Topic IX - Pattern Writing Blog Series - Publishing Quilt Patterns
We will not be covering anything to do with the business or legal side of selling patterns here. I will leave those topics to the professionals so if you have any questions about setting up legal entities, paying taxes, collecting sales tax, or any other legal or business questions, I encourage you to seek out a legal or tax professional.
Digital Quilt Patterns
Hands down, digital (pdf) quilt patterns are the easiest and best margin way of selling quilt patterns. All you need to do is publish your quilt pattern as a pdf (pdf converters were covered in the Computer topic), set up an account on a digital sales platform and a payment site (typically PayPal), and you are ready to go.
There are many outlets to sell digital quilt patterns, some the most popular being Craftsy and Etsy. The advantage of these sellers is that they bring the customers to you. There are thousands of customers per month looking for quilt patterns in each of these sites.
When you sell your patterns through one of these sellers you may have to pay listing fees, commission fees, and/or transition fees. On Etsy, you pay a small fee to list an item, pay a commission, and then either pay Etsy or PayPal transition fees. Craftsy has no commission so the only cost is a small percentage of the sales price as a transaction fee to PayPal.
You may also decide to have your own pattern store such as Payhip, Shopify, or Big Cartel. Most of these store sites have a commission or a monthly fee associated with them. The advantage to these sites are that the shop is yours and you can better customize and manage it. The downside is that you are solely responsible for bringing customers to the store.
Print Quilt Patterns
Some shoppers prefer purchasing printed patterns and many (if not most) local quilt shops only stock printed patterns, so if and when you decide to take the leap and sell to stores versus individual quilters you will have to get your patterns printed. There are vast differences in printing costs per company so make sure that you get multiple quotes.
There are tons of printing companies online and locally, a simple search for “printing services” will yield tons of results. Most online stores will send a paper sample packet to show the fabrics and printing options available. Obviously the more you print, the lower the cost per print, so it is a balance between cost per print and having a stock of patterns sitting in your house. Keep in mind that any printing done will have to be shipped and paper can be quite heavy. Local printers are definitely an option you should consider as many are cost effective, have great customer service, and no shipping charges.
Most quilt shops and basically all wholesalers will require your pattern to have a barcode. Luckily, getting barcodes is a pretty simple and not too costly process. Simply googling “purchasing barcodes” will yield a bunch of options. I was able to purchase 100 barcodes for $45.
Another thing you will need are hanging bags for your patterns. Again, a quick google search will give you a bunch of options for the bags. I went with Clearbags.com and I have found them to be good quality bags at very reasonable prices.
My Path to Printed Patterns and Wholesaleing
I started out selling my patterns on Etsy and Craftsy for the first 2 years. It was simple and easy; you don’t run out of stock of a digital pattern and you can sell the same digital file hundreds or even thousands of times.
I had thought a few times about printing patterns over those two years but dismissed it because of the effort, expense, and I really just did not feel that I was ready.
In the spring of 2015, I started to get requests from different quilt shop owners for printed patterns and reconsidered the addition of printed patterns. I decided to make the leap and try it out.
To get my patterns ready to print, I went through all of them and gave them a facelift with new graphics and layouts. I worked with a designer to create a more professional cover sheet and evaluated my printing options. Figuring out how I wanted my finished patterns to look took a long time. I pondered many options such as did I want loose sheets, or a stapled little booklet, or one large sheet folded? In the end, I picked having loose sheets as my pattern insides for both flexibility and cost reasons.
When I was doing my research for printing, I found a local company that had great prices and was less than 3 miles from my house. I was able to visit them, test all of their papers, and discuss prices face to face. I have built a great relationship with them. They have all of my files saved and so I can simply e-mail them the quantity of the pattern I want printed and they know which paper and other options I like. They usually have ready for me the same day or the next day which is wonderful.
I have also found an online printer (BestValueCopy.com) that I use sometimes. Their prices are super low and their print quality tends to be very good. From the time the order is placed until I get the patterns can be up to a week and a half, so I use them to print larger quantities of patterns when there is no rush.
The nice thing about both of these options was being able to print small quantities of patterns. I started by printing between 10 and 25 copies of each pattern to keep my risk and investment as low as possible.
I sold my printed patterns directly to customers via Etsy, to brick and mortar and online quilt shops, and submitted my pattern portfolios to distributors. My patterns are now carried by Checkers and United Notions. My advice for submitting to distributors is to be patient and follow-up with the buyers, it sometimes takes them longer than you would expect to review a pattern portfolio.
I was planning to talk about pricing of individual versus wholesale versus distributor, but Christa did such a great job discussing pricing as well as the pros and cons of each that I will leave that until the Wednesday round table discussion.
I hope this clears up some of the pattern publication and sales question, come back Wednesday when the guest designers are going to share how they price their patterns and sell them.