How to Submit a Pattern to a Publisher: Tips for new and aspiring designers
I have had the good fortune to sit on both sides of the pattern submission table. As a pattern writer, I have published designs in various styles: self-publishing, print publishing, third party publishing and online publishing. I have had patterns both accepted and rejected in all formats! As an editorial assistant, I have reviewed submissions as a part of a team, and had the opportunity to see what those design submissions look like from an editor's perspective. I thought you might enjoy some tips I have gleaned from this experience. For a visual, I have provided a simple outline which I submitted to Rhythm of the Home Magazine for my most recently published pattern, the Christopher Robin Pullover:
How to Submit a Pattern to a Publisher
1) Read and submission guidelines and follow them. I know this seems obvious, but each publisher has their own style and requirements: contact info, submission preferences (print or digital), do they request a description, yarn suggestions, or inspiration? Please include all requested details.
2) Keep it simple. One page is ideal. If you look at my outline above, you will see that I have a detailed description, mood board, yarn color and style, swatch, and model snapshot all on one page. If you want to sell your design idea to a busy editor who is going through 85 submissions, be sure they can "get" your vision in about 15 seconds. No need for folders, posterboard, excessive paper clips, extra pages of inspiration sources, or long essays. One Page. One publisher I freelance for keeps submissions organized in clear 9 x 12 ziptop bags. Anything larger than an 8 1/2 x 11 page does not fit easily into the bags is therefore awkward to manage.
3) Never underestimate the Swatch. This is key, perhaps one of the most important parts of your submission. Use a yarn that is ideal for your design, the correct gauge, weight, ply, fiber content, and color. I keep my leftover tidbits of yarn near the desk in my studio so I have good yarn on hand for swatching. It is very confusing to receive a submission for fingering-weight silk socks when the swatch is sport-weight shetland wool. Take time to make a nice swatch. A little tip: I like to attach the yarn label to my swatch with a little loop of yarn and use it as a tag, I include my name, email address, and the title of my submission and the publication I am submitting to. You can imagine how a swatch could get separated from the submission sheet and it is great to have identifying info on the swatch itself. Using the yarn label is helpful as it provides specific yarn info to the editors as they work out color stories, textures, yarn sourcing, etc.
4) Don't skimp your Sketch. Next to the swatch, this is also very important. Mind you, it does not need to be overly detailed or elaborate. Rather, it only needs to clearly demonstrate the style, silhouette, and construction of your submission. There are some great tools out there if you need help in this area, for example, Fashionary has some excellent fashion designer sketchbooks available for this purpose.
photo courtesy of Fashionary
5) A good idea answers the submission call. Perhaps this is overstating the obvious, but be sure that your design submission answers the submission call. If the publisher asks for a list of possible ideas, and one of them is fancy knee-high lace socks, don't overlook the obvious! Submit your interpretation of what they are asking for. A great idea may be rejected simply because it isn't a match for the editor's vision for that publication. Take the submission call as a jumping off point for your ideas and creativity.
I hope these tips are helpful to you... they are things I wish I knew when I started writing and submitting knitting patterns a few years ago. What would you add? Any other helpful tips for new and aspiring designers?