Each time I speak publicly, I am invariably asked about the process of publishing or our Alabama Studio Book Series.
After poking around on the internet I was surprised to discover that while writers are often interviewed about their books, there are very few interviews with the editors. Our editor, Melanie – whose desk is pictured above – is a force to be reckoned with. She has an unerring eye, commitment to quality, and an extreme attention to detail. These characteristics make her a very, very good editor and a dear friend. I am extremely grateful for her belief, support and patience over the years. It is important to choose an editor carefully as you will spend a lot of time with that person. For example, we started working on Alabama Stitch Book in 2004 and held a printed copy in January of 2008. While it is unusual to spend that much time on a book, it can happen. Here are some of the questions that I have fielded for Melanie over the years with a few additions of my own:
Just for the record, can you tell me your name and what you do for a living?
My name is Melanie Falick. I am the editorial director for STC Craft / Melanie Falick Books, which is an imprint of Stewart, Tabori & Chang, which is a division of Abrams Books.
Many people have commented to me since the release of Alabama Stitch Book that you really changed the image of the “craft category.” When did you get started and can you talk about how this category has developed and changed over the years?
In the late 1980s, I started to get serious about knitting and realized that I wanted to combine my passion for knitting with my career in publishing. My first book, Knitting in America, was published in 1996 and then one thing led to another—more books, becoming the editor of a knitting magazine, and then starting my work with STC Craft in 2003. I have always been interested in more than just knitting, of course, so I’m thrilled that I now have the opportunity to edit many types of craft books. Because the crafting category is more popular now than it was when I originally got involved, many more publishers are interested in contributing to it. That means that we have more wonderful books to choose from and also more clutter.
And to follow that, what do you feel are the next steps for this category?
As more and more people get involved, the diversity of the work will continue to widen. It’s exciting to see how open people are right now to trying new crafts.
What do you look for in an author?
I look for authors with unique talent, vision, passion for their ideas, high standards, a strong commitment to hard work, a willingness to be flexible when necessary, and the ability and energy to promote their work widely.
Do you have guidelines that you use to decide which books you would like to publish? Could you share those with us?
I look for books that serve and inspire the diverse craft community and lead the category forward rather than repeating what has been done before.
You have been working in the publishing business for a long time. What effect does the internet played in how you execute your role as editor?
On a practical level, the internet is important to me. I do a lot of my work from home, which would be much more difficult without the internet. While I certainly learn a lot about what crafters are engaged in and thinking about on the internet, I’m so busy and focused on the day-to-day challenges of creating the books we’re publishing that I always feel like I should be doing more to take advantage of the wealth of information and inspiration to be found there. On a more critical note, the internet has become a source for a lot of free material, which makes selling books more challenging. The internet also gives people the opportunity express their opinions publicly, which can be positive and negative depending on whether or not the opinions are being expressed in a constructive and fair way.
How can a person submit a book to you for consideration?
From the STC Website:
–Do you accept unsolicited book proposals?
Yes. Please mail proposals to Stewart, Tabori & Chang, Attn: STC Craft, 115 W. 18th St., New York, NY 10011. We will try to respond within 4 to 6 weeks.
–What do you want to see in a book proposal?
Please send a brief summary of your idea, a sample table of contents, sample text, photos of a few finished projects (if applicable), an author bio, an overview of why you think this book will sell, and any other information you think will help us understand your vision.
I also know that you are a serious crafter yourself aside from running STC/Melanie Falick Books AND a family. How do you find time to make?
I do not make as much time for crafting as I would like. Sometimes I invite a friend over to knit or sew since I know that if a guest is here we’ll have fun and I won’t decide to do chores instead during that time. I hardly ever watch television, but when I have a big project to work on (like the beautiful dress I started at your workshop in Alabama last summer), if I can find the time, I’ll watch a movie or a Project Runway or America’s Next Top Model marathon while I’m stitching. Sometimes I keep a very small, easy project next to my phone so that I can work on it during long conversations.
Any new books that you can share with us that truly make your heart sing?
Your new book, of course – Alabama Studio Style ** Disclaimer: She has to say that to me and I am smiling; BUT, we are in the final stages of design right now and I have to say that it is a book that makes me very, very proud.
What are a few of your favorite craft-related books that you did not work on? I am devoted to all of the books we publish at STC Craft. When I look at our catalog, which you can see online on our blog, I feel very proud of what we have created and so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with such talented teams on each of them (authors, photographers, graphic designers, editors, etc.). I can’t really choose favorites. But to answer your question – sort of – here is a list of a few books that are craft-related and inspire me:
A People and Their Quilts by John Rice Irwin Fascinating interviews with old-time quilters of Southern Appalachia (with photos of both the quilters and their quilts)
African Canvas by Margaret Courtney-Clarke A beautiful pictorial survey of women of remote West African villages restoring and painting their mud dwellings with bold, beautiful geometric designs–using paint made with natural earth pigments and plants.
Tord Boontje by Martina Margetts A lavish overview of the life and creative process of this contemporary artist.
And finally, your favorite cookbooks?
I’m not really up to date on cookbooks since I don’t edit them anymore and don’t have much time for anything but utilitarian cooking. (I’ve actually tried to convince my son that Wheaties are a perfectly acceptable dinner food). But, here are a few that come to mind:
Baked by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. This is a new book from Stewart, Tabori & Chang (the company I work for and the source of many wonderful cookbooks). Baked was written by the guys who own the Baked bakery in Brooklyn. The recipes are delicious.
China Moon Cookbook by Barbara Tropp. Barbara Tropp was a great food writer (unfortunately, she died relatively young) and chef. I copyedited this book and was so impressed by her deep knowledge of Chinese culture and cuisine, her ability to use her knowledge to create something new and unique, and her writing talent overall.
Seductions of Rice and Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. I love reading about the authors’ travels around the world doing first-hand research and photography for their books (with their young children in tow!). I don’t own their other books but I suspect that if I did, I would add them to this list.