Behind the Scenes: Getting a Book Published

Monday, October 21, 2013

Getting a book published can be a murky process, so today I'm featuring an interview with Candice Coppola, Beth Chapman and Carla Ten Eyck, a group of wedding professionals who collaborated on a book called The White Dress: in Color. The ladies share a bit about their experience of collaborating, writing their book proposal, landing a publisher and how to "push send" on a dream.

Also, a little fact that they don't mention, but I will: pre-orders and first week sales are hugely important for authors and publishers. The better bridal books do as a category, the more publishers are willing to award bridal book deals. If you want to support these ladies and/or the wedding industry as a whole, or if you simply have a dream of getting your own book published one day, these next two weeks are the perfect time to buy their book. And with engagement season starting at Thanksgiving (and going through Valentine's Day), it's also a great time to purchase a few to have on hand as gifts. You can pre-order the book on Amazon now or pick it up in your local bookstore beginning next Monday, October 28th.

In addition, Beth, Candice and Carla will all be speaking at Toss the Bouquet, a day-long wedding business education event in Chicago on November 18th. If you're in the area and would like to meet them and learn more about the book process, you can register for the event here.

Okay, without further ado, here's the interview, with the responses from Candice:

Where did the idea for this book come from? 

The idea for The White Dress: in Color came during the third photoshoot we had been collaborating on in November of 2009. Beth, Carla and I had been working for about a year and a half together on editorial photoshoots and Beth had the brilliant idea to put them together in a book and so right there, during our photoshoot, she pitched the idea and it was born! We wanted the work to have more of a ‘permanent’ home. The images and the content were so beautiful, but they were only seen for one issue of a magazine or fleetingly on a blog. By publishing a book, we felt that the work could be preserved by having a long shelf life and become more of a keepsake for couples and industry professionals.

Can you tell us a bit about the book proposal process and pitching three co-authors? Were there any unique challenges you had to overcome? 

The book proposal process took a long time. The three of us met many times to determine the direction we wanted to go and even went on a few "retreats" (that involved lots of cozy fires, champagne, laughs, bonding, and writing!) to first figure out how we would pitch the book. It was a daunting task because really, where do you start? A blank sheet of paper and a pen can be very intimidating! We had the images, we had the work, but we knew how important it was to impress a literary agent or publisher with written ideas and words. A first impression means everything.

We determined the best route to take was to literally write a comprehensive business plan for The White Dress: in Color. It included our target audience, how we would market the book, where and how we would sell it, along with related titles. As the book was all about beautiful images, we knew that the presentation of the book was key. We started by beautifying the business plan. It was designed with beautiful fonts and some of the images to be included in the book as well as headshots of the three of us. We also decided to create an actual book which was simply a 200+ hard cover book of the images we planned to include in the book. It did not include text, introductions, descriptions or anything else written, just Carla's gorgeous photographs. That also took a bit of time to design, but we felt it was important that while pitching, the publisher or literary agent could flip through and see the work and be inspired!

Once we had the materials together, we were fortunate to have a close friend who was a published author (and also advised us along the way) send a hand-written introduction to Schiffer Publishing about our team and the project. Ordinarily, an author’s process would be to first hire a literary agent that would vet publishers. However, since our friend already had a relationship with the publisher, we decided to go directly to them ourselves. We sent along our precious book mock up and pitch . . . and waited. When they called for a meeting, we were astounded! When they slid a contract across the table and said we want to make your dream come true, we celebrated! After that, the real work began!

Left to right: Beth, Candice and Carla

When most people collaborate on a book, it's typically one person writing content and another providing the photographs. Your collaboration is more in depth and a true coming together of creativity and artistry. Can you share a bit on how you worked together?

We are fortunate enough that the three of us have an innate ability to work together. It's rare and we recognize that. I think, first and foremost, we respect each other and our opinions -- and we view this project as something that we've completely done together. To give you an idea of tasks, here's how certain pieces were pulled together:

Beth was responsible for:

* Emailing: Our contact with the publisher -- she was the only one who conversed with them regarding our questions, ideas, and thoughts to keep communication easy.
* Formatting: Beth formatted all the text in the book to the publisher’s exact specifications, which was very difficult, confusing, and hard to do. She did a tremendous job!
* Spreadsheets and Documents: Beth has mainly been in charge of making sure all our marketing documents, contacts, spreadsheets, etc are all in order, up to date and current. The publisher provided us with a marketing document that contains all of our PR and marketing contacts for promotion of the books, as well as locations where we feel the book could and should be sold. This information had to be handed over to the publisher when we submitted the final content for the book and it is constantly updated as new contacts arise.
* Writing: Beth wrote many passages in behind-the-design that feature her expertise in fashion.

Candice was responsible for:

* Design: I designed the entire book from front cover to the last page. Along with our word documents full of formatted text that Beth worked on, we wanted to send an actual PDF of what we envisioned the book to look like. So I spent many, many hours working in Adobe's inDesign designing the entire layout of the book -- from image placement, fonts, behind the design -- all of it! Then our talented book designer at Schiffer worked her professional magic and enhanced the groundwork that I laid out.
* Writing: I wrote many passages through out the book as it relates to the design of the photoshoots, inspiring ideas, etc.
* Emailing and Connecting: I have been one of the main contacts for various vendors, people who worked on the book, press contacts, etc in getting the word out there about the project.
* Credits: I went through every photoshoot, countless emails, and all the images to make sure vendors were properly credited and mentioned in the book. This was important to all three of us as we wanted to celebrate the wonderful work of everyone who contributed.

Carla was responsible for:

* Editing: Carla spent hours upon hours editing the final chosen photographs for the book which is no small task. There were over 200 images that needed finishing touches.
* Connecting: Carla is such a people person and I swear, everyone always gravitates towards her bubbly and fun personality! She has worked so hard to make so many contacts for us regarding this project and our upcoming book.
* Writing: Carla wrote several passages with regards to photography and her expertise, giving couples tips and ideas for their photographs and photographers too.
* Delegating Master: Carla is the delegating master, and she would step in when she felt we might be taking on too much and give us ideas of how we could delegate out specific work to lighten our load. That might not sound very important, but let me tell you, it was invaluable.

Collectively, we worked TOGETHER on many things not even listed above, such as the website. During the production of the shoots that you see in this book, our duties and tasks are countless, but we all work together and it is so fluid and natural!

What is the biggest lesson you've each learned from the process of getting this book from idea to reality?

We think there are a few key lessons learned:

1. Books don't make you rich.

2. Much of the promotion for the book and the leg work to get it out in front of the world is done by you, the author. You don’t just put a book out in to the world and it magically sells!

3. There is no better feeling in the world than seeing something you've worked so hard on become a living, breathing thing.

4. Our industry, friends and family are unbelievably supportive and we could have never done it without them.

Carla, Candice and Beth with an advance copy of their book. Instagram photo courtesy Kim Petyt

Many talented, creative people allow "imposter syndrome" or the fear of "Who do I think I am?" to prevent them from taking the necessary steps to pursue their dreams and goals. What advice do you have for people who have talent and skill but who may be afraid of "pushing send" on their ideas?

Well, the three of us do not suffer from this syndrome! But we do know that so many people look at a big dream they have and get scared . . . and we can't say we blame them. The thought of failing alone can make you scared to never begin. Our biggest advice is to chase after and follow those dreams, no matter how big or small. Put in the hard work, stay the course in your determination, and never lose sight of your belief that you can do anything you set your mind to! Press send on that email, attend that conference, walk up to your idol and introduce yourself . . . you never know what opportunities might be around the corner. Additionally, we think being very driven and business minded should be balanced with being a real approachable genuine person. Look to connect with people for who they are and not for what they can do for you. We have found that things will happen if people connect with you for who you are.

Thanks, ladies! Be sure to follow Candice, Beth and Carla on Twitter and purchase their book here. They've also generously shared a copy of their book pitch to help others map out their own process and you can download it as a PDF here.

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