When I decided to try to find a publisher for my book, Sew Witchy (née Sew Craft) I had a vague idea of what I was doing. A few year prior I had done a round of submissions on a fantasy novel. I knew writing a nonfiction proposal would be a different process, so I did what I always do: turned to Google. There is a wealth of information out there on what should go into a nonfiction proposal. Most of it talks about what information to include and how to organize it. Not many have actual samples of actual proposals. I spent several caffeine-fueled days researching comparable titles, market demographics and making notes of those points I thought were the most important take-aways from the book. What I ended up with was this:
Overview Sew Craft: A Sewist’s Book of Shadows focuses on sewing magic, not only on the finished item, itself, but in the process—the ritual—that goes into making it. Part sewing manual, part magic tome, Sew Craft introduces readers to a specialized subject: putting needle and thread to fabric in order to enhance their magical practice. Included are familiar magical projects: dream pillows, spell bags, knot magic. But my work expands upon that, offering a comprehensive list of the magical correspondences for sewing tools, notions and fabrics, adding many more projects that can help enhance the reader’s ritual, and presenting a look at the historical and cultural uses of magic and sewing. Projects range from beginner level to experienced. None require specialized equipment, in keeping with my belief that sewing should be accessible to all. Spells in Sew Craft are either traditional spellwork with a sewing bent (such as the Witch Bottle spell) or specifically crafted to enhance the reader’s sewing spellwork (as is the case with the Spool of Thread Prayer Wheel). As always, the reader is constantly encouraged to see each step in making an item as part of a ritual, building energy and intentions into the project. Sew Craft is written with no particular pagan tradition in mind. The information, rituals, spells and projects are presented in such a way as to be easily adapted to the reader’s path. Examples, quotes and trivia are drawn from practices all over the world. An effort has been made to ensure that the examples and writing does not engage in cultural appropriation, especially with regards to Indigenous religions. Interspersed among the spells and projects is information on such topics as: * household helpers—spirits from all over the world who aid in sewing and crafting, even going so far as to protect workshops. * superstitions regarding sewing, clothing, cloth making, notions, etc. * gods and goddesses involved in arts and crafts, their origins, and what projects for which they are invoked. I estimate Sew Craft will be 50,000 words long when complete. Each project’s instructions is accompanied by photos. Target Audience The main audience of Sew Craft are women. They have an interest in DIY, use Etsy and craft at home: “Online handmade goods marketplace Etsy reported a 19.4 percent year-over-year increase in active sellers in the third quarter of 2015, for a total of 1.5 million worldwide, along with a 25 percent increase in active buyers.” (Growing arts and crafts market isn't just for kids by Lauren Zumbach, Chicago Tribune, April 26, 2016 http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-handmade-arts-and-crafts-0501-biz-20160429-story.html) The surge in craft interest over the last eight years due to the recession is evidenced by the expansion of stores like JoAnn Fabric and Michaels. “According to the report, one of the main drivers is the growth in the demand for apparel. The growing demand for fashion apparel and an increase in per capita expenditure on apparel have raised the expenditure on sewing machines.” (Global Sewing Machines Market 2015-2019 - Growth in Demand for Apparel is a Key Market Driver Aug 19, 2015 http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/global-sewing-machines-market-2015-2019—-growth-in-demand-for-apparel-is-a-key-market-driver-300130694.html) The audience skews younger as Millennials have less money to spend on finished goods and have an appreciation for handmade crafts. They look to save money by making their own religious and magickal items. The target audience is also politically active and uses their handiwork to express their feelings on the current political and social situation. They knit and wear “pussy hats” to protest marches. They stitch cross stitch samplers declaring themselves “Nasty Women”. They make patches for their clothes to declare their intention to “Persist”. They view sewing and craftwork not just a way to make finished projects, but a process through which they can affect change on the world, much in the way magic is used. About Author I am a dual class seamstress / shieldmaiden. I have been sewing professionally since 2008 when I leveraged my skills honed by creating LARP costumes for friends into a way to support myself and my four-year-old daughter after my divorce. Over the years I have traveled around the Midwest region selling my handmade bags, skirts, coats and accessories at various events and conventions. I am a pagan, following an eclectic and independent path. I currently work with Hecate, Hestia and Turtle in my magical practice. Arachne hangs out in the window of my workshop reminding me to check the tension on my sewing machines. I maintain a blog at idiorhythmic.com, an Etsy store, I am on Instragram and Facebook. I write about magic, creativity, living a life by one’s own life patterns, my family and books. Similar Titles Books like Spell Crafts by Scott Cunningham and David Harrington (Llewellyn Worldwide, 1993) or Spinning Spells, Weaving Wonders: Modern Magic for Everyday Life by Patricia Telesco (Crossing Press, 1996) or, more recently, Witchy Crafts: 60 Enchanted Projects for the Creative Witch by Lexa Olick (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2013) are the most similar to Sew Craft in that they are how-to guides for crafting magical items. Like my book, they have chapters with step-by-step instructions for various magical craft items. They also include spells and information on magical arts. With a couple of exceptions—dream pillows and witch cords—my book does not cover the same topics. There are also books like Hedgewitch by Silver Ravenwolf (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2011) which do include a few paragraphs on sewing magic. And there are countless magic blogs that include occasional sewing projects. Sew Craft, however, is more focused than the above books and has more in common with books like The Kitchen Witch by Soraya (Waverley Books, 2011) or Supermarket Magic by Michael Furie (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2013) or e-m@gic by Amanda Craven (Carlton, 2001) in that it focuses on a very specific topic—sewing in the case of Sew Craft, cooking and texting magic in the case of the latter books—rather than a general area of study such as arts and crafts, kitchen witchery or paganism in history. Marketing Plan Through my blog (at idiorhythmic.com) I post about sewing, paganism, and living a creative life. I have an editorial calendar for the next year filled out with weekly blog topics. Additionally, I am active on Instagram, where I post pictures of projects as well as links to the blog posts. My 2017 goal is to reach 2,000+ followers on IG. I will be actively reaching out to various blogs covering crafting, sewing and paganism with offers of articles. I also have access to communities such as the Greater Chicagoland Pagan Pride, through which I can reach my target audience at events like their annual Pride fair which draws hundreds of attendees. I vend at a variety of craft fairs and events which have social agendas, such as the TINY HANDS Arts and Crafts Fair to support Planned Parenthood I will be vending at in March. These events give me the opportunity to meet with readers face to face and to be on panels and run make and take programs. I also take advantage of these events to add subscribers to my mailing list.
Most of the proposal is straightforward. For the word count I estimated that the book was 1/5 complete at 10,000 words*.
The “Similar Titles” part was relatively easy to put together. I was familiar with most of the books already. This is where the whole idea of “if you want to write you must read” comes in handy. I fleshed out the section with titles that I found through Amazon searches.
The trickiest part was the “Target Audience” section. This is supposed to show that there is a market of people willing to fork over $25 for your book. If you don’t work in marketing or the book publishing field already, that can make it difficult to prove this. And because I have to do everything the hard way, I was pitching a book on a very niche subject. I knew about the sewing and handcrafted markets, and I knew some about pagan readers, but I had nothing concrete on where those two audiences met on a Venn diagram.
What I did, then, was to focus on the DIY sewing aspect of the book, trusting that publishers I queried would know the pagan/metaphysical market better. I found the information online, keeping my focus o news articles and publications that had come out in 2015 or later. Industry reports were especially helpful. And again, this is where reading widely helped me. Much of the information was stuff that I had read over the years in various blog posts and articles. I had stored those little nuggets of information away and when it came time to back up my assertions, I knew what to look for.
Once finished with the proposal, I put together my submission list. I started by looking at my bookshelves, writing down all the names of the publishers of pagan books I found there. I ended up with fifteen potential publishers. I could have also gone to the local library or bookstore to do the same. Then I spent a couple of days researching the various publishers. Some didn’t look at proposals from unagented authors. Some were closed to submissions. Some appeared to be closed down. That weeded out four companies.
I decided to send my first pitch to Llewellyn Worldwide because I was familiiar with them and they had published one of the titles I had listed under “Similar Titles.” They would know how well it had sold. If they passed on my proposal it might be because a book like mine wasn’t in demand. I wouldn’t give up on submitting if Llewellyn rejected it, but I might gain some insight into whether the book would be better off self-published.
That ended up being a moot point. Llewellyn accepted my proposal. Later, my editor told me that she had been hesitant at first because the subject was so niche, but my writing was good** and won her over. So, as usual, my instincts were right, but also wrong.
I’ll write next time about how I got my agent. You’d think that having a contract in hand would make that process easy. But of course there’s always a way to make it awkward when you are me. More on that next time.
*When I turned the final manuscript in on April 2 the final word count was 54,000 words, so my estimate wasn’t too far off.
**Telling a writer their writing is good is the equivalent of telling them they’re pretty, and frankly that was the second best news I heard from my editor after she said she wanted to publish my book.