Designers Don't Want To Design For Your Yarn Company
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Designers Don’t Want To Design For Your Yarn Company

I first started writing knitting patterns in 2010 when I was living in China and teaching English. I wrote patterns because I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for on Ravelry, and I had lots of ideas of the exact thing I wanted to knit, it was just a matter of making them come to life. At first, it didn’t occur to me that I should care about being paid fairly – I just wanted to get my name out there, and I thought you had to work for free in order to become a big name designer with a book deal. Looking back, I realize I was more or less working for free.

Since then a lot has changed: I have a family and a full time job in the industry (which I love!), and although I still design, it’s never been my main source of income. Now I’m a lot more selective in when, what, and who I design for. I’ve also seen a shift in the marketplace for designers; what was deemed fair compensation in 2010 isn’t the same as what’s fair now. Maybe it’s because my own perspective has changed, but it seems that designers today are more vocal about being compensated fairly for their work.

I spent a lot of time at the June 2017 TNNA trade show talking to both new and seasoned designers alike on their views of the industry. I’ve continued these conversations over email and on Ravelry, and here are some of the most commonly-mentioned issues that have come up during these conversations:

Top 3 Reasons Why Designers Don’t Want to Work With You

  1. They don’t like your terms, and could make more money by pattern self publishing their pattern.
  2. The designer’s schedule is full/your timeline is inconvenience (i.e. not enough time to knit the sample).
  3. The advantages of working with your yarn company aren’t clear, so they’d rather spend their time and energy elsewhere.

Top 3 Reasons Why Designers Do Want to Work With You

  1. Terms that honor their work and compensate them fairly.
  2. You have a brand that they want to associate with because you’re popular, they love your yarn, etc.
  3. You promote the heck out of indie patterns! They’ve seen you do it with other patterns, and they want to join the club.

In both of the lists, the most important factor that impacts a designer’s decision to submit to your call for submissions, or not, is the terms. Below are 3  options for terms that we’ve found are fair to both designers and yarn companies.

Royalties with No Exclusivity

The designer and the publisher both have shared rights to a pattern, and are able to publish it from the first day of publication. Yarn company pays royalties on all patterns sold (usually reporting and paying quarterly). Designer has the right to sell the pattern wherever they choose.

Royalties with Exclusivity

The publisher buys the right to first publication and a period of exclusivity that can last anywhere between 3 months to 1 year. During the period of exclusivity, the publisher can sell the pattern but the designer may not.

Other questions to consider when working with shared rights (note: there’s no right or wrong answer, but be sure to address these questions when drawing up agreements with designers so that both parties can be clear on expectations):

  1. Once the period of exclusivity ends, do you want to retain the right to continue to sell the pattern?
  2. Once the period of exclusivity ends will the designer be able to sell through third party sites like Ravelry and Craftsy? Will they be able to sell to LYSOs through their distributor?

Non-Exclusive License

This is a good option for those that would like to buy a pattern outright, but can’t afford an in-house designer. It’s important to mention that most designers will not want their work given away for free, so we recommend that these patterns are offered for sale or given only with a yarn purchase. With a non-exclusive license, the yarn company purchases the right to sell the pattern (usually limited to wholesale and company website) without further compensation. The designer retains the right to sell the pattern wherever they choose.

You may have noticed that we don’t mention buying patterns outright in this list of possible terms, and that’s because we’ve seen a strong shift away from this model (lead primarily by designers). This means that if you can’t hire an in-house design team, you’ll need to work out some form of shared rights for patterns with designers.

I’ve heard from designers over and over that their most successful relationships with yarn companies require clear communication and delivery of what’s been promised. Designers choose to work with yarn companies because they have resources the designer doesn’t–layout, marketing, and photography that is done professionally. In order to maintain successful collaborations, it’s key that you also deliver on your end of the deal.

Still need help crafting a pattern support program to support your yarn sales? Click here to contact Leanne.

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