How to Turn Your Daily Creative Project Into a Book

Today's post is guest written by Michelle Taute my friend and my co-author on the book The Design Activist's Handbook... 

I’m not going to lie. My 365 creative project started out as a painful slog. It took me a good month or so to really start hitting my stride. And there was still a little doubting voice lingering around on day 50 going, “Why, exactly, are you making cootie catchers everyday? I mean you’re practically middle-aged.”

Then something rather astounding happened around day 50. One of my Facebook friends, who also happens to be a book editor, asked me if I’d thought about turning all these fun paper fortune-tellers into a craft book. Um, yes, definitely, but I hadn’t thought about it outside the context of wild daydreams.

It took me another six months or so to put together a book proposal, but that simple Facebook note helped me keep going. And a few weeks ago my book, Fold Me Up: 100 Paper Fortune-Tellers for Life’s Pressing Questions, hit bookstores. I’m guessing your daily creative project would make an awesome book, too, so I tapped my wonderful editor at Perigee Books, Meg Leder, for some insider advice and wisdom.

How do you find new book ideas?
I spend time every day reading websites (Brain Pickings, Jezebel, The Toast) and skimming links friends send, looking for ideas that catch my attention. If I find myself spending more than a few minutes on any idea, and if I’m thinking about it for a few hours or days after, it’s usually well worth pursuing. If it’s holding my interest, it will probably hold a fair number of readers’ interest, too.

What really makes a creative project capture your attention? 
 I also look for things I can evangelize about because I flat-out love them. I recently published a nontraditional coloring book called Outside the Lines that features the work of street artists, video game designers, etc., because I have a huge sweet spot for street art. I also published a book from a really fantastic creator—Matthew Buchholz—called Alternate Histories of the World because I had uber-admired his work when I first saw it at Renegade Craft Fairs and the Bust Craftacular.

With Fold Me Up, I have many a fond memory of making fortune-tellers as a kid. The Perigee editorial team did as well. Seeing the proposal sparked a 15-minute nostalgia conversation amidst my colleagues—exactly the type of response you want to provoke in people when you’re thinking about publishing a book. If we’re enthusiastic, it’s likely others will be, too.

What should I know if I’m new to publishing?
People should keep in mind that publishing a book isn’t always easy. You’re taking something you love, and you’re commercializing it, which can be a tough transition. It can be heartbreaking if it doesn’t find the audience you want, but it can also be super validating when someone loves it as much as you do.

How can I improve my odds of landing a book contract? 
People should constantly be thinking about platform, platform, platform. As an author, how can you help spread the word about the book? How can you help us get the book out there? The more of an existing audience you have in place, the better we can help you publish your book.

Are you hoping to turn your 365-project into a book? Or have you done it already? Questions? Comments? Advice?


Ines Häufler said...

My first book "Talking Cookies" was published in November 2013. You can see more about it here:
By the way, I had the first ideas for the cartoons in 2011 during my 365 days of creativity project.
Now I started a new 365 days project, and I am very curious if there will another book emerge. See my daily updates here:

Michelle said...

Ines, that is such a cool book! I love the photos and the utter charm of those cookies talking to me.