Learn to Sew with Lauren – What is it like to write a book?

Blog / 22 August 2014

This is a bit of a long one folks! If you fancy knowing how I managed to fit in writing my first sewing book during the first year of opening a retail and online business, get comfy and read on……

As some of you know, in a past life – pre g&g and pre sewing bee – I used to be a physiotherapist. I trained for four years and worked in the NHS for over 5 and I did really love it – I just realised that long term it wasn’t for me.
Getting a job was really competitive when I graduated and at the time I really wanted to make myself stand out of the crowd. I had this idea of a book I would have loved to have while I was studying so I thought why not write it and put it together myself. I called up the publisher that had published all of my uni textbooks and proposed my idea. To cut a long story short it got accepted and over the next 18 months I edited and wrote ‘Clinical Case Studies in Physiotherapy’ which was published by Elsevier in 2008.

So although I wasn’t totally new to the work and dedication required to write a book, producing a sewing book was a completely whole new different experience for me.

Learn to Sew with Lauren, which will be officially published in just over 2 weeks time was one of the most fun, challenging, interesting, stressful, insightful, eye opening, thought provoking experiences that I’ve ever done.

The process started before the sewing bee had even been aired and I was put in touch with a book agent. I started to bring some ideas together and write out a proposal. I knew I wanted to get across my passion and enthusiasm for sewing and also help people to realise that it’s really not as complicated as you think to sew something together and it can be really fun thinking up ideas for how to add details and personal touches.

After the agent pitching my ideas to various different publishers, and meeting up with some of them to see how their ideas fitted with mine, a deal was agreed with Octopus Publishing and I set to work bringing my vision for the most inspiring beginners sewing book. This is the point that the first timelines and deadlines are set so it all starts becoming very real after that. Negotiating the deal and making sure that everything is all fair and ok was left to my agent. I of course agreed at every stage too but there is a lot of nitty gritty that I wouldn’t have even thought to ask about and thats where I think really you need a professional who knows the business to be looking out for you.

The first stage was setting out a flat plan of the book – almost like a map of what is going to be included and where it is going to go. This sort of broke things down into more manageable chunks. When all that was going on it was about August time last year. I was still getting to grips with running the shop (no wait I am still doing that!) and teaching lots of workshops too so it was hard to fit everything in, but I just had to keep going and get on with it.

My deadline for handing in the manuscript was in the middle of November so over the next few months I spent every moment I had spare in between running the shop writing, researching, sewing, designing, getting the patterns drafted and tested - literally every evening, every day, every moment where I wasn’t needed to do something for the shop or teach. My house slowly became more and more un-kept to the point I had to hire a cleaner and my parents would come to visit and do the shopping, cook lovely home made meals and leave lots of stuff in the freezer for us.

As well as getting all the writing done I also had to make up all the projects and prepare all the techniques to be photographed.  It took 6 days altogether to shoot everything, we had 3 days in the studio above the shop and the other 3 days we spent in the most beautiful location houses in London. 

Photo from Shoot Factory

The photo shoots were really fun but such hard work. I had never fully appreciated how much patience is required to take a really beautiful photo. My photographer, Nassima, was amazing! It was so interesting to watch the process - the smallest tweeks in lighting, positioning, frame composition – loads of really little things and when the photo would appear on the computer screen it just looked awesome and sometimes completely different in terms of the colours and lighting that you could see with your own eye.

This was when I started to realise all the many different people involved in publishing a book….the publishing director, designer, art director, photographer, photographers assistant, editor, models and that was just for starters. Then there was the copy editor, the illustrator, production manager and I’m sure many more that I didn’t event have a chance to meet.

This is me with the gorgeous models we used in some of the photographs, Charlotte and Lydia. 

After the manuscript deadline had passed things settled down for me briefly while the whole text was checked and copy edited. That’s when someone goes through it all with a fine tooth comb and ensures things make sense. There was a lot of tooing and froing during that time as I had to provide extra bits and approve any changes that were being made. It was the end of last year, beginning of this one by that point.

Next was the designing of the book - so what goes where and how all of the text and photographs’ are presented in the book. The designer works on this and then its back to me to check things are still in the right order and fill in any small gaps that appear.

Tweeks to the front cover and final layouts was quite a long process that pretty much spilled over the first quarter of the year. Then as the book went into production, I could cool off finally and take a step back from it all. It really becomes such an involved all consuming thing that after a while you feel like you just need a clean break and not to look or think about it all for a while.

Over the past few months the plan to promote the book has been developed and now with just a few weeks to go it’s all getting really exciting and a little nerve wracking too. 

Your always your own worst critic and I’m sure I could have had all the time in the world to keep working on it and perfect it and still felt that I could have done more.

In short if you want write a book there are a few realities that I don’t think anyone could have prepared me for before I started

• It would be really hard to get your pitch and ideas in front of publishers and negotiate a good deal without the help of an agent.
• People will say no and reject your ideas but you have to learn how to say no to some people too
• It 10x more work than you think it will be
• Limits get pushed - be prepared that other parts of your life will suffer – like not doing any household chores or getting to the supermarket – ever.
• There will be at least one time that your computer battery dies when you haven’t saved your work – and you end up loosing it.
• You realise how understanding your family and friends have to be while you are in the book writing ‘zone’
• When it’s all finally done and dusted and you have an actual book in front of you – it will take a least a month to sink in that it’s real! (I’m still in that phase!)

If there is anything else you want to ask me about the proces - I'm all ears! Just leave a comment below....

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