After our discussions about copyright, I thought it was a good time for a post from the other side of the fence – if you are a knitting designer and want to publish your knitting patterns, or a teacher and want to publish a knitting book. How do you go about this, how much does it cost and what sort of copyright should you place over your work?
Becoming a published author is actually easier (and cheaper) these days than you might think. There are a huge range of publishers to choose from, many specialising in the crafting categories, and there are also online do-it-yourself services which are free to join and have a "print to order" service. This means that you don’t have to invest large amounts of money into printing hundreds or thousands of copies of your book before you know how well it well sell.
And coming from a knitting business point of view, your first step when considering publishing your work should be finding out whether there is a market for it! You need to think about who your target market is, whether the content of your book is popular at the moment and will appeal to a broad range of people, or whether it is very targeted and appealing to a smaller niche market.
General, broad appeal knitting books tend to be about learning to knit, how to overcome problems, and general knitting or crochet patterns. Even these tend to have some kind of spin on them to make them unique and interesting. As you already know, I’m a fan of niche markets, especially for this kind of project where your niche product has the potential to come “into vogue” and become a bestseller purely because it unique and different.
A good place to start this kind of research is on Amazon.com, where you can see what the most popular books are in each category. If you look in “knitting books” at the moment, the bestselling pattern books include two for sock patterns, two for knitted or crocheted embellishments and decorations, one for warm weather knitting and one that provides solutions for knitting questions. If you look up knitting books, you’ll find a long list of these books which will give you a idea of what is available and where there may be a gap in the market that you can fill.
Once you have chosen your topic and created your content, you’ll need to decide how you are going to publish, advertise and sell your work. You have three main choices for publication:
Option #1 – Use a publisher to copyright, edit, print and distribute your book. There are obviously a huge number of publishers around the world, some very large with wide distribution networks, others smaller and perhaps more suitable for niche publications. Here are some that have a range of craft titles:
• Martingale (martingale-pub.com)
• Lark Books (larkbooks.com)
• Trafalgar Square Publishing (now part of the Independent Publishers Group – ipgbook.com)
• Sterling publishing (sterlingpublishing.com)
The main advantage of using a publisher is that your knitting book will be more widely distributed, a lot faster than you could ever do yourself. It will be sold into stores and advertised in catalogs, most publishers have reps that will promote and sell your book. You’ll also have experienced editors giving you feedback and ideas. However, you will be giving away a lot of your control over the book, as well as the profits.
Option #2 – Self-publish your knitting or crochet book using a service such as lulu.com or createspace.com (who sell through amazon.com). This way you have much more control over how your knitting book comes together, how and where it is sold and promoted and the copyrights over the book.
If you want to use less restrictive copyrights, and allow people to knit your patterns and sell them, or use your patterns or teaching techniques in their knitting classes and basically get your name more well known by sharing your work as much as possible, then self-publishing may be a better option.
You will get more of the profits, and most of these services allow you to print on demand which means there aren’t high costs involved in start-up. But you won’t get the same level of distribution as with an offline publisher. You can order copies for yourself and sell them offline, and your book will be listed on Amazon and various other online sellers, but you won’t have anyone actively promoting it unless you organise it yourself.
Option #3 – Publish online as a knitting E-Book – if you already have a website, or you know of sites where your book would sell well, you could publish your knitting book as an e-book and purely sell online. This is a great way to start because it costs very little to do, and will give you some feedback and an idea of the size of your market and how well your book may sell when you do decide to publish offline.
There are also online pattern sellers that will list your patterns individually, which means you can control the copyright and distribution of each of your designs individually. Or you could list them on your own website.
There are several copyright options available to you. If you do not want your patterns to be used for anything other than personal use, then you can add the phrase “all rights reserved” to your copyright notice. You can also add exceptions such as “not to be used for commercial gain”.
Personally, I’m not a fan of restrictive copyrights like this. The world is moving towards a much more free approach to sharing information and ideas, and this means that ideas are passed around and reach a far wider audience than if you severely restrict their use. As a designer, your income comes from sales of patterns or books, and lots of sales are made from personal recommendations, so the more people who know about you the better!
You can use a Creative Commons Copyright, which means that you are happy for people to share, build on and perpetuate your work which is much more in the spirit of the knitting community! To find out more about Creative Commons Copyright, have a look at this site which has lots of great copyright information for knitters and crocheters – www.girlfromauntie.com/journal
Whichever method you choose, publishing your knitting book means more exposure for your designs, and helps get your name more widely known as a designer. Being a published knitting designer gives you more credibility, and may help land other opportunities to further your knitting design career.