How much is a sewing pattern for a stuffed animal worth?
When I sell a single sewing pattern to a big company, such as a book or magazine publisher, or to one of the big pattern companies like Simplicity, I can generally expect to get $250 for that pattern. Then, six months or a year later, the pattern will be published and hit bookstores or newsstands or craft stores. No further money comes in. With the big pattern companies the contract spells out royalties you could earn after making up the $250 advance (at a tiny fraction of the wholesale price), but in all honesty a pattern isn't likely to make enough to earn back the advance. So really it's $250 and that's it.
When I sell a sewing pattern myself, as a PDF download at a reasonable price ($9 per pattern), it takes about two months on average to sell 28 copies or the equivalent of $250.
What's the difference? It’s $250 either way, right?
The difference is that I can sell my PDF pattern forever. The tail is infinitely long. I could very well make $250 every two months all year from that pattern for an annual total of $1,500. In two years that's $3,000 for just one pattern. You get the picture.
Okay, that’s nice. But then you’re never published. Being published exposes you to a new audience and lends your design portfolio a nice big stamp of approval.
So here’s the best thing, the way to really make the most financially from a project: make a project do double duty.
Let's take a craft magazine as an example. Following the submission guidelines on the magazine’s website, usually a theme and color scheme, create a project and submit it. Once it's accepted ask about the terms of the contract. You want to be sure the copyright reverts back to you either on the magazine's publication date, or shortly thereafter. Once the magazine is out, go ahead and sell the pattern a la carte in your online shop. Now you've got a cash infusion upfront for this pattern, plus the cache of having it chosen for publication, and then the infinitely long tail of earnings with no middle man. Even better, find out if you can get your sample back. If so, have a sample sale and sell that, too. The more doubling up, or tripling up, you can do, the more financially successful your business will be.
Once you become a designer you should begin to think of how every project might do double duty. Last year I designed and made felt hibiscus flowers for National Nonwoven's booth at Spring Quilt Market and then sold the pattern to a publisher to be included in a book. This makes it worth my time. National Nonwovens gave me the felt, nearly $100 in materials, and the publishing company paid me for the pattern.
This is the way to make it work. I’m not kidding you.
It takes many, many hours to create a stellar sewing pattern and it's very hard to make a living as a crafter. Double duty is one of my best tricks and I hope it helps you, too.
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