Technological Joys and Hardships: PDF Patterns Part 2

My knitting friend Leanne from Knitting Today posted a very well written comment regarding pdf patterns from the shop owner’s perspective. I thought I would copy and paste my response to different parts because I think it is an interesting discussion and highlights some of the issues in the current market.

With advances in technology, knitter’s have greater access than ever before to yarns, patterns, tools and other notions. Yarn stores cannot possibly carry everything, and for knitters who have “special needs” it can be a real boon. It can be a real boon to those who live in yarn deprived areas as well.

For local yarn stores, it can cut into their earnings however, as shoppers sometimes forget to continue supporting their local store.

There is increased competition on a far more reaching scale, I guess you could say.

For the independent designer such as myself, the increased competition comes by way of hobby designers competing in some of the same arenas, as well as flooding the Internet with self published patterns. On top of that, satisfying different segments of the market without undercutting your yarn stores or vendors can be a challenge. Some knitters will only purchase download pdfs, and some only want patterns.

As a designer, do you market to TNNA groups for the bulk of your marketing? There are a significant number of shops that don’t go the TNNA route. How do you, as a designer, reach these markets? Again the Internet has been a boon for some and a bane for others.

Here are the comments from the thoughtful post from Leanne, as well as my comments. I could have just put it in the comments section but as I said, I think it is a good conversation to have.

> Stocking is always a difficult decision for the LYS owner, Jolene . . . . I have
determined Knitting Today cannot carry hard copy patterns that are also available via download direct from the publisher because the majority of our customers are Internet savvy and have in fact downloaded and brought in the pattern vs. purchasing it at Knitting Today. I need to put the $ on potential sales instead. <

I can see how it would be, as you cannot carry everything. I really don’t want to compete with yarn stores or my distributor, but I look at it from a distribution stand point on my end, so it is a little different perspective.

> There are publishing designers that allow download “licenses” to the LYS owners and enables them to sell the .pdf or be an affiliate for the sale — I’m investigating that model now and figuring out how to program it through my existing shopping cart program since the funds are actually captured by the publishing designer. There might be potential with this model <

I know there are some who have licensed. The biggest issue I hear cropping up is lack of control on the digital files when they go that route, and how much you really have to trust individuals you have never met.

Let me know what you come up with on your investigation, as having a system where the funds are captured by the publishing designer would be a good model to have. A lot of designers, I think, would be interested in this as it affords some control and accountability.

On my end, if I could figure out how to set up a shopping cart with vendors listed, so that the customer could download the pdf and the revenue normally generated by the store would go to the vendor they choose, I would do that. That way I would still have control of the digital file, and the vendor would not be cut out of the loop. I could have that on my site, as well as something like your model you are looking at.

I suppose that is what you are talking about regarding an affiliate of the sale? What do you know about this yourself because that might be something that I could offer.

>Another model is to publish .pdf of discontinued patterns/magazines. A magazine publisher is doing that now, but sometimes the shop model invested in and several issues of the magazine are still available at the shop — the publisher’s impression of what is out of print and the reality is not matching — frustrating and again a magazine that Knitting Today is not able to support. <

I have thought of this actually. Although right now, I don’t have any patterns that are retired to do this with.

I suppose it is like yarn in some ways, when discontinued by the manufacturer.

> I’m thinking more and more of going to in-house design contracts for exclusivity and promotion. Is this a subject you have addressed? I’m slowly going back through your archives.
> Lea-Ann
I have thought of this, but am unable to recoup the expense of the design when doing this. I have a good two weeks of work just in the pattern drafting, writing, editing, graphics and layout. Then there is the cost of tech editing and sample knitting. A fairly significant investment. I have to sell a lot of patterns just to reach my break even point and it is very hard to do through one shop.

In the end, I think that is one reason why designers are looking at pdf downloads. They are here now, and part of technology. Reimbursement from magazines, when looked at from the perspective of what is my investment in this design, is not enough to recoup the cost of the design. Some designers think the knitting is free if they do the knitting themselves, but it really isn’t, because time is money, and time spent doing the knitting is time you could spend designing another garment. All those costs have to be figured into what you are doing so that you can then make decisions regarding your business investment. They have a lot of very tough competition to get into yarn stores.

On one hand, if they offer pdf downloads some shops won’t carry them. On the other hand, distribution of their patterns can be significantly higher if they do.

For the Independent Designer such as myself, the question of distribution is a significant one. Many yarn stores do not carry very many patterns for different reasons, so designers have turn to other markets.

I don’t know that there are any easy answers. Which is why, I suppose, that I have not made any real decisions regarding this issue. I know one designer who does sell pdf’s but charges more for them than she does the printed copy that is sold by her vendors.

I like the affiliate idea, what I have heard of it. That may be worth investigating. For now, I will keep looking and mulling it over in my head.

It was good to see you at TNNA by the way.

Cheers, JoLene


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