Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The magazine process...getting your quilts published.

So FINALLY I am getting close to having a real magazine with my name and quilt design inside. Woo-hoo. It's been a long road...longer than a pregnancy, I think! I wanted to share some of my insights and experiences. I'm not going to do pictures with this post because frankly, I'm tired!

Every quilting magazine will have submission guidelines within the magazine or on their website. I am going to be honest that I have never read a quilting magazine before (I have had the same book on my nightstand for about 3 years...). I approached McCall's Quick Quilts for the project that got accepted.  I sent them completed quilt photos I had printed at my local Walgreens along with the quilt dimensions and a little about the quilt.  You don't have to send a whole professional written pattern when you are working with them.   I sent how I made it and they did the graphics and changed the way I did some things to fit the space in the magazine.  I also noticed whereas I trim up my half square triangles, they did the measurements for non-trimmers.  Having all the details written was not as important as the design itself. 

My first submission was accepted at the very end of the up-to-90 day waiting period. I want to point out that I have since submitted 2 other projects. One I submitted to another publication and never heard anything. One I submitted to McCall's and I received a "we love this but it doesn't fit our lineup."  I knew it was a good design and I held it in my back pocket and I'm happy to say it was accepted into another publication.  Rejection doesn't mean your design was terrible...it meant your design didn't fit their upcoming issues...keep trying!!  The other design I abandoned because I realized there were other similar designs out there that I just didn't know about at the time.  It's hard to be aware of EVERYTHING out there.  That's another thing to remember- your design may not be bad, it may just be similar to another design they have seen elsewhere.  Great minds think alike and all...

So I received an email asking if I could make the quilt in a baby size and outlining the pay.  I accepted the commission.   I don't want to talk specifically about the pay for this piece but from what I understand most magazine commissions are $200-$500.  Obviously the bigger the piece, the bigger the pay.  I was told to make this scrappy and use my stash.  I was not able to get one fabric line from a fabric company due to the long lead time on the publication- the fabric would be out of print by the time the piece was published.  Many fabric companies will happily supply fabrics for publications (free advertising plus kitting opportunities, I guess) and I did contact one in order to build my "scraps" of the 2 colorsI used.  90+ percent of the prints actually came from my own stash in the end. 

I made the quilt and had it professionally quilted for $72.  I paid that fee up front and yes, it did eat into my "profits".  I did not get a discount from the quilter, unfortunately.  I bound the quilt and mailed it in very very early so it did not get any more mystery stains from my 3 curious boys.  All costs to ship the quilt were also paid by me.

A magazine can decide at any time they do not want to publish your quilt, even if they have commissioned it.  They will give you a "kill fee" which means they will pay you something to cover your expenses and maybe some extra if they decide not to use your quilt.  They will also reserve the right not to publish if you send in shoddy work.  I cannot tell you how meticulous I was with my piecing knowing that!  The quilter told me I did perfect and I was super excited because if she only knew how hard it was for me to be that detail oriented!!!

The magazine will obtain a legal copyright for you and after a set time period you will be the copyright holder to your design.  You cannot sell copies of the pattern you have just published until you are the copyright holder once again.  Since it is a for-real copyright and not just someone on the internet saying it is copyrighted, you will have your name listed in the library of congress- COOL, huh! 

Many months later, I received a paycheck (about 2-3 weeks before the magazine was to hit the shelves) and PDF of what my spread would look like. The quilt's name was changed to "Baby's First Christmas." I had no idea that this was a "Christmas" edition even though I did ask if I should keep a particular holiday or color scheme in mind.  The weird thing is that I wanted to do red and lime green but resisted because it seemed "too Christmasy" for a January edition.  Guess I should have gone with my gut on that one.  Also, as I mentioned before, they constructed the quilt a different way.  Long story short, I had an A block and a B block and they combined into one giant block vs 2 blocks that alternate.  The end result was the same. 

While having a quilt published was something that was exciting and fun, it was also kind of stressful for me (again with the pregnancy analogy...just like having a baby!)- stress of getting it perfect, stress of paying for the quilter up front out of "mom-money", stress of keeping it clean (oy, this was the worst), stress of it possibly getting lost in the mail, and just the waiting that goes on.  I am going to also admit that it was shocking to me how hard it was to relinquish creative control.  It was very weird for me to see my quilt in a shot that I didn't take or to have it named something other than what I called it.  It was hard to trust the quilter, but she did a great job.

I haven't received my quilt back yet, but when I do I will save it for a grandchild I guess.  I can't imagine giving it up or selling it.  I will give everyone a heads up when the magazine becomes available or the preview in other colors is available online.


  1. So, do you think it was worth it? Congrats to you and for hanging in there.....I am sure you can't wait to get the quilt back.

  2. CONGRATULATIONS! I had a quilt in a pattern designers book recently. I had to mail the quilt for photos, and I paid the shipping one way. They at least paid the shipping back. Her template, my way of using it. I'll have to look for the magazine.

  3. woo hoo! awesome, good thing to note, my dream is to be published also one day in one of the BIG magazines.... good things to know :-)
    ( I do have the benefit of quilting on my own long arm) so 100% control on THAT part.... also interesting to know about the copyright things too, something I never thought of. How long is that period? a year or two? or a matter of months?

  4. Congratulations! I'm sure it will be great. Can't wait to see it.

  5. I am so happy for you! :o) Great job!!!
    It is interesting, the journey you have gone through. At The Sewing Summit, there was a forum of ladies who told of their experiences in publishing in magazines, as well as their very own books. Wow, there is a lot involved! It was fascinating to me. I would love to sign up (somewhere) to be a pattern tester (sewing the quilts to make sure that everything is how it needs to be) and spoke to a publisher there. Not sure where to start though. Or how it would all work out.
    hugs. Trish

  6. Thanks for this very interesting post. I had no idea what the publishing process involves. Looking forward to see the quilt.

  7. Thanks for all this great information, and congratulations for having your quilt published! That is exciting. Keep up the good work, and thanks for your blog, I love reading it.

  8. Congratulations! Thank you for all the information and looking forward to seeing your baby quilt : )

  9. Can't wait to see it. Great info. When does it hit the stands?

  10. Oh Mary I so know what you're going through, and have been through. I'm happy for you but don't hold your breath on getting the quilt back too awfully soon. The entire process is so hard. For me I'm not sure it is worth it. But when you get that magazine in your hands it will feel fantastic.

  11. This was a great read--I've always wondered how this process works for others!

  12. Congratulations on your first publication!
    Very informative article.


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