There has been some fantastic discussion on the internet lately about the impact of indie self-publishing online and its consequences for the distribution of sewing patterns. Abby Glassenberg recently has hosted a great conversation about the impact of indie designers on her blog, While She Naps, and I’ve been lucky to read comments in other assorted blog posts about some of the benefits and limitations of selling PDF patterns that are delivered electronically.
Among the benefits, of course, are the almost non-existent overhead fees for offering electronic patterns that customers download and print themselves. As a consumer, I love that PDF patterns also offer nearly instant gratification–I can receive them almost as soon as I pay for them. At the same time, PDF patterns rely on one’s customers having the ability and willingness to print a pattern themselves (and the necessary software to do so). Because I design patterns that require printing really big applique templates, I’ve thought a lot about how allowing/making my customers print patterns impacts their end use, and my conclusion is that PDF patterns can take a lot of the control out of the designer’s hands and place it into the consumers,’ and that this can have an effect on customer satisfaction. Sometimes, this effect is positive, and overall I love the flexibility and democracy inherent in offering patterns as downloadable PDFs. But as business owners, we ought to also be concerned with the potential negative effects, which is where printing patterns comes into the picture.
Pre-printed patterns may take longer to be delivered and may cost more, but they also offer our customers significant advantages, such as not having to print and tape together large-scale patterns. At the same time, the decision to have patterns printed requires a substantial risk to the designer, who has to pay upfront for a printed product and then figure out how to distribute it.
There is a fantastic resource available to designers who are interested in selling printed patterns–Publish Your Patterns, a self-published book by Nancy Restuccia, et. al., which is available on Amazon (not an affiliate link). I found it incredibly helpful in making my decision how to offer my own patterns last year. In the end, I did decide to offer printed patterns, as I believe it offers some benefits to customers and allows me to reach markets I couldn’t if I offered my patterns solely online. Once I made this decision, though, I faced a process that required me to make lots of further decisions without a whole lot of guidance or information.
I’ve since heard of other designers who have made the leap into printing patterns (some of whom are in the process of making that leap right now), which got me thinking that a blog series focused on the whys and hows of printing patterns might be useful. Throughout this series, I hope to share with you some of the considerations I took into account when deciding to print patterns, choosing a printer, finding distributors, and dealing with the physical reality of warehousing and packaging said patterns. I also have a couple of fantastic interviews lined up with designers such as Sara Lawson of Sew Sweetness, and Abby Glassenberg of While She Naps. I’m hoping to add additional informational interviews with leading printers and distributors to give you an idea of what they look for–and what you should look for.
As a final note to this introductory post, I appreciate so much what you all have had to say about my Crafting a Book series, and I hope that this new series on Pattern Printing will shed a similar light behind the scenes of indie pattern publishing. My aim is to give you all the knowledge and tools to make your own decisions about what is best for your designs and businesses, so if there are questions you’d like answered, please drop me a line in the comments or via email! Thank you for reading, and have a great evening!