Mim's Knitting Frenzy

Follow the dark and skeery path into the dank recesses of Miriam's mind. There you will find many a knitting needle and the occasional ominous crochet hook. Sinister looking book presses and towering stacks of paper. Where various handcrafts lurk waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting...

Location: Salt Lake City, Utah, United States

Friday, March 10, 2006

Thoughts on Self-publishing Online

Now that Mountain Peaks has been out for about a week (and I've already sent out 2 corrected versions), my thoughts have finally been allowed to congeal on the subject of self-publishing online.

I think a lot of people online (certainly on ebay) equate online shopping with bargains, and while that's mostly true for ebay, there is a risk taken. You don't know for sure that the item you are purchasing is really what it's stated to be. You can't heft it, you can't flip thorough it, you can't check the color in natural light... it's "iffy".

As a consumer of knitting patterns and paraphenalia online I highly value having a personal connection with the seller I'm purchasing from. If someone has a blog and I can get a sense of who they are, or if a friend of mine has had e-mail conversations and can vouch for someone's professionalism, then I am more likely to consider purchasing a pattern, even if it's something that I could probably figure out myself. i.e. Kristi's Spearfish Socks. Everyone raved about what a great design it was, and I had NO desire to purchase it until I started reading Kristi's blog, and swapping e-mails with her. Now I love her guts and I have purchased the pattern. I'm sure I'm not alone in this, and I know that this has influenced by business ethic. I have tried to be available for every question from "do you think this yarn would work with your pattern" to "how can I adapt this for a smaller version" etc... I like to be there for you knitters because I like designers to be there for me.

This is something unique to the online publishing world. When you purchase a paper pattern at your LYS, a designer has written a pattern (sometimes for a certain company who has already paid her her fee), and then a distributor sold the pattern to your LYS and now your LYS sells it to you. The proprietors of the store may help you figure out the pattern, but they are not paid to give you pattern support. The designer is very removed from the knitter, in fact, the knitter may just glance at the by line in the pattern trusting more that the company's name is the important thing, i.e. A FiberTrends pattern instead of a pattern by Bev Galeskas and PUBLISHED by FiberTrends.

For self-publishing designers, it's their name (and ONLY their name) on the line. For myself (being a self-proclaimed perfectionist) I expect that every error in a pattern of mine (even if it's been test knitted) speaks directly to my skill as a designer. It's really irrational, seeing as we're all human, and self-publishing designers generally don't have a whole tech editing crew to review every pattern before it's made available. But still, every time you put a pattern out there, it's scary! What if it's a complete flop! What if it ends up being ripped to shreds on YKW!?. It's enough to make you question your sanity.

And the removal of distributors and middle men means that there's no one else to absorb the cost of failure. If a pattern doesn't sell, the designer has put time and energy (which we HAVE to assign a monetary value to) into a pattern that we will never break even on. I set myself a dollar amount as my Break-Even-Point based on what I would have charged to sell this design to say a magazine or a pattern publisher, etc... I still haven't broken even on Seraphim, but I'm getting close on Mountain Peaks after only a week.

And with such a strong connection to the designer, that means that the designer is offering online tech support for her pattern. I spend a lot more time answering e-mails and tweaking technical aspects of my self-published patterns than you would ever believe! To me, this justifies charging more for a self-published online pattern. You'd be willing to pay a bit more for a car that had a 10-year warranty than you would for one without. You'd pay more for a computer with a full technical support package than you would for one without. Why not pay more for a pattern with full pattern support than you would for one without? I don't think most knitters online really understand that. It took me 3 days to make all the charts for Mtn. Peaks. And that's just transferring them from my original handwritten charts!

I'd appreciate your thoughts on the subject, even if you disagree with me. I would love to hear how everyone else justifies pattern price. Is price even an issue? What would you want out of a designer/knitter relationship. This may be cheap market research, but I feel like I'm sort of shooting blind, and I'd like a better idea of where I'm heading.