So you have a lovely new pattern that makes your heart sing. You feel ready to show it to the world. You took pictures of it and wrote it up in the proper format. It is time to publish your crochet pattern.
But wait! Do you just throw that pattern onto your Etsy site and pray it sells? Do you submit it to a magazine publisher? Do you post it for free on your blog? What do you do?!
This is something I face very often. Every. Darn. Day.
The answer is different for every pattern, and is sometimes a huge gamble.
The market for free crochet and knitting patterns is huge. And you would think that only crazy people would publish a pattern for free. Why would you put in all that work and then post it for all to have for nothing!? If you run a monetized blog, however, posting free patterns can get you the followers and visits you need to keep your advertisers happy.
If you don’t monetize your blog, posting free patterns gives you a wonderful portfolio, grows your following, and expands your image as a designer. This is also a huge bonus.
So which patterns do you post for free?
For me, free patterns meet one of three criteria:
- They are relatively short and don’t take pages and pages of scrolling.
- They are similar to something else that is currently popular.
- They are licensed characters or are based on a trademarked product.
These patterns get posted to my blog more often, usually without a printable, ad-free option. That way, I get to share it with the world, but I do not violate any trademarks or ask for money for something I would not pay for myself.
That is the big questions with publishing free patterns: Would you pay money for it if you wanted that pattern? If you would keep searching for a cheaper version, it’s probably time to post that one for free.
Submit To A Magazine
Submitting patterns to magazine is a fun and often lucrative way to be a designer. Finding submission calls is often as easy as checking a magazine’s web site for a “Call for Submissions” link or browsing the Ravelry forums for posts requesting pattern submissions. Some ask you to join a mailing list for designers and they send out periodic calls.
Magazines put out editorial calendars as well, detailing what they are looking for in upcoming issues, what the deadlines are for submissions, even sometimes providing Pinterest boards or look books to give you inspiration. You can submit your pattern’s information along with quality pictures and then hope for the best.
Magazines pay well, anywhere from $50 – $400 for a pattern, depending on complexity and sizes. Some even send you the yarn for free if they want the sample done in a different color.
They pay you for the completed sample (which they often photograph) and the written pattern. Almost all large publishing companies buy the Rights to you pattern, indefinitely. This means that you cannot publish that pattern again anywhere else. A few magazine here and there will only ask for the Rights for a few months and then you can self-publish the pattern, but this is not the norm.
However, the reward for the rights is having the magazine do all the heavy lifting: They do the photography, tech editing, formatting, and marketing, and you get to see your name in print with your beautiful pattern shining on the shelves at Barnes and Noble or Joann Fabric.
Of course, this takes time. Most magazines take 4-6 weeks after the submission deadline to inform you if you are accepted. The publication dates are usually 6-9 months out. So a pattern submitted in June 2018 is often for the February 2019 issue, meaning you will often not see the publication (or get paid) for several months.
Magazines also don’t like what are called “simultaneous submissions.” They do not want you to submit a pattern to them at the same time you have submitted it somewhere else. That way, if they choose it, they know they are not fighting another publisher for the pattern and the pattern will the exclusive to their magazine.
If you start submitting to magazines, I would suggest keeping a calendar of what you submitted, where, the deadline for the issue, and when you expect to hear back. Some magazines do not respond if you are NOT chosen for publication, so you have to keep track of when that submission expires and you can try submitting it again to a different publisher.
The obvious downside is that not all patterns are going to be chosen to publish. Some patterns you will submit many times to many different publishers, and they will just never get picked up. After a certain amount of time, those patterns may be something you should consider posting for free or self-publishing.
Self-publishing is a free-flowing, self-paced way to publish a pattern. It sounds great to write and edit the pattern, then start reeping the rewards as soon as it hits your Etsy shop. However, it has its challenges and it can be a real gamble.
To be successful, the pattern needs to be tested by someone other than yourself and it needs to professionally Tech Edited. These services are important and usually end up costing around $30-50 for a lengthy pattern.
To be a good designer, you can’t just throw instructions on a page and call it a pattern. You want to look professional and have as few errors as possible. After all, people are paying hard-earned money for this pattern to be easy to read and a good crocheting experience. A well-written, well-edited pattern will bring back repeat customers.
After editing, you can post it to a search engine such as Ravelry or Etsy, and then the hardest part is all up to you.
Marketing the pattern yourself is hard work. A social media following is required, and most self-employed Etsy shop owners will tell you they put in several hours A DAY on Pinterest, Instagram and other sites promoting their products in order to get the views needed to sell a few patterns.
There is always the chance that your pattern will go viral and it will make more than any magazine would have paid you to publish it. You would have lost the rights and would have made a flat fee, but your now-viral pattern is continuing to make you income hand-over-fist.
You need to weigh the current trends and your marketing abilities and decide if it is worth the gamble. I can tell you that I have had self-published patterns pay off in a big way. I have a few that have made me 3x or 4x what I could have gotten from a magazine. But for as many as I have succeed, I have had many, MANY only sell enough to pay their editing fees within a few months.
Here is where the gamble comes in:
So once you have self-published, if you pattern does not sell as well as you hoped, you are stuck leaving it in your shop, even if it only ever makes you a few dollars.
Kati is the designer behind Hooked by Kati. With thousands of patterns sold around the world, Kati prides herself in creating innovative, easy-to-follow amigurumi patterns. She has designed for several publications, including Crochet!, Crochet World, Simply Crochet, and I Like Crochet. Kati finds her inspiration in science fiction, video games, and numerous visits to the zoo — all passions she shares with her husband and two boys.