I have a pattern in the newest issue of Sew-It Today magazine. This pattern is three little easy-to-sew felt animals: a bear, a bunny, and a kitty. This issue hits newsstands next week and I’m super excited that my project is on the cover!
I like Sew-It Today because it gets down to business as a sewing magazine. Each issue is jam-packed with patterns and for the cover price of $3.99 you really get a lot for your money. It’s a simpler magazine than the last one I contributed to, Mollie Makes, but both are nice.
Here’s a shot of the inside spread of my project. They did a nice job with this photo! I’ve been thinking about this pattern for a long time. It’s origin is this Siamese cat I made in March of 2010. It’s funny how an idea can percolate for so many years and then suddenly emerge at just the right time.
When craft bloggers post magazine features it can seem as though the whole thing happened out of the blue, like that person was plucked out of a sea of craft bloggers to be featured in this lovely publication. In fact, it is rarely chance or specialness that makes anything happen, certainly not paid freelance design work.
Here’s how my most recent magazine features came about.
When I was writing my new book, Stuffed Animals, my editor asked if I would create an extra project that could be given away for free to help publicize the book. I declined this request. I feel strongly that giving away a free project does not sell books. He wasn’t all that happy, but I held fast.
Taking that unusual stance I knew I’d have to work hard to sell Stuffed Animals when it was released in May. Over the winter I developed a marketing plan to publicize the book and part of that plan was to have the book featured in sewing magazines. People who spend money on a pretty magazine are pretty likely to spend money on a pretty book.
I got in touch with the editor of Mollie Makes. In my pitch email I explained what my book was about and I also offered to create an exclusive project for the magazine. The editor immediately agreed to feature the book in issue #28, but she also offered to pay me to create a project for issue #29. UK sewing magazines pay more than double what most US sewing magazines pay. If I had simply given her a free project from my book I would have lost out on this chance to get paid.
I was excited to design a project for Mollie Makes, but before I signed the contract I asked if the copyright for the pattern would revert back to me after the issue hit newsstands. Originally it wouldn’t, but they send me a different contract so that it would. Now I can release that pattern on my own. That pattern got a $250 upfront cash infusion and has infinite earning potential going forward. If I hadn’t asked, I would have signed a less-than-favorable contract for me.
The editor of Sew-It Today emailed me many months ago asking permission to publish a photo of my Animal Neck Pillows for a travel spread they were putting together in the spring issue. She’d found me on Etsy.
She included her phone number in the signature line of her email so I picked up the phone and called her a minute after her email arrived. She was a bit surprised to hear from me, but we had a great chat. I told her about my book and offered to create an exclusive pattern for the magazine. When we hung up I emailed her a picture of the Siamese cat and offered to create three critters in that style. She loved it!
Before I signed the contract I asked if the copyright would revert back to me. The answer was yes, and I would also receive my finished samples back in the mail. Sew-It Today pays less than Mollie Makes, but the pattern got a $150 cash infusion up front and now has unlimited earning potential, plus I can sell the samples.
Both experiences emphasized a few important truths about freelance work for pattern designers:
You need to chase opportunity. As Seth Godin would say, pick yourself.
Don’t be afraid to ask if the copyright can revert back to you. Here’s where contributing to a magazine is far better than contributing to a book. The pay is the same, but once you’ve given your pattern to a book publisher, they own it forever. This means you get $150 + a free book for the 3-4 weeks of work it took to make that pattern. Not a great deal given how well you can do publishing a pattern yourself.
Ask if you’ll get the samples back. Magazines will almost always ship them back to you for free right after the issue goes to press. I’ve had book publishers keep my samples forever saying they need them to dispaly at trade shows. I’d much prefer to have the sample back so that I have the option of selling it. Again, magazine work proves to be better than book work.
If you write a craft book, don’t let the editor or publisher push you around. I believe strongly that free projects don’t sell books so I didn’t create one. Instead, I created two projects and sold them to magazines on my own while also promoting my book. In this day and age craft publishing houses don’t have the budget to market and promote your book. If you’re going to be doing all the work yourself (and you are) you might as well get paid for it. And you know what? My book went into a second printing two months after it’s release, even without a free project.
Freelance work isn’t right for every business, but it can be nice exposure and I think it’s fun to get an assignment and have a deadline to meet. It’s certainly a thrill to walk into the store and see your project on the cover of a magazine. I hope my experiences help you approach freeland work in a smart and considered way.