An Open Letter to the Fiber Factor

Dear Fiber Factor, I was very excited to hear that you were coming back for a second season. I wanted to apply for the first season, but at the time was in the process of interviews for an exciting job (that didn't pan out, as luck would have it) and didn't want to risk the two events colliding. The second season is coming at a perfect time for my career, I thought. I am a better designer now. I can work faster. I have worked within specific frameworks to satisfy clients (yarn companies) which would serve as valuable practice for the challenges. So I waited, and I refreshed your website multiple times on multiple days until the official rules for Season 2 were posted.

Unfortunately, the new Fiber Factor is no longer advantageous to an indie designer. I realize that you are in this to make money (as Skacel), and you needed to adjust the process to create more revenue for yourself. It's a business and I get that. But I am also in business and I need contracts that respect my needs and my ability to make money. I saw that you responded to one knitter on Twitter who expressed dissent and asked her what she thought the contract for the winner should include. This is my perspective as a designer.

I think putting the challenge patterns on Ravelry is a great, fresh idea that helps the designers get more attention for their participation in the competition and helps you by catering to the wishes of the viewers. However, I feel that you have greatly underestimated and undervalued the time and effort it takes to prepare a pattern for purchase. Writing and grading a pattern alone takes hours, and that's before the knitting even starts. Then of course, you are requiring financial investment on the part of the designer by requesting that the contestants cover the costs of tech editing and photography (unless the contestant is already a skilled photographer and can photograph their own work, but not all of us are so lucky.) Tech editing and good photography are essential investments that drive pattern sales and help preserve a designer's reputation for quality patterns, so it's best not to skimp here. If you're not the one person to win $500 per challenge, you might be able to win $100 but depending on the rates one receives from their editor and photographer, that $100 might not result in any profit for the designer after those expenses. And we are doing this all for 20% of sales for the majority of 18 months? The only arrangement I currently know of where a designer agrees to 20% of sales is one of the digital revenue options with Interweave--and the designer has already received a flat fee for first publication rights AND can sell the pattern themselves at the same time as they receive the 20% of sales made through Interweave's digital store.

The grand prize for the winner of the competition is a $10,000 design contract which sounds generous until it's broken down. $500 per design, for 20 designs to be completed in 20 months. Now I have little issue with the first half of that statement, since $500 per design is in line with current fees for garment first publication rights and is more than is usually paid for accessories. (Though I assume you are keeping all rights in perpetuity, which is a slightly different game and thus worth more.) 20 designs in 20 almost laughable and a little insulting. If I was able to work at that rate, I would probably already being doing so for myself wherein I keep 100% of the profits. Many of us are indie designers because we WANT to be indie! I'm not interested in working at that pace which is why I work for myself and not someone else. That timeline may be the norm for yarn companies' in-house designers, but those individuals are getting paid a full salary with benefits in return for producing large quantities of designs in a condensed timeline. $10,000 doesn't wind up staying $10,000 after self-employment taxes are paid, after all. Assuming the designer knits all of the 20 design samples themselves, they likely won't have much time to focus on producing for their own business in this time period. The alternate option is to hire sample knitters which cuts further into that $10,000.

Essentially, the competitors (and then the winner) will be putting their personal businesses on the backburner to enter this competition. Do you think your terms are worth that sacrifice? 9 months is a long period of time to not produce work; 29 months is even longer. The promise of exposure alone has no proven financial value, whereas indie designers have noted multiple times that more designs=more sales, new releases=more sales (of the new release and older work.) I can't imagine that seasoned indie designers--the type of talent you want in your competition, the type of talent that already has fans, an Internet presence and can create amazing designs--will be interested to enter. How many of the Season 1 contestants would be willing to accept these terms? I'd be interested to find out, wouldn't you?

Fiber Factor, I hope you can take this as constructive criticism and maybe think about how you can improve this season to make it equitable for all: designers, viewers and yourself. I trust that a better balance can be reached.