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Monday, October 20, 2008

Q&A: Where to Publish a Fabric Book

Question (excerpted from a comment left on this blog):

Assalamualikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuhu,

I was wondering if you can give me some advice. I have sent the manuscript of my book to [numerous Muslim] publishers – however, because I am looking to make a few cloth books for toddlers, I am not getting much response...do you have any ideas or details of trustworthy publishers abroad?

As I am new in this publishing field, any help you provide will be much appreciated.

Jazak Allah Khairun,
Umm Talha Bin Zubair

Answer:
As-salamu Alaykum, Umm Talha, and thank you for posting your question to this blog.

Here are a few pieces of information that may help you out in your quest to see this project to completion.

1. Publishing a normal (paper) book is already extremely expensive, and publishers regularly lose money on the books they choose to publish. This means that anything that deviates from the norm (such as cloth) is an even bigger risk for the publisher because there is the added expense of making a cloth book plus the fact that there is probably much less demand for such books, especially in the Muslim community, which is a limited market to begin with.

2. Taking the above into consideration, you will probably have to prove there is a market for your book before a publisher will take the risk of working with you. When you say, "I am looking to make a few cloth books for toddlers," this is language that would turn off a publisher. Whether it is intentional or not, this phrase makes it seem that there is not much of a market for your book. A publisher is not the equivalent of a printer or a manufacturer (or a seamstress). The publisher wants to make and sell books – not invest money in a project that will struggle to sell even a few copies. So, my first piece of advice is to make sure that your correspondence with publishers is upbeat and shows them why this product is needed. In the world of secular publishing, authors usually have to provide some form of market analysis before their work is accepted. Questions to ask yourself (and answer for the publisher): Who will buy this book and why? What are the benefits of cloth? How will I market this book? The more concrete your plan is (backed up with specific facts/figures), the more convincing it will be.

3. When searching for a publisher, try to narrow things down by looking for publishers who already do creative things. If a publisher is known for books that are ugly, cheaply produced, and poorly edited, this is a publisher who is not willing to invest in quality - and is probably not the right publisher for your project. Also, there is no point in approaching publishers who specialize in books for adults and have no line of children's books.

At IslamicBookstore.com, you can find a wide array of books and toys for Muslim children. I would study each product carefully to see which publishers are doing more creative things. NoorArt, Learning Roots and Goodword Kidz, for example, are making some interesting products that include puzzles, games, and other learning materials for kids. I did not see any cloth books but noticed that Learning Roots makes a lift-the-flap book, which shows that this is a publisher open to new ideas. If this publisher (for whatever reason) cannot invest in your project, the people in charge may at least be willing to give you some tips and advice.

4. Consider looking for a non-Muslim publisher/manufacturer. There are many businesses in the secular world offering cloth books, and I would look at these carefully. Is your story suitable for non-Muslim children? If so, your options are considerably widened. Don't assume that your book would not be of interest to non-Muslim publishers. I have seen some books and stories (Muslim Child, for example) that I would have assumed only held appeal for Muslim families – yet, they are published in the mainstream. Multi-cultural works are very "in" right now and are something many publishers are looking at.

5. Another option is to independently manufacture the books and sell them yourself (at craft fairs, Islamic fairs, on-line, to interested retailers, etc.). In this case, you would not be looking for a publisher, but a factory or business capable of making the books at a reasonable cost. Although I am not familiar with all the ins and outs of how this would be done, you can see examples of it on IslamicBookstore.com. The Mosque Wooden Blocks set, for example, is manufactured by HABA, a German company, which also makes books of fabric. Now, this doesn't mean that HABA, which I believe is a non-Muslim company, is the right manufacturer for your book (or that they would necessarily be interested in producing the type of book you have in mind since they work with their own team of inventors and product developers). I am just presenting this example to show how there are many options out there, all of which need careful thought, research, and attention to detail. If deciding to produce your book independently, you will need to pay special attention to the cost of producing the book versus how much you will eventually be able to charge your customers. There are many, many costs that come with making anything independently, everything from shipping to taxes and other considerations one might not be aware of. And, if you want independent retailers to list your book, these retailers will be expecting significant discounts so they can make some profit, too.

All of the above is not to discourage you from what sounds like a beautiful idea, insha'Allah. Also, I am not by any means an expert in what it takes to make and publish a cloth book and worry I did not do enough to clarify the difference between a publisher and a manufacturer. But I hope that the above points offer some food for thought as you continue the search for a publisher (or a manufacturer) who meets your needs. I have no idea if you were planning to sew the books yourself, but this is yet another option to explore. I would really appreciate it if you write back and let us know of your progress as it is sure to help others who may be in a similar situation.

Jazzacki Allah khair, and I pray that Allah SWT makes your journey an easy one.

Sincerely,
Amel S. Abdullah

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Do you have a question you’d like to see answered on this blog? Post it here, or send it to me via e-mail. All questions sent via e-mail will be posted anonymously (unless you request otherwise). Click here for an index of all questions answered on this blog.

2 comments:

Umm Talha said...

Assalamu alikum

Alhamdulillah your help ws very extensively researched and well thought of, I have found a manufacturer who is willing to make a template however like you said there are no publishers who are willing to take the risk, they are however fond of my manuscript which they have said, but I think its just a nice way of saying goodbye.

I think I will probaby manufactuere a few myself and give it to a few book shops to sell, I am not doing for a profit,rather far from it I am doing this to wake up the Muslims, as we are a developing community here in UK I believe tarbiyyah and ilm starts from the home, by books whether cloth or card is there to intergrate concepts found in the Qur'aan along with teaching the tawheed in a kinesthitic way. I think I will probaby have a better chance of getting to the people by distriubuting it around a few book shops by hand, its local but its dawah.

Your ideas masha'Allaah is something I respect and am learning from, maybe you should write a book teaching us how to go into publishing insha'Allaah. Anyway I have saved your blog and will look into each point one by one, and study and research it as best as I can.

Insha'Allaah one day my idea will be known in the community and others will make good use of spreading it, even though I may not be able to.

This life is a test nothing come on plate, I will try and struggle to get it out one way or another.

Jazak Allaah Khairun for what you have given me may Allaah reward you in the akhirah, AMEEN

Was salaam
UMM TALHA BIN ZUBAIR.

uzi said...

Asallam alaykum


Alhamdulillah i am a new mum and my little girl is 12 weeks old and i was looking for a fabric book for her online. Alhamdulillah i came across your blog. i definately think there is a need for these for our little children as they do develop so quickly esp in the first year.

i would love to know how your getting on, how i can help and if there is anything you have ready to buy...

looking forward to hear from you. May Allah facilitate your good work.

with salaam

sr Uzma

This blog is maintained by Amel Abdullah, a freelance writer, editor, and Arabic to English translator.