This is a 4-part series where I share the process of writing my first ever Crepe Paper Flower book. Click on the links below to read the whole series.
PART 1: Finding a publisher and receiving my first book contract (this post)
PART 1: To quote my favourite guilty pleasure TV Show The Bachelor, "Let the journey begin!"
A snapshot of my book proposal. I designed it on Keynote on my Macbook.
After that crazy whirlwind pandemic year that was 2020, I decided to embark on a new adventure for 2021: I wanted to publish a flower-making craft book.
Truthfully, it's a pretty long story on how this decision came to be. I'll spare you the details, but to summarize: I was in a bad place emotionally, and while I was praying and chatting with God about a completely different matter, he shared a vision of this book with me, and asked me "Why not give this a shot?"
How curious it was, the timing! Publishing a book had always been a fantasy to me, and I'm sure many of us as artists had the same dream too. Yet, it was a fantasy I didn't take too seriously, it laid in the back of my mind under a pile of other dreams as I witnessed other paper florists reveal their books. I didn't think it was possible unless a publisher approached me first. Nonetheless, on that New Year's Eve, I felt like God was telling me to go for it... and so I did.
So here I am, documenting the entire process, from the very beginning until the book materializes (if it does). Most of these posts were written in real-time, and I came back at the end only to elaborate on certain details and 'touch up' the text.
If you're an aspiring craft book author, I hope you find it somewhat useful, and if not, at least somewhat entertaining - enjoy the journey!
Pages and pages of research!
I began my journey with RESEARCH with the goal of putting together a short list of publishers who appealed to me. Mainly, I was looking at their craft releases and design aesthetic. I knew I wanted an overseas publisher who would have a larger audience, so I targeted US and UK publishing houses. Here's some things I did for my research:
I studied each publisher's website to get a feel for their brand, business goals, and their priorities (for instance, some publishers only featured Asian authors, or some focused more on cookbooks rather than crafts even though they published both categories)
I went to my local bookstore to see what each publishing house offered
I flipped through the books to study their designs, layouts, cover designs, and overall aesthetics
I visited the Instagram pages of each publisher to see how they marketed their authors.
I also studied the Crepe Paper Flower books that I already owned (i.e. competing titles) and made a list of how my book would differ from them.
From there, I compiled my top choices, studied their submission criteria and prepared my proposals. The proposals I sent out were generally pretty similar: I shared about who I am, what I envisioned for the book, who the target audience was, etc. Plus, I included competing titles and sample chapters. Most publishers wanted a text document, so I would send that, plus an extra link to a Keynote presentation I had prepared (with much more visuals), just as a bonus.
FUN FACT: The final book does look quite different from the one I proposed... though most of the projects are the same! For instance, I initially wanted to include a story-telling element in the book, where I share personal stories linked to each flower. I'm glad we didn't go with that idea, because it was hard enough writing the instructions!
Once all the proposals were ready, on January 21st, I took a big leap of faith into the unknown and emailed 5 publishers.
Something that my research revealed was that the standard time for publishers to respond was 2-3 months, so it was a total surprise when one publisher emailed me within 15 minutes of me clicking 'send' on my proposal. I was stunned to get a response so quickly, I thought it was one of those auto-replies. What a miracle that it wasn't!
The email was a short one from a lovely lady called Ame from the publisher David & Charles. She shared that she liked the proposal but she had to discuss it with her team, which was great validation and a very exciting email to read!
Spoiler alert: David and Charles did offer me a book contract, but that wasn't until much later in March after more discussions and negotiations...
FUN FACT: None of the other publishers responded, except one who funnily replied with a rejection letter on October 1st, a good 9+ months after my first email. Receiving that rejection as I was going through the drafts of my book was pretty amusing, I must say.
I had 2 video calls with my publisher this month and it was nerve-wrecking at first. While it was very exciting to chat with the publisher, I still had no formal offer. We were still in the process of aligning our visions for the book, plus we had to consider all the factors such as costs, pricing, page numbers... basically all the nitty-gritty bits.
The big concern revolved around the number of projects - I was asked to squeeze in a lot into a small space! Also, they wanted was MORE BUGS! They needed a UPS - a unique selling point, to set me apart from the other books in the same market. This meant a little more work on my part to design more insects (I had initially only offered 3 bugs in my proposal).
Though I was nervous (what if my new bugs weren't good enough?), it was a great challenge for me as an artist, and I'm very glad I got to create new additions to our bug collection (I'm especially proud of my new Beetles and Io Moth!)
My box of beetles for the shoot that came much later. I would have never thought of making beetles if not for the push from my publisher!
Finally, after a long month of uncertainty and negotiations, I received my contract and signed my book deal officially on 31st March 2021.
My book contract. I signed it online but printed out a copy for my own records.
The contract consisted of 13 pages, and it outlined some key things:
The title, price, and number of pages of the book
Timeline for the book (i.e. key submissions dates and publication dates)
Breakdown of my Advance on Royalties (which is basically how much the publisher would pay me before the book hits the market. This was done in portions, e.g. I would get paid a portion when I signed the contract, when I submitted the manuscript, and when the book is published)
Breakdown of Royalties (which is what percentage I would earn from each sale of the book)
How many Author's Copies I would receive
Overall it was a pretty straightforward legal document. I got my dad to help me read it over, just as a second pair of eyes. When I finally signed and submitted it, it was a pretty amazing feeling... With one signature, I officially embarked on an 8-month long roller-coaster process of writing the book! Needless to say, I had A LOT OF WORK ahead of me...