Writing Book 4 – Part 1: The Book Proposal

Guess what? I’ll soon be writing another machine quilting book! I thought it would be fun to take you behind the scenes of book creation from start to finish because I get a lot of questions about what it takes to write one. I figured the best way to answer that was to document my process in real time as it happens. My only caveat is you’ll have to be patient as I blog about my journey because it can take a long time from concept to publish date. But sharing this journey with you in real time will definitely make the months (and years) pass more quickly.
Books by Christa Watson

The 3 books I’ve written will be joined by a 4th (but not till 2020)!!

The first step is to submit a very thorough book proposal. Book publishers have their proposal submission forms on their website and most are very similar: they want to know the gist of the book, what makes it special or different, why it will sell (and how you plan to market it) along with what you envision the book to look like.

If it’s a project based book, they’ll want to see sketches of all the proposed projects including the fabrics you plan to use. They may request to see one or more finished quilts and a sample chapter from the book so they know that you can write and express yourself clearly.

They’ll also want a timeline of how long it will take you to complete the manuscript and make all the projects so they can assign it a production team and release date. FYI, most books take about 1 1/2 to 2 years to produce from the initial spark of an idea to publication.

Before a publisher is ready to give the thumbs up, they’ll do a thorough review, usually with an acquisitions committee. They’ll conduct a cost projection & market analysis to make sure that producing the book will be profitable. A publisher spends a lot of time and resources on any one book including a whole team of people to copy edit, tech edit, photograph, lay out, illustrate, and of course market it. To get an idea, open up any book you have from a major publisher and count the list of names that were involved in producing it.

Editing Machine Quilting with Style

Editing my first book, Machine Quilting with Style, back in 2015

The proposal for my first book, Machine Quilting with Style, took about 5 months to solidify my idea and then another 4 months to actually write the proposal which was over 40 pages in length. I first thought about the idea in February of 2013 after returning home from QuiltCon but didn’t submit the proposal until November of 2013. I completed the quilts and manuscript in August of 2014, and it was published in September of 2015, nearly 2 years later after I proposed it.

My current proposal was about 30 pages and took me 3 months to thoroughly think through my ideas – then another month to design the content and create the structure, outline and table of contents. Even after writing multiple books, getting the green light for the next one is never a guarantee and I had to complete a thorough submission each time.

Angela Walters and Christa Watson at Quilt Market

Promoting my 2nd book The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting with Angela Walters at Quilt Market in 2016. (Check out long my hair grew out in a year from writing to publication!)

I submitted the proposal for my 4th book to Martingale/That Patchwork Place in early April of this year, and just received the unofficial word that they want to go forward with my idea, after a bit of tweaking. (I waited to start writing this series in the off chance that they weren’t interested because then there’d be nothing to document, LOL!!)

Once my publisher received my submission, they discussed it at their monthly submission meeting, and came back with a “yes we want to publish it, but let’s tweak it a bit more before we give the official approval.” I’m always open to suggestions, and one of the keys to getting your book successfully published is flexibility.

I originally had two ideas for book #4 and pre-pitched them on both before I submitted the complete proposal, to make sure they were interested in seeing them. Although I incorporated both ideas into the current proposal, I emphasized that I wanted to go in one direction with it more than the other. However, my publisher felt that the second direction I had offered had a better chance of being successful, so I’m heeding their advice. After all, they know the market and their customers better than I do!

Box of Books - Piece and Quilt with Precuts by Christa Watson

It was such an exciting day when copies of my 3rd book, Piece and Quilt with Precuts arrived!

So the next step is to edit the proposal by emphasizing idea 2 over idea 1 and present the changes to them in person when we meet up at Spring Quilt Market. Because we are working as a team here, they’ll help me craft it in such a way that it will get the official approval when the committee meets again next month. We just need to get the final concept that we both agreed on written down into words and graphics that will illustrate exactly what the book will be about.

We also discussed timing. At first I thought I wanted it to come out in fall of 2019 but in order to do that, everything would have to be in turned in this August (of 2018) and with my current travel schedule, there’s no way I could manage that. So we are tentatively looking at Spring of 2020 which will give me the time I need to actually get everything done. Although that seems like a long way off from now, it will be here before we know it!!

Although I won’t really be able to discuss the specific content of the book, I’ll gladly take you along my journey as I write the manuscript and create the content. I’ll write another update once I get the official word, so stay tuned!

14 thoughts on “Writing Book 4 – Part 1: The Book Proposal

  1. Diane Muldoon says:

    Thank you so much for coming to Charlotte. You have no idea how happy your workshop made me…Our family has endured trauma for five years…and now I get to go to workshops like yours…probably none as good as yours…I had a wonderful time. xo

  2. Kim from Canada says:

    Congratulations on book #4. I have thoroughly enjoyed all 3 of your previous books and your quilting adventures over the years. I thank you for giving us a glimpse into this process, it should be a fun ride.

  3. Liz Wilson says:

    Fascinating! You said it takes 4 months to write a book proposal, but how long does it take to write the pre-proposal? I’m curious how many people get to this formal proposal stage, spend 4+ months writing it, and still get turned down. I love hearing about the industry through you, thanks for these informative, detailed posts!

  4. K Yee says:

    I have a question that is unrelated to the written content of the post. What is table that you have your machine in? It looks like it would be an ideal choice for my needs.

    • Christa says:

      It’s one I got a long time ago from a dealer who’s no longer in business 😦

      Christa Watson Instagram @christaquilts website/blog: ChristaQuilts.com Click here to join my facebook group: Quilt with Christa

      On Wed, May 2, 2018 at 10:28 PM, Christa Quilts wrote:

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