Publishing Your Designs
You learned to cut glass. You got pretty good with a soldering iron. And, over time, you made some truly beautiful pieces. But your sense of fulfillment really swells when you design it yourself, too. You are not alone. Glass crafters the world over must have a treasure trove of original designs, rolled-up on flux-stained paper, gathering dust in the corner of their studios. Many have daydreamed, no doubt, about publishing those designs. Here's what they need to know.
There are two basic avenues to pattern publishing. A fledgling designer can submit original designs to an established publisher (like Lisa Vogt did), or, self-publish them (like Pat Aberg or Deverie Wood). We'll look at both methods, but be forewarned: neither road is as easy as it sounds, and neither comes with any guarantees. Ultimately, a designer's success depends on the desirability of their patterns. People who buy patterns and pattern books have to be willing to pay money for yours. The good news is, they often are.
First the traditional publishing route. Lisa Vogt has found her niche. Lisa always enjoyed drawing but never felt her artistic skills were strong when it came to color media. Then she discovered glass. After only one lesson, she fell in love. She didn't even bother going to the remaining lessons in her class session; she just bought tools and glass and took off on her own. Within six months, she had her first commission.
As her skills developed, Lisa leaned largely on her own designs, and her pattern collection grew. She often dreamed they had "pattern book" potential, was not sure how to proceed. Then, in November of last year, Lisa just picked up the phone and called pattern publisher Stained Glass Images. It was a risk that paid off. SGI agreed to take a look at her work, and Lisa put together a package of drawings and photos. Not long thereafter, book discussions began. By January, final decisions were made. By April, finished pieces were photographed, and in May, the book Tropical Teaser's was printed and distributed to art glass suppliers everywhere. Sounds easy, doesn't it?
But it will come as no surprise that rejections are more common than designer's credits. What do you do if the publisher you select politely explains that they are unable to publish your book? Try a different publisher. And another and another if that's what it takes, and if you can stand the ego-bruising. Get them to tell you what they like and don't like about your ideas. Seek their guidance, then try to remedy your work to satisfy their needs. Most of the time, they know their market pretty well.
Then again, there's always self-publishing. In this age of personal computers, many are taking this route right from the start, by-passing "real" publishers altogether. When you self-publish, you take on the responsibilities (and the costs) of producing your own pattern book. Whether you do-it-yourself or hire outside experts, someone under your direction designs the book, writes the text, completes the finished graphic art, makes the printing decisions, and so on. At some point, you become the proud owner of, say, 5,000 copies of your own original pattern book. Then, you take on the happy challenge of selling them.
You may remember Pat Aberg (The Rock Lady) from the last issue of THE SCORE. A full time mail carrier, Pat has two kids and plenty going on in her life, including a little hobby making mosaic garden designs—with a unique approach. She found a way to incorporate rocks and pebbles into her work and people love what she has done. Confident that there was enough interest in her designs to market them, Pat tried an established publisher, Carolyn Kyle Enterprises. CKE encouraged but rejected her, as they had too many books already on their publishing schedule.
Pat didn't give up. Rather than a pattern book, she wanted to sell individual patterns. So, starting out on a small scale, she picked some of her best designs and made full-size copies at a local copy shop. She gave each pattern a title and used finished project photographs on cover-sheet designs. Enlisting the help of a friend, she printed the cover sheets on a desktop color printer and made copies on a color copier. Then she packaged one cover sheet, one pattern and one instruction sheet inside a plastic bag—and voila! Pat has published her designs.
Well, yes and no. "Publish" means "to make public." You need to decide how to market—and how far you want to go with marketing— your product. Pat started out by taking her pattern packages to stained glass retailers in her town. Some agreed to carry them. She kept to this local level of distribution for her first year. When she had the opportunity to go to Glass Craft Expo in Las vegas last April, she took it. She set up a small booth at the show and met distributors from all over the world who liked her designs and wanted to stock them. She also made enough of an impression on us to feature her rock concept in a SCORE article which stirred up additional interest. And guess what? Pat Aberg's in business!
Here's another self-publishing success story. Deverie Wood operates a charming little store called Glass Magic not far from Spectrum. She has taught classes and done custom work for many years. Deverie's first book idea was "The Magic of Snowflakes" — a collection of 17 patterns for snowflake designs using bevels, nuggets and iridescent glass. The designs are ideal for a pattern book: simple enough for a beginner yet elegant enough to appeal to all skill levels. Deverie knew she had a winner so she began to explore her options. She wanted a professionally printed book, so she needed two things: someone that would format her patterns and text for publication and, of course, a printing company. She also needed some cash—about $7,000—to get all this accomplished.
Since Deverie is as lucky as she is talented, she was able to find a financial backer for her project who believed in the idea as much as she did. (This particular investment banker just happened to be taking a class from her!) She chose companies to work with and her book was produced, with Deverie overseeing each part of the process. Then it was on to the marketing step. Deverie sent copies of her book to all the major stained glass distributors plus Stained Glass News and Glass Patterns Quarterly. She gave Spectrum one of her snowflake designs to use as a Pattern-of-the-Month.
The idea was so novel and appealing that we wrote a feature article as well. Before she knew it, Deverie's book was a success and in six month's time she had repaid her loan and was into the profit zone. Her new-found publishing company, Light in Glass Publishing, just issued her second book, For the Love of Hearts. It's an enchanting collection of heart-theme patterns, designed with gift-giving in mind.(see THE SCORE Pattern-of-the-Month June, 1999).
As with just about anything, there are always options. If you have a collection of patterns you think would appeal to a large audience, take the risk. Send them to a publisher—see what they have to say. If they turn you down, they'll give you feedback and that can help guide you. Or consider the self-publishing route. As Pat Aberg says, "if you believe in yourself, try it on your own." Or —how about starting with us? Try sending in a design to use as a Pattern-of-the-Month and become published in The SCORE! We'd love to see your stuff!