If you want to make good money writing woodworking books, you don’t need a lot of skills, tools or primo wood. You don’t need to know a lot of joinery or be a particularly good finisher. You don’t even really need a workshop.
During my 14 years at F+W Publications, I did a long stint as a contributing editor to the now-dead Woodworkers Book Club. As part of the job I had to read about 70 woodworking books every year and review them for the club’s bulletin. And I learned an awful lot about what makes a woodworking book sell by poring over the monthly financials.
Beautiful furniture projects do not sell. Books on building your skills don’t sell much. Books about wood and its properties – no sale. Books on hand work? Nope.
The woodworking books that make real money are birdhouse books. They outsell other kinds of woodworking books about three-to-one.
While this surprised me at first, it makes a lot of sense. Birdhouse books appeal to the non-woodworker, the dead-nuts beginner, the Boy Scout troop leader and the birder, to name a few. And they appeal to me as well.
I’ve seen a lot of crazy birdhouse books. Sure, there are lots of books out there that try to build houses actually intended for birds that pay attention to wood selection, house placement, opening size, etc. And then there are the ones that look like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater or a giant uterus.
I’ve always wanted to write a birdhouse book – one of the crazy ones, of course. My first inclination was to build birdhouses while channeling a famous furniture-maker:
“James Krenov Crafts Houses for Birds” – All the birdhouses would be chests on a stand, have gorgeous dovetails and be made from olive wood. And they would be too nice to put outside.
“G%$#@& Birdhouses by Gary Knox Bennett” – All the birdhouses would be covered in bent nails and roach clips.
“Sam Maloof, Birdhouse Builder” – All the birdhouses would be rocking chairs.
And so on.
Well one night my wife, Lucy, and I had a little too much wine to drink at dinner and we started brainstorming ideas for the most ridiculous birdhouse book we could think of.
The title: Killer Birdhouses
The concept: Birdhouses made to look like things that normally kill birds.
The projects: Birdhouses in the shape of a…
Oscillating Table Fan
Stump and a Hatchet
Worms with a Cannon (my favorite!)
Bucket of KFC Chicken
That reminds me, I need to get Lucy a fresh box of wine. We need to come up with some more book ideas.
— Christopher Schwarz