Part Two: Getting Your Name, and Project, in Print
Congratulations! Your design concept has been accepted for publication! Now, let's assemble all the things your editor is going to need in order to secure your spot in an upcoming issue.
First you will need to familiarize yourself with their formatting and write or draw your patterns or charts in the manner the editors prefer.
For crafts like knitting or crochet, this may be as simple as carefully studying the published patterns in that magazine and writing your pattern in the same format. For other crafts, like quilting, sewing or woodworking, you may be required to provide pattern pieces drawn to scale.
- Make sure all the pieces are drawn to the same scale proportionally, and make sure they are cleanly drawn and easy to read.
- If you can, draw them in a graphics program like Photoshop and submit a clear PDF, GIF, or whatever format the publication prefers.
- Have another crafter read your instructions to make sure they are clear and no steps have been omitted. Just because you know how you got from step A to step Z doesn't mean you have transcribed the process accurately! Someone less familiar with the process will be able to spot any steps you may have missed.
Cross stitch patterns are a whole special law in and of themselves. Many publications now require dedicated charting software, which allows them to export the designer's chart directly into a graphics program, saving time that would otherwise be spent recharting the design, followed by several rounds of proofreading. This means you will need to purchase the software they prefer in order to format your charts. Most publishers prefer PatternMaker Pro but there are others who prefer other programs or use proprietary software of their own design. If they use a program that is not commercially available, request a copy; most of the time they will be willing to mail you a CD. Otherwise it can be worth your while to invest in the software for your own use. (You may be able to use a less expensive home version of the program for your first few submissions, until you decide whether the income it generates is worth the investment of a professional version.)
- Follow any instructions from the editor concerning color limitations or symbol selection.
- If you are scanning in artwork to be charted, NEVER just scan it and let the computer make all the color decisions for you! The computer will “see” colors that really aren't there, and will result in vague, blurred shapes and an excess of unnecessary floss colors. Instead, scan the artwork as an underlay, and trace the pattern over it on the grid. This gives better control over color choice and placement, resulting in a cleaner, clearer stitched piece.
- Make sure you are aware of submission deadlines, particularly when submitting patterns only. The design director will need plenty of time to collect the required materials and send them to the model crafters, and the crafters will need enough time to complete the piece and send it back to the editors for photography. If designs are late in reaching the design director, that puts the whole publication pipeline behind schedule, and can result in major problems getting the issue to the stands on time. If you anticipate a possible delay, or run into an unanticipated problem (like an unexpected illness), let your editor know as soon as possible, so they can rearrange the issue or add another design to fill your space. Sometimes if the delay will only be by a day or two, they will be willing to wait for you; but don't make a habit of it. A designer who holds up the works on a regular basis is less likely to be called upon in future. If you are looking at a major delay, such as I did recently with an unexpected house move, or if you feel a design idea or adaptation the editor offers you is beyond your ability to complete well and/or within the time allotted, it is okay to tell the editor that for these reasons you feel it's best to give the project to someone else. It's better to be upfront and turn down one project than to take it and miss the deadline by a large margin or turn in a slapdash, unusable piece of work and never be called on again.
Once you have submitted the completed pattern or piece, it will go through a final selection process with all the editorial and publishing staff present. Usually at this point the designs have been accepted and a rough draft of the issue's layout is ready to be made. It is still possible for a design to be rejected or moved to another issue if the editors feel it doesn't quite fit with the other designs in the spread. If this happens, don't be discouraged; get an idea of what caused the design to be bumped (it may have nothing to do with you or your work) and keep any comments in mind when submitting your next designs. Don't take criticism personally; it's aimed at this particular pattern and not at you as a designer, and is intended to help you learn the editors' preferences so you will have a better chance of getting published next time. Also at this point, the editors may request changes to the pattern. Even if you think they're totally off-base, make the requested changes anyway. You may find that your design really does look better afterward, or at least fits in with the rest of the issue better. Always stay open to the editor's point of view, and if you do have a significant disagreement, explain why you feel strongly as you do. If you can explain your process rationally, the editor may concede that you have a point, or be willing to offer a compromise.
Once the issue is finalized, you will be sent a contract either by email or regular post.
Most contracts stipulate that the publisher is buying all rights to the design. This means they can use the design in several capacities (a magazine issue, a collector's edition book, and a kit, for example) without having to compensate you again. On the other hand, this also means that you cannot resell that design to anyone else, or sell it yourself, or even put it up as a free pattern, because legally it no longer belongs to you. (Although you can create a different version of the same design, as long as the differences are significant and not just a change of size or color.) You will be required to sign two copies, one for yourself and one for the publisher, accepting their terms, and mail or email one signed copy back to the publisher for their legal records. Keep your own copy where you can keep track of it; you will need it for income tax purposes, and I also find it helpful for checking on which projects have been paid for and which have not. The time between contract and payout varies between publishers, so it helps to get to know what to expect from anyone you submit designs to. Some publishers pay within as little as two weeks of being invoiced, some on publication, some when all the designs for the issue are complete. Once you know the average return time, you can plan for when to expect that check, and if there's a significant delay, say three to four weeks over their usual time, it's okay to give them a polite nudge and ask when you might expect to see it.
Above all else, always be polite and friendly. If you have questions at any point in the process, don't be afraid to ask. People in the crafts industry are generally very friendly and open, and if you are genuinely trying to learn how to make things go more smoothly for all concerned, they will be more than happy to help. Don't talk back, insult the editor or other designers, or be a diva, not even on your personal social media. Because the crafting industry has become so small over the last decade, everyone in it knows/has been employed by/has worked with everyone else, and anything you say will be all over the industry within a few days. If one editor finds you difficult to work with, it will severely limit your chances of being employed by anyone else.
So, to sum up:
- Know your market
- Be friendly but professional
- Follow the guidelines and procedures you are given
- Be willing to make changes and accept criticism
- Be willing to learn and try new techniques
- Know and stick to your deadlines
- Be patient with yourself and your editors while you're learning the ropes
- Treat your designing as a business rather than a hobby – but don't let that take all the fun out of it! The more you enjoy what you do, the better you will get at doing it, and the better your chances of establishing a going career.