Handmade Packaging Workshop: Thoughts on Writing a Book

I mentioned the book I wrote awhile back, but thought I'd share a little bit more about how it happened, my experience writing it, and whether or not I'd do it again.

In mid-August of last year (I can't believe it's been a year already!), I was contacted *completely* out of the blue by a representative of a publishing company called Rotovision asking me if I'd be interested in writing a book on handmade packaging, to be called Handmade Packaging Workshop. I was skeptical at first, as the publisher was overseas and was not one I was familiar with. I responded with some questions about the project, my role in it and why they had chosen to contact me. They sent back all sorts of fancy, well-put-together book briefs and plans and told me they'd seen my posts on The Dieline and thought I might be a good fit.

I was intrigued, flattered and SCARED! Like scerrrd, scared. I love all things handmade, and I adore packaging. So combining the two made my mouth water. But the project sounded like a lot of work. Combined with the fact that I'd never written anything longer than a few magazine articles and a single chapter of my "Great American Novel" (you know, the one every writer dreams of writing), an entire book seemed daunting. First I decided I wasn't going to do it, just because I was too scared and my design business was perking along nicely. I slept on it and woke up knowing that I should do it *precisely* because I was scared. I figured that in the end, the experience of having written a book, and having my name on something printed would make any amount of late nights worth it. I was right.

Read on and see more photos by clicking here.

The process was intense, quick, time-consuming and so rewarding. I had no idea where to start, but luckily the publishers have been around the block before. Their editors were invaluable guides all along the way. First, I was told to start with a table of contents to organize my thoughts. Makes total sense, but I really had no idea if I just started sort of writing or what. Planning, it turns out, is everything in publishing. The table of contents allowed me to see the flow of the book and gave me a great starting point.

I have lots of design books and the ones I value most are the ones in which the designer talks about their process or HOW they did something. I wanted my book to go really in depth in the creation process: was something letterpress printed? by whom?; is that tea-stained paper?; was that hand-drawn and then scanned into the computer or drawn in Illustrator? These are things I like to know, so I wanted to make sure that was encompassed within the book.

After the table of contents was set up came the fun part. I got to contact all of the amazing designers whose work I wanted to feature and ask them to be part of the book. Emailing back and forth with some of my design heroes like Chen Design Associates (who put out the amazing Fingerprint books), Something's Hiding In Here, I Love Dust, Eric Kass, Stitch Design Co. and so many others was an honor. Everyone I contacted was amazing and willing to participate (well except for maybe two ol' stuffed shirts, but that's to be expected!).
Once I figured out who I wanted in the book, it was time to create a flatplan. Umm, what is a flatplan? A flatplan is basically the first rough step in the visual layout of the book. The publisher set the number of pages and I was basically sent a document with pictures of pages and then I had to fill in what went where and how much space it should be allotted (they had suggestions for that, too, thank goodness). A lot of that work was done for me by the designers: if they had some great photos, answered my design questions with careful thought and thoroughness and, of course, made the deadlines, they typically got a spread (two pages). The others with less information, more straight-forward methods, or that were featured multiple times in the book, or missed a deadline went into the gallery or single page spreads. However, there were *plenty* of designers that went into the galleries that I wanted to have spreads, but there simply wasn't enough space. At that point, the editors were great at doing their thing and making some of those tougher decisions, thank goodness.

So then I wrote the book.

Okay, it's not that simple. The publisher had me on a schedule, and I delivered the book in 4 batches. Boy, they really know how to make things manageable! The batches were not in order of the table of contents, but split so that some of the heavier writing chapters were spread out over each batch. This made it so much easier for me. I delivered my final batch in mid-November (see what I mean about short turnaround time? I delivered the Table of Contents and Flat Plan in September, and the first batch was due in October. I wrote the entire thing in 3 months). From there, the designers got hold of it and started the layout.

But that wasn't the end of it! We went through numerous rounds of editing. I got to work with an amazing editor, Salima, who kept me on my toes and probably thought I was a royal pain, but she knew what she was doing for sure and if I didn't have her, the book would not be what it is. She is amazing and I have an incredible fondness for her. I also owe a great debt to Lindy and Isheeta! (If you are reading, I think you both are tops!)

I turned in my last round of edits mid-February. At first I was not sure how I felt about the "look" of the book cover, but I've been won over. I know that they know what they're doing. There are actually two covers because two different publishers published it. (I have no idea how that works, so that's a post for another time. I was aware of F&W, which publishes the holy grails of designers: HOW magazine and other great design books picking it up, but apparently another publisher picked it up, as well and just republished it with a different cover). I love the clean layout of the inside of the book; it really highlights the gorgeous photos, which is the point. The Going Pro section ended up being one of my favorite sections because it allowed me to feature some of the most prolific and respected designers talking about how they work. It's like being able to sit down with them and say "how do you do what you do?" I always want to know that sort of stuff.

So that's the skinny. And now: was it worth it? would I do it again? Yeah. Hell yeah I would. It was amazing. I feel such gratitude, honestly, that I got to have this experience as part of my life. What an honor to see my name on a book featured on Amazon and written about by HOW. How amazing that I got to interact with other amazing designers and get an insight to their work that I could share with other design lovers. I still can't wrap my head around it! I learned a lot about being open to opportunities, doing things despite them scaring you, or even *because* they scare you, and the place of luck in this world. My eyes are open, and I try to always stay hungry.

My brain is swimming with new ideas and I'm itching to do another one. I even told my husband I'd like to squeeze in another book before our first child arrives at the end of January, and he was quick to veto me and remind me that in addition to my design business, I'm opening a brick and mortar shop next month. Poor guy, living with a feisty multi-tasker.

Also, here's the sad fact: I actually haven't had time to sit down and read the book cover-to-cover (at least not since edits), but I hope to soon. And I really hope I didn't miss any errors. I did miss something major, but I'm not sure if it maybe got added in later so I didn't catch it. The About the Author is correct, but the blurb on the book cover and on Amazon appears to be pulled from an outdated web page and lists me as still living in Minneapolis, MN. I now live in Alabama. No biggie, really. I'd rather it happen to me than to one of the designers in the book. And I guess that's what I get for having outdated info floating around on the web somewhere.

Have you written or ever thought about writing a book? I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences, too.
The other book cover.

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