I was recently out with a friend and she pulled out her phone to show me something. When I glanced at the screen I noticed that her email app had the number 2,560 glowing in a little red circle.
That would drive me crazy.
I’m devoted to getting to inbox zero at the end of each day. It’s not because I’m trying to achieve perfection, but because there’s important stuff in email and if you don’t open it and deal with it you’re going to miss out.
When someone wants to talk to you, and only you, they send you an email. Much of the time email is fairly mundane – a customer asking you for help placing an order or a reader with a comment to share- but other times email is exciting. Every now and then something really neat lands in your lap unexpectedly, but you’ll only see it if only you open the email and you’ll only get the opportunity if you respond promptly.
Two weeks ago I got one of those unexpected land-in-your-lap sort of emails. It was from Ashley. She’s an editor at becker&mayer! (that exclamation point is part of their name), a book packager in Seattle. She’d found me online and wanted to know if I might like to design a felt craft kit for one of their clients.
Whenever I get an email like this I wait a little while before responding. I put myself in the role of an agent. Keep in mind that I don’t actually have an agent, but that doesn’t mean I can’t act like one (more about how to do that here). I ask myself, “Is this opportunity right for my client? Will my client enjoy it? Will it further her goals? Will it be worth her time?” The client here is me.
I wrote Ashley an email with some questions. What would be involved? Who is the kit being packaged for?
While I was waiting to hear back I started to do research. I looked at becker&mayer!’s website to better understand what a book packager is. (They create books and kits and sell them, fully formed, to publishing companies.) I noticed that a friend of mine has done kits for them so I emailed her to ask about her experience. Then I emailed another friend who is a book agent to ask what she thought of the company.
Their feedback helped me formulate more questions that I emailed to Ashley. What is the compensation? Will my name be on the packaging and on the Amazon listing as “author”? Who will create the illustrations? Is there a possibility the kit could be published in the future in another language and if so will there be additional payments to me at that time? How will we choose materials and who has final say on those?
While I waited to hear back again I looked at my calendar. The kit would be due December 20. Can I physically do this? I talked to my husband and my kids. (Their universal response? “You need to sew more. If you do this you’ll sew more. You should do it.”)
Did I want to do this?
I’d need to write ten patterns over the next two and half months and create ten samples. Two of the patterns will be kitted with supplies, the other eight will be in the booklet that comes with the kit.
I’m a goals oriented person and I like big projects with defined tasks and definitive deadlines. I also like to explore new ways to work in this industry. I’ve done lots of different types of work (writing books, teaching online classes, licensing patterns), but I’ve never worked with a book packager and I haven’t yet designed a commercial kit like the kind you find in the gift and toy section of a large chain bookstore, which is where this kit will likely be.
When Ashley got back to me I reviewed her answers and then accepted the project. Last week I negotiated the contract with the becker&mayer!’s legal department and then signed it.
Although I can’t show you the kit patterns as I make them or talk specifically about the concept, I can give you updates along the way on how the work is going for me and, of course, share it with you when the kit comes out around this time next year. I’m excited to get started.
Melody A. says
Good for you !! and I like the fact you are telling us the steps involved in this kind of endeavor. Most of us don’t know. Also, putting yourself in someone else’s place and looking at the project from their perspective is not an idea I would have thought of. Congratulations and Happy Sewing !!
Teri Lynn says
I am so excited for you! Loved reading your latest post about your process. Congratulations!
Sarah @ Berry Barn Designs says
I love this advice, Abby – to think like you’re your agent and step outside of it to decide. Thanks for the insight into your decision process!
Thank you so much! It does really help to try to take on the role of your own agent.
Andrea Methvin says
Congratulations! I am sure your new endeavor will be successful. I really enjoy your blog and seriously love your podcast. You are a savvy business woman, and provide inspiration to so many. Good luck!
Thank you, Andrea!
Shelly Morgan says
That is so cool Abby! Lately I have been taking much longer tern approach to projects as well. I love the advise that you have. It is always so relevant to us creatives and really makes me think more strategically about my business. Thank you!
Hillary Lang says
That sounds like a fun project! Congratulations!
And I love your idea of acting like your own agent. I’m firing myself as my agent 😉 I always make the wrong decisions on which projects to take on.
Susan Morgan says
Can’t wait to see the finished product. Have fun with the process.
Anne Beier says
Congratulations and good luck, Abby. Can’t wait to see the final product next year. (Can’t believe I said next year. This one has gone too fast).
I appreciate that you shared your decision making process; thinking like an agent, looking at your calendar moving forward and balancing with other family/work commitments, discussing this with your family, researching the company, and e-mailing with a fiend/colleague who has had work experience with that company before. You are a very thoughtful businesswoman. This is a good example of a teachable moment for me, and from reading the other comments, I believe others as well. Thank you for sharing.
Kate Godfrey says
Hey, Abby, I’ve worked as a designer for 20+ years. Believe me when I say this is the most concise roadmap for vetting a potential project. To date I’ve done some of the steps, but not all (that is until today). Thank you so much for this brilliant post.
Thanks so much Abby! I also love the thought of being my own agent … the biggest take away (for me) is to wait to respond… allow the idea time to process, marinade, percolate, and consider all angles before I leap! Good advice.
Patricia Belyea says
Good for you for taking on the challenge! I especially liked hearing that you paused before saying yes—doing research, asking questions. Working on a project like this can send you in new directions. And it’s surprising how helpful that can be.
I was approached by them too to create a kit but with 2 youngs kids a rental house makeover, Christmas markets approaching and that crazy deadline I knew I had to say no. Sad but I knew it would be far too much stress for me. Look forward to seeing your sneak peeks, I have a feeling I might know what the theme will be!
You would have done a great job! But I totally understand not being able to take something on during a specific period in life. I’ve said no to so many things for similar reasons! And there will be other opportunities. Often saying no to something means saying yes to something else.
I started selling fabric on-line in January. I see brick and mortar stores closing all around me and wonder exactly the question you have asked. I keep saying I am going out of business. You can’t make enough to make it worth your time competing with the big guys who purchase their fabric for less. My customers tell me it is my customer service that brings them back. I think it is mainly my prices. Whenever there is a rush…I discover that I happen to have the last two available bolts of that specific fabric in the world (lol). I don’t increase the price but I am tempted. I wonder the bigger question of where this will all end. Just like the phone industry changed when the monopoly ended…and then cell phones changed it again. I find “grumpy” store owners seem oblivious to why their customers have left… but it is hard work being on-line and trying to be available all the time. It can make me grumpy. No sure what my point is here…but I am very interested to see where the industry ends up. I am comfortable buying fabric from photos and have been told I have the “eye” and am able to put together collections for customers. I guess…but I still think price is king.
Leanne Parsons says
Congratulations, Abby! That sounds like a fun project. Thanks for sharing all the steps you took before deciding whether or not to take the projects. It’s interesting to follow your process and will certainly help should any similar emails ever land in my inbox.
Super advice on waiting and reflecting before responding to requests, offers, etc. Sometimes that is a hard thing to do, but as you pointed out, you have to put on your Agent hat first. And decide what is best for you, your family, your business, and your peace.
Sounds like a great opportunity and it’s always good to try something new. Another string to your bow!
Wow, Abby! That is so exciting! This is the exact type of project that I would love to be a part of. (I have a few different concept ideas that even get my husband enthusiastic!) So happy for you!
By the way….will I be seeing you at Craftcation 2017? Hope so!
Jules Means says
What a fascinating post! I can’t wait to see how it all turns out. Thank you for such specific advice. I don’t know if I could ever be my own agent, but now I know it’s not a crazy idea. -Jules
Great post! Congrats on your new project. I have recently started taking a step back and really looking at opportunities sent my way, this is a helpful reminder of good steps to go through.