One of the ways to cash in on your creativity is to sell your finished craft items, but you can also earn income by selling the instructions to the crafts you make. The first rule of trying to sell a design for publication is that the design must be original to you. You had to create it on your own and with your own hands. You can’t sell a design that you created from another published designer or a design that you modified by changing the size, color, or adding a different embellishment. This means your design for sale to a publisher is original and never been published before.
Many crafters learn a technique or craft by first using a published design in a kit, magazine, book, or on the web, but as skills increase the crafter goes on to create original pieces. You can sell the instructions to your original crafts to product manufacturers, magazine publishers, book publishers, online publications, and kit manufacturers.
Let’s start with magazines. Every magazine has a set of writer guidelines available upon request or to view on the web. These guidelines let you know what is expected of you as a designer submitting original work for publication. Usually a query is requested. You’ll send a photo plus brief description of the design to the magazine editor. In the old days this had to be done by U.S. Mail, but today magazines often take queries by e-mail. Make sure the image/photo is crisp and clear and your description should include your complete contact information, colors, materials, finished size and skill level needed.
One of the best ways to start is to pick a magazine you enjoy reading. Most likely your design work will be complimentary to the magazine. You don’t want to send a quick and easy floral arrangement to a quilting magazine. It’s important that the design you want to sell will fit into the magazine’s format and style. Write the editor for Writer Guidelines or visit the magazine’s website.
Fees for designs vary. An average fee for general crafting would be in the $100-$450 fee range. If your design is accepted you’ll get a contract that should state the fee that will be paid for the design. Read the contract carefully and if you have any questions you should ask the editor. Some contracts state first rights (publication has first rights to publish the design, then rights go back to the designer) while some contracts state all rights (design in any application belongs to the publisher). Understand that a contract is a legal obligation for you to submit a design with instructions to the publisher by a stated deadline.
You’ll be expected to write the instructions for your design which should include a material list. The material list needs to contain any supplies or materials that are needed to complete the project. Never assume the person who is going to read your instructions will know that scissors or an adhesive is needed. Make your materials list complete! Next you’ll write the step by step instructions to make the design. Take a good look at the magazine’s style. Write your instructions to match this style.
Some magazines request step by step photos for projects. Some magazines want you to provide either the finished sample for photography or to provide project photos. You can e-mail your instructions and photos. Finished samples are sent by mail and most magazines request that you include return postage if you want the finished design sent back to you. Shipping can be expensive if you work right up to your deadline so think ahead and mail early to save on shipping.
Magazines have editorial calendars. These calendars map out what the magazine is looking for in future issues. Magazines work 6 to 18 months in advance. Request the editorial calendar if you want to create projects for future issues of the magazine. Winter holidays like Christmas are usually welcomed all year round, but other holiday oriented themes need to be submitted as requested on the editorial calendar which means Mother’s Day submissions may only be taken during the month of October for the next year’s Mother’s Day.
My last word on submitting designs for publication is that you will be given a deadline for your submission. A deadline is a serious part of the publishing world. You can’t send in your work two days after your deadline. If you do you have just messed with the schedules of everyone else involved in that magazine’s publication from the editor to the photography to the art director. Get your work in before the deadline and you’ll earn a good reputation as a designer.
Reprinted with permission from Crafts ‘n Things magazine