Amy, thanks for inviting me to stop by your blog with my book tour for Ethnic Knitting Discovery. I know you’re in the middle of getting your own book finished up right now, so I thought I’d talk a little bit about the process of writing and publishing a book.
For me, the actual writing is usually one of the the easier part of the process. That’s because I have a background in technical writing, and a lot of experience writing instructions. But figuring out what to say, how much should be included, what drawings I want, and how to organize the material takes a lot of time, even though I have experience in those areas too. That’s because each book is unique and had a different personality. No easy formula works every time. At least not for my books. (If you are writing pattern books where every book has an introduction, 20 projects, a techniques chapter, and a list of abbreviations, that is a lot easier to write. But you have extra design work to do, to come up with 20 drop-dead gorgeous designs!)
Quite a bit of the work is done before you write the book, because you have to send a proposal to a publisher to get a book contract. The proposal includes, among other things, an overview of your book, a table of contents, and outline of each chapter, a sample chapter or pattern, and — for knitting books — sketches, swatches, and descriptions of all of the projects. There are some great books on the market with instructions on how to write a book proposal, and most publishers have author guidelines on their websites telling you exactly what they want in a proposal. All this makes it a little easier to put a proposal package together. But as in all of writing, the thinking is the hard part and you can’t skip that step of the process!
It can take months to find a publisher and negotiate a contract to the point where both the publisher and author are satisfied. For an author, this is a very frustrating part of the process, because you want to move forward and your creativity is primed, but you have to wait to see if the concept of the book changes at all during your talks with your editor.
With Ethnic Knitting Discovery, I had to pare back my list of what to include. And it’s a good thing I did, because the book is 176 pages! I wanted to include information about six or eight different regions and knitting techniques, with four to six sweaters and 10 or 20 charts in each section. My editor told me that I should cut that way back. She wanted me to make a book that is sampler, not a smorgasbord! At first I was disappointed, but as I started to put each chapter together, I was glad we’d decided to cut back. That gave me the ability to use the 1-2-3 format for knitters of different skill levels.
Each project chapter of Ethnic Knitting Discovery has three ways to design a sweater or accessory:
1) The first option, and the way I usually work, is a schematic drawing with a few blanks for the knitter/designer to fill in some measurements and stitch counts. I like to wing it as I knit projects for myself, so this gives me enough information to get started, without having to do too much advanced planning. There’s a quick overview of the steps in the process to give you a working plan.
2) The second option is a spreadsheet that gives you the details of every calculation you’ll need to finish your project. You can fill these out as you go (again, the way I would do it), figuring out each number as you need it. Or you can fill the whole spreadsheet out in advance, and get all of the number crunching out of the way. This is a great option if you have number anxiety! Simply fill out the table (using a calculator if you want!), and you don’t have to think about it any more.
3) The final option is great for those who have not designed a sweater before or for anyone who frequently has to set their knitting aside for long periods of time and might need help remembering what step is next when they come back to it. This is a step-by-step list of instructions for making the whole project, using the numbers from the spreadsheet. The detailed steps in this section match the overview of steps listed on the schematic, so you can use all three parts of the sweater planning toolkit in conjunction if you want to.
Once my editor and I agreed upon the content of the book and I got the chapters written, I had to get the drawings together. My editor, Deb Robson, will be participating in the blog tour next week and she’ll be writing about how she took my crappy pencil sketches, digital photos, and photocopies of drawings I liked in other books, and created the beautiful illustrations in Ethnic Knitting Discovery.
There’s so much work that goes into creating a knitting book, that it would take another book to describe it all. But I hope this gives you a little bit of the flavor of the collaborative process. Even though one author gets her name on the cover, many people are required to create a beautiful book.