Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Supporting our Designers

Lately several of the big voices in knitting pattern design (Shannon Okey, Annie Modesitt, Ysolda Teague) have been talking a lot about how designers are compensated for their creative work. You can read their posts by following the links from their names above to get the full story. A lot of what they have talked about has been focused on magazines, but it made me think about how The Unique Sheep treats our designers. And I thought you might be interested in a bit of a behind the scenes look, too. It is very important to Kelly and I that our designers be treated fairly and we do everything we can to compensate them as best we can and support them in every way possible.We love working with new designers who are just getting started publishing. Sometimes this means that we start working with a designer and then their lives change and we never hear from them again. Often it means that the patterns need a lot of editing and gentle encouragement to get them up to 'professional' standards. But it also means that we have the joy of seeing designers grow, and knowing that, at least in a small way, we were part of that growth. Because new designers often don't have the resources to test their patterns and format them in a professional manner, we find and pay test knitters, provide yarn for test knitting and samples, and provide photography and pattern formatting assistance if needed. We also take care of printing. 

 Our policy is pretty simple, everytime we sell a pattern on our website or to one of our yarn shops (online or LYS), the designer gets paid half the retail value of the pattern. If you are familiar with the yarn business, that means that when we sell patterns to yarn shops we do not make a profit. We may take 25 or 50 cents per pattern to cover printing costs, but otherwise ALL the money that the LYS gives us for the pattern goes right in to the pocket of the designer. Often small designers do not have the time or connections to get their patterns into LYS on their own, nor would they be paid more by the LYS if they were to do so. Compared to the 10% that magazines often pay, we are pretty proud of our 50-100%. We probably don't pay as much, in total, as others but we do pay as much as we can. And the more a pattern sells, the more we are able to pay our designers. Its as simple as that. 

The other big issue, aside from payment, is pattern rights. Sometimes a designer has to sell the rights to her pattern to the publisher which means that she cannot publish the pattern on her own, even if the pattern is no longer available from the publisher (i.e. in a past magazine issue, out of print book or defunct website). Thats not how we work, though.  Our designers keep the rights to their patterns. They can sell them on their own websites or through Ravelry. They can even sell them to other yarn shops or online retailers. We only ask that they never give them away for free without talking to us first and that they include a note about our yarn in the materials section. 

Though Kelly and I both enjoy designing and have designed a number of patterns for our yarns, we don't have nearly enough time or skill (speaking for myself) to do it all ourselves. And so our designers are invaluable to us. They are a constant source of inspiration to me, and I am so honored to have the chance to work with them. I just hope that once they all become famous 'big name' designers they won't forget about the little yarn company that believed in them before everyone knew their names. :)


Charles (Stitchstud) said...

We won't forget! We love you! I don't know if I'll ever be big and famous, so I'm glad you invited me "into your fold" so to say.

Ivy said...

It sounds like you have a fabulous program with a risk/reward share going on. Thus, you get great designers like Lobug and stitchstud putting together fantastic patterns for you. Goodness all around, and we club members reap the benefits. ;)

Lobug said...

I don't know if I'll ever be famous or not- but either way, I'll never forget that you gave me my start- and I'll always love designing for you!! (especially since you are spoiling me so badly I can hardly knit with any other yarn!!! ;D)

Marie said...

I also want to say what a great honor it has been working with Unique Sheep. I am grateful that you took a chance on me.