Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Alison Cole on Publishing Needlework Books


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As mentioned in yesterday’s introduction to Alison Cole, stumpwork and goldwork artist, designer and book author, here’s the rest of Alison’s article. It’s not surprising that the next step in Alison’s busy needlework career was to write a book… and then another book. What I think is interesting is how she went about doing it, and how her determination paid off in the end by giving her exactly what she wanted her books to be. You’ll also find, at the end of this article, a picture of two fantastic embroidered panels.

Alison Cole on Writing Needlework Books

Writing a book is the easy part – getting it published was going to be as well – until the unthinkable happened.

Over the period of a couple of years, I had had three publishers ask me when I was going to write a book on Goldwork and Stumpwork. To them I replied ‘one day soon’.

I know another tutor that had told me of her experiences in producing a book – and how the publisher wanted 20 projects so that they could select 12. And how the publisher contacted her to get another project whipped up – needing it immediately and not realizing how long it takes to embroider a piece of work. So when I decided to sit down and write my book, I decided to have the book partially complete before contacting the publisher that I had chosen, to eliminate some of the stress of the deadlines that they give.

This seemed fine. I told the publisher of the estimated completion date of the manuscript and projects, and the publisher was happy. The publisher was going to send me the contracts – which never arrived. But it didn’t bother me, as I knew the publisher well and knew that they would in time come. I went on with the writing and promoting of the book. But the contract never eventuated.

When the book was complete, I sent off the manuscript. When I called to find out when they required the pieces for photography, the publisher then told me that they weren’t able to produce the book this year – or maybe even the next – but did like the book. This absolutely flattened me. I had been promoting the book the whole time that I was writing it. In every class when someone asked when I was going to write a book, I told them that it was coming and would be out next year. Now it was all at a halt.

I decided that my book was still going to come out when I said that it would – and looked into self-publishing it. This was the best decision that I have ever made – although it worried my husband somewhat. Publishing means footing the bill – taking all of the risk but also taking the profits. I knew that the book that I wanted to produce would sell, as there were no other project-based Goldwork books on the market at that time and in every class I was asked what project-based books were out there. I knew that if the book was laid out well and had lots of photographs that showed off the embroidery and its richness, it had to work.

I contacted a company that specializes in helping authors self publish and when they took my call they were skeptical as to how ready I was to get it published. They told me that for every 20 authors that contact them, only one has a manuscript that is really ready. I arranged a meeting with them and left the meeting feeling happy that this was the way to go.

I contacted a photographer that I had worked with before and asked him if he would take the photos for me – he was surprised to hear that I had already worked out what photos were required and that I had already done the styling and organized the props. The shoot was done and dusted in a single day – a long day – but still only one day.

The production company that I was using had me sit down with the layout designer, whom I briefed in exactly how I wanted the book to look and be laid out. He made some suggestions which I liked and then laid the book out to my instructions.

Next I had to cut out a couple of projects as the book was too long, which was followed by inserting the photos and the diagrams. I then had to re-arrange some of the project layouts to accommodate the number of pages. Spelling and grammar edits and technical edits came next and then the print-ready proofs arrived. It was amazing seeing it all laid out and ready to go to print.

When the first air-freighted, hand-bound copies arrived, I could hardly believe it. All the work that had been done up until this, it still had not looked like a book. The end was getting closer. Finally, the truck arrived with the books. By the time the books arrived, I had arranged two Australian distributors and shortly after had arranged a UK distributor as well. I had enjoyed the whole process so much that I had also started on the second book which was to become ‘The Midas Touch’.

Since then, ‘All That Glitters’ has gone into reprint and has been picked up and distributed outside of Australia and New Zealand by Search Press – throughout the UK, Europe, USA and South Africa.

‘The Midas Touch’ has also now gone into reprint, and is being distributed in the UK by Golden Hinde and in the USA by Nordic Needle.

While I have started work on the third book, it is going to be quite different than its predecessors. It is still featuring Goldwork – and has two projects already completed – but will take longer to complete. I am hoping that it will be released around 2011. Next year (2009), I have three commissions lined up on top of my usual teaching commitments.

Alison Cole has two panels on display at the Warrnambool Art Gallery in Victoria. The following photo was taken when the panels were unveiled. You can click on it for a larger image.

Goldwork and Stumpwork Panels by Alison Cole on display at Warrnambool Art Gallery, Victoria

I like reading about the successes of teachers, authors, and designers in the needlework world. Alison’s book publishing ventures are a good lesson in determination, and good insight into what it takes to prepare a book for publication.

I hope you enjoyed this article, too, and thanks so much to Alison for sending it and the photos of her work along!

If you’re interested in any kits or designs by Alison Cole, be sure to check out her website, Alison Cole Embroidery, where you’ll find all her currently available kits offered, as well as a fantastic gallery of Alison’s stumpwork and goldwork projects.


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(3) Comments

  1. ‘The Midas Touch’ is also available from Country Bumpkin (publishers of ‘Inspirations’). If you are a subscriber you get 10% off and even with the exorbitant shipping (to the States) it’s still cheaper than Nordic Needle at approximately $35-36US.

    Country Bumpkin’s web site:

  2. Mary, speaking of Alison Cole (as you were a year ago), she recently indicated that she was teaching at the Koala Convention. I don't know if you're familiar with it (I wasn't) and googled it: http://www.koalaconventions.com.au/cms/Article.aspx?ID=59610923-6e5e-42d9-9326-edcb26591958

    I am sick with envy! Australian stitchers have access to so much incredible stitchery. What is it about Australian designers and Australian needlework? Why is it so much more advanced (at least in my opinion) than what's available to us in the U.S.? What little I know about Australian history and geography makes it seem an unlikely breeding ground for inventive needlework.

    Anyway, I thought I'd share this site in case you hadn't seen it — or in case you have a theory about Australian needlework!

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