What I Learned Writing a Book

Posted by: Rebecca Atwood

Living with Pattern by Rebecca Atwood - Home Decor Book - Photography by Emily JohnstonPhoto from Living with Pattern by Emily Johnston

Sometimes I still can’t believe that I wrote a book. For over a year I worked on the project- spent hours planning, writing, styling photo shoots, re-writing, creating illustrations, approving layouts, and reviewing proofs. It was a huge amount of work, but for a long time it remained abstract so at times seeing it as a finished book in print still surprises me! This book was an undertaking and I grew a lot through the process. It was inspiring, challenging, frustrating, rewarding, and a journey I’m ultimately glad to have taken.  I’m very proud of the result and I thought it might be fun to share with you some of what I’ve learned from this process.

Living with Pattern by Rebecca Atwood - Home Decor Book

Do things before you think you’re ready

This book came about because an editor from a publisher I didn’t ultimately end up working with contacted me about writing a book. I was flattered but my first thought was I’m not ready to write a book. I figured it was worth having the conversation because the idea intrigued me. I met with this editor and the book they were imagining wasn’t something that I’d be the best person to write, but the conversation sent my creative brain spinning.  I still felt uncertain about writing a book, and thought potentially it was too early in my career path to do so, but by the time the book came out, a little over two years after that first meeting, I ended up feeling like it was the perfect time, so sometimes it’s good to push yourself to do things before you’re ready. Sometimes your own resistance is just fear.

Get an agent- you need an advocate 

After I took that initial meeting, I decided to ask Anne Sage, author of Sage Living, if she had any insights into the book process as we both work with photographer Emily Johnston. She had one big piece of advice and that was to get an agent. She introduced me to Kim Perel and I am extremely thankful! Kim and I met for coffee and talked about books. She told me that I didn’t need to write the book that a publisher was asking for, but that I could and should write about what I’m passionate about. She advised that if you don’t love the concept you’ll be miserable getting through the process as it’s a long haul. She asked me lots of questions about my philosophy and what I’m about. My answer was livable pattern in the home, and a book concept was born.

Living with Pattern by Rebecca Atwood - Home Decor Book - Photography by Emily JohnstonPhoto from Living with Pattern by Emily Johnston

Make a plan but know it will change 

The next step was creating a proposal that Kim could pitch to various editors at different publishers. This in itself was a pretty big process—the proposal ended up being 35 pages long! I enjoy putting together presentations like this. I love thinking about the concept and making something that shows people what it is. I’m told not all proposals need to be visual, but for me I needed it to be to see what the book would be.  I wasn’t sure anything would come from this, but I thought the process would be good for me. I outlined everything from ‘why this book?’ to an overview, design plan, bio, about my line, portrait of a customer, comparative titles, marketing plan, and a sample chapter overview. It was pretty comprehensive—and guess what? It changed a lot after that! The evolution was for the best but this is just one example of how much work goes into a book.

After the book was picked up by Clarkson Potter I worked on another presentation that outlined all the homes and shoots we would do for each chapter so they could sign off. I can’t tell you how many times all of that changed. Organizing schedules and coordinating shoots was crazy to say the least. I’d recommend getting support on the scheduling side of things to anyone that takes on a book.

Living with Pattern by Rebecca Atwood - Home Decor Book

It takes a village (or in this case a team)

Making sure you have the right people helping you is key to the success of anything big. I’ve learned this time and again through my business, but it was especially true on this book.

I never could have done this alone, and making sure you have the right support is essential. In addition to my agent and editor I also worked with so many amazing people to make this happen. Photography was a key element in this book and I worked with Emily Johnston for all the photography. I felt strongly that we should shoot all the content so it felt consistent and that we could get the key concepts across with the framing of the shots. There were over twenty days of photo shoots and 256 selected shots. These shoots are inspiring, but exhausting and stressful too. Working with someone who isn’t just talented but you enjoy spending time with makes the whole process so much more enjoyable.

My friend Charlotte sat with me and brainstormed ideas and read and edited everything I wrote. She laughed with me when it was hard and helped me stay focused on my voice and vision.  Nellie helped on shoots, read chapters, and helped me run the business while I was focused on the book. There was the whole team at Clarkson Potter, my publicist, my friends, my family, my husband. Then there’s everyone who opened the doors of their homes to us, and those who contributed their expertise to projects as well.

Ask for help and make sure you have a support team.

Living with Pattern by Rebecca Atwood - Home Decor Book - Photography by Emily JohnstonPhoto from Living with Pattern by Emily Johnston

It’s not about perfection

As much as I strived to create the best book I could, this project wasn’t about perfection.  It was about connecting with people.  You could tweak things infinitely, but at the end of the day it’s better to get something out into the world and start the conversation. Visiting over twenty homes for this book I can also tell you that no one ever feels like their home is done. Let yourself make things, make mistakes, make time to reflect and keep moving!

You can do more than you know 

Sitting down and writing down your ideas is intimidating! It’s easier to talk about what you believe than to write it down. Writing this book was incredibly hard for me. When all was said and done, it was 200 pages double spaced. I’d never written something that long. In all honesty, I was probably a better writer back in high school when I did it daily. I had to do major rewrites after submitting the manuscript. You can do more than you know, and it’s good to try things that push your limits and make you grow.

Living with Pattern by Rebecca Atwood - Home Decor BookAll other photos not previously credited above are by Lydia Hudgens.

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