How to Sell What You Make


How to Sell What You Make, First Edition, 1990

I signed a contract a couple of weeks ago with Stackpole Books to write a third edition of How to Sell What You Make, The Business of Marketing Crafts. The offer to write it came unexpectedly, only after my editor recently stumbled upon my website and found an operable email address number for me. The phone number and email address he had on file were long obsolete, which he discovered about a year ago, when he tried to reconnect with me.

The first edition of How to Sell was published in the spring of 1990, and the contract for that one also came unexpectedly. During the 80s I was writing articles for a few woodworking magazines. Something I’d written caught the attention of one the editors at Stackpole, who called to ask if I’d be interested in writing a book for her. What she had in mind was a book on the marketing and business aspects of crafts. I signed my first contract in 1988.

Getting that contract really was a stroke of luck. I think if I’d come up with the idea and peddled it in the conventional way I would have given up after the first few rejection letters. And the article that started it all nearly didn’t get written. Even though I had the assignment, I was in a low point in my life and had no enthusiasm for putting it together. I have a very clear memory of the despondency and apathy that surrounded the idea of doing the necessary interviews and writing the story. Yet I did write the story. It was one of the most valuable decisions I ever made. The first edition of How to Sell sold nearly 158,000 copies. And I continued to write books for Stackpole for the next 10 years or so. A second edition of How to Sell, published in 1996, has sold more than 19,000 copies. (Please don’t assume there is great wealth behind theses numbers—there isn’t. But I still get an occasional two-figure royalty check.)

The second edition was different from the first only in that I added a bit about using a computer for bookkeeping, research, and creating marketing materials (remember desktop publishing?). At the time, the use of a computer was a big advance, considering the World Wide Web didn’t begin to approach viability until around 1992.

But so much has changed since then. Artists and craftspeople of all sorts are using the Internet for marketing and selling what they produce. The World Wide Web is a marketplace as big as the world itself. It’s a rare person who doesn’t use the Internet in some way in terms of marketing and selling.

So it’s time to bring the book into the 21st Century. After all, people are still making and selling all kinds of original things. I don’t foresee that will ever change. If you’re an artisan or craftsperson I’d like to hear from you on how you market and sell your work. Please don’t hesitate to contact me to share your stories or suggest ideas that I may include in the third edition of How to Sell What You Make.