Monday, November 24, 2008

Here we go again...

Just about this time last year I wrote a post about Interweave Knit's proposal to designers to sell our patterns on their online website. The designer's cut? 10%. I found this absurd, but I also had found IK to be an amazingly wonderful magazine to work with, so I wrote about it at my blog.

One thing led to another, which led to some very good conversations between Interweave and their Designers. Which, in turn, led to a new agreement whereby a designer can earn between 20% - 50% for online pattern sales at Interweave.

The figure is dependent on whether the Designer allows IK exclusive online rights and how much they promote the IK pattern sale site on the Designer's own website, but the formula for figuring it out is relatively simple and - I think - very fair.

It was a wonderful resolution, all parties benefitted and treated each other respectfully.

IK doesn't keep as much of the sales % as they originally intended, it's true. But I think more Designers signed onto the program and - as far as I can tell - just about everyone is happy. At any rate, I'm happy!

Perhaps more Designers signing on = more money for IK?

I knew that Vogue Knitting, which is owned by Soho Publishing, had recently started offering previously published patterns for sale on their website.

But as the contracts with Vogue are far different than the contracts with Interweave (the Designers pretty much sign away all rights when Soho publishing buys the pattern) I knew that asking for decent compensation would be useless, so I didn't bother.

I figured I'd just quietly not submit or design for VK until the time when they either approached me (and I could renegotiate my future contracts with them) or they changed their contracts on their own to reflect a more modern and realistic relationship with their Designers.

I could have been more pro-active, but I've had a lot of personal stuff this year which has taken time away from my desire to start working toward a functioning guild or union for Hand Knit / Crochet Designers. I'll admit, I let this slide and chalked it up to "Things one must accept when one signs away one's Intellectual Property rights in a contract."

Today I got an email from Soho Publishing - I'm sure all folks who've designed for Vogue got the same email - which read, in part:
Soho Publishing Company is excited to announce the launch of our web-based initiative, which will allow us to offer the content from our print magazines (Vogue Knitting, Knit.1, Knit Simple and Family Circle Knitting) in digital format.

Specifically, we will be reselling patterns from past and present publications as downloadable files, accessible via the Internet.

What does this mean to you? As one of our valued designers, you will receive a ten percent (10%) royalty on all net revenue received from the resale of patterns designed by you. While Soho contractually has the right to reuse this content without further payment to our designers, we appreciate the value our contributors bring to our product and sincerely wish to maintain a relationship based on respect and good faith. [Emphasis is mine.]
I have enjoyed having my work in Vogue - I love Vogue - although I haven't had anything in the magazine since the exit of Adina (very sad)

But as much as I love Vogue, I don't love this kind of treatment. Ten percent is not a reasonable amount to offer a designer when reselling their work, period. And it's 10% on net - what on earth does THAT mean? Is that after they've taken editing and web costs into account? Too unclear, and too little.

Until the contracts at Soho materially change so that I have control over my intellectual property (or when and whether those rights will revert to me), I can't see how I can sanction this by submitting further designs to VK.

I'm just one designer, and there are MANY more who will be happy to fill any small void my action creates (I've been in the magazine so little, I realize this is NOT a big blow to VK)

But I'm hopeful that more and more designers will reach into that self-respecting place deep in our knitting soul and tell the major entities that we must be treated in a respectful way. *

My idea of a good contract is one from which ALL parties benefit, one that is fair to all sides.

Respect and good faith is officially worth 10% at Soho these days. I hope this changes soon.

*For me, personally, these include: Decent compensation, ability to retain IP rights, full travel and accommodation reimburse for teaching engagements.
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posted by Annie at


Blogger Geek Knitter said...

I admire you for taking a stand on this. I know that there are many people in the you-should-be-happy-to-get-any-money-for-knitting camp, and I must say that it puzzles me. I think respect and good faith should be worth far more than 10%, and I wish you all the luck in the world.

November 24, 2008 3:58 PM  
Anonymous Chris de Longpre said...

You are so right, Annie. Some of us simply don't submit to the magazines anymore because contracting practices are so difficult to deal with. I think it IS possible to make a living in this business without magazine exposure, but much harder. We're likely going to see some changes in response to our current economic climate, but durned if I know what they may be!

November 24, 2008 4:33 PM  
Anonymous Mo said...

Go Annie!!!

You put so much effort into your creations that you have every right to expect decent compensation for their use! I also admire you for taking a stand, this is your passion but it is also your livelyhood and you have bills and a family to keep the same as everyone else.

Chris I think you will see more people rediscovering knitting and interested in the patterns created by the likes of Annie and yourself in the current economic climate. I know I've asked for yarn store vouchers for Christmas as I want to get much more into my knitting again.

Good luck in your fight Annie.

November 24, 2008 4:46 PM  
Blogger quinn said...

Are you *sure* about the "contractual rights" of V?
I'm a freelance writer/photographer and I can't tell you how many editors have thought they owned all rights to my work when all I sold them was First North American Serial Rights. Sometimes it's worth "asking" the editor to "double-check" with their own legal department.
good luck. I empathize with everything you write about the difficulties of freelancing, but this is the first time I felt I could possibly add something useful.

November 24, 2008 5:31 PM  
Blogger Pixie Purls said...

I love your honesty, it's so refreshing and nice. I think if more things where out in the open a lot of this type of stuff would work itself out better and be more "fair" for all parties involved. YAY for IK, I've always liked them but it makes me like them even more. They are the only magazine I have a subscription too.

November 24, 2008 7:27 PM  
Blogger dragon knitter said...

sounds like too little, too late. they wanted to throw a bone to designers, and thought this would satisfy them. just wait. the twist collective and IK will run their idea into the dirt, particularly if word of this gets out (and i may just point to your post in my blog!)

November 24, 2008 8:37 PM  
Anonymous Amy said...

Glad to hear you shouting out about rights again, Annie! I've never submitted to VK, and I'll continue to refrain until their rights improve.

November 24, 2008 9:44 PM  
Blogger JakkiMitch said...

I'm not a designer, but I agree with your stand on this issue.

I don't subscribe to the mags (but occasionally buy them at the store.) I'll definitely prefer IK over Vogue from now on!

November 25, 2008 6:53 AM  
Anonymous Paula said...

Keep on keeping on ... the huge mess this country is in arose from many factors - one is the demise of the independent merchant ... an artist is an independent merchant and deserves more than a token payment. Folks like you, fighting for justice, are a part of the great revolution that is underway ... or soon will be.

I think that the internet sites that are formatted like magazines are going to give the paper publications a run for their money. Create a great on line journal - with downloads of patterns or paid subscriptions - and see what happens to VK !!!

November 25, 2008 8:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I haven't gotten the email from VK yet, but have gotten a royalty check from IK recently -- not much but nice nevertheless.

Like you, the amount of designs I've had in Soho mags isn't much (most of mine have been in the On The Go Books) but 10% for a 'valued' designer seems rather condescending.

I for one will definitely reconsider my submissions to them. Diane Z

November 25, 2008 8:38 AM  
Blogger Joanne said...

I hear you, Annie! You're standing up for something important. I've not had designs in VK (just articles)but I had an important realization this past year. I've been focusing on many of my designs that I'd previously chucked aside after a magazine rejected them. It seems like the market these days may allow us to find other avenues to sell these patterns, and I'm glad of that...just because my aesthetic/values/feelings about contracts don't jive with this "take 10% and be glad about it" doesn't mean I can't continue designing...and feel better about my decision to do so.

November 25, 2008 10:27 AM  
Blogger Peglett said...

I think we readers can support the designers. If magazines loose subscribers the price they can charge for advertising goes down. We readers have leverage. I think I am going to write a letter to Vogue and cancel my subscription.

November 26, 2008 10:30 AM  
Anonymous Shannon said...

Thanks again, Annie, for bringing this to light. I've only written for the Soho publications, not designed (not for their knitmags, anyway), so I didn't get the mail.

Paula, I will say one thing: there are alternatives even in print! I recently took the editor job at UK-based Yarn Forward magazine ( We are planning digital pattern sales, and we will be paying designers a full 50% when we do.

And with the patterns from the magazine in general, ANY time we ask permission to reuse it, the designer is paid again. A percentage (50%), true, but it's something. And on top of that, 6 months after the pattern appears in the mag you can start to sell it yourself on your own site, or whatever. We're up to 10 issues per year now (from 4), so clearly it's working as a business model.

It can be done, and it can be done in a designer-friendly way. That it isn't being done elsewhere is sad, but you know what? Magazines like Yarn Forward who do offer designer-friendly terms will benefit.

November 26, 2008 10:32 AM  
Blogger Ken said...

I hope that after this terrible financial year there will actually be magazines left to argue with about anything. Happy Holiday. BER

November 26, 2008 11:58 AM  
Blogger Kristin Nicholas said...

Hi Annie: Got the VK letter - wasn't impressed. Haven't signed it but not a lot of choices considering the contracts. I knew you would have something smart to say about this and of course, I wasn't disappointed. Thanks. Hope you and yours are warm in MN.

December 09, 2008 8:28 PM  

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