Publishers in the craft and hobby category have to stay current with new fashions and emerging trends across a number of platforms, while still providing fresh content for the dyed-in-the-wool segment of the market. Standing out in this crowded, ever-evolving field is a challenge. These days, the key may be creative empowerment.
Readers are constantly seeking out new ways to craft, and because of that, we’ve seen an extension of what the traditional category encompasses,” says Meg Leder, executive editor at Penguin’s Perigee line. “People aren’t just looking for a pattern to replicate, but a project that they can put their own personal spin on.” Perigee’s upcoming list emphasizes that with a trio of crafty journals. This fall will see the release of The Imaginary World of... (Sept.) by Keri Smith, whose Wreck This Journal has sold two-million-plus copies according to the publisher, and Adam Kurtz’s 1 Page at a Time: A Daily Creative Companion (Oct.). In the spring, Lea Redmond’s All Lovely Things: A Field Journal for the Objects that Define Us (Mar.) will join the lineup. Perigee editor-in-chief Marian Lizzi says that the imprint looks to its authors’ and readers’ social media use—Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest—for inspiration to stay in tune with the audience.
Perhaps the best news for the category is that what is commonly called the “maker movement” can’t be considered just a trend anymore. When a new generation of knitters with a modern aesthetic began holding Stitch ’n’ Bitch circles in the late 1990s, it was difficult to predict that the DIY revolution would spread so widely through the culture and be embraced across so many crafts, hobbies, and technology. But the handmade scene and maker ethos have shown staying power, and that means continuing opportunity for publishers.
Made to Last
In craft and hobby, reader interest encompasses both the tried and the trendy, as evidenced by what publishers say is working well, and by what books they have on the horizon. “We have dramatically expanded our hobby and crafts list in the past few years, and, as a result, we have seen tremendous success,” says Eric Lowenhar, marketing manager at Barron’s Educational Series. The best-received Barron’s books focus on crafting with commonplace items like Lego blocks and duct tape. This fall brings Tape It & Wear It (Sept.), the latest from Richela Fabian Morgan, whose Tape It & Make It has, according to Nielsen BookScan, sold upwards of 50,000 copies since its 2012 publication, and Brick Flicks: 60 Iconic Movie Scenes and Posters to Make from Lego by Warren Elsmore (Oct.).
In addition to younger-skewing Rainbow Loom–themed books like Loom Band It by Kat Roberts and Tessa Sillars-Powell (Aug.), Barron’s March title Twist, Turn & Tie 50 Japanese Kumihimo Braids—with a reusable punch-out loom on the cover—has proven popular with adults. Kumihimo involves using a simple loom and knotting cord or thread to make accessories and jewelry. And, as papercraft continues to be a rising trend, the publisher will also offer Scissors, Paper, Craft: 30 Pretty Projects All Cut, Folded, and Crafted from Paper by Christine Leech (Oct.), with plans for everything from from birdhouses to dollhouses and beyond. Lowenhar says that sales tend to come from traditional outlets, but that there has been an increase in demand from specialty retailers along with big box retailers.
Craft books from Ulysses Press tend to sell well online and at nontraditional retailers like Urban Outfitters, Michaels, and Sam’s Club. Recent successes include Dazzling Duct Tape Designs by Tamara Boykins (2013) and this year’s Crafting with Paracord by Chad Poole (Apr.), Homemade Nail Polish by Allison Rose Spiekermann (May), and Sea Glass Jewelry by Lindsay Furber and Mary Beth Beuke (Jul.).
While today’s makers and crafters may be hyperconnected online and partial to unconventional projects—a quick browse on Pinterest turns up everything from a hat knitted to look like a brain to a cozy backyard hideout made from an “upcycled” trampoline—many publishers cite the print format and store placement as critical tools for breaking out a book. Perhaps that isn’t so counterintuitive, given the importance of aesthetics and physical objects for artisans.
Placing value on the tangible is at the heart of Shambhala’s Roost Books line, says marketing and communications manager Steven Pomije. He notes that Roost grew from the success of Amanda Blake Soule’s The Creative Family (2008), which he says has sold close to 50,000 copies to date. The line emphasizes both handmade and repurposed objects and family projects.
“This is what we want our books to do—to show you how to create a life beyond digital devices, one that is shared with loved ones face to face,” says Pomije, who says titles sell through online retailers, indie bricks-and-mortars, and Barnes & Noble outlets.
A June title from Roost, Rachelle Doorley’s Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors, is a prime example of the publisher’s aims and is also one of its current top sellers. Aimed at parents, the title is moving some 400 copies a week, says Pomije. In September, Roost will release Vintage Made Modern by Jennifer Casa, a guide to reusing hand-me-downs and worn household textiles, and, in October, British seamstress and blogger Tilly Walnes offers Love at First Stitch, a dressmaking how-to.
At STC Craft, an Abrams imprint, publishing director Melanie Falick also sees nostalgia as a driving force in the market. “In an era when the speed of communication is breakneck and access to just about anything we want to buy is at our fingertips,” she says, “it’s not surprising that an appreciation of the slow pace and quiet of many crafts is being celebrated.” This theme shows up in different guises on STC Craft’s upcoming slate, in titles like Handcrafted Christmas by Susan Waggoner (Oct.) and Gertie Sews Vintage Casual (Sept.), Gretchen “Gertie” Hirsch’s guide to techniques for constructing wardrobe staples of the 1940s and ’50s. Unconventional & Unexpected: American Quilts Below the Radar 1950–2000 by Roderick Kiracofe (Sept.) offers a glimpse into the history of the craft via the author’s extensive private collection. And Artist Lisa Occhipinti’s Novel Living: Collecting, Decorating, and Crafting with Books (Nov.) celebrates the physical book.
Crown’s Potter Craft imprint also has a title for bibliophiles. From Charlotte Rivers, a design author and the blogger behind Lottie Loves, comes Little Book of Book Making: Timeless Techniques and Fresh Ideas for Beautiful Handmade Books (Aug.), which profiles 30 bookbinders and offers tutorials for those who want to learn the craft. Among Potter Craft’s other forthcoming books are A Beautiful Mess: Happy Handmade Home by Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman (Aug.), the bloggers behind the site A Beautiful Mess, and Candy Aisle Crafts by Jodi Levine (Aug.), a longtime staffer on various Martha Stewart projects.
Tailored to Fit
Many publishers have enjoyed success offering titles to both beginner and seasoned crafters. “DK has always published a large range of hobby and craft titles,” says Mary Ling, publisher of DK craft, gardening, and children’s books. “It’s our primary goal [not only] to continue publishing new trendy titles in the traditional disciplines, but also to spot emerging trends with longevity and pick up on those.” The publisher recently launched DKinVideo, a YouTube channel featuring crafting and how-to videos.
Fall titles include Winter Knits Made Easy by Jane Bull (Aug.) and Quilting by DK Publishing (Oct.). Ling says Quilting appeals more to those who want to learn techniques related to a reemerging trend, while Bull’s book is aimed at readers in search of specific projects. The publisher is reaching out to library accounts and craft and hobby stores to build British author Bull’s profile in the U.S., having already worked with her on titles Crafty Creatures (2013) and Crafty Dolls (July).
Storey Basics, an introductory line from category mainstay Storey Publishing, adds three titles in September: How to Knit by Leslie Ann Bestor, [em]How to
Crochet[/em] by Sara Delaney, and How to Make a Quilt by Barbara Weiland Talbert. More advanced offerings from Storey Publishing are The Knowledgeable Knitter by Margaret Radcliffe (Sept.) and The Crocheter’s Skill-Building Workshop by Dora Ohrenstein (Dec.).
In August, St. Martin’s Press adds The Sewing Machine Embroiderer’s Bible: Get the Most from Your Machine with Embroidery Designs and Inbuilt Decorative Stitches by Liz Keegan to a robust backlist of tightly focused titles dealing with everything from serging and decorative stitching to machine quilting. “I’m finding a strong market for books that are machine specific, and technique or equipment driven,” says senior editor B.J. Berti. The publisher has seen interest in lighter fare, too, such as Game Day: 50 Fun Spirit Fleece Projects to Sew by Cindy Cummins (May) and, in January, is covering two newer trends, with Florencia Campos Correa’s 100 Pin Loom Squares and Marisa Edghill’s Washi Style: 50 Great Projects Using Japanese-Style Decorative Tape.
Trafalgar Square courts those looking to develop more advanced skills or to import the latest techniques from abroad. According to marketing director Kim Cook, today’s crafter is likely to investigate a book online first, and publishers must provide detailed descriptions, images, and even free patterns to entice them. “Publishing books with more patterns and exploring some of the less prominent crafts also demonstrates publishers’ commitment to supporting the productivity and ingenuity of the maker movement,” she says. This fall, crafters can pick up projects featuring Tunisian crochet, also called “Afghan stitch,” and other patterns from Crochet the Perfect Gift by Kat Goldin (Nov.). One of the publisher’s most anticipated books, Cook says, is Norwegian Knits with a Twist, the newest from Norwegian knitting celebrities Arne & Carlos, out in September. Arne & Carlos have sold more than 500,000 copies of their books worldwide, according to Cook, and will be featured authors at the Nordic Knitting Conference in Seattle in October.
Meanwhile, Martingale is trying to snare an audience it sees as self-taught and likely to come to books to learn new skills, says publisher Jennifer Keitner, with titles like The Big Book of Little Amigurumi: 72 Seriously Cute Patterns to Crochet by Ana Paula Rimoli, which came out in June, and November’s Free-Motion Quilting for Beginners by Molly Hanson. “Both the yarn and fabric categories are trending up in audiences with more, younger crafters emerging in quilting, knitting and crocheting,” Keitner says.
On the hobby side, Norton has two titles that might not have been trendy a decade ago, but are now. Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter by Nina
MacLaughlin (Mar.) is a memoir may appeal to the growing number of woodworkers, and Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year Round Preserving by Cathy Barrow (Nov.) reflects the growing interest in canning food from the garden. And in September, Skyhorse will release Life Hacks, collecting the best weekend projects from Instructables’s Grant Thompson, from building working speakers to making dry ice.
Running Press marketing manager Geri DiTella has recently observed another trend—crafts that don’t require sewing. “Sewing machines can strike fear and dread into the hearts of many crafters,” says DiTella. “I should know, I’m one of them.” To the rescue: Ashley Johnson’s No-Sew Love: Fifty Fun Projects to Make Without a Needle and Thread (Aug.).
And for the truly risk averse, there’s Make It Mighty Ugly: Exercises and Advice for Getting Creative Even When It Ain’t Pretty by Kim Piper Werker, due out in August from Sasquatch Books. When a book’s m.o. is to help readers make something ugly on purpose, it’s clear that publishers are trying to reach every potential crafter and hobbyist.
A Spring in Their Step
Spring House Press is a new entrant into the craft and hobby publishing scene, but its founders’ names may be familiar to industry observers. Publisher Paul McGahren and editorial director Matthew Teague were colleagues at Taunton Press and are category veterans, with McGahren most recently at Fox Chapel Publishing and Teague at Popular Woodworking Magazine. McGahren explains the impetus behind the new enterprise: “We did this because we each have 20 years in publishing under our belt and, more so, because the maker movement is brimming with enthusiasm, curiosity, and creativity.”
The new press will produce and distribute books, e-books, DVDs, and streaming video across a wide range of craft, lifestyle, and hobby interests. One thing the partners aren’t worried about is choosing subjects. “You just have to visit Etsy, Pinterest, or the massive selection of maker blogs to see there is plenty of uncharted territory. We noticed a boom in skateboarding, but no books on how to build one,” says McGahren.
Inspired to fill that gap, the press is releasing The Handmade Skateboard by Matt Berger, founder of Sk8Makers, in September. The title is already getting interest from specialty retailers and sports a blurb from Paddle Your Own Canoe author Nick Offerman, who portrays woodworking outdoorsman Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation.
In February, the publisher will release The Uke Book Illustrated: Design and Build the World’s Coolest Ukulele by John Weissenrieder, illustrated by Sarah Greenbaum and packaged as a graphic novel. Spring 2015 will also see the publication of The Tinkering Woodworker: Practical Projects for Work, Home, & Play from the Tinkering Monkey, an industrial design team that makes the Wood Flip, an iPad cash-register tool, among other products. “Contrary to the doom and gloom in the news, I think it’s a great time to be a publisher—especially a publisher catering to makers in the hobbies and crafts category,” says McGahren. “The maker movement has created a vast landscape filled with profitable niches where the energy, curiosity, and passion to learn, make, and creatively engage has never been greater.”
More 2014 Crafting Titles
Doll Couture: Handcrafted Fashions for 18-Inch Dolls by Marsha Greenberg (Running Press)
Hands on Mosaics by various contributors (Trafalgar Square.)
My Favorite Cardigans to Knit by Birgitta Forslund (Trafalgar Square)
The Needlepoint Book (Updated Third Edition) by Jo Ippolito Christensen (Touchstone)
35+ Potholders to Crochet by Beatrice Simon, Eveline Hetty-Burkart, Beate Hilbig, and Dagmar Neubert (Trafalgar Square)
Unbored Games: Serious Fun for Everyone by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen (Bloomsbury)Books for Crafty Kids: Hobbies & Crafts 2014