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Selling Your Own Counted Cross Stitch Designs
This page is intended to offer some suggestions on selling your original needlework designs or needlework related products. These are just general suggestions and they might not apply to what you want to do.
Please note that Yarn Tree does NOT purchase unpublished needlework designs. We are always interested in published designs and any needlework related products.
There are two basic ways to sell your designs. You can sell your unpublished designs to another company to publish, or you can start a company to publish and market your designs yourself. For products such as kits, accessory items, etc. you will usually need to start your own company.
Selling Your Designs To Magazines
If you want to sell your designs to another company, one method is to sell the designs to a magazine. After you sell your designs the company that purchased your designs gets the right to publish (or not publish) your designs as they see fit. A lawyer will quote you all sorts of copyright laws, but basically after you sell your designs you are out of the picture. Most magazines that publish needlework designs purchase designs from independent designers.
Before you submit your designs, try to find an issue of the magazine. That way you can see what types of designs they use. Inside the magazine your will find an information box that gives the magazine's address and usually a phone number. Contact magazines that publish designs similar to the types of designs that you have to sell. After you have narrowed your list of magazines down, you need to submit your designs. Do not just mail them an envelope full of your designs. Contact them for information on what types of designs they are looking for and on how to submit designs to them. Also ask how long it normally takes before you will hear back from them after a design is submitted. This is important because you should only submit your designs to one company at a time. If you have multiple designs, you can submit different designs to different companies, but make sure that they are really different designs and not the same design with a few changes. If a magazine declines your design, you are free to submit it to another magazine.
Selling Your Designs To Another Company To Publish And Market
Another way to sell your designs is to sell them to a company that will publish your designs as a kit or a pattern booklet. Most companies that publish needlework designs are not in the market to buy designs from a free lance designer. In most cases the owner is the main designer and they are not in the market for more designs. For other companies, purchasing designs just does not fit in with their business plans. For example, Yarn Tree does not currently purchase unpublished designs, we only sell published designs (that is, ready-to-sell products).
The first step is to try and find companies that are even in the market to buy your designs. Most companies will list the name of the designer on the cover. Look at several booklets that the company has published; if they have different designers listed, there is a good chance that they work with outside designers. If in doubt, just call or email and ask if they would like to look at your designs. The worst that can happen is they say no. If they are not in the market, ask if they know of another company which might be interested. After you have a list of a few possible companies, the procedure is similar to contacting magazines. Contact them to see how to submit a design. Submit your design. Wait. Repeat as necessary.
You are going to get rejection letters. The main thing is, don't give up. Just because a company declines to purchase your designs doesn't mean your designs are not any good. It doesn't even mean that whoever reviewed your work didn't like it. All it means is that at this time your work did not fit into that company's plans. It does not mean anything more than that, and you should not read any more into it.
Once a company has made a decision don't try to get them to reconsider. But if you can get some idea on why they declined your designs it will help you in the future. If you have the name of a contact person (if nothing else, the person who wrote the rejection letter), try calling them and asking for suggestions. Don't argue. Don't even defend you designs. All you want to do is gain some knowledge. Any information that you can gain will make it easier to submit a design that will get accepted next time. Thank them for looking at your designs and ask if they would like to see future designs (it may be that they simply don't need any more designs right now). Ask what types of designs they are looking for. Just don't give up.
Starting Your Own Company
The other way to sell your idea is to start your own company and sell the items yourself. In my opinion, this is where the fun is. Unfortunately, this is also where the expense and the risk are. Before you start down this path, take a hard look at your own personality and your finances. How much money can you afford to invest. Can you sleep at night knowing that you might lose everything you invested? Is your family supportive? Your local library will have dozens (if not hundreds!) of books on starting a business. Check out a few and study up.
If you think that your personality is right to start your own business, the first thing you need to do is to research the market. I will assume that you are looking at selling wholesale to retail stores. These retail stores will then sell your product to the retail consumer. Creating the design, packaging it, and selling it directly to consumers usually isn't practical because you won't be able to have any volume. Visit a few needlework stores. Instead of looking at what you would like to buy, look at what the stores are selling. Look at the prices, packaging, etc. Look at what items are selling the best--these are usually displayed in the best locations. These products got to be in the best locations because their sales were good. Be sure to look at what is "on sale"--this is usually what is not selling! Now look at your designs. Can you produce a product that is better? If you can, you have a chance. If not, well...
If you think you have a sellable idea, make up a rough sample of your packaged design or kit and stitch your models. Estimate your costs. Estimate your selling price. When you have this done, try to visit with the owners of a couple of needlework stores in your area. Show them your models, samples, etc. and ask for their advice. Don't try to get an order. Until the store owner can see the ready-to-sell product they won't be interested in placing an order. All you want is information; talking to people is a cheap way to learn.
At some point you will have to make the big decision: invest the time and money and start production, or drop this idea and start coming up with another one. This is your decision to make; don't look for anyone else to make it for you. I will only make the following suggestion: do not risk more than you can afford to lose on your first product. Sometimes even the biggest and best run companies come out with products that fall flat on their face; don't think that it can not happen to you. If your first design (or your first few designs) don't make a profit, you will need a source of funds to keep going until you get your first money maker. You will either have to have other income or dip into savings. Don't count too much on your bank.
Make up a business plan. A business plan is simply an outline of what you plan to do, and how you plan to make money doing it. Unless you are going to get a bank loan, it does not need to be fancy. (If you are going to get a bank loan, make it real fancy. Bankers really like that type of thing.) There are a lot to books written on business plans, so go to the library. The most important thing is to estimate your expenses and find your breakeven point. That is, how many units do you have to sell to break even? How many stores do you have to sell to get to this breakeven point? How are you going to reach that many stores?
How Many Needlework Stores Are There?
This is a common question, especially if you go to a bank for a loan. Unfortunately there is not an easy answer. The problem is defining what a needlework store is. There are large and small stores that sell only needlework; there are many other stores that needlework is just a part of their business. For example, a craft or fabric store that has a section of needlework. Even gift stores that might sell a few needlework type items. There are some businesses that are seasonal only. You will find some very successful needlework stores that operate out of the owner's home or only online. In all, I would guess that there are about 20,000 to 25,000 business that sell some needlework. You can buy a mailing list of stores with a yellow pages listing, but this is only a small part of the total market.
Advertising And Selling Your Designs To Stores
Needle stores are very receptive to new designs and new designers. The typical needlework store is a small independently owned business. Needlework stores are always looking for something "new." Having new products that their customers have not seen elsewhere is one of the ways a needlework store is able to complete with a mass merchant. Chain stores and mass merchants generally will not be as interested in new designers. These stores are not as interested because the prefer to do larger orders (rather than a lot of small orders). Also, they tend to prefer designs from well known designers.
While needlework stores are eager to buy from new designers, doing so does present problems for them (and as a result, problems to you). The cost to the store for freight, processing the purchase order, receiving the order, and paying the bill is proportionally greater for a small order than for a large order. As a designer starting out you will be faced with the problem that you do not yet have a enough designs in your line to make if worth while for some stores to want to place an order. For this reason it is harder to sell a single design than it is to sell several designs. One idea is to take a box of your first design and drive around to stores in your area. Even if you don't make much money doing this, it is a great learning experience.
You can try to sell your designs to stores by direct mail. This is little expensive but it may be successful for you. If you mail over 200 pieces, check with your local post office about 'bulk rate' mailing. You will a mailing list. This can be purchased from a mailing list broker. This list will be a list of stores that have a yellow page listing. Another option is to purchase a CD ROM disk of business names (also from yellow page listings). Check the fine print before you buy to make sure you are permitted to use the names for a mailing. A low cost way to see if direct mail will work is to put together a list of about 100 stores from the yellow pages of phones books (many libraries have phone books from major cities). Mail a simple mailing first class and see if you get any results. From my experience, a simple black and white mailing is almost as effective as a costly full color mailing when selling wholesale. You can probably do a very simple mailing to 100 stores for about $50. Don't be too disappointed if you only get 2 or 3 phone calls from a mailing of 100 pieces. It is worth trying, but direct mail is hard to make a profit on.
Trade shows are a way to talk to a lot of stores in only a few days. Shows can be expensive. Your expenses will vary, but figure a minimum of $1,000 to be at a 3 day show.
Trade magazine advertising is the cheapest way to reach a lot of stores. Trade magazines are magazines that are mailed only to businesses that are in the "trade." They are not available to the retail consumer. There are trade magazines for shoe stores, book stores, etc. The Needlework Retailer is the best place to advertise to reach needlework stores. (I should point out that Yarn Tree publishes the Needlework Retailer, so I may be just a little biased.) While running an ad in a trade magazine is not cheap, on the basis of cost per store reached, trade magazine advertising is very inexpensive. For example, while a black and white mailing may cost about $.50 per store reached, a 1/4 page full color ad in the Needlework Retailer costs less than $.05 per store reached.
Consumer magazine advertising (magazines like you would find at a news stand) can be effective but I would suggest waiting on this. First, it can be VERY expensive. To be used to its best advantage, stores must to aware of you and your products. That way when a consumer goes into a store and asks about your product, the store owner will already know about your company and know how to reach you. Store owners don't spend a lot of time reading all the consumer magazines, so chances are that you will not reach many stores through consumer magazines.
You may have heard about "work of mouth" advertising. These means relying on a customer telling friend, who tells their friend, and so on. In my opinion, in wholesale sales this is wishful thinking. First, there are just not that many needlework stores in any given town so there is not that much interaction between store owners. Also, imagine that you are a store owner and have found this fantastic new product line from this new designer and it is selling great. Are you going to go out and tell your competitor?
Selling To Distributors
Distributors are businesses that buy products and design booklets at a discount from a number of manufacturers to sell to retail stores. Yarn Tree is a distributor. Most, but certainly not all, designers sell their published designs through distributors. Whether you go through distributors is entirely up to you. If you do go through a distributor, you can continue to sell directly to stores; a distributor is just another way to reach stores. The major advantage to you is that because there so many stores out there, chances are good that most of a distributor's sales will go to stores that you are not able to sell to. Also, do not feel that you can only sell through a single distributor; you are free to do as you wish.
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Ordering. All the items shown here are available to retail stores from Yarn Tree. We encourage you to contact your local needlework store. However, if there is not a needlework store in your area, or if you have any questions or comments, you may contact us directly at 800-247-3952. Stores may open a wholesale account by calling 800-247-3952. Stores outside the USA may contact us by e-mail or fax. Please use the secure form to send credit card information. Contact us.