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Saturday, 16 June 2018

My Makerist Conundrum

A new place to sell PDF patterns...
Back in March, Daryl from Patchouli Moon Studio wrote about participating in a $2 sale at a new (to me, anyway) site called Makerist. I was intrigued and asked what Makerist was. Turns out it's an online marketplace that sells PDF patterns. Apparently the company had reached out directly to her to invite her to become a designer and sell her patterns on the site.

In brief, Makerist is the brainchild of a couple of people in Berlin, Axel Heinz and Amber Reidl. Founded in 2013, Makerist's mission is to "bring more joy to crafting — by making traditional crafts more modern, accessible, simple and fun."

Angela Jardine Fritz Frog crafted by eSheep Designs
Fritz Frog...
I visited their site, filled out a short form giving my particulars and waited. I think it took about a week for me to get a reply; they need the time to evaluate each application and judge suitability, which I totally understand. When I finally set up an account, it was during the $2 sale event, so the story ended up being that I became a Makerist customer instead of a Makerist designer. [By the way, for those of you who missed the original sale, the Fritz Frog pattern is again available for $2 until June 17.]

Unlike the relatively simple process of selling patterns on Craftsy, Makerist makes you jump through many hoops before you can upload a single pattern for sale. This is because after the initial approval, you have to enter into a contract with them, a multi-page "document" that is not insignificant, with wording that requires serious consideration.

Let's put it this way: I received confirmation of my contract acceptance on April 6 and two months and ten days later, I still have not uploaded a single pattern to Makerist. Instead, I'm finding the time to write this post.

Not So Simple for Designers

Purchasing from Makerist was indeed painless and simple. The Makerist Ts&Cs for designers, however, are not so simple.

The following is taken directly from their designer contract:
The Designer may promote their own brand on their Makerist profile. They may also mention their brand or website in their Products. However, for aesthetic reasons, URL addresses, email addresses, copyright, names or logos should not appear on the first picture of the Product.
This is reinforced by a bullet point that says that the designer will provide "at least two photos of the Product with at least one for the finished Product, without text or logo on the picture for communication reasons".

Logo branded
Makerist listing...
Unfortunately for me, I took the time to brand my PDFs from the beginning. There is not one that does not have my URL on the front cover (which I assume constitutes the "first picture") and only the very first one doesn't feature my logo. As for product photos, I spent a lot of time putting my logo on those shots and to have to go back now and remove them — and have them be available online in that state — is giving me pause.

From the very beginning, I didn't like the idea of having the first page of my PDF being "hijacked". (I was able to see an example of it for myself, of course, when I purchased the Fritz Frog pattern.) As a document designer long before I became a sewing pattern designer, I am quite picky about the "look and feel" of my documents and prefer them to be consistent... and mine.

Another logo
branded listing...
The fact that they will go in and change each PDF represents a loss of control that I am — at best — ambivalent about. And yet, on the one hand, if I give them the right to edit my PDFs in order to add their own front page, why can't they just do that without me having to go in and remove branding from my existing cover page? See the conundrum?

Moreover, when I browse their site, I see some brands that are clearly identified. Right here and above, are two examples of listings that show logos.

Are exceptions being made for some designers?

The Financial Nuts and Bolts

The big benefit is that there'll be no accounting headaches if you work with Makerist. Everything is handled by them (including that European VAT tax that most of us totally ignore) and payment is made to the designer's PayPal account mid-month for the past month's sales. Currently, they take a 15% commission on all sales, which by all accounts, is more than fair for this kind of setup.

However, as with all startups, this may — will — change in the future. This is from their current agreement:
This 15% commission rate is a launching rate and thereby subject to change at any point. In the case of a rise or fall in the commission rate, Makerist will provide a 4 week notice period before the change is implemented.
The boldface print is theirs.

Given my current procrastination and indecision, I suspect that if I ever do get on board with them, the 15% commission will probably have changed.

But on the whole, the entire transaction process of selling patterns and getting paid should be simple.

Sales and Promos

Makerist seems to be big on sales and promotions, which is mostly a good thing. I have a standing offer to pick a weekend where they will promote my patterns (via all of their social media platforms and newsletter) by offering them at 40% off and run a feature on me on their blog. Yes, that sounds like a big deal and it's probably more notoriety than I can handle. ;-)

Here's the thing: I am loathe to offer sales on my patterns apart from special pricing at initial launch. (I'm pretty sure I've only done a "sale" twice, involving three of my patterns.) To me, relying on sales means my regular price is a bogus price. It's like Craftsy and their class sales... why would anyone ever pay regular price for a Craftsy class?

For my own patterns, I'd just mostly feel bad for those people who purchased at regular price, to see something they bought go on sale.

That said, there are probably a lot of people who would love the opportunity to be featured as a Makerist designer, so that is another definite advantage to being a part of their marketplace.

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Technology Concerns

Having been employed in the tech field, I am perhaps overly nit-picky about small "irregularities" that I encounter on websites and on communications from online companies. So let me admit that up front. Certainly your mileage may vary in that these things may not tweak you at all.

For example, I find it mildly irritating that so many links on Makerist open up a new tab. See this?

Many, many tabs result from browsing Makerist's site...

That's just not great web design.

Then there is the — should I call it "interesting"? — way in which they provide documentation to their designers. You'd think since their whole business is about PDFs that they would "PDF" all of their own documentation. But no; I received instructions on how to upload patterns via a couple of .JPG files. That's right, they took a virtual snapshot of a list of instructions and saved it as an image file. (And I have to tell you, it's cumbersome to scroll through an image file to read something.)

It's almost like they feel overly protective about their words and descriptions, which leads me to another oddity from their website. On their About Us page, the text cannot be selected (i.e., copied). I was going to snip some for the purpose of my introduction for this post and found that I had no way of doing so (short of taking a picture).

Finally, as a proof reader and editor, I have a hard time with what I call "lazy" mistakes. Below is a screenshot of the third page in a row that asks me to validate having read "the third article" when in fact, this is now the fifth article. (This is from their contract; that whole Validation section was cut and pasted from the third screen onto the fourth and fifth screens.)

Don't get me wrong, I'm quite big on CTRL-X and CTRL-V. Love cut and paste. But the number one rule of using cut and paste is never to leave behind evidence that you've used cut and paste.

Then there's that "Makerist'rights and mine" bit of wording. No one noticed that on multiple screens?

Some may call these petty criticisms that have nothing to do with the actual business of Makerist. And that may be a fair statement. Or maybe not.

The thing is, a business encompasses everything that it does from A to Z, whether or not the public can see it. While I fully acknowledge that my reluctance to commit to the designer Ts&Cs has made the above distractions more significant in my eyes, I always wonder when I encounter these kinds of issues: is there something that I don't see that's even worse? It's why I'm iffy about letting Makerist into my PDFs... I won't be able to see what they do to them, so how do I know they'll be "good"?

The thing is, while I've been looking for an option beyond Craftsy for selling my patterns, I have to go back to the fact that this is not my career. I'm not looking to strike it big and make a lot of money. It may seem somewhat disingenuous to say that it's not my goal to sell more patterns, but perhaps doing so via Makerist just isn't right for me.

I'm conflicted... therefore, the conundrum.


1 comment:

  1. Makerist does add a thank you page before the pattern, but hasn't really changed anything that I noticed on my patterns. In fact I have some of my pattern photos watermarked and some not. one I clearly had watermarked on the main photo of the pattern, but may have added a non watermarked photo for creating the upload on Makerist. I understand your concerns. I didn't join in on the $2 sale this time and made looking at my account, I think I only sold one pattern recently. The sale certainly did generate some sales for me. But if I join in on them all, I might not sell my patterns at regular prices later? I did put all but one for sale last time. I looked at the patterns on sale and not ever designer will join in, especially those who sell their patterns at over $10. I cannot see lowering your pattern that much if your pattern prices are high to begin with. Makes me wonder if they sell many at $10-15? Even the top designers who have name recognition don't sell their patterns for as much as some designers I saw on Makerist are selling theirs for. I personally want to make some sales and if I price too high, they won't sell at all. I have heard from a lot of people online that they won't pay more than $8 for a pattern, especially from someone they don't know how their patterns are written. I tend to agree with that myself, because I have purchased patterns years ago that were higher priced and those patterns were were obviously not tested nor written well and had mistakes. Now I buy from people who I know how they write a pattern and good designers do offer some free patterns to see how they write. That's also why I got into testing patterns because I was tired of spending money on poorly written patterns and wasting fabric.
    You can always upload one pattern and see how it goes for you. If you are less than thrilled close your account. Since Makerist does have sales on patterns from time to time, you can join in or not. For me it was worth it because I sold more patterns and total dollar amount during that one sale than I did all year on Craftsy. In fact, maybe more than the past 3 years on Craftsy!


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