Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Thinking About Writing a Quilt Book?

Now that I'm getting ready to write my third quilt book, I am just amazed at how different the experience is this time around -- already -- and I haven't even begun making any quilts yet or writing any directions.  Why is that? you might ask.

Let me tell you about my experiences with my first book, ORPHAN BLOCK QUILTS.  I was really lucky with this book.  I just happened to be at a friend's going away party (yes, she was a quilter).  At the party was another sewist/quilter, Cheryl, who just so happened to have a copy of her very first book with her.  I knew Cheryl from working in the quilt shop, but I didn't know her well at that point.  Since I'd been thinking a lot about writing a book on using my orphan quilt blocks, I screwed up my courage and asked her how she got published.  Cheryl was an incredible source of information AND was willing to share.  Thank you, Cheryl!  At some point that evening, I told her about my book idea using orphan quilt blocks to make new quilts.  I made sure to mention that no other book had been done on that topic before that I knew of.  Cheryl thought the idea sounded good and said that she'd mention it to her editor.  Whoah!

It truly is the "who you know" that gets your foot in the door, but it's the "what you know" that gets you the job....or the book, in this case.

Interestingly enough, I believe the party was on a Thursday or Friday evening and for some reason I had a three day week end with Monday off.  Amazingly enough, Monday morning I received a call from Cheryl's editor!!!!  After a discussion, she invited me to submit a book proposal. 

Could it really be that easy?

NO!  Of course not.  I submitted my book proposal and waited.....and waited......months passed by.  Then eventually I received a rejected email -- they were sorry but they had already accepted a similar-type book.  I was crushed.  Totally crushed. I had always wanted to be a "writer" and now on my first try, I had failed.  Then one day while driving home from work, I had a great idea that changed my original book idea.  So I emailed the editor again.  She liked the revised idea and we resubmitted the new and improved book proposal, which was eventually accepted.  It took about two years from the submittal of my first proposal to the actual acceptance.  Apparently in the middle of this, the company underwent a reorganization which really put a lot of things on hold. 

Have heart, don't give up if you want to write a quilt book, too -- I'm pretty sure that the two years to acceptance is definitely NOT the norm.  So, keep reading, please.

After my first book came out in 2010, I began thinking about a second book idea.  I had several thoughts, but one of my ideas definitely shone above the rest, so I began talking to my editor.  She took my ideas to the board and, although they liked the idea, they didn't want to commit to another project until they could see how the first book did.  Please keep in mind what was happening with the economy at this time -- the recession.  My first book did so-so, but was definitely not anything spectacular.  I did have several great reviews and a lot of new opportunities surfaced because of my first book, even if the book never made the best seller list (LOL!).

I kept pestering my editor from time to time about writing a second book, and eventually the board decided that they did not want to work with me on a second project, no matter how good the idea was.

One of my new opportunities led me to International Quilt Market in 2011 (my second Market).  I had a goal in mind when I went -- I was on the lookout for a new publisher. 

You may wonder how I decided which ones to approach?  I LOOKED AT MY COLLECTION OF QUILT BOOKS, OF COURSE!  I looked at my favorite books and I saw who published them.  Then I looked at the publishers' websites to see what else they published.  I narrowed my list down to three or four good possibilities with Kansas City Star at the top.

To prepare for Market, I wrote short descriptions of my favorite two or three ideas along with some sample designs and a short bio of myself.  I also included my contact information.  I took four or five of these packets with me (thinking positively).

I stopped by Martingale and a few others and mostly I was able to get some information and saw the books that they were currently offering, but the right people weren't available to pitch my idea to.  Eventually, I worked up enough courage and walked into the Kansas City Star Booth.  I took a deep breath and found a KCS employee and asked about the process of submitting a book proposal.  Edie (who I found out later was one of the main editors at KCS), was very kind and I took the chance to pitch my book.  We must have talked for a half hour!  At the end of our conversation, she invited me to submit my proposal.  She even gave me some hand outs.   I was really hyped!

But scared, of course.  It took me about a month to actually sit down and get down to the business of writing a book proposal for my top book idea.  Finally it was done, and I submitted my first proposal to KCS.  Two weeks later, I had an acceptance email!  After my first book experience, this was incredible!!!!!

Now let's fast forward a bit.  When I went to International Market in Fall 2013 to promote my first book with Kansas City Star, A RUSSIAN JOURNEY IN QUILTS, which was timed nicely with the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, The KCS people were very supportive and asked several times if I was thinking of my next book.  After the experience with my first publisher, I was so surprised that they would even ask since my book had just come out.  Their nonchalant answer was that they didn't make their authors wait a certain period of time between books.  This made me super excited, but I wasn't quite ready yet -- I wanted to concentrate on a Russian Journey in Quilts for a while.

Then I went to Market in May 2014 in Pittsburgh, and everything changed.  I was there promoting my book to a more local crowd (since a good portion of the story takes place in northwestern PA).  The book seemed to generate a lot of interest in Pittsburgh so I started thinking about writing another book.  There was so much inspiration, every direction that I turned, and I made the decision that my next book was going to be a modern quilt book that didn't include loads of research and writing like my first two books.

After some discussions back and forth with the editor of my Russian Journey book, Kent, and some suggestions from Jenifer Dick who works with the new My Stars section of KCS (which features the new modern quilt books), I submitted my new proposal.  Jenifer called me a few days later to clarify a couple things, and within a week of actually submitting the proposal, I had an acceptance!  Holy Cow!

Sorry this was so much writing, but I really wanted to explain how the process worked for me.  Maybe my experiences will help another would-be quilt author.


  1. This is an amazing story! Congratulations on your success! And thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks Nicole.....I am hoping that maybe if we share this kind of information with each other, we'll all be more informed.


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Quilt On,

Tricia Lynn Maloney,
The Orphan Quilter