Want to Write a Quilt Book? (Part 2)

Want to Write a Quilt Book? @ Fabric Bias

So where was I? Part 2 of this article got preempted by various things, so now my thoughts are a bit scattered, which is what I get for not writing it right after I’d finished Part 1 while I was on a roll! So what was it that I said I would talk about in Part 2 again? Hang on while I go check… … … Ah, there it is: “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.” Hmmm. Okay, here we go.

Early in the Inchie development process, I thought the whole concept would make a great book. It was new, it was different, and nobody was out there doing it already (that I knew of). The development process then was naturally geared toward writing a book, and therefore, I took photos of almost everything I did or made, knowing that if the book deal came through, I would need those photos for the technique portions of the book. Note taking was also profuse, so that I could write instructions for individual quilts without having to figure out measurements and such from finished quilts later.

When it came time to write the proposal, I downloaded the Book Proposal Guidelines from the AQS site. I read them dozens of times, and constructed my proposal to include exactly what they asked for plus a few extras that I thought were pertinent to the Inchies subject material. For example, I included the chapter called Basic Inchie Instructions in my proposal, with color photos and laid out exactly as I envisioned it would be in the book, because I wanted to be sure that the book committee would understand how easy it is to make Inchies.

While I was writing, I looked at some of my favorite books in my quilting book library to see how the patterns were written. I included patterning techniques that I liked and those that I thought worked well for me when I was a beginning quilter trying new things. My proposal included diagrams and/or photos of every quilt that I wanted to include in the book, with swatches of the fabrics I planned to use in each quilt and a short description including any notable techniques used in the quilt. When I planned these projects, I included a variety of quilting styles and fabric colors and styles for wider appeal.

Proposal documents

I didn’t see the bigger picture during the proposal-writing process, I just wrote what the guidelines asked for, and put the whole thing together in a concise, well ordered and consistent presentation. It wasn’t until later that I had a light bulb moment and could articulate exactly what that proposal was supposed to do.

When I received an email from my editor asking for “marketing copy”, she sent a sample with the email and she said I could edit at will, or I could start completely fresh and write my own marketing copy. I thought to myself “What should I say? I don’t know how to write marketing copy! What do I say to sell this book?” What I didn’t realize right then was that I’d already sold my book—to AQS! I opened the sample and read it, and most of it was taken directly from verbiage I’d written in my proposal! The work was already done except for a couple of very minor edits.

One of the very first things that the guidelines ask for is a “A summary of the book and its type, e.g., piecing, appliqué or mixed; technique only;pattern only; mixed technique and pattern; traditional; contemporary/art; color/design”. I wrote two short paragraphs to summarize the book as I envisioned it, and these paragraphs later became the marketing copy for the book.

This is, essentially, what your book proposal does: it sells your book to the publisher. Yes, the publishing team will look more closely at your book proposal than a typical quilter who picks up the book in a store would (well, maybe), but the publisher also has to fill in a lot of blanks that the quilter won’t have to. The quilter in the quilt shop gets a color cover, professional photos of the quilts and pretty diagrams inside to help her decide whether to spend $25 on your book; the publishing team gets a beat up mailing envelope, rough, sometimes hand-drawn diagrams and snapshots of the quilts and has to make a decision whether to invest hundreds of man-hours and tens of thousands of dollars to publish and market your book.

Everything you share with the publisher in a proposal should be aimed at selling the book, first to the book committee, and then to readers. Make it as easy as possible for the publisher to make that big money decision about your book. The publisher needs to see that you know your material, that you’re excited about it, that you can write about it and that you can market it. The book committee wants to know that you’re organized, easy to work with, and can write accurate instructions that are easy to understand.

Yes, looking at those submission guidelines and thinking about writing that proposal can be daunting, but it’s not as hard as you think if you know your material, you know what book you’re really writing and you know who you’re writing it for. Knowing those three things will help you write a proposal that will sell. Knowing those three things will not, however, keep you from biting your nails down to stubs waiting to hear from the publisher about your proposal. You’re on your own on that one! 🙂

4 thoughts on “Want to Write a Quilt Book? (Part 2)

  1. I want to say a BIG thank you for writing about your experience. I was contracted by Big Name Publisher for about six months before my contract was canceled due to the current economy. It’s been frustrating and heartbreaking after all the work I put into my book and certainly hard to get back in the saddle again. Now that I’m actively looking for a new publisher, it makes me feel much better to know that I’m not the only one that has had frustrations and found the proposal process daunting.


    1. Hi Jennifer, and welcome! I’m so sorry to hear about your experience with the publishing world, but I’m glad you found these articles helpful. Do keep trying with a different publisher (or publishers); everything happens for a reason!


  2. Thank you so much for writing these two posts! They are so helpful and insightful. The detail is just perfect. I’m very (VERY!) early in my possible book-writing project, and this was so good to read right from the start to have an idea what to expect.


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