I was in my LQS recently, and the conversation turned to my book and it’s upcoming release. Someone asked me how I got my book published, and I was happy to point her in the right direction, but I also thought I’d answer that question here (more thoroughly, I’ll admit), and give a few links to more information.
Of course, no story is complete around here unless it’s a long one, so you have to have the back story: I started dreaming about writing a quilt book way back in the late 1990s. I actually submitted a proposal to That Patchwork Place/Martingale Publishing in 1998, for a book about my Bargello Blocks technique. I waited a really long time to hear back from them (I didn’t have a clue, and I didn’t want to seem pushy), and finally learned by calling their offices that they had lost my proposal. They eventually found the quilt I submitted with the proposal in their offices somewhere, but the proposal itself never turned up. Discouraging, to say the least, and by that time (months had gone by) I was off in another quilting direction entirely.
I did eventually publish the Inspiration pattern (see quilt at right) through Cafe Press. Another interesting note: Last year a book was released by Krause Publications that’s essentially the same technique (from what I can tell by the cover anyway, you be the judge) of making the Bargello Pattern from blocks. I say this only to point out that it’s interesting that I really did have an idea that might have worked, if I’d pursued it instead of being discouraged, giving up, and going on to other things.
Flash forward to 2002, when I took a trip to Paducah and sat in on a lecture with Barbara Smith, the Executive Editor for AQS Publishing at the time. After the “So you want to write a quilt book” lecture (great lecture, by the way, and AQS still presents these lectures at their shows today), we were invited to stay and chat for a few minutes one-on-one with Barbara if we had ideas for books. I shared my Bargello Blocks quilts with her, and also a picture of Lucille’s Fans (at left), a quilt that I’d designed and was teaching at my local shop at the time. She wasn’t so impressed with Bargello Blocks, but said that if I put a few more quilts like Lucille’s Fans together, I might have something.
I went home renewed, and over the next few years submitted two separate proposals, which were both refused. The first was a pattern book with 10-12 quilts that were similar in quality, style and difficulty level to Lucille’s Fans, but the quilts were deemed “too complicated”, and not aimed at beginners (which they weren’t meant to be anyway). Discouraged (but not beaten) I submitted another proposal with different quilts that were much simpler, yet this proposal was refused as well. I could agree with some of the reasoning Barbara shared in her refusal letters, but it was still discouraging, obviously.
So you may be wondering why I continued to beat on the AQS door at this point. I did consider shopping my two proposals around, but when I went to a couple of other publishers’ websites and looked at their submission guidelines, and got a feel for their “aura” and ways of interacting with prospective authors, quite frankly, I was put off. Their submission guidelines seemed like they would be horribly difficult to write to unless you already were published and completely familiar with the process and the business side of the quilting industry, which I wasn’t. There wasn’t any kind of invitation to call the editor and chat if you had questions or ideas, and in fact, if I remember correctly, in one instance phone calls were specifically discouraged. Put simply, the other guys were inaccessible and intimidating, exactly the opposite of what I was looking for.
AQS has always been open, easy to work with, and accessible, and now, after having been through the majority of the publication process with AQS, I’m thoroughly thrilled that I continued to try. I appreciated being able to talk with Barbara Smith at the quilt show, and she always encouraged me to call her directly whenever I had a book idea, a question, or just wanted to brainstorm or ask for advice, and I did so several times over the years. Even her letters to me that came with refusals of my book proposals were so complimentary of my work, and she encouraged me to submit again, and expressed a belief that we would be working together at some point in the future, it being only a matter of time. The Submission Guidelines at AQS are easy to read and understand, and don’t make you feel like you are clueless because you’ve never had a book published. Go ahead, download them and see for yourself.
Barbara Smith is no longer with AQS, however, Andi Reynolds, the Executive Editor, has continued the tradition of openness and accessibility when working with AQS Publishing. Visit the AQS Publishing blog to read a great post about Being an Author with AQS. I can tell you that every word it says is true. But don’t forget to come back here for Part 2 of this article. I’ll share a few thoughts about the actual submission process, and the things that I think made my proposal for Inchie Quilts attractive to AQS.
For more about writing a quilt book, see Want to Write a Quilt Book (Part 2)!