two days after his funeral in November so it was a very emotional time. But I got it done!

Next step is photography! This involved 5 days in total at the publishers with a photographer and my editor as we photographed every step by step picture in the book (and there are a lot.)
Editor Lyndsey checking her notes.

Checking the image is right

Photographing the supplies

Some of those supplies
So there were 3 days of photography in December and 2 more in January while the big lifestyle type of images were taken by a different photographer off site. Then followed months of editing, returning, rewriting, rereading as the book really took shape. Having the pictures in place made a huge difference because you really can see how the finished item is going to look. Proof readers, book designers as well as my editor made suggestions as I tweaked and tweaked and tweaked. Eventually, in March, the book was finally ready and sent off to be turned into a real live book. Now there was nothing else I could do! It was quite an emotional moment as I sent off the last email to say I was happy with the results.

Fast forward to August - the first copies arrive. It was a huge moment when I finally held my book in my hands. I looked at it, smelt it, stroked it - and shed a little tear too.
Oh My!
Next it was a trip down to the publishers in Tunbridge Wells to sign over 1000 copies of my book. That was a VERY long day - with nearly 6 hours round trip on the train, but the guys at Search Press kept me topped up with coffee and I got it done. Though 4 Sharpies didn't survive the experience!
That's quite a few books!
Fast forward again to yesterday - Create and Craft launch day. It felt like such a long time coming but it was finally happening and I was beyond excited. I had a fabulous team with Joe Remblance presenting my show, and two of my favourite behind-the-scenes girls Georgina producing and Sam directing.
The first 1000 copies sold out in 15 minutes - so it goes to show there is a definite need for books for novices!
As you can see, producing a book takes an army of people and a ton of work, but it is totally worth it! Thank you to everyone who took part, and to everyone who bought the book - I value your support.

If you have read this far (well done) and you are interested in writing a book, remember that the most important step is to tell people that you want to do it. Write a proposal - send it to publishers. If you don't get accepted the first time, refine your idea and re submit later. I don't think my first book idea would have been accepted - it did take years of thinking about it, changing it, working out what it was I was trying to say before it was ready. But in the end you do have to open your mouth and tell someone it is what you want to do. Otherwise they will never know!

3 comments

  1. Congratulations I cant wait for mine to come - I love your blog - we never imagine how many personnel or hard work is involved - you are an inspiration xx

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  2. My copy is on order from Amazon. Yay!

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  3. well done Sarah, cannot wait for mine to be delivered xx

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