Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How a Jewelry Book Got Published

By on Tuesday, December 14, 2010 15 Comments

Many chain maille enthusiasts will be familiar with Blue Buddha Boutique. Rebeca Mojica, the founder and owner has just published her very first jewelry making book Chained : Create Gorgeous Chain Mail jewelry One Ring at a Time. Her colorful work is wonderfully intricate and a joy to behold for fans.

As most of us cannot be at the book launch in Chicago, I was invited to participate in a novel virtual book tour this week (December 11-18). Today is the day you find out what it took for Rebeca to produce her book. Be sure to check her tips for aspiring jewelry book writers at the end of this post.

It took Rebeca almost 2 whole years from the time she started putting her book proposal together to the day she held her advance copy in her hands. She said, "There was definitely squealing and jumping up and down when I held it in my hands for the first time."  After all that work, it's only natural!

Just to give you another idea of the work involved - some 90 jewelry projects are featured in the book but 50 more did not make the cut. Rebeca developed a sore elbow - a repetitive strain injury - from creating so many pieces!

Book Proposal and Draft
Her students had been bugging her for a book for years before she felt she had enough teaching experience to attempt one. The first scribbles of her book idea were made on the back of an old phone bill!

There aren't many chain maille books out there so Rebeca was actually approached by three different publishers looking for chain maille book authors while she was still in the thinking stage. North Light Books whom she went with in the end, first found her on Facebook!

It was a good fit because Rebeca definitely had a clear vision of how she wanted her book to be. North Light Books supported her decision to do her own step-by-step photography and resisted asking her to add beads to the projects. In short, they loved Rebeca's proposal and agreed to the advance she wanted. Sweet!

Her first draft was actually quite detailed at 30 pages. As the book progressed, projects came and went. Rebeca is particularly proud of the final chapter on coiling. It was initially a hodge-podge collection but she eventually came up with much more cohesive theme which ends the book on a high note.

One of the most challenging tasks for the book was the step-by-step pictures to accompany Rebeca's instructions.  Rebeca had a lot of help from Jenna Deidel who works for Blue Buddha Boutique. Both of them spent months in the shop's tiny studio using just basic equipment. It got so hot, both women were forced to dress lightly despite the cold weather outside.

They had full control of which technique shots went into the book as these had to match the instructions. The glamor or "beauty" shots -  final project pictures - were done by the publisher.

Jenna ruefully added, "Early on, we were trashing EVERYTHING in sight because it was out of focus, too dark, etc." But they got the hang of it in the end. Besides the usual macro and white balance settings, Jenna says it pays to experiment with manual and focus modes of digital SLR cameras. As you can see above, the use of a camera stand steadies the camera. A cable release or remote shutter release for hands free shooting was also a must to keep the image focused - even the action of pressing the shutter button will shake the camera ever so slightly. The high wattage lamps produced a lot of light for them but they also used bright white paper to help "bounce the light all around the jewelry to eliminate shadows".

They didn't have to do their own photo-editing but the publisher asked them to shoot with a gray card to ensure consistent exposures. They nicknamed their gray card "Waldo" as in "Where's Waldo" as they were often looking for it!

Publishing a book requires the input of many people besides the author. Without a doubt, Jenna provided the most help. Rebeca added, "Without her, there would be no book." Rebeca also worked closely with her editor, Jenni Claydon, who "had the unenviable task of cutting my 260+ page manuscript down to 144 pages."

All the jewelry pieces went to Kelly O'Dell, the book designer with North Light Books who took care of the final photography and the look of the book. Rebeca sent her strict instructions on how the pieces should face and what to do if there was a nick in a ring. Jason Scerena created the the Anatomy of a Jump Ring illustration. Numerous pattern and project testers as well as Rebeca's manicurist, Kat Wisniewski are all gratefully acknowledged. Kat's weekly efforts during many months of photography were needed so Rebeca's "pretty icky" hands are not blown up in a book!

Rebeca fervently hopes her book will become the definitive book for getting started with chain maille jewelry. She adds,  "I would like advanced weavers to tell me that the book inspired them to create their own weave variation, or the coiling chapter motivated them to come up with their own signature technique.". She would also love it if the book could be published in other languages such is her passion for popularizing this technique.

Having done it once, I asked if she would write another book? A resounding YES! Rebeca is already planning the next one! But first she has to find that document she kept called "Things to Remember for Next Time"....

Rebeca's Tips for Aspiring Jewelry Book Authors
  • Do read Jeff and Deborah Herman's book, Write the Perfect Book Proposal
  • Do establish yourself first - publishers are more likely to accept you if you have a "track record"
  • Do book market research to differentiate your book from others
  • Do have a select group people to review and check the proposal as well as the final draft
  • Do set milestones (timeline) for the whole process and stick to them (a requirement by many publishers)
  • Don't spill the beans about what is in your book before it is published
  • Don't have unrealistic expectations - it is a huge time drain
  • Don't quit your day job - you aren't likely to get rich writing a book unless you are Stephen King
Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
Jewelry Making Tips - Jewelry Business Tips 



  1. Great review Pearl you really caught the essence of the book. I finally got my autographed copy and love it. We also did a little review on the Handmade Artists' Forum Chained book Review by HAF as part of the Chained virtual book tour. Stop by and take a peak and great work as always Pearl I love how your write and congrats again to Rebeca.

  2. Before I read this blog, I thought I loved gemstone, crystal and pearl jewelry more than chainmail. This is because I love color and always thought of chainmail as kind of boring with regards to color. I have changed my mind upon reading about this new book. The designs are lovely and so colorful! I think I am a convert and will have a new addiction!

  3. I've flipped through the pages, then read every word (literally, even for the project instructions).
    This is the most fun I've had with an "instructional" book in ages! Even the most complicated weaves are easy to understand!

  4. This was really cool! I've thought about writing books, but I was always too intimidated to do it myself... I'm amazed all the work Rebeca has put into getting "Chained" published! Bravo! I hope to pick it up soon! :D

  5. This was a great review! I am amazed at just how much work went into this book. You don't really think about how long it takes to make a book until you read something like this. I'm so glad to hear that there is a second one in mind! It's too bad that so many patterns had to be cut, though. I'm sure that's how things work when you publish a book, but I would definitely be willing to pay more money for a large book with loads of projects. Great job Rebeca!

  6. What a lovely review! I can't begin to tell you how much I appreciated this book! The tutorials are masterful and amazing and helped so much. I'm not a novice when it comes to maille, but I've certainly much more to learn and master and I have an unquenchable desire to keep learning more. This book sets the stage for leaping off into creativity heaven. My only regret? It's not a signed copy. (sigh) Oh well...so much for living out this way. Kudos Rebeca and I can't wait for the next tome!

  7. I'm so glad Rebeca took on the challenge of writing this book. It sounds like it's more of a challenge than I'll ever be ready to take on. I think I'll just stick to buying Rebeca's books instead!

  8. Great review! I first learned about this book from Andrew from Handmade Artists' Forum. My husband heard me ohhing and ahhing over the pictures online and ordered Rebeca's book for me today for a Christmas present. I am so thrilled! I have always wanted to give chainmalle a try and this looks like the perfect book to help me do that. Thank you!

  9. Rebeca, I'm glad you resisted adding beads. I have a couple of the books where beads are added and those are fun but what I really needed was a good basic book and your's is fantastic!
    Cathy Parrish - Iowa
    I don't know what is meant by "Select Profile"... so I guess I have to choose anonymous

  10. Awesome post! I love seeing the "behind the scenes" type things for books and other forms of artistic creations, and this is no exception! The scribbles on the back of the phone bill were cool too, how you could see all of the plans and ideas for what weaves to share... The photo work in the book is amazing as well. Best diagrams and example pictures I've seen anywhere!

  11. Thanks for the insight into the birthing of a book -- it's good to hear it from the source herself!

  12. So well written with fantastic pictures. I can't imagine anyone not being able to turn out wonderful pieces. I love the progression to more involved patterns. I won't call them difficult because Rebeca makes you feel that you can do them all by the time you 'work' your way through the book. Lyn Porter

  13. I have some of Rebeca's tutorials, so I know what a great teacher she is (I even learned Dragonscale through her!) I am enjoying reading through her book and look forward to learning more and doing more complex projects.

  14. Thanks, everyone for your comments.

    Yeah, Cathy, I'm glad I stuck to my guns and resisted adding beads and all the other bending over some of the publishers wanted me to do. I'm so happy with the finished product!

    And Lyn, I love your explanation as to why the patterns aren't "difficult." Very cool! :-)

  15. I love books, and I love learning how my favorite ones came into existence.

    That proposal book really is fantastic. I'm recommending it to all my writer friends.

    Thanks for all the great advice!