How to Submit Your Quilting Patterns for Publication by Lisa Dayton:
One afternoon I was sitting on the ski lift with a good friend. We were having one of those silent moments where you just enjoy the breathtaking scenery laid out in front of you. All of a sudden I just blurted, “I think I will publish some of my quilt patterns.” Immediately I wanted to take those words back. All I knew of publishing was tales from good writers whose manuscripts and articles were returned with nice letters that basically said, “Sorry, maybe next time.”
But the damage was already done. I had said it, with conviction even and I had better follow through. I chose a pattern and selected a magazine that I thought it may appeal to. I submitted. Six weeks later I received a letter, not a “sorry” letter, but a “yes” letter. Within a few months my name and creation were in print and it was very gratifying.
But, was it a fluke? A weak publisher caught at a vulnerable moment? I tried again – another “yes”! Then, a “not this pattern, please try again” and then another “yes”! This was not a fluke and one publisher had even called me a “quilt artist”.
I had always assumed that publishers were bombarded with pattern submittals. And maybe they are overwhelmed with crinkled photographs and sketches on restaurant napkins. But from what I can tell, publishers are hungry for well-formatted patterns. Keep in mind that they have pages to fill and deadlines to meet!
Some magazines are geared more towards a certain type of quilt such as traditional, foundation pieced, appliqué, easy or artsy. Identify the magazine that is best suited for your quilt pattern. Guidelines for submission are generally accessible from the magazine’s website – read and follow them. Make it easy for the publisher to say yes. Submit a packet that includes all necessary diagrams and instructions and is ready for publication. The more professional your submission looks, the more confidence they will have in your pattern.
Magazines work on issues six months in advance. So while you are constructing your Easter table runner – they are planning for Halloween. If you submit a spring pattern when they are thinking Christmas, it may not capture their attention as much as a holiday tree skirt.
If you are just at the beginning of your project, this is the time to take notes that will make writing your pattern much easier. Keep track of how much fabric you use. Photograph the various stages of your project. Take notes regarding the order of assembly.
Spend some time to review the magazine you have chosen and get a feel for how they organize a pattern. Generally there is a short intro that gives some insight into how the artist developed the pattern. Is it based on a pattern your grandmother taught you, inspiration from a trip to Europe, colors from your garden? There needs to be a personal connection to you the quilt artist. Give your pattern a name and tell the reader how big the finished project will be.
Next is usually a list of materials that includes fabric requirements identified by basic color and/or pattern as well as cutting instructions for the project. Evaluate your cuts and make sure to present them so that fabric is used efficiently.
Written instructions walk the reader through completion of your pattern. This step seemed the most overwhelming to me, but once I sat down with pencil in hand the instructions just flowed onto the paper. And why not, we’ve all invested plenty of time reading them.
Drawings are an import part of your submission. If the pattern utilizes templates, they will need to be drawn to scale with dimensions. Your computer may have a simple drawing program on it, or you may be more comfortable with pencil and graph paper. If so, you are not alone. Publishers recreate drawings in-house for most of the patterns that are submitted to them. Consolidate your drawings as much as possible. One thing I hear from all publishers is that they have limited space for pattern drawings.
You will also need an assembly diagram. Your written instructions will likely tell the reader how the quilt is assembled, but a visual is an important reference. This diagram helps the reader see in what order the blocks and border are assembled. Again, refer to diagrams in a current issue. This will help you see how to organize your diagram.
Don’t feel that your pattern has to also teach the reader how to quilt. Most magazines print a section every month that provides basic instructions for block assembly, layering batting and backing as well as instructions for binding the quilt.
And last but not least, you will need to submit a basic color photo of your quilt. This doesn’t need to be anything fancy or staged. Once your pattern is accepted, the publisher will request you send them your quilt so they can take their own photographs. Drop it off on your way to meet friends. That way you can say, “Sorry I’m late, I had to send a package off to my publisher.”
Lisa, that was a great article, thank you!
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