I may have actually squealed with delight the day Timber Press invited me to co-author a book for them. When it comes to gardening books, Timber is kind of a big deal. :) In this instance, they were in the process of developing a how-to book titled Mosaic Garden Projects with artist Mark Brody, and they needed a professional writer. It was Mark’s first book, and he was going to have his hands full designing and making 25 mosaics. So, we combined forces as artist and writer.
Big Challenge #1
For me, the first challenge of this project was…how to write a “how to” book when I did not, in fact, know how to make a mosaic. But, as it turns out, Mark and I made a great duo in this respect. The goal was to create a craft book that would appeal to beginners and advanced crafters alike. Given that I was a complete novice with mosaic, I had no problem occupying the “beginner’s mindset” that is so crucial to effectively communicating with an audience of newbies. I asked a ton of questions and helped Mark break down the instructions as clearly and simply as possible.
Big Challenge #2
Another big challenge of this project was the visual nature of the subject matter. The final book has over 250 images, so Mark and I had to be constantly mindful about which info would be conveyed through words, and which through pictures. Coordinating all of these images was a project unto itself.
The Writing Process
Over the course of a year, Mark patiently schooled me on the intricacies of mosaic—materials, tools, design principles, techniques, etc.—and talked me step-by-step through each of the book’s 25 featured projects. For some hands-on experience, I participated in one of Mark’s workshops and successfully made a mosaic bird feeder like the one featured in the book. Then, I took our outline, meeting notes, dozens of hours of audio recordings, hundreds of photos, and outside research, and I synthesized them into a cohesive book.
And then…on to editing! A lot of authors feel trepidation about handing off their book for editing. After all, the publisher does have final say about the end product, so authors have to let go of some control. But I, for one, was ecstatic knowing that our book would be in Timber’s capable hands. Great editors are like guardian angels, there to protect you from looking like an idiot. :) It’s a relief to get a pair of fresh eyes, especially when those eyes are attached to an editor with lots of experience working in the craft/”how to” genre. Our editor was able to steer us toward the best practices of the genre, point out areas that needed clarification, and help us achieve consistency across the manuscript. By the time it went into the design phase, I felt thoroughly confident about the quality of our manuscript.
And then, Timber’s design team worked its magic! Excellent design is a must-have for a project like this. The audience is gardeners and crafters—i.e., people who value beauty, color, and carefully chosen details. This book delivers all of that and more. (If you’d like to scroll through a preview of the book and see all the lovely design details, you can check out Mosaic Garden Projects on Timber's website.)
The Results & Reviews
We created a beautiful book—a tidy package that will educate and inspire would-be mosaic artists to tackle some of Mark’s beautiful and functional creations. And now, it’s out in the world and people are loving it! The book was favorably reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly, and is racking up some lovely reviews on Amazon (”This book is a gorgeous gem!” says one extremely intelligent reviewer. :)) Mark was also profiled in Portland’s Southeast Examiner and got a mention in The Oregonian.
Of course, as the artist and primary author of the book, the publicity journey is in Mark’s hands. So far, he’s done talks, demonstrations, and booksignings at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show, TaborSpace, Bullseye Glass, Portland Nursery, and more.
And, Mark’s success goes well beyond book sales. With the book as his calling card, he’s selling more mosaics, getting more commissions, and in general gaining the recognition he deserves as an artist and teacher.