Wednesday, March 9, 2016

PWS- How to Write a Quilt Pattern - Publishing Round Table (Topic 9)

Topic IX - Publishing Quilt Patterns- Round Table Discussion

On MondayI covered Topic IX which covered the publication of quilt patterns, both digitally and in hard copy.  Our guest designers are here today to discuss their experiences with publishing and why they have decided to go down the publishing route that they have. 

This Friday (March 11th) we are going to wrap up this series with some final thoughts from myself
and the guest designers along with a giveaway which will have 7 winners!

a. Do you sell your pattern in digital, print, or both formats and why? What factors did you consider when making your sales strategy?

Yvonne of Quilting Jetgirl - I currently only offer my patterns in digital format as it is economical.

Christa of Christa Quilts - I offer them in both formats. Although it’s great to sell PDF’s because of the low overhead, brick and mortar quilt stores prefer print copies that they can resell and kit. Also, most distributors will only purchase print patterns. When I first launched, my patterns were PDF only for a few months and then I chose to print only the better sellers.

Lorna of Sew Fresh Quilts - Digital pattern sales offer you the most profit per sale. Up until recently, I have only offered my patterns for sale in digital format. However, in 2015 I began providing Trunk Shows and Workshops, and would bring along a few printed versions of my patterns to offer for sale at these events. Printed patterns offer a lower profit because they must include a cost for the printing. Providing printed patterns at wholesale prices for sale in quilt shops results in even less profit. But I am now looking into having some patterns printed professionally to accommodate these new sales opportunities.

Soma of Whims and Fancies - At this time, my patterns are available in digital format only. That keeps the cost low for myself and the buyer.

Amy of 13 Spools
- I only sell digital patterns at the moment - because printing’s a b****. No, really! In order to really make a profit, you have to print thousands of patterns in a go and get them picked up by a distributor. You make a fraction of the price that they sell for. My patterns appeal to a more niche market, and simply aren’t going to be as widely popular as other styles of quilting. That’s ok! I know it, and I own it, and I don’t put thousands of dollars printing patterns when I don’t believe they’ll sell.

Anne of Springleaf Studios - This is a loaded question for me at the moment. I started out selling only digital patterns and that format is still my primary means of selling. In the back of my mind I had thoughts of printed patterns but didn’t fully consider how that would work with my given pattern format. I have been fortunate to have a few shops contact me directly asking for paper patterns for their shop and have been able to fulfill those by self printing. I’m at the point now where I need to make some decisions moving forward about commercial printing and distribution.

b. Where do you sell your patterns? (different online platforms, individual shops, wholesale)

Soma of Whims and Fancies - Etsy, Craftsy and sometimes over Paypal directly.

Yvonne of Quilting Jetgirl - I currently offer my patterns through the online platforms Craftsy, Etsy, and Payhip.

Amy of 13 Spools - At the moment, just Etsy and Craftsy. I have one (maybe two?) up on, but that didn’t take off, so I haven’t had a sale on there in ages.

Anne of Springleaf Studios - I started out with Craftsy about the same time they introduced their pattern selling option. Later I added Etsy and Pattern Spot.

Christa of Christa Quilts - I sell my PDF patterns through Craftsy. I sell my print patterns in my online Amazon store at I also sell them wholesale to quilt shops and through distributors (United Notions, Brewer, and Checker).

Lorna of Sew Fresh Quilts - I sell my patterns online using and in my Etsy shop.

c. How did you decide on the pricing for your pattern?

Amy of 13 Spools - Eh. I really didn’t put enough thought into it, but since my individual digital patterns aren’t where I put my marketing, I don’t ever think about it. In all seriousness, I should price my patterns much higher (somewhere in the $20 range) since they are soooo very niche and take sooo very long to write, just due to my style. I originally grabbed pricing based on the majority of patterns I saw around me - averaging from $8-$12. But my patterns take a lot more pages, hence part of the reason I have issues with printing them, etc. etc….I’ll probably re-evaluate my pricing soon.

For the Tribal Block Club, which includes 6 block patterns & 3 quilt top patterns, I looked at it two ways:

1) How did this compare to a bundle of regular quilt patterns? I wanted students to feel like they were getting a deal. If each quilt pattern was worth $12 (these aren’t as complex as my paper piecing ones to write), then the patterns were worth a total of $36. For just $4 more, you could get a whopping 6 block tutorials in full photographed detail! And a Facebook group & private post access where you could read comments from others and me! That sounded like a pretty good deal to me. I offered an early bird price of $29 because that was a really good deal - while still giving me a decent sale.

2) If I was giving away more than 3 patterns worth of material, then I needed to make more than I would from selling the 3 patterns to magazines. I usually make around $300 from selling a baby to twin size quilt pattern, including making the quilt, to a magazine. I have no idea what’s normal, but that’s what I’ve been making. So I wanted to make more than $900, since I was also providing the quilt block tutorials - probably closer to $1500. Not just that I wanted to “make more”, but that I wanted to see if the online block club route was a better fit for me. I knew that I had a little over ~1000 bloglovin followers, so I figured that if at least 5% of my readers purchased a membership, then I would make that goal.

So when you are trying to figure out how to price your patterns, yes, you could look at the market - but if everyone else in the market is pricing too low, then you will be, too! And if your overhead costs are different than someone else, then your prices should be, too. I ended up finding the way I priced the Tribal Block Club to be a much smarter way of pricing. Take into account the amount of money you would like to earn, all of your costs, and how you can persuade buyers that you priced your product correctly. I sold far more of my Tribal Block Club than I have of any of my other patterns combined; probably because of the way they were bundled, priced, and all of the extras added in.

Anne of Springleaf Studios - I looked around to get a general idea of the price spread and took into account the added benefits my patterns offered. I also was told early on by a distributor I contacted that they would not carry a pattern that sold for less online. I know there is some discussion out there that online prices should be less than printed patterns. The argument is that there is no expense to the designer with a digital product. This doesn’t take into account that the work (and expense) to create and write a pattern is the same regardless of the final format. Hours and hours go into producing a good quality quilt pattern not to mention the likelihood that multiple quilts were probably made during the process. For those designers selling digital patterns at a lower price point, they most likely cannot even afford to offer a printed pattern at that same price. The profit margin on a printed pattern can be pretty small, especially when a distributor is involved.

Christa of Christa Quilts
- I don’t mind sharing my pricing strategy since I know it’s hard to figure this stuff out. My retail prices are $10 per pattern and I don’t discount the PDF prices (unless it’s a limited time holiday sale, or clearance). In fact, distributors require that your PDF and print prices are the same.

Wholesale prices are usually 50% off retail. Then distributor prices are 30% off retail prices. So in my case, the wholesale price is $5 and the distributor price is $3.50. The distributor then sells the pattern to the shops for $5 so either way, the shop is paying the same price.

Now, many people would wonder why I don’t sell just directly to shops only and earn the extra $1.50 per pattern. Also, why sell wholesale at all since selling retail is so much more profitable? The main reason is distribution. The distributors and shops have a wider reach than I do and many shops will only purchase from distributors because it’s easier on them to buy all their patterns from one place. So even though wholesale profits are less and distributor profits are even less, you make up for it in volume. The rule of thumb is to set your pricing based on distributor pricing. Selling wholesale to shops or retail yourself is just icing on the cake!

Lorna of Sew Fresh Quilts - Factors such as: how much work went into a particular design, how much detail is offered in the pattern, how many pages are in the pattern, how popular is the pattern - are used to determine the pricing for my patterns.

Yvonne of Quilting Jetgirl - I was not too scientific about it, but I did put some thought into what might happen if I eventually am able to sell my patterns wholesale. I recommend Modern Quilt Guild members watch Shea Henderson’s MQG Webinar (“Pattern Writing: Discussing the Ins and Outs 9/10/14”) in general, but specifically when it came to pricing my patterns her presentation influenced me. The first patterns that I wrote and that were not peer reviewed or tested are $5. Patterns that have multiple sizes are $10. Patterns that only offer one size are $9.

Thanks for reading!  This Friday (March 11th) we are going to wrap up this series with some final thoughts from myself and the guest designers along with a giveaway which will have 7 winners!


  1. I charge $1/page. I don't count the cover because that is mostly my branding stuff. So for me, a small $4 or $6 pattern won't be worth printing for wholesale/distribution.

    How do you all print applique patterns? I can't find a printer who understands what I'm talking about.

  2. This is so helpful! There seems to be a good average price across the board!

  3. Thank you all for this helpful discussion, and especially Christa for explaining how the wholesale and distributor pricing and process work!

  4. This discussion was very interesting. Even if I never sell patterns it is good to know what goes into the pricing and what works for the designer.

  5. There is just so much great information here from everyone! I really appreciated everyone's transparency too. It isn't often that we get to read a discussion that involves money related details. Thank you!

  6. I notice many sell through Craftsy. How do you deal with the EUVAT?


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