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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Writing A Crochet Book - My Experiences

           My Thoughts as the Process Happens

 My intention is not to discourage anyone from trying to get a book published. I just want to be "real" and let you know what all it involves. Even with the stress of deadlines, it is well worth it! Your excitement and desire to see the finished book is what will keep you going!
There is tremendous pressure with writing a book. Especially doing a pattern book. There is so much more involved than doing a regular book. With a pattern book you not only have the table of contents, dedication, acknowledgments, "how to" sections (with explanations and diagrams, chapter headings, description of the design, etc) you also have to spend months designing clothing from scratch. I get an idea in my head and then do a sketch. (See photo below) Sometimes they don't always come out right. Most of the time they do, but if they don't, you either have to take it all out and start it over or change it up from your original concept. Occasionally, a "mistake" turns out to be better than what you envisioned! Then it takes me sometime hours to type up a pattern, making sure every little word, comma, and * is in place.

Sketches for Positively Crochet - Before and After
Crochet language is not like regular language or regular grammar. If you plan to submit a book proposal, its imperative that you study the proper crochet language. Any little error could throw the whole pattern off! (as far as someone being able to understand it)  Then after it is typed up, you have to grade the sizes. Grading the sizes just means you are writing the instructions for the other sizes, by adding more rows and stitches.  This is sometimes very difficult to do. What it involves is deciding how much bigger (in inches) you want the next size larger to be. Normally you would make the next size anywhere from 2" - 4" larger, depending on how snug or loose you want it to be. The Yarn Standards website has measurements you need to go by. Then you add sizes from size xsmall to 3x. More and more people are asking for the larger sizes, and all books don't go up to 3x. This is very important to me, so I usually include these sizes in my crochet books. I want to do what people are asking for. I think that's one reason my books have done so well.
The math is the worst partof the book process for me. It's easy with some patterns but very difficult on others, especially figuring out the correct number of stitches and rows on a lace garment. You add stitches and rows according to the extra inches for each size. This is usually "in multiples of....", which is the number of stitches it takes for the stitch pattern you are using. By "stitch" pattern, I mean a section that shows a pattern such as a "pineapple" or "shell". In other words you would say the stitches on each "shell" would be "in multiples of...".

Tunique Unique Pullover
Colorful Crochet Lace

Then after a garment or accessory is finished, I find a model (usually my daughter, Jamie, or my DIL, Anca) and we have a little "photo shoot". I take pictures of 1-3 items at a time and this has to be done many different times on the other items. I want to have my own photos and I also take pictures so the photographer and the publisher know how the item is supposed to be worn or photographed. Believe me, sometimes they get something backwards in a book and you cringe at the thought of it being wrong in the book for all eternity!  I take many different shots of 1 item and even pay people for this because it does take time.

I'm posting some of my own photos I took before sending them to the publisher.

Scallop Shells Capelet from
Crochet Young and Trendy
(Worn here as a cowl)

Then it's a matter of getting the photos on the computer, cropping them and putting them on a page with a description. Your description is usually in the book on the pattern page. They call this "Romance" langusge because you are trying to describe the item in a way that will influence the reader to want to make it. Then I send the picture and description to the publisher/editor to approve it. So far they've liked everything I do, and the positive feedback is important to me. After that, I have to find a pattern tester who will make the item to see if they can follow my instructions. The publisher does not require authors to hire pattern testers, but most do. I want to be absolutely sure the pattern is correct and understandable before being sent in. I tell the tester not to ask me any questions unless it is absolutely necessary, so I can make sure its clear and easy to understand. I also tell them to make any notes on the pattern that is not clear or if they find where I left off things like "sew side seam" or "weave in loose ends". Sometimes a pattern tester doesn't get back to me for a while and they loose their notes or forget where they made changes. This is frustrating, because I may have already paid them. For Positively Crochet (published 2007) I hired 18 pattern testers. For Crochet That Fits (published 2008), my editor had wanted me to remake some things in other colors (first time that's happened) and since I didn't have time to remake them, I had to hire contract crocheters to make the actual piece that would be photographed for the book. (you pay them more). I guess I hired a contract crocheter on 4-5 things in my last 2 books. But then I do all my finishing, like sewing the seams, adding an edging, etc.

Cloverleaf Top - Positively Crochet

About every 3 weeks, I'd get a group of designs tagged and mailed in to the publisher. They require you to label the item with a note. I ususally pin the label (or attach with yarn) on the back of the project, indicating which side it is. They want you to include the name of the project, size the sample is made in, your name, phone number and email for identification. I have my own custom made fabric labels I sew inside all my designs, making it easy for them to know which is the front and back. I ordered mine from Charm Woven Labels, and I had them print "An Original Design by Mary Jane Hall" onto some black labels with white writing, but also on some cream labels with blue writing. I found out they are no longer in business, so I found Label Weavers for you on the web.  They're great and it makes the
My custom "designer" label
garment look more professional. The special little details  will impress them! We have to mail in the first half of the designs on a date they give you (with paper label of info on each item) so they'll know the designs are actually getting done and you won't have to send them all at the same time when its time to turn in the manuscript. They require this too. I think it's a good idea, because it motivates you to get them done.

Très Chic Neck Warmer - in Colorful Crochet Lace
( worn here as a Capelet)

After mailing the items I have to go over each written pattern (10-20 times each, with fresh eyes everyday) looking for errors or anything that needs to be reworded. Of course there is also the author bio and author picture to be taken, and I have to have a list of all the yarn companies who donated yarn for the book (with their contact info) and even info on stores where I bought notions, such as purse handles, buttons, ribbons, beads, etc, from places like Michaels, JoAnns, Hancock Fabric, Hobby Lobby.

To get the whole manuscript ready to send, I hired a friend who came over to my house to help get it all together in the right format the publisher requested. On Positively Crochet it took us 4 days to get everything together, but on Crochet That Fits it took us only 4 hours, since we knew what we did the year before. I still had to go over everything again with a fine tooth comb before actually emailing the whole manuscript. So even though my friend, Cindy, helped me get it all together, I didn't actually get it sent that day. It took me 4 more days and nights to get it all perfected.  I litterly stayed up all night for 4 nights in a row and had only 3 hours sleep each day getting it ready to send before the deadline.

Cap Sleeve Top from Crochet That Fits
Aftef I thought everything was finished, I found that we left off a pattern for a hat. Then I had all kinds of trouble trying to email the manuscript  to my editor. Even though I tried to send it in 5 parts in zipped folders, she came back saying they were each too big for her email program. They were too big because of the pictures. You have to insert your own photo with the actual pattern, so they'll know where it goes. You do this with all the diagrams and schematics too. So the pictures make the files huge. The contract also tells you to send the whole manuscript on a CD, and I also have to send a hard copy (paper copy) of the whole manuscript. I finally got the manuscript on a CD and my husband overnighted it for me.

In the meantime I was stressed wondering if I would meet my deadline. I had heard many talks at conferences from seasoned designers saying "If you miss your deadline, the publisher will never work with you again!" The speaker that day was a very well known knit and crochet designer and author named Melissa Leapman, snd she said that had actually happened to her. So that's what was on my mind, but I finally got it all sent!

La Vie en Rose Shall - in Colorful Crochet Lace
The next step is that after the editor and tech editor have gone over the book, they will send it back to you to check on any corrections they have made. It usually comes back marked up, but try not to stress over this! It may not be as bad as you think. This is a very difficult process for me, because when the tech editor changes some of the wording, it's hard to know if it's correct, without me actually making the item over so I can follow along. Sometimes the tech editor makes mistakes or if something is copied and pasted to rearrange a sentence I'm really stressed out. This is the most frustrating part of all! You just have to "let go" and "trust" that everything will be ok.

Update (2016): I wrote this years ago and things were different this time when I wrote Colorful Crochet Lace. F+W, the publisher on the other books, partnered with Interweave Press and some ways of going about things were different. They did not require me to put the manuscript on CD and I did not have to mail them a hard copy. They just wanted me to send it by email, which was great. Another thing that was different was that instead of me contacting the yarn companies to order the yarn, Interweave contacted them and had them send me the yarn. They also got together all the info on the yarn companies for the back of the book. I had to do that myself before. With the new book, they just had me email all the photos separately from the patterns, which made it easy. Of course I had each project numbered so they'd know how to identify the patterns with the photos.

Toddler Capri Outfit - in Positively Crochet

Pink Filigree Capelet

Well,those are just some of the things you go through when writing a crochet book, but I hope I have helped you in some way to know what to expect! There are a lot of headaches, but believe me, all the work and stress that goes into it is worth it! There's no other feeling like getting that book, "your baby", in the mail and actually holding it in your hands! Look for more blog posts on How to Get a Book Published.

Pink lacy Capelet below is from the booklet Crochet In Style. It has very long fringe.


  1. There is so much more work involved in creating a crochet book than I ever imagined! Thank you for having the patience to go through all of this process to create your beautiful designs and get them published!

    1. Thank you so much for reading this and for commenting! I appreciate everything you said :)

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