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PCC Chats With
Suzanne Tourtillotte
Ceramics Editor, Lark Books

Click Here to Download a Zipfile of this Chat

June 5, 2002:
SUZANNE: Welcome to the "How to Get Your Craft Book Idea published at Lark Books" chat. Sunni, thanks for asking me to participate.
SUNNI: Trust me, this is our pleasure!
SUZANNE: Somebody spray me with a question...
JENNYPAT puts on her learning hat
SUNNI: First, I would like to thank you for your time and mention your book is a resounding success in the clay circles!
SUZANNE: So happy to hear that!
BYRD: Ok, I have a question: What's the first step in getting a book published?
SUZANNE: Well, not to be too cute...first you need a Great Idea.
SUNNI: A new twist on an old idea or something needed or new?
SUZANNE: As far as ideas go, we're happy to do books on "old" topics, as long as you have an approach that is new.
BYRD: Well, are most craft books nowadays on projects or techinques?
SUZANNE: Lark Books is undergoing an expansion of its scope, so we're open to a lot of topics.
BYRD: Who would we contact with our idea?
SUZANNE: Your best bet is to send it to Carol Taylor, Publishing Director. See our website for the mailing address.
RIA: Are you also open for foreigners??
SUZANNE: All our books are technique-oriented. We show people how to make beautiful and useful things with photos and text. For instance, we've done a basic book on polymer clay, but we haven't done one on, say, figures and dolls in pc (polymer clay).
BYRD: Thank you.
RIA: Suzanne, does Lark books also have books about sculpting fantasy figures??
SUZANNE: Sometimes the thing to watch out for, Ria, is a too-specific idea.
BYRD: Like?
RIA: You mean only to handle one item??
SUNNI: So a bunch of ideas or variations of a specific idea is recommended?
SUZANNE: We have to balance between a new approach and something so narrow that our market would be teeny.
SUNNI: So, if I'm doing a book on dragons and fantasy figures, I would need several varieties? Or several artists?
SUZANNE: Absolutely. Our authors usually have access to a wide range of artists and styles.
RIA: How many pages is a book normally from you?
SUZANNE: Most of our books are 128 pages, but the Weekend Crafter series is 96.
RIA: Thanks. :)
JACQUELINEGIKOW: Are you saying someone should submit different samples for a book or are you saying you want to see different ideas about how to write about a particular topic?
SUZANNE: No, we're interested in YOUR approach to a particular topic.
SUNNI: Ok - what do I need to do before I approach Carol? Do I need to have the book practically written with pictures?
SUZANNE: First, we like to get a "query letter."
SUNNI: This would ask if you have the topic and propose an idea?
RIA: So first we send a letter explaining who we are, what we do, with some pictures of our work??
JACQUELINEGIKOW: Does that mean you want what publishers usually call a "proposal" with the chapters outlined and sample chapters?
SUZANNE: A query is a one-page letter describing the book you want to do, being as specific as you can. Tell us about your background (but don't send a resume yet). We give careful consideration to careful queries. Alas, we just don't have enough staff to respond to one-line emails such as "Wanna do a book on photography?"
SUNNI: Kind of a test of our writing skills?
SUZANNE: Yes, Sunni, You're right. If we're interested in the query, we'll ask you for a complete proposal.
SUNNI: Do you spell out what is required in a proposal or are we supposed to know that?
RIA: I am from Holland, Europe, and would that be a problem to make a book with you??
SUZANNE: No, as long as your English is good, we can often work something out.
RIA: Oh boy, that is starting to sound GOOD. :)
BYRD: What is different about a complete proposal? Pictures, et al?
SUZANNE: The proposal is a big undertaking. Let's take it one piece at a time.
BYRD: Ok.
SUNNI: Thankyou!
SUZANNE: First, a table of contents. The TOC tells us what you have inmind for the content of your book. All our TOCs look similar: an introduction, a bsics chapter, projects. Then comes the introduction. Here's where you, as the author, tell the reader what to expect once they get into the book. Again, study a few Lark Books to get some ideas of the scope on an introduction. How're we doing so far? Any questions about the query or the first two pieces of the proposal package?
BYRD: You are good at explaining.
SUZANNE: Thanks!
RIA: No questions. It is very clear to me!
SUNNI: Makes sense to me so far!!!
SUZANNE Okay, next is the sample chapter. Usually, this is going to be a set of sample instructions.
SUNNI: Ok, just a snippet?
SUZANNE: We want to know if you know how to tell other people to do what you know how to do, so this is important.
JACQUELINEGIKOW: How deeply do you want an author to get into a topic? In a chapter, I mean.
SUZANNE: I guess I ought to clarify.
SUNNI: Thanks, I'm a complete ignorant at this!
SUZANNE: The basics chapter is where you introduce the material, talking about its qualities. Then go on to discuss the appropriate tools. Finally, you describe basic techniques. For instance, I'm working on a book about Precious Metal Clay right now. The author was very careful to describe thoroughly the different formulas, then went on to talk about how to use them, (fire them, etc.). Finally, she shows lots of different techniques, from the basics of rolling it out flat and modeling it to how to apply slip with a trowel, how to make repairs and how to fire and finish it. She threw in a lot of texturing techniques, too.
RIA: So you describe in there how to make a ball and you refer to it when you are creating the lessons?? So you don't have to do it over and over again in the book???
SUZANNE: Yes, usually something like that.
RIA: Ok. :)
SUZANNE: Later on, after you've signed a contract, your editor helps you organize and arrange the material.
BYRD: Phew!
SUZANNE: You think the proposal is a lot of work, wait 'til you start writing the book and making all the projects!
BYRD: LOL
JACQUELINEGIKOW: How does one estimate how many words the mss would be for the proposal?
SUZANNE: We help you figure that stuff out, like word counts and such.
JACQUELINEGIKOW: Oh, good. I am so not good at that.
SUNNI: Ok - so now back to the proposal. It's a several page document then. An opening letter, table of contenst with a sample of what you plan to print with pictures and text.
SUZANNE: You don't really need pictures at this point. Doing a book with Lark is a team project. Unless you're a top-notch photographer, we'll be photographing your work for you.
BYRD: Thank heavens!
SUZANNE: LOL
SUNNI: Ok, good. But - what if we're from out of country? How do we get to your photographers? Or do they come to us?
SUZANNE: Well, if you're in Australia, we might want to work it out with a local photographer. There are lots of factors we take into account about the photography thing? For instance, our PMC author is from Colorado. We flew her here for the photography shot, where she demonstrated various basic techniques.
JACQUELINEGIKOW: Do you provide a shipping budget?
No, no shipping budget; just the advance against royalties. This is the money that will help you write the book.
BYRD: You are in New York?
SUZANNE: No, we're in Ashevill, NC. Sterling Publishers (NY) bought us 3 years ago, but we're still the same humble craft publishers we've always been. ;)
JACQUELINEGIKOW: So, if you are doing the photography, we are responsible for shipping the items to you?
Depends. If your projects are huge, we may come to you. That is, our photographer, our art director, and our editor.
BYRD: Do you ever send folks on tour to promote their books? Like to Carol Duval or such?
SUZANNE: No, we don't do the show circuit, but sometimes our authors end up on Carol's show. Actually, Sterling is like our own private distributor. The are the sales and distribution end of things. They have sales people who get books out there, and who send promo copies, and who attend huge book conferences to pitch the titles. They get our titles into Book-of-the-Month Club and such.
BYRD: wow.
JACQUELINEGIKOW:  How? If you are not promoting, how do authors end up on Carol's show?
RIA: I think you have to contact the Show yourself, Jacqueline??
SUNNI: In a prior chat with Donna Kato, that's what she recommended.
SUZANNE: Back to the proposal?
BYRD: Yes, please.
SUNNI: Please!
SUZANNE: Okay. Next we want to see photos of your work. Slides are best. We love to see actual work, too.
BYRD: Are slides mandatory?
SUNNI: Do you accept digital photography?
SUZANNE: We're still skittish ondigital imagery. Traditional film is best.
BYRD: If we get this far in the process, can we bring them to you in person? (I live close to you.)
SUZANNE: Byrd, sure, you can hand-deliver. Next, we'd like a resume.
SUNNI: Here's a sticky par. What if you're unpublished?
SUZANNE: We also want to see tear sheets, if you've been published before.
SUNNI: What is a tear sheet?
SUZANNE: Some people who send proposals have been writing for craft magazines for some time. A tear sheet is an actual page torn from a book or magazine. They're usually provided by the publisher. A color copy is fine, too.
RIA: Why a resume? So you can boast about the author?
SUNNI: Or so you cna determine our experience level with writing?
SUZANNE: The resume lets us know how much experience you have with your topic. Many of our authors are teachers (schools and/or workshops). Every part of the proposal lets us know how thorough, experienced, and careful you can be. These are important qualities for book-writing! Almost done with the proposal list!
BYRD: No wonder you like working with Irene Dean! She is very careful and experienced.
SUZANNE: Irene is a super author.
SUNNI: So, attention to detail is a valuable asset.
SUZANNE: You're so right, Sunni!
RIA: Hmmm. Well, I have teached sculpting classes for 6 years but I am never been published!
SUZANNE: We like to work with first-time authors.
BYRD: Really? Isn't that unusual in the publishing field?
SUZANNE: Yes, I believe so. Lark provides a unique professional opportunity for top-level crafters.
BYRD: Excellent.
RIA: Sounds good to me. :)
JACQUELINEGIKOW: I think if a company is willing to work with a beginner, it means they believe that the best people aren't necessarily only the visible ones.
SUZANNE: That's a good point.
SUNNI: Being craft oriented gives you a whole different way of approuching the idea of authors. First-timers are more likely to approach you?
SUZANNE: Well, now that you have parts 1-6 of the proposal, it's time to do a little research.
BYRD: Research on what?
SUNNI: Research! that being! ??
SUZANNE: We'd like you to let us know that you're aware of the competition, in a sense. So, you can go to a bookseller's website and do a keyword search on your topic. That will give you a list of all the books already out there. It will help us know whether you're breaking new ground, topic-wise. So the list becomes a part of the proposal.
SUZANNE: Finally, we want to know from you, in a cover letter, how your book would differ from all the others already done. It really, really helps to look inside other Lark Books. If you go to a bookstore and spread several of them out, you're going to see some similarities in how we approach the craft publishing biz.
BYRD: What if it is new ground? Is that good or bad?
SUZANNE: New ground is new ground. Not to be flip, we're open to new ideas!
BYRD: Phew!
SUZANNE: Yes, it's a year's work of work! There are other ways to get some experience with us.
JENNYPAT: Are most of your books geared toward the beginner in crafting? Or do you do books geared to more advanced crafters?
SUZANNE: You know, Jenny, we have both. I'll talk about that, then go on to the "other ways" thing. If the topic is the first time we're publishingit, we're going to want a beginner's book. Beginner-level books sell very well, and let us know the level of interest in the subject (though we have our market research to rely on, too).  Even the advanced-level topics have elements of introductory material in them, for the most part. I'm the ceramics editor here, and we've done lots of different kinds of books on that topic, so we're open to more specialized-type titles now.
RIA: Is it not possible to make a beginners to advance book???
SUNNI: All levels in one book, Ria?
RIA: Yes, Sunni!! To start simple but getting more difficult the more you get into the book!
SUZANNE: Yes, but we mostly cover beginner-to -intermediate. So a book on, say, faux finishes in polymer clay would still introduce the reader to basic handling instructions.
RIA: Okay. :)
SUZANNE: Other questions about this before moving on to "other ways?"
SUNNI: So far, so good for me. Anyone else?
BYRD: I'm good.
RIA: Me, too. :) Having way to much ideas already!!
JENNYPAT: I am good.
SUZANNE: Okay. First, if you're a general crafter, we're always looking for "designers."
SUNNISAN: Designers? As in folks with new twists on things?
SUZANNE: A designer is someone who does a few projects for a book on a topic. They design the projects and write instructions. There's not much money in it, but you can get your feet wet this way.
RIA: Hmm. Sounds interesting!!
SUZANNE: Check out our website often for these kinds of opportunities. Look for the link to "Designer Submissions."
BYRD: No kidding?
CORGI: Now, that sounds like something I can do.
SUNNI: So, the folks who submitted for your book on beads would be considered designers?
SUZANNE: Well, that was a slightly different approach for that book. I asked each of those artist/authors to do a bit more than just do some projects. Each one was responsible for writing some basics for her chapter. Consequently, we paid them more.
SUNNI: Ok. So, a designer is the one who writes a hot-to like in the magazines?
SUZANNE: Yes, a designer tells how to make one project. An author is responsible for all the projects in the book. Carol Wilcox Wells (The Art & Elegance of Beadweaving) invited other beadweavers to submit projects to her book. She didn't pay them, though. They did it to get published, I believe.
KIM: Well...it's like "free advertising."
SUZANNE: This is a good time to explain something important...
SUNNI: *perk*
KIM: Ok...
BYRD: Yes?
SUZANNE: An author receives a royalty advance. That's money against future sales.
CORGI: Meaning?
SUZANNE: Once there have been enough sales to "pay back" the advance, the author begins to receive royalties on each copy sold. If a book never sells enough to exceed the advance, then no more money goes to the author.
KIM: Ohhh.
CORGI: Okay...
BYRD: What is ball park for the royalty advance for a first-timer?
SUZANNE: Sorry, I only discuss those matters with authors who've sent in proposals.
SUNNI: Ah. Ok!
BYRD: Fair enough.
SUZANNE: Anyway, no one ever has to pay back an advance. if we lose, we lose.
BEADNMOUSE: Do you have any idea how well these artists do after the "free advertising?" So it's best to "get your foot in the door" with a well published author?
SUZANNE: Yes, being published is a help to those crafters who make a living from it. It gets their names out there. And, that's another way to get published: co-author a book. The money is the same, but it gets split up between the two. But you sure have to work well with the other author! Lots of coordination of effort.
KIM: Co-author you "share" the writing, etc., though... so half the $$ is ok.
SUZANNE: Yes.
KIM: 1/2 the "stress" or "fun" <g>
SUZANNE: LOL. They're the same thing, aren't they?
SUNNI: * grin *
KIM: Sadly, YES, they can be... LOL Especially when you love something and the next second want to smoosh it!
SUZANNE: Smooshing is good! Publishing a book is one way to get on Carol Duvall's show.... :)
BYRD: I was thinking the other way -- that being oncarol would sell the book.
Kim: Me, too.
SUNNI: Yippee!! Ok - so say we've sent in a proposal and been accepted. Now what?
SUZANNE: Well, we'll send you half the advance right away, so you can feel good about the huge project you've just taken on. Any buy lots of materials!
BYRD: LOL
SUZANNE: Then you meet your editor.
SUNNI: Do we come to you or vice versa?
SUZANNE: We contact you. The relationship between an editor and an author can be rewarding. It can also be challenging, creative, frustrating, entertaining, and powerful.
SUNNI: Isn't the editor the glue between author and publishing date?
KIM: Like a mentor?
SUZANNE: You bet! All those things!
BYRD: I'll bet that tact is a prerequisite for being an editor.
SUZANNE: Over the course of editing a book, an editor has the opportunity to play a variety of roles, including teacher, cop, therapist, friend, Mother Superior, Jewish mother...
SUNNI: Sounds like you're never bored....
SUZANNE: No, I'm pretty darned busy! Some editors, temporarily, fall in love with their authors...
BYRD: awwww
SUZANNE: Others grow in the other direction...
KIM: LOL
SUNNI: Like the leading pair of a movie!! * grin *
SUZANNE: The editor-author bond is a complicated one--as is true of all meaningfull relationships. After all, it's a year-long thing. Once the text has been edited, the photos taken, the art director puts it all together on the page. Then we send the author the first black-and-white "laser pages." It's the first time you really get to see how your book will look. And it's exciting!
BYRD: I'll bet that's scary, but fun!
SUNNI: Rough draft?
SUZANNE: No, by the time it goes to the Art Department, your editor should have made sure it's darn near perfect. Although there will continue to be slight revision and correction until the last minute, probably. Nothing's ever perfect, I'm afraid. (Only an editor would say something like that!)
KIM: LOL
BYRD: LOL
SUNNI: * grin *
KIM: Or an artist!
SUZANNE: We love artists.
BYRD: * perk *
SUZANNE: We're a funky company.
BYRD: * perk perk *
SUZANNE: Not stuffy-- pretty hip, really. I love what I do.
BYRD: Good.
SUNNI: Well gosh - you guys deal with some pretty creative stuff. Stuffy would put a damper on that!! I bet you go home jazzed half the time!
KIM: That's the whole thing of it...doing what you love, makes it all that much better.
SUZANNE: We're into it.
SUNNI: And makes you better at what you do.
BYRD: Contact highs.
SUZANNE: heehee. Please, questions...?
SUNNI: So, does the staff play with any of the concepte they're working on?
SUZANNE: We develop concepts all the time. We like authors who are open to developing their concept alongside of us.
BEADNMOUSE: Do you have a website? I'm new to pc....
SUZANNE: www.larkbooks.com I invite everyone to roam around on our website.
JENNYPAT: What if I am not really interested in being an author, but would like to submit examples for a gallery? Is it up to the individual authors to find gallery items?
SUZANNE: Look for "Call s for Entry" on the site. Sometimes we help authors get their galleries together, and sometimes, like with Carol Wilcox Wells, she has a huge network already. She took care of it herself. For "Making Beautiful Beads" some of you may have seen the call for entries on the pc bulletin board.
JENNYPAT: So, that would be under the heading "Artist Submissions?"
BYRD: Yup. I wish I could participate in that, but I don't have a camera. 8-\
SUNNI: Find a friend who does, Byrd? Have a tea and pictures day!
BEADNMOUSE Five hours drive and I'll take all the pics you want, Byrd!
BYRD: Not really possible. Dottie wanted to have some of my work in her gallery, but I couldn't find anyone.
KIM: How'd you get pics of the mandalas???
BYRD: I scanned them.
SUZANNE: I can't tell you how importan goo-quality slides are to being accepted in a gallery. It's a shame when a beautiful piece is rejected because of the PHOTOGRAPHY!
DONNABECK: Scanner pics are not art book quality!
SUZANNE: Right. We only rarely use digital submissions. We can't use prints at all. Ever. If you scan, they must be high-resolution (300 dpi at 5x7"). And you must still have the permission of the editor first. They must be TIFF images. But don't submit to a gallery with a disk! Ask firs...please. Who wants to write a book for Lark?!
BYRD: Me.
JENNYPAT: LOL
SUNNI: We all raise our hands....
RIA: ME!!
JENNYPAT: I am really not interested in writing....sorry, but maybe submitting to a gallery.
CORGI: I would rather submit projects or to a gallery....
SUNNI: Personally, I like the designer idea.
SUZANNE: We're always looking for good designers.
BYRD: Nope, I want to write a whole book.
JENNYPAT: I know myself to well! I am not a good writer, and have a hard time explaining how to do things, even in person.
BYRD: I write enought anyway...
RIA: I want the whole deal and nothing else :) LOL
KIM: I'm with Byrd, I wanna whole book to myself!
SUZANNE: Yay! You know, a basic book on artificial lighting will help. I'd love to write a book about how to photograph artwork.
JENNYPAT: I would love a book on how to photograph art work! Small items especially. They are so hard to get good photos of.
SUZANNE: Yes, a macro lens is essential for those good detail shots. Especially for jewelry.
BEADNMOUSE: Watch lighting!! Macro lenses are as great as superglue and duct tape!
SUZANNE: You polymer clay people come up with some creative topics.
RIA: Ohh, I have 3 booklets full with good topics. ;)
BYRD: Don't worry, I have!
KIM: I was asked once if my brain hurt with all of my ideas !?!?!
SUNNI: Thanx, Suzanne. We try. As a group, we're a mighty curious bunch.
KIM: Yeah, nothing is "safe" from clayers!
SUNNI: Suzanne - you have no idea how much I appreciate your taking time out to help us with this today!!
SUZANNE: Sunni, thanks so much for inviting me. I really loved it! Any other questions, email me at suzanne@larkbooks.com Bye now!
----Salutations and thanks given at this point and chat ends----

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