Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How Publishing Is Like Fashion
Or What I Learned from Daniel Vosovic...

Last night I attended a book signing (at my fabulous local bookseller Joseph-Beth) with fashion designer Daniel Vosovic, who was in the top three on season 2 of Project Runway.

Daniel (I'll call him by his first name because I feel like I know him from TV) was adorable and interesting and talked a lot about both working on his book, Fashion Inside Out: Daniel V's Guide to How Style Happens from Inspiration to Runway and Beyond--he said wonderful things about editors, so he's obviously very wise--and building his career as a designer. (The audience for this event for the most part was young and very stylish--there were quite a few fashion design students in attendance.)

As Daniel spoke about his career path, I noticed some parallels between the fashio
n world and the publishing world.

First, Daniel pointed out, in fashion you're making something from nothing. When your end product is, say, a cocktail dress, a designer starts with an idea, follows her vision as a creator, collab
orates with industry professionals, and comes up with a final product that people will critique and talk about and that may or may not catch on. Substitute "YA novel" for "cocktail dress" and "writer" for "designer" and you see where I'm going.

In fashion and in publishing there are always trends, and while both authors and designers should pay attention to them, they should follow their own muses and create what's in their hearts rather than trying to copy the success of others.

The thing that struck me most as Daniel talked was his answer to a question from a young-and-well-styled audience member. Throughout the evening, he had been referring to his many contacts in the fashion world, his time in Florence and London and his current home of New York. He was asked if it's possible to break into this fashion circle when you're starting out.

Yes, he said without hesitation, because you make your own circle. You must network. As a student, Daniel networked with seamstresses, models, stylists and photographers. Like him, many of them have gone on to bigger careers and remain part of his inner circle.

Think of a writers' group starting out with half a dozen unpublished writers getting together to critique. After a while of working together, members begin to find agents and get a book deals. Published members share connections. They introduce other group members to publishing professionals at conferences. Suddenly everyone's doing well, has books on the shelves, and is presenting at SCBWI conferences. That's making your own circle.

(Note: Daniel shared what he felt was great advice from a well-established designer--if you're going to take to heart the praise of your work, you have to do the same with the criticism. Good advice in a critique situation.)

A great exercise in creating circles is going on now in the way of The Comment Challenge: 21 Days of Community, the brainchild of Lee Wind and Mother Reader. This challenge, which kicked off on November 6th, presented kidlit bloggers with the opportunity to visit other blogs and leave comments, thus both supporting others in the community and raising the profile of their own blogs. Check out the list of participants here and visit their blogs. And visit Mother Reader for updates.

Here's Daniel Vosovic singing his book.
His inscription: "Design your own destiny."


Kelly Polark said...

Great parallels in these industries! I hope my critique group can share some successes soon!

Michelle said...

Great analogy! You described exactly what's been happening with my own critique group, the Slushbusters.

Cheryl Reif said...

Wow, when I signed up for the Comment Challenge, I didn't realize it would gain so much attention! Thanks for the fun post...and for the encouragement to network (which is fun, but sometimes seems like I shouldn't take the time for it).

Cuppa Jolie said...

Fun post, Alice! I love Project Runway and the parallels are right on.

Mari Hunt said...

What a great post. Project Runway is my guilty pleasure. As the judges say things like, "We know you can drape, but what else can you do?" I've thought, what if the path to publication were like that? Supposing my YA novel query was answered with, "Nice, now send us a PB written in iambic pentameter."