Monday, March 05, 2012

Writing & Publishing Beading Books, Part 4

Preparing a Book for Traditional Publishing

If you’ve been reading Parts 1-3, you know that my first book was self-published. Book #2 was published by Interweave Press, with some dissatisfaction on both sides, leading me to stick with self-publishing for books #3-7, the last of which was released in 2008.

Bead Embroidery - Beading on Stiffened Felt
After that, my focus shifted from books to family, as my parents’ health declined. First I lost my dad, and last March, my mom. Those were some tough years. I didn’t have extra energy to produce books. Yes, there were a couple on the back burner (still there), but nothing happened. In fact, I thought about retiring, not from doing beadwork, but from teaching and authoring beading books.

Three months into the grieving process for Mom, a brief message arrived via email. I almost chucked it out. It said, “I am an acquisition editor for Creative Publishing international. Looking for an author for The Complete Photo Guide to Beadwork. Please contact me if you might be interested."

“Yeah right,” I thought, “sounds like one of those typical, run-of-the-mill, blah-formula project books that totally don’t interest me.” To this day, I’m not sure why I replied, cautiously asking for more information.

Bead Weaving - Sculptural Peyote
Good thing I did, because it has given me the opportunity of a lifetime! Turns out CPI is the American branch of Quayside Publishing in London. Once I started researching their line of Complete Photo Guide books (to Jewelry Making, Textile Art, Knitting, Creative Painting, and more), I am totally impressed. All of them emphasize techniques and feature lots of stunning photography. Plus, they are comprehensive, large-format, 250+ pages, and beautifully printed on high-quality paper. To be part of this series would put me in very good company! If you’re not familiar with this series of books, take a look on Amazon, or better yet, check out your local Michael’s, which carries many of them in their book department.

Bead Stringing - Hand Knotting
After seeing the books, I knew THIS would be a chance to write the book I’ve wanted to own ever since I began beading in 1985, a book that could teach me all types of beading, give me information about beads and in-depth methods for designing and finishing my bead projects. It would need to include the following main sections:

About Beads - Trade Beads
1. All about beads ~ giving important tips and information that would help me choose beads for my projects, for example, how to tell the difference between stone, glass and plastic beads, or the difference between fake and real pearls.
2. Bead stringing ~ with “teaching-projects” designed to build skills from one to the next, including Japanese pearl hand-knotting methods and beginning-to-advanced wire working.
3. Bead weaving ~ again with progressive skill-building projects, including chapters on peyote, brick, right angle weave, netting, crochet and knitting with beads.
4. Bead embroidery ~ starting with making a stitch sampler of all the basic, fancy, edge and fringe stitches, and progressing to projects that emphasize various design approaches and base materials, including fabric, stiffened felt, fiber-collage and paper.

Bead Embroidery - Beads & Fiber Arts
Wouldn’t that just be the cat’s meow? My students and customers have been asking for such a book FOREVER. I don’t know why it’s not been done before. But I can assure you, it’s being done now!

I’m getting ahead of myself. So, with excitement and a lot of trepidation about whether I could pull it off successfully, I signed another book-length contract and got to work. A word about contracts. They’re written with the publisher’s best interests at heart, of course, and prevent them from liability. Plus this one essentially gave the publisher the right to re-publish “my book” or any part of it in any country, in any language, in any form without compensation to me. It’s also an unusual contract in that they pay me a flat fee for preparing the book. There are no royalties. I guess this would be good for me if the book were a flop. But I honestly expect sales will exceed their wildest dreams.

Bead Weaving - Netting
For about 2 minutes, I wondered at my sanity. I knew it would require untold hours of work and energy, probably amounting to a wage of about $1 or $2 per hour. But I didn’t care. I wanted to write this book. I wanted to give back to the beading community some of what it has given me in the past 28 years. I wanted to do it for the love of beads and beading. So I signed.

Different publishers work differently with authors. CPi seems very trusting, allowing me to build the book the way I think best, as long as I stay within the general style of the series. They also gave me permission to recruit guest artists to contribute teaching projects in areas where I lack expertise.

Bead Embroidery - Improvisational Design

My first step was to produce a rough outline of the topics and projects that needed to be included. Then, taking a hard look at my own beading skills, I noted those areas where I was lacking and set about finding guest artists. Fortunately I have a great network through the Bead Journal Project, teaching, and blogging. I soon found 9 artists who were willing to help me. They would design a project, write the instructions, take step-out photographs and send everything to me. I would make their project, following their steps, and then edit everything to be consistent in style with my own instructions.

I am much indebted to these wonderful, talented artists! Their contributions round out the book, making it truly comprehensive in a way I couldn’t have done on my own!

Bead Stringing - Complex Wire Working
The deal with CPi is this: their professional photographers take the beauty shots, exquisite pictures of the finished projects and variations. I’m responsible for the step-out pictures. Since I took all the photographs for my previously self-published books, I figured this would be manageable. Well, it was, but not without countless hours of working on the images in Photoshop and frequent re-shoots. It was the most difficult challenge of all to get images that would be up to the high standards set by this series of books.

I had three submission deadlines: Sept. 1, Nov. 30, and Feb. 27, with approximately 1/3 of the text, images and beaded objects due each time. Somehow, thanks to my husband, guest artists, the universe, and internal strength; I met each of the deadlines.

Bead Embroidery - Sampler of Stitches
The art log… Oh boy, that was another challenge. I gave every one of the 597 images and 80 beaded objects sent to CPi a unique number, recording it in the art log (an Excel document). Then I inserted these numbers into the manuscript, indicating placement of each picture within the text. In the end, the printed proof-sheet with each numbered image, the numbered objects, the art log and the manuscripts all have to match… exactly… no missing images, no images without a corresponding placement in the text. Yikes. Let me say, even for a fairly well-organized person, keeping track of everything was another huge challenge.

The final challenge was budget. Apparently the world economic situation is affecting book publishing too. In January, the editor informed me of cuts. Some titles were cut entirely. Thank goodness, mine was only cut in length. Although a few non-essentials had to go, the book remains true to my original concept and fully comprehensive.

Bead Weaving - Knitting with Beads
It’s complete! After 8 months of non-stop work, the final submission went to CPi by FedEx on time. Now it’s in their hands. Their book designers, editors, and photographers will build the layout of the book, edit my manuscript, design the cover, and make it all come true. According to the editor, I will have an opportunity to go over it again before they go to press. Then it will be printed, somewhere in Asia, bound and released late this year. My baby, my dream, my gift of bead love, will be on the shelves at last! Look for the this title: The Complete Photo Guide to Beading by Robin Atkins!

The pictures in this post are little sneak-peeks, parts of photos that will be in the book. I'll show you more later when the layout process is complete.

Bead Embroidery - Quilting with Beads
Are you wondering how it happened that the acquisition editor contacted me in the first place? I did, and so I asked her. She said she searched the internet for bead artists. One of the first things that came up was this blog, Beadlust. She scanned through it, noted my writing skills, noted that I take decent pictures, and noted on the side bar that I’ve written bead books previously. Then she went on to look at other search results, but said she kept thinking about what she’d seen on Beadlust and my website. In the end, I was at the top of her list. And since I said yes, the rest is history.

In this case, as in co-authoring with Amy Clarke (see Part 2, here), I got lucky. I didn’t seek a publisher; they came to me. Luck means being in the right place at the right time; it also means being true to your passion and being public with it in every way possible… teaching, networking, and the internet.

In the final installment (Part 5) of this series, I’ll list a few tips and conclusions about writing and publishing books. If you’ve considered writing a book, I hope these words will help you to give it a try!


  1. Woohoo for you, your friends and the publisher! I can't wait!!!

  2. What a project...boggles the mind. Good luck with your venture, can't wait to see the book when it comes out. Happy Beading

  3. Anonymous5:48 AM

    How exciting, I can't wait to see this book. What a huge amount of work.

  4. Robin, this has been fascinationg reading and I am thrilled for you! No royalties seems a bit mean considering I am sure it will sell like hotcakes! However, everything comes to those who wait and you deserve this recognition. I can't wait to get my hands on it.

  5. Oh, congratulations on the book. The task sounds daunting, but your photo glimpses are tantalizing and I know it will be beautiful!

  6. Fantastic!!!!!! I'm so happy for you

  7. Great series of articles - I am sure the finished product will be fantastic!

  8. I was surprised at the "no royalties" thing, too. Doesn't seem fair to you.

    But I also understand doing a thing for the love of it. The art project I'm doing now is working with an author, and it's essentially unpaid, for now. Later, when she get published, that could change. But I'm delighted to help! I feel the way you do, it's a way to give back.

  9. This is one heck of a GREAT story, Robin, and I'm so glad you've shared it with all of us. Wow...what a beaded path you've been on - ARE on!!!!

    Your new book is absolutely destined to be a smash hit. How could it be anything but?!?!? I think the publisher is going to be wildly surprised, but dang, shame about the royalties ;>}}

    looking forward to the next installment of this wonderful story...

  10. I have also been waiting for just such a book. I promise to be one of your first customers. Thank you for not retiring!

  11. You have told an amazing story here. Congratulations on your success.


Thanks you for joining the discussion on this post today!