I love books, all kinds of books inspire me; novels, reference and how-to’s.
I’ve learned pretty much everything I know from books, so I find it terribly exciting that I’m now in a position to be comissioned to create my own. It takes very long time to make a quality how-to book, so I thought you might like to see how the process works!
I am a very hands on author, I like to have input into the final design and layout to ensure that my books have the right old world vintage feel to them. It’s very unusual for an author to be allowed to do this and I’m very grateful the publishers trust my vision enough to let me guide the visuals. I’m sure this makes me a nightmare for the layout artists but they always rise to the challenge and create beautiful work, as I’m sure you agree!
Each book starts with my pitch to a specific publishing house, it’s usually compact, just two sides of A4 with the books overall concept, my artistic and book writing credentials, who the book is aimed at and a list of the rough idea for chapters and projects to be included. I have to do this for each new book I suggest, and I may suggest 3 or 4 different concepts to several publishing houses before a comissioning editor sees one they think will sell. Obviously as a freelance writer this is all unpaid work.
Once a publisher has spotted something they like, they will put it forward at a publishers meeting. If everyone agrees it’s a great idea then it will go forward to the next shortlist meeting, if they don’t, it’s back to the drawing board for me, sending out more ideas or trying a different company!
If they like it they will ask for a more detailed breakdown of the proposed book, this will have more descriptions of each project, maybe some moodboard visuals just to get the visual concepts across.
The publishers will have another meeting at this point, often with the sales team to see if it fits with their book list and outlets, maybe talk about slightly different angles or projects too.
To get a proposal up to this point can take anything between three months to a year and if the sales team dont like it or someone decides its not quite right, the idea can still be rejected at this point.
If everyone likes it, hooray! I’ll be offered a contract with the royalty
percentage, lots of legal details and the “advance” (which has to be paid back from any sales before I start earning royalties) as well as the deadline schedule. The deadlines are usually between three and six months, so from here on I go from 0 to 90 miles per hour in a frenzy of writing, photographing and making!
The fun can begin! I draw sketches and notes for each project, then start to make each one up, photographing it step by step myself in my little photo studio which has been especially designed for this work. I use a light tent and two small daylight photographic lights and a Fuji Finepix bridge camera on a tripod. I often have to use a self timer because obviously I need both my hands to hold or demonstrate the technique I’m using!
Sometimes something doesn’t work the way I thought it would, and I have to retrace and rephotograph a project, or a few steps too, this is just part of the process and I’ve made some truly spectacular mistakes sometimes, but hey it’s good, because then I can give all the helpful tips of how not to do things as well as how to! I write all the steps up as I go along in huge detail, then simplify into more understandable methods for my readers afterwards…
Parallell to writing the projects during the week, at the weekends I’ll be dressing up and photographing the models for the intro stories, this is always epic fun, and a nice chance to see my friends and be silly. We joke that if you come for a visit and stand still long enough in my studio, you are bound to be dressed up and photographed!
They are photographed against a plain wall or back drop, then one of my pet digital artists, like Julian for Steampunk Emporium or Terry for Teaparty and Apothecary can be getting on and creating a beautiful fantastical background from my notes and sketchups, making a beautiful picture for the chapter openings.
Once all the projects are photographed and written up into steps, I can start on the intro stories, I love writing these whimsy pieces, this is the bit that feels like pure fun rather than work! They are inspired primarily from the actual object and then sometimes by friends or conversations in the steampunk community too.
Finally I have a finished manuscript and the step by step photos. Time to double check, triple check, edit and rewrite before submitting it to the Publishers!
(to be continued in part 2 next week, so do check back then!)