Embroidery, knitting, cross-stitch, and other crafts are natural stars on social media, where many practitioners have developed large followings of fans who log on to see their latest projects. And though strong social stats can boost almost any author’s stock with an acquiring editor, hobbies and crafts authors and publishers are especially suited to making use of social platforms, where they can post tutorials, respond to feedback on patterns, and encourage a community of like-minded crafters to buy their books.
Ravelry, which launched in 2007, is one of the most popular social networking services for crafters. Kristin Nicholas, author of Crafting a Colorful Home (Roost, 2015), describes the site as “the Facebook of knitters and crocheters.” It has more than 7.2 million registered users worldwide, and some 800,000 of them are active in a given month.
If a pattern is available in a published book, its page typically will include a “buy” button and a WorldCat library link for the book. Community users can post works in progress as well as finished projects; if users discover issues with a pattern, they can submit corrections to the site.
“With knitting and crochet books, sometimes there are errata,” Nicholas says. “So if there’s a problem with your pattern, you can upload the fix.”
Nicholas uses the site to market her self-published patterns and her book with Roost; she’s among several of the publisher’s designers with patterns on Ravelry. And Roost plans to make a Ravelry page for Nicholas’s next book, Crafting a Patterned Home (Apr. 2018).
Jennifer Urban-Brown, an editor at Roost, had already been using Ravelry as a resource for personal craft projects when she suggested that the publisher use the platform to promote Hilary Grant’s Knitting from the North (2016). By contrast, Roost senior marketing manager Claire Kelley had never used Ravelry before pursuing it as a promotional tool.
“One of the things about the crafting world is that each practice comes with its own vocabulary,” Kelley says. Exploring Ravelry helped Kelley to understand the vocabulary of knitting culture. “You have to fill out all these fields on Ravelry and be versed in the lingo,” Kelley says, because consumers use these fields to search patterns. For example, is the pattern seamed or seamless? Worked flat or in the round? Kelley was also able to see people favoriting and engaging with the patterns she posted right away.
Elizabeth Martins, a public relations manager at DIY and hobby publisher Fox Chapel, says that when the company released a clutch of knitting titles in 2013 and 2014, “Ravelry was a useful vehicle for introducing our books to a readership of devoted knitting fans.”
Mary Beth Temple, who has worked on craft books for Interweave, Soho Publishing, and Taunton, among others, published Arm Knitting with Fox Chapel in 2014. “Ravelry projects land very high in the search engines because the site is so big and so active,” she says. “It’s free marketing.”
Not long after Fox Chapel released the knitting titles, Martins says, the publisher turned its attention to the adult coloring book trend, and to sites including Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest for promotions. Another coloring book publisher, Andrews McMeel, has looked beyond those established platforms to market its books. The company partnered with Meredith Corporation to develop Posh Coloring Studio, which launched in May with 1,000 designs from its Posh Coloring Book line. Shelly Barkes, senior brand manager at Andrews McMeel Universal, says that the publisher had been seeing its coloring book sales decline, even as social media analytics showed continued interest in the trend. So Andrews McMeel took its coloring pages online.
The Posh Coloring Studio site gives members access to previously published as well as exclusive designs, though some Posh content will only be available in book form, including Inspired by Nature and Coloring 2018 Day-to-Day Calendar (both Aug.). Coloring Studio members get a discount on books purchased via the site.
Storey Publishing, which maintains active accounts on all of the expected platforms, is launching a proprietary online feature of its own. Sara Delaney’s Design Your Own Crochet Projects (Oct.) will be complemented by an online crochet calculator tool with multiple formulas.
“Each calculator corresponds with a section of the book,” says Alee Moncy, associate director of publicity. “The calculators replicate the basic elements of the formulas in the book—routine figures such as the number of skeins needed for a pattern or the total surface area of a hat—and are meant as a companion to, not a substitute for, the book itself.” The print and e-book editions will include links to the calculator. Storey will promote the tool on its website, as well as on Ravelry, where it will run an ad and create a page that indexes all of the patterns in the book.
Watch and Learn
Publishers in all kinds of categories use YouTube for promotion, with book trailers and author interviews, but hobbies and crafts publishers are uniquely positioned to use YouTube to enhance their books: tutorial videos can pique interest in a new concept or provide instruction for an especially tricky pattern. Having a telegenic author demonstrate a technique doesn’t hurt, either.
Scholastic imprint Klutz will again create instructional videos to accompany its forthcoming Klutz Jr. kits, a book-plus line for ages four and up, including the August titles My Fantastic Foam, My Pom-Pom Pet Shop, My Fairy Wish Kit, and My Little Night Light. Netta Rabin, v-p of product development for Klutz, says that the goal is “providing a step-by-step so that readers can understand the how and feel confident to make something on their own.”
For the videos that Klutz posts on its YouTube page, which has more than 2,300 subscribers and almost one million views on more than 100 videos to date, the Klutz team creates storyboards that focus on particular product features. Klutz also outsources some of its YouTube coverage of some products to brand ambassadors with significantly larger followings than that of Klutz’s channel. DisneyCarToys, with more than five million subscribers, recently posted an instructional video featuring four Klutz Jr. products. It was viewed more than 750,000 times in two weeks.
Zakka Workshop, which translates and publishes Japanese craft books, patterns, and kits, has posted just two videos to its YouTube channel. One of them, which demonstrates how to install a clasp in a coin purse, has garnered more than 20,000 views in less than a year.
In part because of the success of this video, Zakka Workshop is publishing The Purse Clasp Book in September, which will be packaged with enough hardware for two projects. A new video, offering instruction that covers all 14 of the book’s designs, will be released close to the pub date.
In 2016, C&T Publishing made a concerted effort to revamp its YouTube presence, creating an in-office studio and producing videos during Quilt Market, a multicity festival where many of its authors gather. “The tutorials require a bit of work, but they’re worth it,” says digital marketing and PR manager Lynn Merrill, who estimates that, on average, C&T sees a 20% increase in book sales when it posts a video about the book. C&T’s most popular YouTube video is “Printing on Fabric Tutorial with Lynn Koolish,” with nearly 60,000 views to date.
Merrill likens instructional videos in the craft industry to other kinds of tutorials, like learning how to change a tire, and emphasizes the importance of tagging videos so the desired audience can find you. She hopes to double the annual number of videos made by C&T in 2018.
In addition to partnering with their publishers, many crafters self-promote on their own websites, offering tutorial videos and marketing in-person workshops.
Quilter Angela Walters, who has written several books for C&T’s Stash imprint, launched her YouTube channel at the end of 2013; she has more than 27,000 subscribers, and her most popular video has more than 450,000 views. When Stash releases Walters’s Free-Motion Meandering in October, the publisher will make Walters’s relevant videos available on its YouTube channel as well.
Another example is artist Peggy Dean, whose Lettering in the Whimsical Woodlands, her first book with HCI, pubs in November. Dean maintains an active blog, The Pigeon Letters, and responds to every fan email (she receives more than 100 a day). Her Instagram account of the same name has 110,000 followers.
“Social media has opened up everything,” says Dean, who self-published her first book, The Ultimate Brush Lettering Guide, earlier this year, after winning a teaching contest for her class with the online learning platform Skillshare. That book has sold more than 11,000 copies in trade paperback, per NPD BookScan.
Dean will promote Lettering in the Whimsical Woodlands with 10 days of giveaways and her regular Thursday live chats on Instagram. Her online persona is fairly confessional—she shares personal challenges and discusses the joy and purpose she derives from crafting—so HCI, known more for self-help and spirituality titles, was a natural fit for her.
“They reach out to people who are struggling, and who want to find resources,” Dean says of HCI. It’s a trend throughout the world of craft publishing, too—if a knitter is stuck on a tricky row or a quilter wants pattern inspiration, there’s someone out there, online, who can help.