Yesterday I had the pleasure of interviewing author Shannon Okey on Twitter* as part of her blog tour to promote her new book, The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design. We had so much fun, and such a productive conversation, that I forgot to do the giveaway we’d planned. D’oh.
To enter to win a copy of Shannon’s book, leave a comment on this post either asking a question about professional knit- or crochet design or about self-publishing, giving a professional tip on those topics, or answering one of the previous questions. This way we’ll end up with a wealth of information, all shared by our peers.
The contest will close at 5pm Pacific/8pm Eastern time tomorrow, July 15th. After that, I’ll use a random number generator to pick a winner from the comments.
Now, here’s the meat of our discussion on Twitter yesterday:
(You can also follow the hashtag #knitgrrlguide for the continuing discussion about Shannon’s book.)
@kpwerker (that’s me): What are two things you’ve learned that every designer MUST know?
@knitgrrl (that’s Shannon): 1. 3 Ps: professional+punctual+personality & 2. Reliability is more important than creativity if you want consistent work! (That is, summed up in less than 140 characters, all you need to know to get a good professional reputation, seriously!)
@kpwerker: Would you expand (such as is possible on the Twitter) on why you say reliability is more important than creativity?
@knitgrrl: Reliability makes you an editor’s best asset, their secret weapon. When someone else flakes, they know to call YOU. +work! Example. @bingeknitter is a fab designer who is FAST+GOOD+RELIABLE. Gave her a lot of work @yarnforwardmag as a result.
@kpwerker: As a once-editor, I can vouch for that, for sure. Isn’t creativity/originality/vision also very important?
@knitgrrl: You can’t discount vision/creativity, but it doesn’t matter HOW creative you are if you can’t get the work in on time!
@kpwerker: Since we’re on the topic of working with an editor, @knitgrrl, what’s one thing brand new designers should keep in mind?
@knitgrrl: Hmm. Just ONE? Relax a little. Editors are REALLY busy. Sending a million unnecessary emails = not endearing. However, if you really do need to solve a problem via email, make it short, to the point, and give them options to choose from.
@kpwerker: Before we leave the world of print to get all crazy about the Twitter and other social media, anything else to add @knitgrrl?
@knitgrrl: There’s a false dichotomy between print / “new” media, I think. They can each make use of each other to all our benefits.
@kpwerker: Would you please expand on what you just said, re: print vs. “new” media being a false dichotomy?
@knitgrrl: Seems to me everyone wants to declare print “dead,” or promo new tech at its expense. Both sides have a lot to learn from each other. I miss the often-more-rigorous editing standards of print, for example. Yet new technologies can foster better discussions and informational transmission (look at what we’re doing now!): there have to be ways to take advantage of both. In short, I wish either side would NOT automatically write the other side off as “antiquated” or “sloppy” (or whatever…)
@kpwerker: Ok, let’s spend the last 10 minutes of the “formal” twinterview chatting about… Twitter! And social media… So, @knitgrrl, overall, do you think professional knit/crochet designers and book authors GET social media?
@knitgrrl: Yes and no. We’re a BIG & diverse group, after all. The ones that get it REALLY get it, the ones that don’t, well… I think @Ravelry was a wake-up call to some more established designers; they’re now seeing what a difference soc med makes.
@kpwerker: How should professional (and soon-to-be prof) designers use @ravelry for their business?
@knitgrrl: Well, @Ravelry is INVALUABLE for research — what are knitters actually KNITTING? trends? colors? In real life it doesn’t matter how stunning something is if no one wants to knit it! On the flip side, if you’re doing something totally unlike all the other patterns on there, there’s an equally good chance YOUR stuff will hit the top of the charts & get popular… you can take more chances, you’re not committing to, say, thousands of dollars in ads to promote something that flops. Apart from trendspotting, I think community is key. @Ravelry helps newer designers learn “on the job” from others. There’s almost always someone with more experience out there who will gladly help you if you ask nicely. I love that.
@kpwerker: What about other, non-specifically yarn- or crafts-related social media sites? How should designers approach those?
@knitgrrl: Carefully. I don’t really censor myself on Facebook, for example, and I have a dual-purpose profile there. If you are a more private person, you probably want to do a 2nd “professional” standalone profile for yourself. There are other sites that count as social media to me, such as @Craftster and @Etsy. Your skills get noticed there & help build your following. I’m on @Ravelry more than @Craftster or @Etsy now, but still have a profile/shop…you never know where you’ll get found!
@kpwerker: What’s a giant social media no-no that all designers should avoid?
@knitgrrl: Spamminess. That’s the number one sin to me. I try not to be overly “sales-y” here. I’ll let people know if there’s something new, but I’m not going to shove it down their throats. People tune you out when all you have to say is “BUY MY STUFF.”
Here’s where we opened things up to Q&A from the audience.
@lelah: What is the first step someone should do after designing a pattern if they want to do this professionally, and have been absent from the Rav/Etsy/Craftster/knit blog scene for some time?
@knitgrrl: Post it for sale on Rav AND Etsy. Do a tutorial for any special techniques used on Craftster. Lots of designers I know STILL get email/attention for tutorials they wrote YEARS ago. Contribute to the community and you become trusted friend.
@Joanna__Johnson: so, @knitgrrl, do you think there are certain genres of book that work better for digital books? some for print?
@knitrrl: Digital will be the savior of indie-pub’d full-color books like crafts titles, due to lower production costs but digital can work well for any type of book, really. I’m looking forward to seeing more multimedia includes like video!
@BethToddCreatz: How do you choose which designs to publish and which will never see the light of day?
@knitgrrl: Good one, @BethToddCreatz! I tend to put a lot of designs “on probation” until they behave themselves. This means backlog. It also means “lots of guilt they’re not done yet.” The best designs, for me, have a real life of their own and WANT to be completed. My most popular sweater, Rivulet, was completed start to finish in less than a month. It just FLOWED…I usually take that as a sign that it’s going to work for the knitter on the other end, too.
@StefanieJapel: Q for @knitgrrl, how have distributors responded to your self-published books?
@knitgrrl: Really well, @StefanieJapel! The distro that sells into the most LYSs picked it up at #TNNA as soon as they heard the topic! In addition, my printer is tied into Ingram, which is one of the largest (THE largest?) distributors around, so that helps.
[I asked Shannon if she has tips to share about working with a distributor.] Doing your research = key. LONG before your book is ready you need to be talking to the distributors. Many distributors have salespeople going out to presell titles up to a year in advance. Our (crafty) niche is a different, but you can help your book by getting the word out yourself. If you already sell patterns to LYSs, for example, you can ask them if they’d rather order directly from you or from the distributor. Find out which distro(s) they buy from, and tell them your book is coming out, the stores that already buy from you are interested, and would they like to distribute it, too?
@zigzagstitch: @knitgrrl is it worth it to take a book you’ve pub’d yourself around to local yarn stores? better to go bigger first?
@knitgrrl: Depends on the audience. Is it something specialized? For ex, a group of Portland crafters did a joint book to help drive business to local craft stores. If the content was very Portland-specific, it might not appeal to a nat’l distro. However, if the content isn’t specific like that, I’d like to start an indie craft book trade assoc so we could all benefit from co-op advertising, shared distro, etc!
@kpwerker: Apropos of nothing @knitgrrl, do you think a brand new designer should self-publish their 1st design or submit to a magazine?
@knitgrrl: Magazine=more eyeballs, but be careful about giving up rights to your work. Tradeoff doesn’t have to be brutal. (An anon. lit. agent in the book talks about the digital rights grabs going on in the publishing world right now…I think we designers need to be aware of what’s happened in other fields, such as freelance writers’ court case on digital rights).
@kpwerker: You said the magic word: “rights.” What should new (and established) writers and designers keep in mind?
@knitgrrl: You take a project for 1 of 2 things: money, or publicity. Sometimes you get both, but if it isn’t worth just ONE, don’t! I have taken projects where I wouldn’t have made ANYTHING after paying the sample knitter/etc, but was great PR. However, it was MY CHOICE — anyone touting a project solely for publicity or “exposure” should be immediately suspect. Our hilarious friends @Ravelry got it right: http://bit.ly/a1wgBm.
@BethToddCreatz What about publishing to online mag like Knitty.com, do you think this is good for exposure?
@knitgrrl: I think @knittydotcom has gone above & beyond to prove its ability to create value for our community. 1. They pay their designers, & 2. readership is enormous, 3. they’re highly respected and 4. they aren’t out for quick buck. So, in short: I love @knittydotcom (and my alma mater @yarnforwardmag ’cause designers get all rights back after 6 months!)
@kpwerker: Any designers/writers doing totally awesome things we all should try to emulate, @knitgrrl?
@knitgrrl: Also, @kpwerker artists who inspire: @VendettaBella (my studiomate), @mollycrabapple @CynthVonBuhler etc. (I mention this because my new pattern collection draws inspiration from some art stuff.) @blondechicken @spunkyeclectic @helloyarn @SisterDiane = examples of good business sense + personality. I follow a lot of book industry people on Twitter to keep an eye on what’s next: such as Apple opening up the iBookstore! A good online directory: http://bit.ly/d2l9mk — you can narrow down depending on your interests. Oh, and @InterweaveNews!
@kpwerker: Nearing the end of our chat/twinterview, what are you working on next, @knitgrrl?
@knitgrrl: My new pattern collection, the Fresh Designs books (http://bit.ly/cMUfdD) and a summer read/knitalong (http://bit.ly/9Q7L31).
@Joanna__Johnson: @knitgrrl now that you’ve published your own book, is there anything you would do differently next time?
@knitgrrl: Next time, @Joanna__Johnson, I am not scheduling publication for the week before 2 giant events! That was madness!
@petitepurls: What do you do when you’ve been accepted into a book for publication but your contact person doesn’t reply to questions?
@knitgrrl: Good question, @petitepurls! I have been there! Best advice = do what you think is best and then adjust if told differently.
@kpwerker: Ok, lovelies. It’s time to wrap up. Thank you so much for following along and participating tonight! Shannon Okey/@knitgrrl‘s next stop on her blog tour is this Thursday on @yarnthing‘s blog. You can see the schedule for her whole tour here: http://www.knitgrrl.com/?p=1129
* I don’t know why more authors, designers, and people in general don’t use Twitter as a live interview platform. It’s so easy, and has tremendous potential for audience engagement. If you’re intrigued, drop me a line.
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