by Karen Williams
I met Karen Williams while I was in Seattle recently for the CreateSpace Pitch 2.0 event. When she told me about the book she had published through CreateSpace, I was quite curious to see it. Karen generously sent me a copy, and the book shows the amount of work that went into the design, layout and illustrations she created for it. I also liked the choice she made to print the book on uncoated paper, making it much more affordable without sacrificing very much in color, since the illustrations are meant for instruction. I asked her to tell how the book came to be, and here’s her story.
In 2006 I was asked to share my experiences about freeform peyote beading, an abstract, organic art form built using tiny seed beads. The class was a grand success and the students loved it. Except they wanted to know where they could find more information.
At that time there were no books available on the subject; my class handouts grew and grew to compensate for that lack. Over the next two years my handouts grew to forty pages.
Believing there was strong niche market for a book, I put together submission packets for all the major craft publishers, crafting each proposal to the publisher’s specifications. Wherever possible I addressed my cover letter to the editor I thought most likely to be interested in my project.
Then there was silence. My proposals had disappeared into a black hole. Follow-up queries garnered exactly one response.
Disheartened, I very nearly shelved the project until I chanced upon CreateSpace. Leery of self-publishing—who hasn’t heard the stories of the friend of a friend with ten thousand copies of his memoir in his garage?—the idea still intrigued me.
Especially when I discovered I could create a full-color interior, with no up front fees, and the opportunity to purchase as many or as few books as I wanted, when I wanted, at a reasonable price. They would even list my book on Amazon if I wanted. And because I retained the copyright, I could use it as an example of what I was capable of producing, should I decide to approach traditional publishers again for a different project.
Best of all, I could complete the project myself, without waiting for the proverbial green light from anyone else.
Searching Amazon and the other major online booksellers once more for freeform beading, I determined there were still no other books on the topic. But fear probably would have kept me sitting on the fence if Createspace hadn’t happened to offer a special package deal for their Author Express service.
Their promise of technical support if I needed it was exactly the push I needed to start the project rolling. That was December of 2009.
Why the Project Made Sense
My original intent was to help others succeed with freeform peyote and provide a follow-up resource for my students focusing on jewelry creation.
Starting the project I had several things working in my favor.
- Because of my teaching, I already had a preliminary draft for the content and a strong idea of what was important to include based upon the areas where my students had the most difficulties.
- I had step-by-step photos for a number of my completed projects, which reduced the number of new designs I needed to create.
- I already owned and was somewhat familiar with the software I planned to use as well.
Even so, the project took me the better part of nine months to complete.
It Can Be Hard to Keep Going
I came a hair’s breadth from abandoning the project several times. Exhausted from the enormity of my project, it was often hard to continue.
A circle of friends and fellow artists kept me going by asking for regular updates, holding me accountable for ‘showing up’ when my own drive simply wasn’t enough. I doubt I would have completed the project without that community support.
Freeform beading is not a fast medium; a bracelet can take up to ten or twenty hours depending upon its complexity, while a larger project such as a collar can easily take upwards of a hundred hours to complete.
What Publishing Has Done For Me
There is no doubt that my book has helped to establish my credentials as an artist. I find that people seem better able to recognize the value of this work. People who love my work often purchase my book to learn how to do it themselves.
Today, my blog, website and book all work together in a sort of synergy:
- My blog chronicles my creative life as a working artist and craftsperson.
- My website, a continual work in progress, hopefully provides additional support, inspiration and encouragement while also promoting my book.
- My web address is prominently displayed on the back cover and copyright page of my book for those interested in finding out more.
Even though it has been a lot of work, would I consider self-publishing again? Most definitely!
Karen Williams has spent the past twenty years exploring the myriad possibilities of working with fiber and beads. Her mixed media art is a celebration in color and texture of the natural world. Residing in Seattle, Washington, Karen tries to balance her roles as artist, author and workshop presenter. She can be found on the web at www.skunkhillstudio.com, or her blog at baublicious.blogspot.com.
FreeForm Peyote Beading: Design and Creation of Original Wearable Art Jewelry is available at Amazon.com