Limerick, the spiralling green beret I shared here previously, is now published!
A few months ago Knitpicks put out a submission call for independent designers, looking for patterns knit or crocheted in their yarns. The program is very flexible, in that you can submit previously published designs as well as new ones, and all the rights of the pattern remain with the designer allowing us to publish the designs elsewhere. This is a major step forward for yarn companies and designers alike, and this is one of the reasons I decided I would try the program to see if it worked for me. The standard model for yarn companies is to buy the rights outright to a design, and rarely does the price paid reflect the time put into a pattern. The pattern is then generally used in publication or given away free. I always negotiate to keep the rights to a pattern (except on one occassion, where I was paid fairly for the work and it was a design I was happy to let go of) so this is a major improvement on that.
There has been a lot of discussion amongst designers about this program. Many feel that the price of the pattern PDF's, $1.99, is too low and is undercutting others in the business and is lowering the value of single patterns. Add to that that many don't like Knitpicks because they sell yarn much, much cheaper than yarn stores can manage then you can see why this program doesn't suit everyone.
In principle, I agree with many of the points put forward as to why the IDP isn't a good business move. As someone who started their business solely with PDF's and has spent a fair bit of energy getting people to understand that a digital pattern is just as valuable as a printed one, the price point is a cause for concern. Personally I think Knitpicks should sell the pattern at $3 and pay the designers the same $1.99 that they currently are and keep the remainder to cover admin costs; I'd be happy with that (after all, $1.99 is more than I earn per pattern through print wholesale). Yet on the other hand, this is Knitpicks. Customers who shop at Knitpicks expect lower than average prices and there are still many customers who fully understand why patterns are generally priced higher and will continue to buy them at that price. Bottom line - at least Knitpicks are charging something for the patterns, rather than giving them away free.
The only way to discover if this was a suitable business route for me was to try. Yep, the price point is low and it will be hard to raise the value of this pattern elsewhere whilst the pattern is still for sale on the Knitpicks website (with perhaps the exception of wholesale print). Yet the $100 advance and all rights remaining with me is very positive. That's more than Knitty pay and I expect the traffic through Knitpicks is just as high. If it doesn't work for me I can always pull out of the scheme, once the advance is met, and sell the pattern as I normally would online at my regular price; I haven't lost the design forever.
Making these sorts of decisions is tough. I'm not in a position to ignore opportunities like this; I just don't earn enough. Very few designers do, infact. It's a rather timely discussion, with the article in the Times yesterday about Ysolda. It's absolutely fantastic that she has such a successful business, and I'm sure it has been hard work and will continue to be. Yet it needs to be borne in mind that the majority of knit designers don't earn anywhere near as much, yet are still working hard and creating quality patterns. That's not to take any credit away from Ysolda so please don't get me wrong (I'd love to see more designers have that kind of success and see the profile of knitting and knit designers raised) My point is that one designer's success shouldn't be used as a reason to lower the price of patterns overall ("designers are clearly making too much money so why should I pay that much?") or used as a reasoning for other patterns being of a low standard ("your patterns must be poor because you're not selling as many") or used as a judgement point against those of us who try different business models because we need to.
ETA/ Sorry if this post sounds grouchy, that's not my intention! I've been reflecting a lot on the business side of things; when trying to move a business forward you need to weigh up the pros and cons and that's never easy.