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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Designers Band Together

If you've been surfing around some designer's blogs within the past day or two, I'm sure you've seen Annie Modesitt's post about valuing our work as designers.

If you haven't seen it, go take a quick look. Even if you're not a designer, it has valuable information for you as a consumer.

I've never been published in Vogue, but I have been published by Knit Simple which is under the Soho Publishing umbrella. This was quite awhile ago and was actually my first big magazine gig. Being a bit naive and a relatively new designer to the magazine scene at least, I signed away all my rights to the pattern. Was I uncomfortable with it? Yes. Did I think I could do anything about it? No.

A bit further down the road, I was accepted to IK for the first time. Did I question the contract a little more? Yes. But then there was this deal about digital downloads and royalty payments. I was a little uncomfortable with only making 10%, but I signed it anyway. Then I saw Annie's post which she had written on the subject. I was really down on myself for signing and knew Annie was absolutely right about the consequences my actions would have on the future of our business and being paid fairly.

IK opened up an honest dialog with Annie and the designer community and worked it out. Thankfully, even though I had already signed for the 10%, I was still sent the new revised contract and was entitled to the better rate. But what if Annie had never been brave enough to raise her voice for designers like me to hear?

Now that I know the ropes a little better, I'm a little choosier with where I send my work. I take a long hard look at the contracts and ask for the terms in advance. If the publisher doesn't have terms that I like, I submit elsewhere. If they are negotiable, I negotiate.

But that is now.

As a newbie, there is nothing like getting THE email - "You're IN!!!". It's so exciting! You tell your friends, family, and anyone who will listen. You get so wrapped up in the excitement of it all that you sometimes don't think of your best interests. Once things settle down and you get down to the knitty gritty, you might question some things, but you just let it go. It's experience you say. It's exposure you say. I'm just building my portfolio you say. It's a big, well known magazine for goodness sake, what are you to them? What choices do you have?

That's just it. You can make choices.

Some publishers have already answered the call: Interweave Knits, Yarn Forward, and Twist Collective to name a few. Then there is always the option for designers to self-publish and get away from the contracts all together. Either way, publishing a design is hard work, but knowing that your rights are safe and you're being paid fairly for your work is a very good thing.

As a consumer, you also have the power to make choices that help designers make a decent living. Support the publications who respect and value designers. Support independent designers (I personally thank you for your support!) Support other venues like Ravelry who help give designers a place to showcase and sell their work.

I don't know how Soho Publishing will react to Annie's post, or if they will react at all. I hope they'll be open to make some changes and engage in an open dialog with the design community. I look forward to seeing how it all plays out.


subliminalrabbit said...

glad to see you're joining the good fight with annie and the others!

Ysolda said...

It's fantastic to see more designers writing about this and sharing their personal experiences :)

Marie said...

good for you! its a shame that artistic work is undervalued. Banding together can make your work a higher-priced commodity. You're able to do something so many of us cannot....like teaching--Another underpaid group.

Glad to hear Interweave adjusted your contract. I didn't want to be disappointed to hear they wouldn't budge.

good luck!

Alissia said...

Yeah, hopefully Soho will budge. I mean, they definitely know what they're doing when they screw designers over...they know how to capitalize off of people's desires, hopes and fears, and I think that's a tool in their industry that they choose to use for good or ill.

I worked at an internet advertising company for a while, and, trust me, they *know* what they're doing when it comes to product placement, images, descriptions, etc. and, at least at my old job, you get encouraged to do absolutely whatever you have to to get the sale. At my old job we were even encouraged to lie in a company meeting. (I would not do that. Ever.) So I don't doubt that they know about all the emotions that come up for a designer when they get a design accepted for publication and they capitalize off of it as much as they can.

I think at this point, they're not really sure if enough people will find out about the issue, and if they find out, if they'll care enough to do something. I wonder if there's any way to do a petition or something. At least email works. I was going to get a subsciption to Vogue, but I'm not going to now unless they change some things and I'm going to tell them so. Sure, it's not much of a loss for them now...but if designers don't submit and people don't buy then it'll hurt later. So I definitely want to see how this all plays out. Thanks for posting about it...I don't usually check out Annie Modesitt's blog.

Also, congrats on making it the new IK. I guess I'm picky, but I don't usually see much in there that I'd actually wear (it's aiming at an older audience maybe?) Unless it's yours. That's actually how I came to start reading your blog. So, yeah, I love the new design and I'm glad you're getting a more fair share with the revenues. I agree with Annie that it should be 50/50, but hopefully someday!

Hm. Maybe next time I should just email or something :)