Submitting a Design to a Magazine

I am often asked how to go about submitting a design to a magazine.

Sometimes an editor will ask you to submit something. This means that the editor has seen your work elsewhere. Or you have made personal contact with this person (or another one on the magazine staff, who recommended that the editor get in touch with you).

Suppose you're submitting "on spec" (on speculation). This means you're submitting with their prior request, in hopes they'll say yes. This is the case 99% of the time, so let me address that.

Query the Editor

Write a letter to the editor. Tell the editor about the design: content, colors, size, what fabric/threads. If you have a letterhead, use that.

I would fax or snailmail for the first submission, but indicate that you can query electronically in the future if the editor desires.

If you email, the same day you email, snail the hard copy. In your email, tell the editor you are doing this.

Tell the editor about your background. Focus on your art and needlework background. You can mention in passing that you are a Supreme Court Justice, but, by and large, the editor only wants to know your needlework credentials.

Tell the editor where (if anywhere) your pieces have been published. If you have no publications (do you?), don't mention this. There's no shame in having no publications; everyone must start somewhere. Just don't bring it up until the editor asks you.

If another designer suggested you submit you piece, mention this: "XYZ told me to submit this design to you. She thought it might be something your readers would like."

When you query, mention other pieces you have in your portfolio that you can offer them. It's easier for an editor to work with someone they know rather than "train" someone new all the time.

Graphic of your Work

Scan the piece and put it on your website. Name the file something unusual so no one else will be able to find it just randomly entering file names on your site.

An alternative is to mount the chart, converted to a "color block" view from your charting software, on your website.

If a scan or a web file are not options, snail a photo.

A scan or a photo are best. The color block view is least effective at conveying the beauty of your design. A fax of a photo is virtually useless and may, in fact, be a negative since a black-and-white rendition of your [color] work probably is not very attractive! (Obviously, something in black only would fax well, but I still recommend a web file or photo to show the nuances better.)

Say whether the design is stitched. Is it also finished? If so, say how (framed, pillow, etc.). Sometimes magazines will finish the piece because they know how they want to feature it. For your first cruise, however, either have it finished or say you'll "finish as they desire, unless they would prefer to finish it."

Do NOT send the original piece. If the editor wants to see it, say, to help her decide whether to buy it, she'll tell you.

Then....

.... you wait. Meanwhile, you start another design. Or ready another one for submission.

Multiple Submissions

These are bad form. Submit to one magazine at a time.

If the Answer is No

You're going to get rejections. That's the nature of this beast. If the first editor says no, get that puppy right out in the mail again.

Remember that if the editor says no to you, it means your piece is not right for THAT editor on THAT day. It might be perfect for that editor next week; or for another editor tomorrow. You can't know, so you just keep shopping your piece. DON'T GIVE UP!

If everyone says no (have you really combed for all available magazines?), put it away for a year or so and try again. In the meantime, you might see some things you want to change. If you are lucky, an editor who is not buying your design might say something that will give you a clue about how you might change the piece: "Electric blue with olive green is not a colorway our readers would like."

Rights

If the editor is interested, she will write you. She'll ask your fee (more in a moment).

Before you state your fee, get the answers to the following questions:

Fee

Your fee is the fly in the ointment. What do you say? You don't have any idea! This is your first submission!

I wish I had an answer to this! Guess. How big is the piece? Does it use any uncooperative threads? Is it framed or otherwise finished? If it's a 5x7" piece, framed, you might ask for $150. (THIS IS JUST MY GUESS!!!!)

If the fee you quote is too much, the editor will say so.

Now you are faced with whether you should offer a lower fee. Is the piece worth less now? Do you think you can place it elsewhere for $150?

Is it worth it to take less in order to get the piece published? Maybe. Maybe not.

Suppose you want to publish the piece and will accept less than you asked for just to get a publication. Say to the editor, "What price range do you normally pay for a piece like mine?" Try to get her to give you a price range. Then you try again on a fee.

Another way the fee-request can fall out is that the editor may say that she can pay only $X. The ball is once again in your court (drat!), but at least you have an idea of what her range is. Is her offer enough? Maybe. Maybe not.

Another way to state your fee is to ask, up front, for a range of fees for a piece this size and complexity. You may or may not get any information this way, but it's worth a shot.

If perchance you get this information before you make your initial fee proposal, consider yourself very lucky!

Assume that you will not be able to get the editor to give you information and that you'll have to wing it, as described above. Rotten, huh? Americans are used to bartering and haggling, but that's what it takes to get started with publication!

The Chart

Your fee should include the chart, in addition to the design (stitched/finished/whatever).

Some magazines will publish from your chart. You'll submit electronically. Ask which charting programs they support. (Make sure your program will support a save format that you can use!!)

Other magazines will rechart your work using their program and staff.

When Will Your Piece Appear?

This section applies to designs for which the magazine pays you.

Assume at least 6 months. That is, 6 months down the way in the prep stage. 12 months is probably more realistic.

Generally, magazines appear on the newsstand with a cover date prior to what month it actually is on the calendar. For example, a June/July issue will appear in May.

If yours is a seasonal design, you'll have to wait until that season has arrived again.

Also allow time for the editor to get sidetracked by special issues/anthologies and in-office brushfires. Her best-laid plans may go astray.

Please note that even if the editor pays you for the piece, they just might not use it!! They have bought the rights (as for first publication).

They may or may not tell you that they do not plan to use it!

If you don't see your design in the next year's magazines, write the editor and ask "when" they expect to run it. Not "if."

If she says she doesn't know, ask if she can give you any kind of guess.

She might say they probably won't use it after all. This situation is why you want payment on acceptance. At least they paid you for the piece.

True, you can't use it again, but perhaps it - - or some motif or idea in it - - might inspire another design that you could sell.

If the editor indicates that the piece won't be published after all, ask how to go about having them return the rights to you. This can be tricky. They may ask for the money back. This is why you ask "how" rather than ask outright for return of rights. You then have an option to take or refuse.

If you ask for the rights and they say you must repay them, you are in a trickier position. You must say you'll pay them back or "Well, I guess I'll keep the money." (Then they wonder if the piece was worth buying at all and might take this into consideration when you submit again.)

Design Banks

Another outlet for publishing is to sell designs to "design banks." These are run by needlework companies such as Zweigart, DMC, Kreinik, Anchor, Wichelt, etc.

Magazines often contact these banks to see what they have available in a piece, say, with spring flowers and a bunny but no larger than 4" square. The magazine buys all the rights from the bank.

When you sell to the bank, therefore, you sell all rights. You no longer have any control over what's done with the piece. This is why the bank can sell the rights to the magazine.

Sometimes a design from the firm's bank will be used in an ad. Lucky you!

However (or even if) your design is used, having a bank buy your work indicates it is definitely of commercial value and the bank believes it can place it/use it soon.

Write to all manufacturers and distributors and ask for their guidelines for design banks.

When the bank sells your piece, you get no more money. You sold all rights, remember?!

Again, no multiple submissions! But keep the design moving if one bank says no.

Don't Give Up!

Whatever you do, don't give up!

Good luck! You can do it! But you won't be able to do it unless you try! And you'll have to keep the piece moving until you find the editor for whom that particular piece is right for her that particular day. Or that design bank that can use or sell your design.


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