WASWI – Designing Fabric?

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Yesterday, Abby Glassenberg of WhileSheNaps delivered an eye-opening post of behind-the-scenes information about the money in fabric design in our industry. Please go read it… I’ll be waiting for you when you’re done. And a continued thank you to Abby for researching and writing such important posts.

I woke up in the wee hours this morning fretting about this, and here’s what I was fretting about: WE must stop agreeing to work for negative income. 

At Quilt Market, just two weeks ago, the result of the Quilting in America 2014 Survey was presented by F+W, A Content + eCommerce Company. The major data point is that Quilting is a $3.76 BILLION industry. Yes, BILLION. To be told that there’s almost $4B of cash floating around in Quiltdom, and then to read that there are fabric companies that effectively force their designers into penury via footing the entire bill of Quilt Market marketing obligations is… just… appalling. Abusive. Manipulative. Just plain WRONG.

And I lost count of how many times I heard during market “I don’t know who’s getting the $4B but it sure isn’t me.”

Look – this isn’t about the companies (fabric or otherwise) that take care of their people. This is about those that don’t. If you are so desperate to see your name on the selvedge that you will sign a questionable dotted line, then you will live by that questionable contract (and really, is the “fame” worth it?) But here’s the thing: because you are willing to sign, it tells the company that what they are offering is good enough. So the bar stays low for anyone coming behind you. It’s the same thing I argue about pricing handmade goods – if you are willing to give it up for the “work for free” price, then you are educating the customer that “work for free” is the going rate. Which screws us all, you included.

These companies are not going to offer you a better deal out of the goodness of their hearts, any more than a craft fair customer will double your asking price for the sake of good karma. We are not going to get better contracts unless we refuse to sign the bad ones. And my guess is that if enough of us pass on the bad contracts, and the company faces Quilt Market with little new stuff to show, then they’ll get motivated to up their game.

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The quilting industry started its growth back when we began the fight for Equal Rights. Its initial population was founded on women who were brought up to be nice, and that pressure to be nice above all else, and especially above being business-savvy people, is still extreme. I know it can feel “not nice” to push back on a contract, especially when you’ve worked hard to achieve the offer of one. But a contract that screws you over isn’t one you (or our industry) deserves.

And in case you are reading this and thinking “I don’t design fabric so it doesn’t apply to me,” well, think again. If you knew which company treated their artists like this, would you buy from them? Would you encourage them to mistreat their people with your hard-earned money? I hope not…. many of us boycott several brands and chains for less.

We are, as always, in this together. If we demand better, we can achieve it for us all. If we take care of others as we rise, then we all rise. I believe we really can change our industry, but we really have to do it together. As Abby says at the end of her post “This kind of alliance can only happen when we speak up.”

So I’m speaking up. We truly Are $ew Worth It.

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WASWI Resources – Snappy Comebacks!

To make hand-crafted things is to be the target of blunt questions and statements that disparage what it takes to make art, and leave you smarting a bit. I’m not always fast on the draw with my snappy comebacks, but over the years I’ve amassed a few good ones.

HDS Sew Worth It RESOURCES

Take note, and rehearse a few with your sewing pals to have them at the ready! I usually deliver the lines with a slightly patient and patronizing air (awww… they don’t get it… bless their hearts!) and always with a sense of humor :-)

And please add yours to the comments so that we are all armed the next time someone says “I could make that.”

“My grandma could make that.”

So could mine, but it wouldn’t have the same unique character to it.

“Art is easy.”

Tell that to Michelangelo!

“Everybody can sew.”

You mean like everybody can cook?

“It’s easy to sew… why should I pay for that?”

It’s easy to cook too, but you still eat at restaurants, yes?

“How long did that take?”

About 20 hours, and about 25 years to get good at making it in 20 hours.

“I could buy one at Walmart.”

You could buy a cheap imitation at Walmart, but the quality would be missing.

“I could buy one at Target.”

But so can everyone else. This is a one of a kind thing… you’ll have the only one.

“My sister/mother/auntie/bestie quilts too.”

How cool! Then you KNOW what kind of time and skill it takes to make a quilt.

“How do you make this?”

I’m happy to give you private lessons. I charge $$ an hour. Let me get you my card…

“No really, just tell me how you do this so I can go make one.”

No really, I’ve invested a lot in my mastery… you should invest in yours.

“My kid could make that.”

Chuckle… we parents always think our kids are prodigies, don’t we?

“Can I get a deal if I buy two?”

No, it doesn’t take any less of my resources to make the second one.

“Can I get a quilt as a donation? It will be great exposure for you.”

Did you know you can die of exposure?

“Can you sew this project for me? It will be great exposure for you.”

If only my landlord accepted exposure in lieu of rent!

“Can I have it for a really super low price because I’m doing it for Amazing Worthy Cause?”

How great that Amazing Worthy Cause has your support! If you like my product that much, I would be honored to have your support too!

“People who sew charge too much.”

It’s a specialized skill, just like carpentry or fixing cars, and you pay way more for those.

“Quilting isn’t a necessity, like plumbing is when you’re toilet isn’t working.”

But you hire a plumber at full price when you’re doing a snazzy remodel, which isn’t a necessity either.

“There’s no way I’d pay that.”

Then you’re not my customer. Have a great day!

 

Go here for more info about We Are $ew Worth It

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WASWI – Molli Breaks it Down

I wrote the original We Are $ew Worth It post almost two years ago, and have been thrilled to see it take laps around the world. When it went viral, it reached our cousins in Australia, and one cuz in particular took it and ran, wearing high heels!

Through the course of emails about WASWI, Molli Sparkles and I have become friends, and today, Molli has given us a great and transparent look at his No Value Does Not Equal Free quilt, a stunning tour de force in shades of white. Read it HERE.

Image from Molli Sparkles, used with "Hell yeah!" permission!

Image from Molli Sparkles, used with “Hell yeah!” permission!

I encourage you to read to the end of the post – there are many important and subtle details in there, and Molli gives us the reasons for every number in the projects sheets. He also generously gives you a version of them to use for yourself (a super beefed up version of my original simple time/materials sheets).

Perhaps the most important sentence in the post is this:

“For those in the USA, where quilting is nearly a four billion dollar industry, I created a more localised costing sheet for you. As previously mentioned, I altered the fabric cost to $10.00 / yard, and the labour rate to $14.00 / hour based on the most recently documented US median wage.”

We help generate $4 BILLION for this industry, and I know many of us struggle to charge $10 an hour.

You are worth so much more than that. We all are. We ARE $ew Worth It.

HDS Sew Worth It LOGO

Thank you, Molli!

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WASWI – Where Should You Buy a Quilt Book?

One of my readers, Rebecca R., kindly wrote me last week, concerned, regarding the price of my book on Amazon. As she put it, “Amazon is price gouging you.” Yep, pretty much.

As I say a lot, I’m committed to being as transparent as possible in the name of sharing information that will benefit us all as part of We Are $ew Worth It. So here’s what I know about the numbers surrounding my book – a peek behind the green curtain, with some hard math numbers. I would love for anyone else to chime in with more knowledge in the comments.

1. A publishing company spends between $30-50K to produce a book. They edit, photograph, design, print, and distribute it, using a combination of salaried and contract staff. C&T Publications/Stash Books is my publisher.

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2. I did not receive an advance to make my book. I have no idea if more established authors in this industry get advances. An advance means you get some money up front, your royalties pay for that until the advanced amount is paid off.

3. The rest of the quilting industry (fabrics, batting, notions, etc.) helps authors by supplying materials and tools in exchange for exposure in the book. In my case, that was about 90% of the materials I used. This was seriously helpful, especially with no advance. Everyone who helped is listed in the back/resources pages. You should read this to see which companies help out the most, so you can support them. Yes, it seems rather incestuous, doesn’t it? But trust me, without this help designers couldn’t make new stuff for you.

4. It took me 8 months to design, write, piece, test, and quilt the projects for my book, and it was pretty much all I did for those 8 months (the pattern side of my business, my bread-and-butter income, was neglected). I had a couple of group sewing days where friends furiously paper-pieced letters for me, and another where a friend showed up to help spray baste everything. I sent out only one quilt to a long arm artist (and as it happened, we didn’t include that project). It was an intense and grueling time.

5. It takes about 12 months from when you deliver the manuscript and quilts before the book gets out into the world. During those 12 months, I have had more deep commitments in the editing, technical editing, design review, and especially the marketing end of it. The author is expected to do the brunt of getting out the marketing word across any and every platform possible. So while I turned everything in a year ago, my time is still being consumed by this. And will be for a while yet.

6. Pricing: My publisher determined the price of my book to be $24.95. It has 144 pages, and a jumbo pullout pattern sheet for the letters. This seems to be good value in comparison to others… I’ve seen 112 page books for this price.

7. My royalties on this book are 8%, which means 8% of the price that the publisher sells the book for after returns and other things that can eat into that number. Most shops that will buy the book will buy it for $12.50, which means I earn $1 per book. I assume (but don’t know) that bigger outfits like Amazon, or chains like Barnes & Noble or Joann’s might get a discount on their wholesale deal. If they do, my royalties for those units go down with that discount, too. If the publisher gives the book out as a complimentary/free copy, I get 8% of free, which is zero. Royalties get paid quarterly, so I’ll see my first check for Quilt Talk probably next January – which will be a full TWO YEARS since I started working on it.

7a. My royalties on an ebook are 15%, with the book priced at $14.99 on C&T’s site. I have no idea what the likes of Amazon or libraries might pay for the right to distribute ebooks. Let’s hope I get $1 apiece for these too.

8. What ever you think about Amazon, they are the juggernaut that drives how the market operates. Their ratings determine my future, as they drive my internet popularity, which is how far up the list I appear when you type my name into a search engine. Few people look beyond the first page of an internet search, so coming up on page one is very important. Your leaving me reviews on Amazon matters mightily to that search rating, not to mention influences other buyers. And I’ll be nudging you about reviews later, because that’s part of my marketing obligation.

9. Obviously, Amazon buys in bulk and spreads profit and loss across millions of products, and so they can afford to discount. I have no idea what they will pay for my book, but I do know that I’ve seen the price of Quilt Talk fluctuate on their site from $18 to $22 (they have algorithms for this based on YOUR buying and browsing history). Add the lure of free shipping (whether you buy more to get to the $35 free ship threshold, or have a Prime account) and it’s easy to see why book sales elsewhere are a struggle.

10.  Stores: I assume the big chains get a break. I know the independent stores don’t. They will pay $12.50 for my book, and hope that you’ll buy it from them (rather than come and look at it and go home and buy it on Amazon). Remember, if you want a quilt store or independent bookseller in your town, you actually have to buy things there. Amazon will survive you not buying the occasional book. The quilt store might not.

11. Book signings: I’m doing several book signings at stores… no one is paying me to get to them. It is not customary for the author to get a cut of the sales action the book signing generates, beyond royalties. Book signings help stores the most, so if you can, it’s good to go to them. Even if you don’t buy my book there, it’s lovely to meet supportive people.

12. Quilt Market: If I want to promote my book at Quilt Market, I have to get myself there, and that costs about $1000-$1200 for plane, hotel, taxis, and food. I’ll be doing a School House Session at Market in October, which is a half-hour event where I pitch the book, tell shop owners how to sell the book, which projects make good workshops and classes (and I’ve already written the class outlines for those), and which products they can tie into  sales (rulers, cutters, mats, papers, etc.). My publisher is picking up the cost of this (they have to buy the School House slot from the Market people), but they don’t foot the travel expenses. While I’m there, I’ll also be signing at distributor booths to generate interest. Again, for no payment… basically, if I show up, these people will use me as best they can. Why do it? I hope to get contacts for teaching and speaking gigs out of this.

13. Pre-sales: Amazon is doing pre-sales, so I decided to as well. I chose $20 as my pre-sale price, but still need to charge shipping. This book is heavy, so my shipping options are $4 for media mail (slow to you, and a trip to the post office for me) or $5.60 for Priority Mail ($5.05 if I print at home). Regular old first class is around $7, so Priority it is, and I rounded it down to $5. I’ll be paying $12.50 plus shipping for my book, so let’s call it $13. So if you buy my pre-sale for $25 (which includes the shipping) I’ll make my $1 royalty, plus around $6 (I lose about $1 to Paypal), out of which comes mailing time, printer ink, mailing labels, order management time. I would love to be competitive with Amazon, and offer you the book for $18 including shipping, but at that point I’m making barely $1 in profit (not including the royalty $1) and frankly, it’s not a cost effective use of my time to do all that mailing stuff for break even numbers.

14. Book Plates: I’ve decided to do signed bookplates for those of you that want a signature scribble from me, but won’t see me, or want to support your local quilt and book stores. I thought I would be able to mail them to you for free, but the cost of printing the bookplate, putting it in an envelope I have to purchase, and then putting a stamp on it comes out to about $1. Which is my royalty on the book you purchased elsewhere. So I’m charging for bookplates or again, it’s not cost effective.

So in short:

  • If you want to help the author the most – buy directly from the author on her/his site, or at an independent function such as a guild lecture.
  • If you want to help your local quilt or book store the most – buy directly from the quilt or book store.
  • If you need to save a few $$ (and really, we’re talking the price of a couple of fat quarters or a frothy coffee drink with a tip) – buy from Amazon under one of their free shipping deals.

I would love it if you add any knowledge you have to the comments!

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WASWI: Quilters Newsletter Magazine talks about Value

The conversation about what are quilts are worth has reached one of the big guns, Quilters Newsletter Magazine! The Aug/Sept 2014 issue includes a very sharp article titled “What’s Your Quilt Worth?” It begins on page 38.

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Gigi Khalsa interviewed several industry professionals, including yours truly, and put together a well informed article stuffed with facts, opinions, and “behind the green curtain” advice.

  • Nancy Henry talks about the business arc of her Etsy shop, nhquiltarts.
  • Samantha Harvey of Sami’s Quilts and Crafts discusses the formulae she uses rigorously to price quilts. “Quilters who undercharge make it harder for anyone to get a fair price.” Woman after my own heart!
  • Katie Ringo of Katie’s Quilting Corner gives strong commission advice. She also says “Educate your buying public.” Right on.
  • Patricia L. Cummings of Quilter’s Muse Publications reminds us that the price of a quilt should include the wear and tear on our tools and machines, and the power to run them.
  • Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry discusses the price-per-square foot formula she uses (similar to a lot of fine art painters). She also talks about correct pricing when a gallery carries your work. Never undercut your gallery!
  • LUKE Haynes also uses a pricing formula, but he talks about his long toil in the trenches to build a body of work at prices that cover a living wage.
  • Carol Ann Waugh of aBuzz Gallery discusses the difficult job of competing with cheaply made imports.
  • And I talk, as always, about my belief that if we all work on this together, we will all benefit from it.

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That’s me, in the opening paragraph! I’m the closer too!

From the core of my being, I believe that We Are $ew Worth It. And I hope you’ll join me in that.

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Quilt! Knit! Stitch! Come see me there!

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Portland (Oregon) is hosting Quilt! Knit! Stitch! here August 14-16 at the Convention Center. This is a new type of show, catching all the needle skills in one place, and I think it will be a feast of new ideas!

I’m thrilled to be on the faculty, teaching two different classes – check them out and hurry over to the enrollment link (look for Online Enrollment in the middle of the page) if you’re interested in coming to play with me. Online enrollment ends in a couple weeks so don’t dally. I will be there EVERY DAY teaching, demo-ing or lecturing:

#304 – Learn to Paper Piece. Saturday August 16th, 9am to Noon.

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Learn to paper-piece while making the top of this LOVEly wall hanging (15” x 17”). The provided kit includes patterns on three different types of paper for you to test, pre-cut fabric for easy piecing, and clear written instructions for putting the top together. Baby Lock is providing machines for this class so you just need to show up with some cutting tools. BONUS: Megan Dougherty, The Bitchy Stitcher is my class minion helper for this session, so come meet her too!

#311 – No Fear Thread Painting. Saturday August 16th, 2pm to 5pm.

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Learn to thread paint (by machine) over a drawing using the basic art principles of shading and value. No drawing skills needed – truly! Baby Lock is supplying the machines for this session also. I’m bringing the drawings and stabilizers for you to play with, and all you need to bring are basic sewing supplies and a handful of threads. Megan says she wants to come help out in this class too! Lucky me and you!

We Are $ew Worth It – Lecture. Friday 3pm.

HDS Sew Worth It LOGO

I’ll be delivering the live talkie version of We Are $ew Worth It. I tell stories, make a fool of myself, and open the floor up for Q&A at the end. It’s fun stuff, not to mention important information… you should be there!

Open Studios – Paper-Piecing Demonstration. Thursday 4pm to 6pm.

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I’ll be in the Open Studios area, showing you how to paper-piece big things and little things, and featuring the letters from my upcoming book, Quilt Talk. If you can’t make it to a class, stop by and get some free tutelage. Or just stop in to say hello and show me the spoils of your shopping adventures!

I hope to see you there!

Questions? Leave them in the comments below.

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We Are $ew Worth It Resources: Press Kits

One of my goals with the We Are $ew Worth It (#WASWI) movement is to create a useful catalog of resources and templates that help us navigate our industry.

HDS Sew Worth It RESOURCES

For me, one of the best things about quilting has always been the tradition of women helping women. And this isn’t a more recent feminist idea (although who doesn’t love feminism?), it has always been there in the fabric arts. One might think the neighborhood ladies gathered around the frame to get the bride’s quilt stitched, but you just know that they were also sharing the wisdom necessary to conduct life… how to make a great pie crust, how to get a stain out of something, how to navigate a grumpy hubby or calm a colicky baby. We still do this today in mini-groups and online communities – the frame might be different but the need to share wisdom hasn’t changed.

So to the tribe of quilters, sewists and fiber artists – please join me here around this virtual quilt frame to both offer your wisdom, and to benefit from the knowledge sharing here! I know I don’t have all the answers, but with your help I know I can build a useful cache of important docs for us all.

Thus today I’d like to tackle Press Kits. I was asked for a press kit yesterday for the first time so I’m hustling. So far, this is the best link I’ve found, but obviously what I need to do here is build the one that matters to both the industry I work in, AND the industry I’m offering it to.

Based on that article this is what I think it needs to have:

  • Information about my company
  • Information about the products I offer
  • Information about the specific product I’m pitching to the people that asked for it (in this case the new book, as it was a book store asking as part of a book signing gig*)
  • Information about me – a little bio, and info on where I do my thing (teaching and speaking stuff)
  • Recent publications and articles
  • Links on where to find me: email, website, Facebook, Instagram, etc
  • Images of me, my logo, my book (or products)
  • A review of the book or product

Some of the things I’m not including right now, but might consider in the future:

  • Financial information – I’m not asking for investments so no need to divulge it
  • Video or audio links – mostly because I don’t have them yet. If I had something that shows me speaking well I would include it so the book store could see that I won’t be an awkward mess. If I was pitching this at a distributor I might not show me speaking, but show me teaching the product I’m pitching to them so they know I’m doing my part to sell it, too.
  • Press releases – I don’t have any, and for this particular gig the arrangements have already been made. If it was a cold send, I imagine this would be the leading document. I’m thinking I might need to write one though.
  • Social media stats. I used to look longingly at the “Likes” on other people’s pages, but with Facebook’s recent underhanded throttling of anyone’s reach, I’m not so sure this is the best basket to collect eggs in. Don’t get me wrong… I’d love to have more “Likes” just so that I can potentially talk to more people (and if you’re reading this because you picked it up on someone’s feed, then PLEASE LIKE ME!) BUT… Seth Godin, the smartest guy in the online media business, recently wrote this, and it has me thinking that the race for numbers isn’t really the best metric by which to measure success (and this is probably a discussion for another time!)

YOUR TURN

  • What do you think a press kit should have?
  • What do you think doesn’t matter?
  • Do you have links to good ones to share?
  • Industry Peeps who have already figured this out – do you mind sharing?
  • Industry Suppliers – what info do you want us to present to you?
  • What more could this WASWI Resource include to be of use to you?

* I’m signing Quilt Talk at the holy grail of independent booksellers, Powell’s City of Books in downtown Portland. Come see me on Saturday, October 11th at 4pm!

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