Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Margot Potter on How To Get Published

Just this morning I was thinking about an artisan I know who couldn't get published if she paid the editors (no, you do not know who I'm talking about). Why? Because she and her drama have worked their way through one major craft mag after another, and apparently dealing with her is not worth the effort.

So today in my Google reader, I see Margot Potter's spot-on post about getting published, and, well, go read it -- it's very good! (Er, if you can get the page to load! All that glitz and glitter makes for quite the bandwidth-hog blog) I would only disagree with a couple of things, and one is, you don't even have to be a good writer to get published in most craft magazines (but it does help).

A lot of beadwork magazines, for example, mainly want you to be knowledgeable and create a nice project, they'll take care of your bad grammar. But if you want to be accepted a second time, well, read Margot and/or do this:

  1. Do what they ask & don't be a diva. You are not the Queen. An article is basically a collaboration -- be a team player. If you don't like the rules, you can always self-publish.

  2. Read previous issues and/or the mag's writer's guidelines and follow them as closely as possible.

  3. Don't indundate the mag with long communications. If you have to ask a question for clarification, keep it short. Editors are BUSY people.

  4. Make the deadline (oops. This is why I'm more or less on hiatus this year -- between my health and grad school, I have too little control over my own time.)
Expect your article to get edited -- shortened, most likely -- and try not to throw a fit when there are errors. How you deal with pressure and flubs can either endear you to the mag staff (and therefore make it easy to make money on articles and other opps you'll be invited to join) or make them want to run away when they see your number on their caller ID.


Hmmm, after rereading this I realized I should prolly acknowledge that there are times to walk away from a publishing/design gig -- there are bad editors, sloppy publishers, etc. etc. and people who just don't treat you right. Sorry if I sounded like the drama was always coming from the designers/contributors. 8-)


I remember a totally embarassing publishing mistake in an article a few years ago. I had written a cuff bracelet project where I used Ultrasuede instead of leather and the editor (I'll go ahead and say, it was the lovely Jean Campbell, who I would follow to the ends of the earth to work with) had edited the article to say I "hate" leather, when I didn't actually say that. I do use it, it's just different. What was embarassing is that this happened in their special Native American issue. Full of leather projects. Oh yeah. And guess where I live and work? Smack dab in the middle of Indian country. But what could I do but be gracious? Everybody makes mistakes, even editors. Even Jean, LOL! (I hope she doesn't read this -- talk about gracious, she's got that in spades). She published an errata (if that's what it's called) in the next issue.

There's just one other thing I'd disagree with Margot on, and that is self-promotion. I think you have to find a way to promote that fits your personality. You can make a heckuva lotta money just being yourself, and quietly delivering a good product. Not everyone wants their own craft show (Go Margot!). And not everyone (especially other women) wants to hear you tooting your own horn all the time. But it's true, without promotion, you and your beautiful gifts will probably just sit there.

Take Bonnie Brooks. You might not have heard of her, cause she's a modest thing, but as a hand-worker she can spin gold. Everything she touches turns be000tiful! The fact that she is a graphic designer and a consummate artisan makes her an excellent independent technical editor. Her hands and her eye for detail are there behind a lot of great craft books. She gets work because she does work. Good work begets good work. Or something... so keep working. Promotion is sometimes an inside job.

Utimately, there isn't a right or wrong way to promote, and, thereby, carve out a niche for yourself (and frankly I don't see crafters getting filthy rich at it anyway), so my advice would be to, yes, stretch, pounce on possibilities, but be yourself. Because at the end of the day, you're who you come home to. 8-)

Actually, there is no ladder to climb, only goals to set for yourself. Once you get into the so-called "big leagues," don't be surprised if the landscape looks pretty flat, because, after all, it's populated with folks just like you, who happened to arrive a little sooner than you did. But don't be too disappointed if you no longer have time to do what you love -- make things. Personal things. Deep things. Studio time is usually the first to go.

Thinking about all this promotion and getting published and being a designer, I guess my secret weapon is "Just Say Yes." When a new door opens, walk through. If you don't like the party, you can always leave. If you go broke following that lead, well, you've earned more in wisdom than if you hadn't tried it. You'll work smarter next time. If it's a waste of your time, no biggee, just pull back and focus on what's productive (for you). If you're scared, make yourself do it anyway. It will be less scary the next time. If your dream is to get published, that will never happen unless you submit something already! Woot!

Check my other posts on this topic (label: getting published) for a list of bead/jewelry-related magazines to submit to.


  1. Mary

    I guess my super speed internet keeps me from knowing my page is hard to load! Egads! I simply can't do what I do without a computer that keeps up with my brain...I will put up a poll on my blog to see if lots of folks are having problems loading the page. I wish folks would email me these things, I had no idea!

    Good points here you've articulated and I agree with most of them, but I do think being a good writer pays off in the long term. Especially if you want to write books people actually want to read. As an editor, I really got exhausted with people who couldn't write instructions that made sense. It's part of the job knowing how to articulate the step by steps so the reader can reproduce the project. I don't mean you have to be Hemingway, just learn basic rules of grammar and punctuation, clear self expression and how to create a Word document.

    Everyone is different and every path is as well, people email me daily asking for advice specifically on how to promote themselves, get published and make a name for themselves in the industry, so I try to provide advice based on my personal experiences in my blog in a way that allows for their unique approach. That's what's so cool about creativity, we all have our own spin on it.

    Thanks so much for the shout out in your blog! I love that!


  2. Thanks so much for stopping by Margot! It sounds like we pretty much agree.

    I hope you get some good feedback on your bandwidth. I would be happy to help convert your images to GIFs for you (since I'm the one who brought it up, LOL), you'd be surprised how much download time you can save, and your beatiful blog design won't lose image quality either.


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