You Get What You Pay For

We all know that there are heaps of free knitting and crochet patterns on the internet, so why would you ever want to pay for one? We should all be wise with our money, so doesn’t it make sense to go for a free pattern over one that you have to pay for? Whilst Louise aka Everyday Knitter recently wrote about the unexpected perils of downloading “free” patterns online, the risk of a virus isn’t really my main concern. If we want great new patterns to continue to be available, somewhere along the line the people producing them are going to have to be paid! In my experience as well, paid-for patterns are just much better quality – and if I’m going to be spending upwards of 20 hours working on a pattern, I want to enjoy every moment of it. So yeah, in my book, there are both selfless and selfish reasons to pay for a pattern.

Today Beatrice over at Thread & Ladle published a great blog post on the cost of producing a self-published pattern. Following on from that, Woolly Wormhead updated a post she wrote a few years ago about what her pattern-publishing expenses look like. Over on Twitter, Hunter mentioned that she’s considering writing a blog post about the cost of producing a knitting book (I’ll update this post with a link if she does write one!) and it got me to thinking – I wonder how many hours go in to producing my magazine?

A little caveat here – I can’t give exact costs because those are commercially sensitive, but I can give you a breakdown of some of the work that goes in to producing an issue. I’m going to take a recent issue as an example – Issue 87 of Knit Now, which went on sale in February.

The Patterns

As you can see, there were 14 new patterns commissioned for this issue. As you’ll have seen from the blog posts above, the true cost in man-hours to produce these patterns is very high, but we pay somewhere between £80-£350 per pattern for the first publication rights to a design.

The rights to these patterns go back to the designers four months after publication, so they can self-publish and continue to make money from their patterns after the magazine has gone off sale. The designers also retain ownership of their samples.

We ourselves don’t incur any yarn costs, as many yarn companies include the cost of providing yarn for magazine designs in their marketing budget and so they provide the yarn to the designers at no cost.

The Staff

I thought it would be interesting to look at how many working days go in to producing the magazine. Just to help you make sense of these numbers, we publish every 4 weeks, so per issue if someone was working full-time on an issue, that would be 20 working days.

First off, there’s me. I’m the Editor. I am also Managing Editor for my team, so in reality I probably spend 3 days a week dedicated just to Knit Now – let’s call that 12 full working days per issue.

Then there’s our Editorial Assistant – he writes a lot of the pages and does all of the admin for the magazine – when the team is full, he works across three magazines, so we’ll call that 8 days – our subtotal so far is 20 days.

We have our Technical Editors as well – two of them work on each issue, checking all of the patterns in the magazine. The hours they work will depend on how many patterns are in an issue and how complex they are, but for the sake of argument let’s say they each spent 4 days on this issue. That takes us to 28 days.

Then there’s our Sub-Editors. They work across all of the magazines we produce, so if you average it out, we probably get around 7 days worth of Sub-Editor time on each issue or thereabouts, which brings us to 35 days.

Next up is our photographer – she spends about a day on model shoots, another day or so on the non-model stuff and perhaps a day or two of her time is taken up with planning shoots and editing photos. If you’re keeping track, we’re now on 39 days – but let’s add in the model and the make-up artist for a day each as well, to bring us to 41 days.

While we’re on visuals – someone has to lay the magazine out! Our art editors generally each work on two magazines, so there’s 10 days of art time on each issue, which brings us to 51 working days.

There are heaps of other people who contribute to the magazine as well – our account manager works on two magazines, so that’s 10 days from her. The free gift will need to have been ordered and designed – we’ll call that 4 days. My boss oversees five magazines, so if you assume that her time is split evenly each week, that’s 4 days from her. Without even counting all of the other people who work behind the scenes across the whole portfolio, we’ve hit 69 working days just for one issue. If you add in all those little bits of other people (finance, subscriptions, distribution and so on), I reckon we’d easily hit 80 days worth of work for a single issue.

Each of those people is paid differently and I don’t know all of their salaries, but I’m sure you can do the rough maths in your head.

The Physical Stuff

Of course, this is a print magazine so the costs of production don’t end when everything has been laid out. There’s 100 pages worth of paper to be printed for starters!

Then there’s what we call the “covermount” – the gift which comes on the front of the magazine. This issue, it was a wheel of pins (useful for blocking!) and a pattern card for a mermaid blanket.

All of that then needs packaging in a bag to sit on shop shelves so that the gifts don’t get lost. Either this can be done by machine (as this one was) or by hand (which is sometimes necessary if the gift is an awkward shape).

The magazine then needs to be distributed – we have thousands of stockists all over the UK and internationally too. Distribution chains are pretty efficient these days, but there is still a cost for getting the magazine from the printers to the shops – or in the post to subscribers.

I’ll be honest, this is the part of the business I know the least about (once one issue has been sent to print, everyone else takes over while I get straight to thinking about the next issue) but it’s enough to say that all of this needs to get done and all of it costs money.

So how do we pay for it?

Well, for us, the majority of our revenue comes from the newsstand – keen knitters picking up the magazine in the supermarket along with their weekly shop. Of course, advertising brings in money too, but this will always come second to newsstand sales – that’s why you’ll see us trying to shout louder than anyone else on the shelf and aiming to offer you better value-for-money than anyone else.

The company I work for is a family-owned business and the vast majority of the profits are put back into the business – which is why we’ve doubled in size since I started and why we can afford to launch new magazines, like our sister magazine Crochet Now.

So now you know what we’re doing for your hard-earned £5.99 or £6.99. I hope you’ve found this enlightening! Drop me a comment below or over on Twitter if you have any questions.




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