the improv approach to publishing a book: chapter 3

[Catch up on previous installments: Chapter 1 and Chapter 2]

The publishing biz can be completely random…some might say flaky…or even cruel.  You can talk to just about any author out there — successful or thwarted — and he or she will confirm this.

But what the hell — we were going to try to sell this sewing book idea anyhow.

Luckily, I had an inside connection, because I knew a book editor at a very large New York publishing house (which one? hint:  “the publishing biz can be completely random”). She didn’t work on sewing books, but she sent me the name of an editor who did.  I wrote an initial note and a one-page synopsis with a few tantalizing photos, just to see if she’d like to have a look.

Amazing! — she asked us to send the proposal. After proofing it a zillion times and adding our resumes, photos, etcetera, we sent it off to her in a big zipped-up PDF file. It was August 2009.

She got back to us quickly, saying she might be interested, asking lots of questions, asking if we could send more project photos and more details so that she could present it at an editorial meeting in early September. Oh, what a sweaty time! I canceled my family’s planned Labor Day camping trip. We sewed, shot more photos, wrote more copy, assembled more info…all in a week or so, in order to meet her deadline.

But wouldn’t you know it, the meeting was postponed. And when the next one rolled around, she didn’t feel the timing was right….Eventually, sometime in October, she called to say that she’d presented the book, that her boss and others at the meeting loved it, and we were in business. The big-deal New York City publisher wanted to buy our book!


We waited for the contracts…and they didn’t come. The holidays started to loom. Editors at big publishers get very distracted around the holidays. Gin-soaked office parties? Year-end budget meetings? Who knows…in any case, we waited and waited for the contracts to come.

In early January 2010, we finally got the editor on the phone. There was a sad note in her voice. “My boss thinks the book’s focus is too narrow, and she doesn’t want it after all. I’m so sorry.”

Can I say that we were pretty crushed? Very crushed!

But then we realized…that was only one publisher — the very first one we tried — and we had almost made a sale. We knew what we had to do…get back out there, and fast.

Stay tuned for our next installment: The Other Fish in the Sea

This entry was posted by Debra.

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