(Y’know, I’m going to run out of clever post titles and Roman numerals if this keeps up…)
1. A year ago, Annie Modesitt wrote about the original digital sales contract Interweave sent out here and here.
2. In a post aptly-titled Here we go again, she publicized the details of the new Soho (read: Vogue, knit.1, Knit Simple, etc) digital pattern contract.
3. And now, she’s written a post called Valuing our work.
Read that last link if you want a bit of a recap as well as editorial, or are pressed for time.
As for my posts about it all: Free range, eco-friendly, fair trade knitting teachers and Fair trade knitting teachers, part 2, both of which concentrate more on the compensation offered to teachers in the industry, but that stand on their own in terms of general principles.
My column in knit.1 was recently canceled. Ad sales are down everywhere for print magazines, and front-of-magazine features are taking the hit so they don’t have to decrease the number of patterns in each issue. I understand that.
What I don’t understand is how Soho can justify selling patterns for $6 and $7 (see here) without compensating the designers more than 10% — let’s not even get into the free patterns on offer, for which the designers will surely see nothing.
(At least they’re not selling them for 99 cents a la iTunes, I suppose. I am an eternal optimist).
The Soho staff are incredibly bright and devoted to their work — I count many personal friends among them. But how can they as an entity not realize that a proposition such as this is going to harm them more in the long run than their current ad sales/money-raising dilemmas? I can say with some degree of conviction that they can’t possibly have missed what happened with Interweave (and how they ended up making designer-friendly changes to their online sales program after several people spoke up). My sincere hope is that Soho, too, will amend their contract in the same way Interweave did.
Ysolda Teague makes some good points in her post Standing together, specifically:
Things are changing in the knit publishing world. There are magazines that do care about their designers. Last year Interweave showed a wonderful willingness to listen to designers when they changed the royalty paid to designers from individual online pattern sales from 10% to a sliding scale. Yarn Forwardâ€™s contracts revert the rights to the designer after an exclusivity period and I belief theyâ€™re planning on launching an online pattern store and paying fair royalties for that.
(She’s right about Yarn Forward, by the way…this editor can tell you some very exciting things are on the horizon there).
But more importantly, Ysolda wrote:
Iâ€™d love to see one of my designs in Vogue Knitting, but Iâ€™d already decided it wasnâ€™t going to happen unless they were willing to negotiate the terms of their contracts. Consequently, like Annie, I have nothing to lose. If writing this means that eventually they do change but donâ€™t want to work with me, well thatâ€™s fine, Iâ€™ll still consider it a gain if it means that other designers are fairly paid for their work. But speaking up about this does feel scary, and it may seem to many designers that there is something to lose in doing so. The only way things are going to change for everyone is if we stand together.
I won’t lie to you. I’m a little scared, writing this. As I said above, I have friends on both sides of the equation. And as a writer, I hope to contribute to other knitting magazines for a long, long time (patterns are something else, I barely have time to do my own on top of Yarn Forward work right now!) If I get blacklisted, I’ll be sad, but like Ysolda, weighing the pros and cons of speaking up versus not, I have to go with my own conscience here. It would be wrong not to write about this when I have the bully pulpit of several thousand readers to whom I can communicate…
As I’ve mentioned in the past, there are so many other avenues by which one can purchase patterns now — designers’ websites, Etsy, Ravelry, Stitch Cooperative in your LYS, Twist Collective, Patternfish… it might take a new designers a little longer to get noticed, but it will happen if your patterns are good and you maintain a certain level of professionalism, i.e. getting your patterns tech edited by a skilled tech editor, making sure your photography is really top-notch, etc. If you are serious about selling your patterns and you are talented, you will succeed.
Pricing (effective date to be announced)
These tiers are based on monthly sales and billed at the end of the month. You donâ€™t have to choose a tier. If you donâ€™t sell anything, you donâ€™t owe us anything. Hosting space is unlimited.
- $0 to $20 in monthly sales: free
- $20 to $100 in monthly sales: 5% of total sales
- $100 to $250 in monthly sales: $5
- $250 to $1000 : $10
- $1000 – $3000 : $20
Even the service I use costs more than that, when you do the math! (That said, maybe I’ll switch ALL my personal pattern sales over to Ravelry…hmmm).
Do you ever really look at the ads in the magazines? Have you noticed, if you’re a Ravelry user, that many of the companies (South West Trading Company comes to mind) have switched to advertising there instead? Wonder why? There are currently — as of this moment — 285,550 registered users there. Newsflash: NO knitting magazine has 285,550 subscribers. Heck, I think if you combined the circulation of every US-based knitting mag you wouldn’t have that many unique subscribers.
(I should note, though, for the record, that Yarn Forward is doing quite well with its ads specifically because a. there are only 10 pages of them per issue so advertisers get a lot more attention for the money and b. we treat them really well, to boot, as seen by our repeat ads)
Ravelry, and I say this with the utmost love, is the 800-pound gorilla now, kids. And I am glad for it. They are equally fair to designers, advertisers and users alike. They are responsive. They are wonderful human beings as friends and business colleagues, and they care about the community.
If you’re wondering what you can do if you’re not a designer…well, I’ll leave that to you. Blog about this, post it on your Facebook/MySpace/Twitter/etc, make a point to support independent designers… but do talk about it. As we all learned from watching after school specials in the 1980s (well, I did, anyway): you have to speak up when you are being abused. This might not be a t-ball coach/bathing-suit-area situation, but it has me feeling equally icky at the moment.