Thursday, March 01, 2012

Writing Books about Beading - Part 2

To Be Published – A Dream Come True!
My second book hitched in an odd way on my first book. Remember (Part 1), I mentioned contacting publishers about re-publishing One Bead at a Time (after the test run of 300 copies)? One of those I wrote to was Interweave Press, publisher of several beading books and the successful Beadwork Magazine. Like the others, they did not respond. And when I called them, I was told they were “doing their own bead embroidery book, in house, no outside author needed, thank you very much!”

About a year after self-publishing One Bead at a Time, I was hired by the Rocky Mountain Bead Society (Denver area) to teach several workshops, including a two-day improv bead embroidery class. One of my students was Amy Clarke, already an awesome bead embroider in her own right. Unknown to me at the time, she was also the editor of one of Interweave’s other magazines, Spin Off, and the chosen author for their intended book about bead embroidery.

Well, Amy and I really hit it off in class. I recall after class going somewhere with her for dinner and talking our heads off… about beads and beading, of course. It was one of the most exhilarating times of my life – to share our methods, inspirations, philosophies and passions around beads… loooong after our dinner plates were cleared away!

The next day she told me about her job at Interweave and her soon to be written book about bead embroidery. She said after taking my class and our bead talk, she wanted me to be her co-author on the book. Picture me jumping out of my shoes with joy! The next step was for her to get the editor’s approval, which entailed a meeting in the big office. Thank goodness Amy did most of the talking, as I was just a wee bit nervous (understatement). Interweave has a mighty impressive spread, located in a stately, historic bank building in Loveland, Colorado.

 I got the job, and was ecstatic about it! I hardly read the contract (some 20 pages of it in small type, as I recall). The bottom line was Amy and I would split the up-front incentive, the mid-way payment, and the royalties equally. I'm thankful to and blessed by Amy for her willingness to share with me half the "glory" and pay for writing this book.

It was our avowed dream to write the bead embroidery bible, the book that would be timely forever, and never be allowed to go out of print, one of the must-have books in every beader’s library. We wanted to share everything we knew about bead embroidery. We loved that our approaches and methods were so different. We couldn’t have been happier.
The best thing about working with an established publisher is their staff resources, such as professional artists who can take a so-so drawing and turn it into a beautiful illustration, a photography department with the highest-hi-tech equipment and lighting, layout designers who know how to make every page look its best! When I self-publish a book, I either have to hire these professionals (completely out of my budget, and how would I even find the right ones?) or do it myself, which is what I’ve done with my books with obviously not-as-slick results.

The other wonderful thing about working with an established publisher is their marketing network. They create a dummy (short and somewhat tentative version) of the book, long before it is released, and take advance orders from the big distributors. They advertize and promote and keep the sales flowing after the initial flush of orders.
If I remember correctly, it took us about 5 months to finish our part of the book. At the end of that time, we still had regard and respect for each other. But not everything was roses. In the publisher’s eyes, Amy was the good, cooperative author; I was the difficult, argumentative author.

Here’s what I think happened. Maybe I was a little cocky with the success of One Bead at a Time. Maybe I thought I knew better than the editor what the title of the book should be and what should be on the cover. Maybe I thought our copy editor, who changed at least one thing in almost EVERY sentence of our book, was all wrong. Maybe I fought too hard to have it my way. So, in the end, the book is really good, but my career as an author for Interweave was over.

Later I submitted two beading book ideas to them. “Not interested.” Yet, in a few years, those two ideas grew into books published by Interweave, but written by other authors.

The dissatisfaction went both ways at the time. I vowed I’d never write another book under the iron fist of a publisher. If I was going to write something, I wanted artistic control over layout, photography, cover design and title!

However, as the years rolled along, I’ve become less cocky and more respectful of publishers and their editors. They know a thing or two. Beaded Embellishment has enjoyed great success. I believe it is currently in its fourth printing, at 10,000 copies per reprint. Amy and I are still receiving royalty checks twice a year… despite the title I didn’t like and the cover (which now I love, but then thought was “lame”).

Somehow, I changed my mind, deciding that if the opportunity to write a traditionally published book ever came my way again, I’d play it differently… be more cooperative, more respectful, less assertive. Although I didn’t expect to get a chance, in June, 2011 it came my way. But that’s the story for the final part of this series of posts.

Between Beaded Embellishment and my new book (release scheduled for winter, 2012), I self-published one book that failed miserably and five reasonably successful ones. Read about them in Part 3.


  1. What a wonderful story of how you met your co-author for your first published book! I love meeting people who are as excited about beads as I am.

    This was a really interesting post to read -- you've brought up some good points about the benefits of traditional publishing!

  2. Robin, I first came to know about you from your self published books and I have them all and love their clarity and their "you-ness". I also have your book with Amy Clark and I must say I chortled at the thought of you taking on Interweave about the "lame" cover which stands out on the shelf! I can hardly wait to get my hands on the next brilliant instalment. Thanks.

  3. That is the book that started my obsession with bead embroidery. I love it! And all your other books too!

  4. Hey!! Welcome back! I didn't realize you were posting again so what a pleasant surprise to see ALL of these fabulous posts telling us your story!

    The book experience sounds fantastic. And your latest bjp is wonderful. I have gotten to know Christy through you and I just think she's fabulous. I thoroughly enjoy her blog, her thoughts and her photography.

    Selfishly, I'm squealing with delight that you've made it over the mountain and can play again!!

  5. Robin you do yourself a disservice thinking your self published book wasn't as 'slick' as the big publishing house stuff - it's an awesome book! It's just as clear and beautiful as any 'pro' book, IMO. Many thanks for making it available :)

    I'm rather taken aback at this: "...those two ideas grew into books published by Interweave, but written by other authors". HUH??? So Interweave basically STOLE your proposal ideas. Seriously? If that's the case, that's disgusting of them.

    Anyway, congrats on your success with the books! Glad that it has all worked out well in the end :)

  6. To Marie Costa ~ Yes, it did seem to me at the time that Interweave "stole" my ideas. But one never knows for sure... Other people could just as easily have come up with the same idea. Either way, it's OK now with me. I never set out to be a "famous author of beading books." I just want a way to share some of the things I know and or that they get shared somehow. Does that make any sense?

  7. To all ~ Thanks so much for your supportive words about my books. I really appreciate it and am grateful to hear they have a positive influence.

    To Susan ~ Good to hear from you! I'm glad to be back to blogging. I'll be over to see you soon!

  8. Thanks for sharing your first installment, I love your books and all that you share in them. Keep up the good work. You are an inspiration. Happy Beading

  9. Congrats on finally getting published by a professional publisher.. how exciting.


Thanks you for joining the discussion on this post today!