How to submit design proposals to third party publications


Publishing patterns in third party publications such as books, magazines, and websites can be a great way to earn income from your designs. It can also help expose your work to a wider and more diverse audience than independent publishing. It may seem daunting at first, but hopefully the information I’ve compiled here will help you gain the confidence to create a strong pattern submission that will have an excellent chance of being accepted.

How to submit to third parties
In general, submitting a pattern for publication involves the following steps:

  1. Choosing a publication
    The first step is to decide where to submit your idea. Many publications will post calls for submissions on Ravelry. Check out the Designers group and scroll down through the discussion threads to see the current postings (tip: I have a reminder set in my calendar to check this list every couple of weeks for submission calls that appeal to me!) Others have an email list they use to notify designers of new submission calls. Some have no specific submission calls but just accept general submissions via web form or email at any time. Marie Segares of the Creative Yarn Entrepreneur Show has compiled a list of publications that accept submissions which might be helpful. If you have one specific publication you’re interested in working with, look them up! If you can’t find information about submissions on their website, send them an email asking how you can submit a design proposal.
    There are many factors to consider when choosing where to submit your design. Does the publication (and its audience) align with your brand/vision? Do they provide yarn support for developing the design? Do they offer fair compensation and exclusivity terms? What are the deadlines? Will the submission cost you anything? Be realistic about what you would like to get out of the process and choose a publication that meets your requirements.

    I strongly recommend listening to episode 1 of the Creative Yarn Entrepreneur Show for a more detailed discussion on this topic. This is an old episode (it was released in August 2014) but the information is still relevant today and Marie goes into great detail about the factors to consider when submitting a proposal).
  2. Preparing the submission/proposal
    Once you’ve decided on the publication you’d like to target, it’s time to start thinking about the design you are going to pitch. Depending on the publication, you may have a specific call for submissions you are responding to. If that is the case, use the mood board, suggested yarns, etc. in the call for submissions as inspiration when developing your design idea.
    Most publications will include a description of exactly what must be included in a submission for it to be considered. Be sure to pay close attention and use the correct format when writing your proposal. Common elements include a description, a list of materials required , a swatch (often just a photo of the swatch as most proposals are submitted via email), and a sketch of the design. If specific yarns and colours are named in the submission call, reference the ones you would like to use in your proposal (note that your swatch does not always have to be done in the exact yarn/colours named in the proposal, although you will want to use something similar). Highlight the design’s features, give information about the construction and techniques used, and explain how it fits with the theme. You are trying to sell an idea, so you want to make it look and sound as appealing as possible!
    Some designers will take a design they are currently working on and try to find a call for submissions that fits their existing idea. I have not personally had any success from this type of submission and have found that my successful proposals have all resulted from responding to submission calls that inspired me. I definitely find that developing a pattern idea from a theme/mood board that speaks to me results in a better finished product than just trying to make an existing idea “fit” into a certain theme. This is just my personal experience, though!
  3. Submitting the proposal to the publication
    This is the easy part! You’ve done the work, now you just need to submit the design (in the method requested by the publisher) in time for the deadline. Some publications require physical submissions to be mailed in, meaning you will need to give yourself some extra time.
    In some circles it is frowned upon to submit the same design to multiple publications concurrently. I am not a magazine editor, nor have I had anyone “in the know” confirm this to me, but I just thought I would mention it as it seems to be a bit of a divisive issue among some designer communities. Where I personally try to tailor each proposal to a specific submission call, this has not been an issue for me. Your mileage may vary!
  4. Playing the waiting game!
    Most submission calls will indicate how long it will take them to notify applicants of whether or not their submission was accepted.

If your submission is accepted, first of all, congrats! Be sure to read the contract to verify that it matches the terms set out in the call for submissions. Look at the payment being offered and decide whether or not it is acceptable to you, given the contract terms, exclusivity period, etc. (you can also check out to see what others are being paid for similar jobs). And be sure to add all relevant dates and deadlines to your calendar!

If your submission in not accepted, don’t despair. It doesn’t mean it’s not a good design idea, just that it didn’t fit with what the publishers were looking for, for this particular submission call (I highly recommend checking out this article by Allison K Williams for a helpful perspective on dealing with rejection). Don’t feel as though you have wasted time working on something that didn’t pay off! Now that you’ve got the design all planned out, you can continue to develop and release the pattern independently.

I hope this was helpful! Be sure to bookmark this page for future reference. If you have any questions about submitting design proposals to third party publications, you can get in touch with me any time by sending me and email at allison at kniterations dot ca.

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