recaps of the top 'ask me anything' interviews from reddit and more...
I am a Hollow Bookmaker Introvert (making a modest living crafting books from home and selling online), please AMA

Edit: 5:23 p.m. CST USA time - I'll be back later tonight. Received a big influx of orders since this which I didn't expect, so working to get them out tomorrow. We handwrap each book on our kitchen island!

Greetings my fellow redditors!

I'm Kara, here's my proof And another proof ! :) I'm 44 and work from home handcrafting hollow books in lovely Stillwater, MN, USA. About 9 years ago I walked off my day job as a gallery guard at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art and took up making books full time along with my husband.

In a nutshell:

  • I graduated art school in '98 (studied painting and drawing)
  • During college also took a fortuitous course in book arts
  • Struggled with bipolar issues and past trauma issues throughout school and afterwards
  • Liked painting kind of sort of? Unsure who I am? OK weird.
  • Feared other people seeing my work (not good when trying to make money making art)
  • Did odd jobs for 10 odd years (counting out drill bits, teaching basic papermaking, horrible stint at The Gap, horse-carriage driving, stuffing envelopes, selling luggage, a nice stint at Barnes & Noble...)

Fast-forward to my day job as gallery guard:

  1. Midnight walked off shift that was supposed to end at 11 p.m.
  2. Joyfully started full-time at home job as hollow bookmaker

Rewind to why I started making hollow books:

  • I thought of making a hollow book when daydreaming about Anne Frank hiding while I was at the museum while automatically telling people not to touch the art
  • I wanted to use my hands to make something (but feared anything that would show my emotions to the world)

-----

Too long, didn't read: Just ask me anything and I'll just tell ya!

Thanks for reading a bit!

- Kara

p.s. Since there's interest in your comments, here are the direct links to my hollow books online and IG:


27
questions
3,135
score
December 1st 2019
interview date
misatillo

Can you really live out of this or do any of you have other sources of income?

How do you get clients for this? I can understand if you have been in business you probably are kind of known by now but how did you manage to get the first clients?

How do you advertise your business? (Other than doing this AMA)


Miskatonica

Edit: Ah oops edited some of links I had clicked on to check and no longer valid.

Hi u/misatillo,

Wish I could've answered you sooner, didn't imagine so many questions.

Can you really live out of this or do any of you have other sources of income?

If my husband and I stick to a very tight budget, yes, we manage to pay our mortgage and utilities, buy groceries and cat food. We don't have kids, so the extra time and money from no kids is a help. We do about 1/3 of our business in November alone, so sometimes in the summer, my husband will take a temp job to supplement our income. We have two sites where we sell, so it helps to have both Etsy and our own site: secretsafebooks.com and secretsafebooks.etsy.com

How do you get clients for this? I can understand if you have been in business you probably are kind of known by now but how did you manage to get the first clients? How do you advertise your business? (Other than doing this AMA)

I have more time than money to spend on advertising, so I really hustle with social media/contact bloggers/do user-generated content sites like Bored Panda and yes, this AMA! A quick rundown on some past promos that are still floating around on the web:

BUZZFEED

"14 Surprising Gifts For Complete And Total Liars"

"20 Perfect Etsy Gifts For Book Lovers In Your Life"

GO FUG YOURSELF

The 2016 GFY Gift Guide

URBAN DADDY

"The Godfather Has a Secret"

CORE77

"Kara Witham's SecretSafeBooks"

THE AWESOMER

"Awesome Stuff"

JEZEBEL

"Holiday Gifts for Ryan Gosling, Idris Elba, and Other Guys You Love"

MASHABLE

"The Book Safe Every Bibliophile Should Own"

THRILLIST

"Keep Your Flask Hidden Inside Legendary Books About Boozing"

SNIPPET AND INK

"Secret Garden Wedding"

BORED PANDA

7 Years Ago I Walked Off My Day Job As A Museum Guard To Make Hollow Books For A Living

Let me know if you have any other questions!

Dr_Psycho_

Hi there! First of all, I checked your website and your works are awesome! Now, here's my question: how many hours a day do you spend working on your books? One of your comments mentions that you make up to 30 books every week. Also how many days a week do you work?


Miskatonica

Hey there, u/Dr_Psycho_ (Great username!)

Thank you, wish I could've answered sooner, didn't expect this many questions.

How many hours a day do you spend working on your books?

Typically about 6 1/2 hours per day actually cutting and gluing and finishing the books. I also do all the photographing for our websites plus promoting; my husband does some of the prep work for making the books as well as the financial and website maintenance.

How many days a week do you work?

The actual making of the books, I work typically Mon - Fri, 10 - 5:30. In the early morning, I answer emails, do social media; on weekends, I like to take product photos and IG photos. Overall it's probably more than 40 hours a week, but I really enjoy 99% of it. (Only thing I don't enjoy too much is tidying up the workshop in our converted garage; I'm afraid it looks pretty messy right now!)

Let me know if you have any follow-ups or other questions.

-Milquetoast-

What tools do you use to craft the cavity so cleanly?


Miskatonica

Good afternoon, u/-Milquetoast- (a strong, non milquetoast question!), and good afternoon, u/AngryHumanoid +1,

What tools do you use to craft the cavity so cleanly?

I use a Craftsman 16" variable speed standing scroll saw (with a few mods for bookmaking). For a time, I used a DeWalt scroll saw which is a larger, much more expensive machine. (Craftsman being only around 100 USD and DeWalt like 5x that amount.) Now Craftsman is discontinued but I've bought up a bunch of them for the future.

The DeWalt is probably a great tool for lots of projects, but it kept crapping out for what I was doing with cutting through book pages. I spent hundreds getting it fixed. The Craftsman appears amateurish in looks and even dumpy with the funny mods I've done, but it works really well.

I can't give away too many specifics as there are competitors out there, but it's a process I've developed through trial and error. There's a power sander involved I can say.

Sedowicz

What was the begging stages of started your business like? Did you have trouble finding new customers on Etsy? What tips for growing on Etsy do you have?


Miskatonica

Hi u/Sedowicz,

What was the begging stages of started your business like?

I'm going to assume you mean to say beginning stages? I started with an x-acto knife in 2009 and had a very rudimentary shop on Etsy. In 2010, this feature on Etsy's homepage boosted sales and got things really rolling.

  • For the first couple years, I was doing a lot of one-off titles and buying books in person
  • I worked out of a small 2nd bedroom in our Chicago apartment, I couldn't work very late because the landlord would call and tell me to stop
  • A DeWalt scroll saw I thought would be an upgrade to a Craftsman kept crapping out and we wasted a lot of time and money getting it fixed
  • I was kind of stealing brown paper bags from the grocery store to wrap up books
  • I used bricks I found under our apartment building to weight down books that were drying
  • I worked 7 days a week because I loved it so much (now I have to take breaks on weekends, but still love it)

Did you have trouble finding new customers on Etsy?

We get lots of repeat customers because we offer incentives to returning people. And the books are popular as gifts and for weddings. Etsy's search favors us because we've been around longer than other hollow-bookmakers and we offer free shipping which also boosts Secret Safe Books in the search algorithm. So, not too much trouble. I'm trying to turn more customers to our standalone shop; because Etsy is such a popular hub, it's easy to get people there.

What tips for growing on Etsy do you have?

  1. Every week, be sure to check the Forums for Admin Announcements of new policies; the new CEO is always doing new tests and improvements, so it's important to keep up with it to be relevant in Search
  2. Keep tabs on your competition; see what is working and not working for them. Read their reviews occasionally, to get ideas for what to avoid and what to employ.
  3. Cross-promote via Instagram with other Etsy sellers who are related to your product.

I could go on...let me know if you have follow-ups or other questions.

Yoinkelise

Do you adhere the pages together, or leave them loose?


Miskatonica

Hi u/Yoinkelise,

Do you adhere the pages together, or leave them loose?

The pages are adhered to form a solid frame or sides of the book box. The inside edges that form the interior walls of the cutout are coated lightly in archival bookbinding adhesive. There's an internal support system which I can't give away the secret of. The pages, dust-jacket if included, and interior endpapers are all original and the outside page edges are uncoated and natural so that it appears as a genuine book from the outside.

Then there's a hidden embedded magnetic closure so that your treasures inside won't tumble out even if the book is upright.

Thanks for asking! Let me know if you have any follow up questions or others; I don't want to give away all my crafting secrets, but I'll do my best to answer.

SpelingMatters

Do you make the hollow part different shapes to accommodate a particular item? Also what is your favourite thing to draw?


Miskatonica

Good morning, u/SpelingMatters (English major, you?)

Do you make the hollow part different shapes to accommodate a particular item?

Yes, upon request. Because I can make only about 25 - 30 books per week:

  • I make the most popular titles with the most popular type cutouts that are all ready-to-ship
  • I take a limited amount of custom orders
  • Here is a pic of a Crime and Punishment book I made for a customer to fit her Sig P238 with extra magazine cutout

Also what is your favourite thing to draw?

Ah, favourite with a "u", not in the USA probably, eh? Not that there's anything wrong with that. My favorite thing to draw would be a self-portrait.

Let me know if you have any follow-ups or other questions.

meatybacon

Do you glue each page together? Or soak the pages in some kind of adhesive? I inherited a hollow copy of arabesque when my grandfather passed away, and in elementary school I used it to smuggle Pokemon cards. Good memories!


Miskatonica

Good afternoon u/meatybacon (just had some pizza, would've been good with a bit of bacon!)

What a lovely inheritance and nice memory to your grandfather. Do you still have the cards in the book?

Do you glue each page together? Or soak the pages in some kind of adhesive?

Let's see, I'll try to answer without giving away too many secrets to competitors. I know from looking at a competitor's blog that they do soak their pages in adhesive before they do their cutting process, but my process is different. (I don't soak the pages in adhesive).

I can tell you the inside page edges that form the inner "walls" of the book box I coat in a thin layer of archival bookbinding glue. There are unseen inner supports to the walls and a hidden magnetic closure. The outside edges of the book look completely natural like a real book.

Be sure to let me know if you have any other questions, I would have answered sooner but didn't expect so many people to ask questions.

removedforcontent

Do you have a business license? If so, what were the deciding factors that led you to which type? Great job working through trauma/bipolar and doing what makes you happy! It’s a tough journey.


Miskatonica

Hi u/removedforcontent, (do many of your posts get removed for content?)

Do you have a business license?

We're a registered LLC with the state of MN, yes. My husband first filed us as an LLC in 2014, the details are public here.

If so, what were the deciding factors that led you to which type?

My husband chose (he has a business degree; I'm what you call a "free spirit"),--an LLC he tells me because if we were to say, get a business loan and couldn't pay it back or someone sued us, the most we would lose are our business assets, which would be only our scroll saw, books, etc. We wouldn't lose our house for example.

Thank you, I've found good community with r/bipolar and should post there more! Let me know if you have any follow-up questions or new questions.

Deb_Eternity

What has been the most unusual/weird thing that a customer has asked you to make a hollow book for...?


Miskatonica

Hi u/Deb_Eternity,

What has been the most unusual/weird thing that a customer has asked you to make a hollow book for...?

ha, great question, well, one (wo)man's weird is another wo(man)'s normal, so here are a handful that stand out in my mind, all in my judgement-free zone!

  • Motorcyle keys which the wife was presenting to her husband for his birthday (I'm assuming there was a new motorcyle then waiting for him somwhere?)
  • Handguns (Sig Sauer handgun stands out in my mind because she wanted a specific cutout for it in Crime and Punishment)
  • Engagement rings (one stands out as especially cute; he bought his girlfriend's favorite book and then went to a bookstore ahead of time to plant it on the shelves. Then he did something to get her to pick it out and then the surprise proposal!
  • Tampons (she frequently had guests and very little storage space except on top of her toilet)
  • Jewelry (one stands out that it was a gift for her mom who had just been burglarized and had some precious jewelry stolen)
  • Jesus toast photo (I was asked to make a cutout in The Holy Bible as a frame for a polaroid of a slice of toast that had Jesus' image on it) See here.

Feel free to ask any follow-ups or other questions, thank you!

_winterofdiscontent_

What inspired you to go into just specifically this?

Do you think about doing other things in conjunction with this, perhaps with the aim of creating a web-based business?

Are you looking at this morphing into other things as time goes on?

Do you earn enough to make an actual living doing this?


Miskatonica

Hello u/winterofdiscontent_, (ha, great username!)

I hope you don't mind my doing one-sentence answers and then I can come back; I didn't expect to get so many questions from so many redditors this fast.

What inspired you to go into just specifically this?

I had a long string of odd jobs outside the home; I love working from home and this was a way to do it, I love making things that are useful yet somewhat artful.

Do you think about doing other things in conjunction with this, perhaps with the aim of creating a web-based business?

I'm open to possibilities; I'd like to make some passive income along with making books, but right now hollow book-making and promotion takes all my time and energy.

Are you looking at this morphing into other things as time goes on?

It's quite possible; this started as a hobby which morphed into a living, so I wouldn't be surprised if it morphs into something else.

Do you earn enough to make an actual living doing this?

Yes, my husband and I make a modest living with our hollow book business:

We pay our mortgage and bills but the budget is very tight. We do probably 1/3 of our annual business in November alone. During the summer, my husband sometimes takes a temp job to supplement income.

Thanks for taking the time to ask the questions, let me know if you have any follow-ups or other ones.

hotel-california-

What gave you this idea? Were you worried about financials in the beginning?


Miskatonica

Hi u/hotel-california- (Inspired by the Eagles? I love Don Felder's riff)

Sorry didn't reply till 4 hours after your question, never expected this many redditors to look at my post.

What gave you this idea?

It's a long story, but long story short, I was working a day job as a museum gallery attendant. In between standing around saying "Please do not touch the art" I was thinking to myself that I'd like to actually get my own hands on a project. I went home and decided to make a hollow book after having thought about Anne Frank randomly that day. So I got an x-acto blade I had and a Nancy Drew book and made my first hollow book.

Were you worried about financials in the beginning?

In the very beginning of quitting my day job to make hollow books, I wasn't worried; this was because my husband was still working at his own day job which paid quite well and gave us killer health insurance. Later on when he got laid off and decided to throw his own energy and time into the hollow book business, I definitely paid more attention to the financial aspect. But at the same time, I didn't have to worry about it per se, because my husband has a business degree (I have an art degree), so he has always been more equipped to worry about finances. I mainly only think about the making side of the business.

Let me know if you have any follow-ups or other questions. Thank you!

looktothetrees

How much money do you bring in from something like this?


Miskatonica

Hullo u/looktothetrees, (the trees outside my window are covered in a lovely layer of snow!)

How much money do you bring in from something like this?

I hope a roundabout answer will be OK, I want to plead the 5th on annual income specifics.

  • My husband and I faithfully pay our mortgage in Stillwater, MN North Hill area
  • We may or may not qualify for state-assisted healthcare
  • Black Friday truly brings us back into the black

Let me know if you have any follow-ups or other questions.

thri11co11ector

What do you cut more of: gun or dildo holes?

What’s your favorite rap song?


Miskatonica

Hi u/thri11co11ector (have you done anything thri11ing lately?)

Wanted to reply to this earlier because it made me giggle, but I'm replying in order of earliest to latest best I can, taking longer than I expected.

What do you cut more of: gun or dildo holes?

I hear from gun owners and from people who give gun books as gifts. I've never heard from any customer saying they wanted or had bought a book for the purpose of hiding a dildo. I have a competitor who makes books with dildos included. Seems gross to me, but who am I to judge?

So to answer your question:

  • We have a dedicated section for gun safes here and here but we're almost sold out for this weekend. I need to make more due to this AMA
  • The gun safes we make for ready-to-ship have very strong magnets which are designed to be able to contain when held upsidedown a fully loaded Glock19 plus full magazine
  • The ready-to-ship gun safes are full size cutouts where the idea is that one can switch out a variety of gun sizes and/or keep other items as well; but I do also take custom requests for cutouts to fit the exact outline of a gun and have done them in the past, such as this one.
  • We don't have a dedicated section for dildo safes
  • The amount of book safes we've sold that were then used to contain dildos could range into the thousands, since there are thousands of customers who never told me what they were going to put inside their book safe

But I do offer custom orders upon request. (Probably not during the Holiday Season, but anyone who wants a book with a dildo-shaped cutout or gun-shaped cutout can request it for a price quote/turnaround time). [Kara@secretsafebooks.com](mailto:Kara@secretsafebooks.com)

What’s your favorite rap song?

This! It's got such a great riff that's an earworm like In Da Club but the puns are even more hilarious. Sorry to real rap fans, I wouldn't know the difference between rap and hip hop or what constitutes what or diddly do. But I heard that song somewhere and I think it's rap? The kind of music I like is classic rock, some pop, some punk, a little bit of alternative rock, a tiny bit of grunge and a teeny tiny bit of metal.

One of my favorite albums of all time is this.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3iK4JU5Q3M

Let me know if you have any other questions, loved those two haha!

lbroadfield

Does it bother you to hurt the books? I wouldn’t have issues with old law books or similar, but I winced when I saw the Jefferson biography and a Terry Pratchett.


Miskatonica

Good morning from MN, u/lbroadfield

Sorry I didn't reply earlier, I never expected so many questions and I want to reply in order and give a thoughtful reply to everybody who is so kind to take the time to post a question.

Does it bother you to hurt the books?

It does bother me if for example I accidentally drop a book and crunch a corner or spill coffee on a book. And it would pain me if this happened to one of my completed Secret Safe Books that I'd taken care and attention to handcraft it for a customer.

Terry Pratchett dice tray books are very popular with DnD players and Pratchett fans, but I 100% understand how the cutting out the contents of a book would make a booklover's heart ache, especially if the author and/or subject is beloved by you. Books are not only hunks of paper and board, but deeply meaningful symbols which evoke strong emotions and memories.

Things to consider:

  • Pratchett as well as Jefferson's bio (and pretty much all of the books I craft) are available in unlimited quantities and for as long as the web and digital exist.
  • In addition to being available in digital, most of the books in my shops are beloved titles by many people and therefore continue to be printed by publishing houses
  • I wouldn't craft an irreplaceable out-of-print book, limited edition, for example I'd never cut into my personal collection of early 1900s Poe pocket editions (frankly it would just be too expensive for me and for most customers) See my Poe beauties in the lower right corner of this product photo.

Please let me know if you have any other questions or comments at all.

Edit: Just noticed several comments responding to u/lbroadfield on this topic, just want to add their usernames before I take the time to answer their questions individually later today ~ u/TheHoodedNan u/shiyal u/Stormkith u/Chained_Wanderlust u/GothWitchOfBrooklyn

Smingowashisnameo

Can we see pictures please? What are your favorite binding methods? Or a they all basically boxes? I want pictures!


Miskatonica

Hello u/Smingowashisnameo (wow, would love to know the story behind your username!)

Can we see pictures please?

Thanks for asking,--a good place to check out some pics is my IG: @secretsafebooks

And props to u/WildRoses26 and u/B_Addie for mentioning my online shops, SecretSafeBooks.Etsy.com and SecretSafeBooks.com

What are your favorite binding methods? Or a they all basically boxes?

Well, for the hollow books, they're books that are already published and bound; then I craft the cutout inside them. I did take a book arts class in art school where I learned to do a Japanese stab binding, roundback hardcover, and others. My favorite book to make was an accordion book, which I still make some minis, you can see some in A few of my mini books you can see in r/bookbinding in this post here.

Please let me know if you have any follow-ups or other questions.

HercDriver01

Where do you get most of your books - are they new or used? Also-love your work shown on your Etsy shop! I hope you have great success!


Miskatonica

Hi u/HercDriver01,

Thank you for your well-wishes!

Where do you get most of your books?

I get most of them with my Amazon Prime account, for a few reasons:

  1. Amazon 99% of the time has the best price for new and used books
  2. They have super easy returns in case the book arrives damaged
  3. I can get some books delivered same day, this is fabulous if we get a rush order or start selling out of a book we don't have in reserve. (We simply don't have the budget to keep a lot of uncrafted stock on hand).

When I started out on my own, I was going in person to 2nd hand bookshops, which was very enjoyable but not terribly efficient. So when business started picking up, I used online ordering to:

  1. Spend more time making books (since I can only make a small amount each day)
  2. Get multiples in a consistent quality/wear/price

Are they new or used?

Most of the books are new. The Barnes & Noble leatherbound and other line they do of classics with dust-jackets are new. Most of the books that are for ring bearers are new, but some brides want a vintage look, so we do those as requests. Many of the flask books and the gun books are made from used books, because I've found that a lot of these customers want a book that blends in more like a real book that has been read and handled so it doesn't stick out as the one weird shiny book on the shelf.

Please let me know if you have any other questions! Sorry I didn't get to your question till now, I didn't expect so many responses to this post.

embodimentoffailure

How difficult is it to make a living of of this? How much do you actually work?


Miskatonica

Hi u/embodimentoffailure,

How difficult is it to make a living of of this?

It's not difficult in the sense that I love 99% of everything I do for my business, making the books, photographing them for listings on my websites, doing promotion. (The 1% I don't care for is cleaning up my workshop, I'm lazy when it comes to sweeping, dusting, and organizing). It is difficult in the sense that the income is not a 100% guaranteed thing like a salary, so my husband and I have to be prepared for times of slow sales.

How much do you actually work?

For awhile, I crafted books 7 days a week because I loved it so much. But then I found it was more productive to focus all the bookmaking work in a traditional work week, Mon - Fri. I now usually answer emails and do online promotion/social media from around 8 a.m. - 9: 45, and then make books until 5:50 p.m. If there are rush orders or I need to catch up on the crafting, I'll start earlier in the workshop. I don't spend any time with a commute since the workshop is our converted garage. I love taking photos for instagram, so I do a lot of product shoots on the weekend.

Let me know if you have any other questions, thank you so much!

GustavoShine

Minneapolis checking in. Would you be interested in sharing your work with a history of print and early manuscripts class? I teach in a local MLIS program. Shoot me a PM and we can chat. Stay safe and snug during the snow.


Miskatonica

Hi u/GustavoShine,

Glad to hear from a fellow Minnesotan, and thank you kindly for reaching out! That sounds like a fascinating class. I've just saved this comment and will follow up. I wouldn't have time until after the Holidays, but I might be able to figure something out in January or later on.

Thanks again!

Rambos_Beard

Is this sorta work sustainable for the long haul?


Miskatonica

Hi u/Rambos_Beard,

Is this sorta work sustainable for the long haul?

It's tough to look into a crystal ball to see for sure, but if I do an educated guess, I would say it is sustainable. The reason I think that is because my husband and I have been able to make a modest living at it for nine years. A lot of the books we sell are for wedding gifts, and people are always getting married. It's not super easy for someone to get into the hollow bookmaking business in a consistent and full time capacity, so we don't have a ton of competition. If a hollow book company opened up and had tons of resources to take over the market, we'd probably not be sustainable then.

Let me know if you have any other questions, thanks!

cedreamge

What is the process of crafting these hollow books like? Could you enlighten me as to how you make those?


Miskatonica

Hi u/cedreamge,

What is the process of crafting these hollow books like? Could you enlighten me as to how you make those?

The process is one I've developed through trial and error over the years. I'm reluctant to talk about too many specifics as I do for sure have competitors who I wouldn't want to give tips to. But in a nutshell, I use a scroll saw and power sander to create the secret safe cutout and archival bookbinding glue also in the process plus embedded magnets.

clever_screename

In the immortal words of G Stefani , you ARE a hollow book guuuurl ?


Miskatonica

Hi u/clever_screename,

I'm afraid your comment sailed over my head but thanks for coming to my Iama!

zeezl

Hello, cool job! I definitely empathize with the struggle around feeling unsure about sharing art due to emotional vulnerability. I read recently here on reddit that women tend to have a developmental creative sport in their 50s so maybe we'll both get over that hump in the future.

My questions are if you prefer preparing certain titles, genres or ages of books. And have you received any feedback from your clients after they have used your books for a time? Seems like the stories would be interesting!

Have a great day-


Miskatonica

Hi u/zeezl,

Wish I got to your question sooner, I never expected so many responses here!

I definitely empathize with the struggle around feeling unsure about sharing art due to emotional vulnerability. I read recently here on reddit that women tend to have a developmental creative sport in their 50s so maybe we'll both get over that hump in the future.

Glad to know I'm not alone in this and that I have something to look forward to in my 50s!

My questions are if you prefer preparing certain titles, genres or ages of books.

Hmm I'd never considered if I have a favorite. Now that I think about it, I do love to do the heart shaped cutouts, there's something very satisfying and challenging about carving out a perfectly symmetrical heart. And then with the heart books I tend to get the most feedback because they're used for the special occasions of weddings and proposals.

And have you received any feedback from your clients after they have used your books for a time?

Yes, I've heard from repeat customers who have put one of our hollow books to everyday use as a hiding spot for valuables or that their giftee still enjoys the book. (Lucky for them I'm not into burglarizing houses haha). These customers have been happy with the book enough to purchase another one. I haven't heard from customers who email just to give long-term feedback without being interested in another book.

What kind of art do you do if you don't mind my asking? And let me know if you have any further questions, thank you so much!

Epic2112

What do you do with the paper that you’ve removed from the books? Does it just get tossed? I’m wondering if there’s maybe a related business where you could recycle it into new sheets and sell hand made/hand bound journals or something.


Miskatonica

Hi u/Epic2112,

What do you do with the paper that you’ve removed from the books? Does it just get tossed?

Ooh I would love to make it into my own recycled journal paper. I know some rudimentary papermaking from when I worked at Paper Source (before Paper Source became less an art paper store and more a gift shop; they even sell plush animals now!?)

I've made some miniature accordion books as a side project and have used some of the text from cutout pages pasted on the covers. And I've made some paper roses from the innards which I've used in photo shoots for my book safes, you can see the paper roses in my Secret Garden book safe here. A few of my mini books you can see in this r/bookbinding post here.

Let me know if you have any other questions!

drowsycosmos

What would you say was the most beneficial social media platform to boost your business? How long was it until you could do this as a full time job? (I read that your husband sometimes takes temp jobs in the summer, would you say you're close to being completely sustainable off of your books alone?)


Miskatonica

Hi u/drowsycosmos

What would you say was the most beneficial social media platform to boost your business?

If reddit qualifies for the social media definition, I would say reddit. It lets me talk right to a huge variety of people around the world, and fast. Plus on reddit I can get brutally honest feedback about my work which has improved my work, such as when I posted on r/magicTCG to ask hardcore players to give feedback on my deck box book.

Next would be Instagram, not so much because I have lots of followers who become customers, but more because the photos have attracted bloggers for example who in turn promote my work.

How long was it until you could do this as a full time job?

I sold my first hollow book on my Etsy shop in 2009. At that time when we lived in an apartment in Chicago, and my husband had a full-time day job outside the home. His salary was enough to support the two of us without me working at all. But I chose to work so we could live a little bit more comfortably. So when I walked off my day job in the summer of 2010, I didn't have to worry about being the sole breadwinner.

Then later on in 2010, Etsy featured me on their homepage which sold out my shop. After that, I actually could have been the sole breadwinner. (Albeit it there wouldn't be much bread left over at the end of the month). In 2011 I think it was that my husband got laid off from his job with a very good severance package. He helped streamline productivity and finances in Secret Safe Books and so business picked up even more.

So, after about 2 or 3 years it was successful enough for the two of us to make a living at it, (with a tight budget).

I read that your husband sometimes takes temp jobs in the summer, would you say you're close to being completely sustainable off of your books alone?

Back in our Chicago apartment with no car, we were completely sustainable off our books alone. Then we decided to move back near family here in MN about 6 years ago. We were good for several years until there was a string of expensive stuff (which would never be issues in Chicago) we're still paying off. (Pipe burst underneath driveway, electrical fire in workshop, car broke down, next car broke down, yadayadayada).

It varies year to year for enough sales. The ironic thing is that when our sales are high enough to support us and we don't qualify for assisted healthcare, we have less money due to what we then need to spend on healthcare; then when sales lag, we do qualify for assisted healthcare and have more money.

Let me know if you have any other questions!

unsupervisedviking

What's the general process for making these? Is it hard to find some of the custom order books?


Miskatonica

Hi u/unsupervisedviking,

What's the general process for making these?

Well, I try not to give away all my secrets about making them. I learned from watching scroll saw youtube videos and crafting blog tutorials for some parts. I started out before it became a business and was just a hobby,--using just an x-acto knife. Later on I started using a scroll saw. There's a particular way the book edges that form the cavity have invisible reinforcement, I use a power sander and archival bookbinding glue is involved as well.

Is it hard to find some of the custom order books?

In the beginning, I would get a custom order for say a "book about baseball", and then I would spend time sending 10, 20, 25 emails back and forth with the customer to decide on which book. This was taking up too much time, so I decided to make the policy that the customer must give us a link to the specific title and edition to the book they desire. Then from there, I try to find the best deal on the book that I can order in the time frame the customer needs. We've stopped for the most part of accepting books bought by the customer and then shipped to us, because if the book is damaged in transit or the wrong book is sent, it's a rigamarole to get it sorted.

Ha, so the short answer to that question is it hard to find custom order books? No :)

Khassar_de_Templari

Why do you even mention the mental illness, struggles with inferiority and past trauma? Do you realize how that seems to someone who goes through the same struggles as you? If you don't, it seems as if you're using pity as an advertising tool. This entire post feels so disingenuous to me it sickening.

I don't list all my mental issues and past traumas on my job applications, why is it relevant here in your advertisement?

I wish I had a husband who would work to help support me trying to make money off my niche hobby. Sounds like a good guy but I feel bad for him, what happens to him when the hallow book market crashes?

What's your backup plan? Why don't you pick up a temp/part time job as well? Wouldn't that make things easier? I mean yeah working a real job sucks but.. that's part of life. Don't you owe it to your husband to help ensure the financial stability of your future together?


Miskatonica

Hello u/Khassar_de_Templari,

Thank you for taking the time to write out your responses to my AMA; I've been slow to answer all the redditors who posted here, because I want to give a thoughtful answer to all of the questions in order. I just have nine more questions to go and will answer you thoroughly next!

I hope you're a regular visitor to reddit so you'll see my response.

Talk soon,

Kara

wtysonc

Is your mental health history included as some sort of marketing?


Miskatonica

Hi u/wtysonc,

Is your mental health history included as some sort of marketing?

No. The reason I included a brief mention of my bipolar and trauma history is because this AMA is about my current occupation, and my mental health has been one driving factor in how I came to be a hollow bookmaker. From what I understand about posts in r/IAmA is that they're to fill in the what/when/why/where of everything about what has led to "I am a _______".

Do I understand the purpose of AMAs in this sub incorrectly?

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Miskatonica