I really don’t like drama. I guess I have had enough of it in my life to last my entire lifetime. There are people who thrive on it I know, but I don’t think I am one of them. I get really nervous and queasy when there is confrontation. I guess that is why I like writing so much. I can express myself without worrying about being bullied or cut off. In general, I think I am not an aggressive person. On paper, I am pretty good at standing up for myself and all but in real life I can be quite a marshmallow. Sometimes however, a little drama could be a good thing.
When owning and running your own business, I am finding out that there are times when you have to stand up for yourself and not let others take advantage of you. That may sound easy, but it can be quite difficult for a non-confrontational person such as myself. I have been doing this a long time though, and I believe after years of self-doubt and allowing others to take advantage of me because of my lack of confidence I have finally reached a point where I realize that in order to make my business successful I need to believe in myself enough to not allow that to happen. After all, if you don’t believe in yourself and your own success, why should anyone else?
It isn’t with arrogance or self-importance that I am saying this. It is more with self-respect. I find as I get older that there is a fine line between what people perceive as self-esteem and arrogance. Sometimes the same people who tell you that you need more self-confidence when you are struggling are the ones that think you are being arrogant when and if you finally do reach success. It can be very confusing.
With that said, I will get on with my story. Yesterday was a very significant day for me and my business. I will start off by saying that I never retracted a submission before. This was a first for me and a very difficult thing for me to do. I had mentioned the other day about how the other magazine had planned to divide up my skating pond set and that I just wasn’t happy about it. They had it for seven months and didn’t decide what to do with it. I think it will be a great project for scrollers and painters alike, and from the reaction I have received from both sectors, it will be a big seller.
I had also mentioned before that until something is published, I cannot sell or publish the pattern myself. Now since I designed this scene last January, I was certainly hoping that I would at least be able to sell part of it for this holiday season. If the magazine planned to present the pattern in several issues as originally promised, I planned to sell the pattern that way too. It would at least get people interested and started and I would sell it as four or five packets. But I was told the other day that with the new editors, they decided to spatter the pieces in the margins of the other featured projects in the magazine and all the instructions would be presented at once on the back end of the magazine.
I thought it deserved better than that. This project was too close to my heart to allow it to be shown that way, as an afterthought. As the months passed by and I hadn’t heard from the magazine, I knew something was not right, so I already went to ‘plan B’ in my mind. I decided that I would publish it in one pattern, as a kind of small booklet. The price would be slightly more than my usual patterns, but they would get instructions for all 25 pieces and I would also offer corresponding kits of the pre-cut figures for the not woodworkers. This would make it accessible to both woodworkers and painters alike.
The other day I spoke with Robert, my editor (of the woodworking magazine) about it and he asked me to send photos of the finished scene for him to see. He love it and offered to promote it in both their painting magazines, their general craft magazine and also our woodworking magazine. Lately we have had some success with him wholesaling for me and I know he is trustworthy and I was thrilled he liked it so much to support it. He would put the ads in for no cost to me and he also would print and distribute the plans and kits and we would split the profit. How could I lose? Their two painting magazines are the top painting magazines in the industry and I think the painters would love a project like this.
So I wrote a letter to the editor of the other magazine, graciously withdrawing my submission. I felt I was gentle and professional. I didn’t want her to feel guilty because after all, she lost her position as editor in chief and it had to be painful for her too. I explained that I understood that with change there are compromises, but I just didn’t want my pieces to be compromised in that way and there were no hard feelings and I just wanted them back to do what I wanted to do with them. I figured that it didn’t really matter to them much anyway because of how they intended on using them.
Boy, was I wrong!
I returned from the post office to a phone call from Robert, and he said all heck broke loose over there with the new editor. I guess he even talked to him himself and he was quite upset with me withdrawing the pieces. I guess the new editor is quite important in the design industry and he wanted to make this magazine (which is called Christmas 365 by the way) into a Martha Stewart-type decorating magazine for the holidays. Robert said he told the man that I could do just about anything in wood he wanted regarding wood and woodworking projects and how valuable an asset I was to his company and how he should consider me to work on every issue of their magazine. All he needed to do was to send me in a direction and I would be able to come up with something nice.
Robert told me that he told the new guy he would speak to me about allowing him to keep the designs for the issue. He said the issue hit the stands mid-November and I would still have some time to market the set for myself this year. I trust Robert with all my soul. We have worked together for over 13 years and he always is honest and works for a win/win/win philosophy where all parties benefit from the deals he makes. He said he would go back to the new editor if I wanted and be my ‘agent’ and I told him to go ahead. He even negotiated a much higher price for using the pieces than I would have imagined.
He said that the new guy really loved the set and was extremely upset (not at me, but in general) at the thought of me pulling it. Robert also thought (and I agreed) that it would be very smart of me business wise to compromise on this issue and it would put me in great favor with the new regime over there. So I agreed. :)
I really won’t be losing anything at all but perhaps a little time. After November when the magazine is out, I can go along accordingly with my plans with Robert to market this set. It actually buys me some time to find someone to produce the pieces for me. I am finding I may need them to be laser cut, as I first thought that any CNC could do it. I feel that it is a set that will sell all year around, as there are a lot of pieces and it will take time to create. It will be represented in now five different magazines – one holiday, one general crafting, two painting and my own woodworking one – all at no cost to me. If it sells, we all make money. If not, no harm done. I am also able to market it on my site and to my wholesalers as I wish.
That is one of the spectacular things about Robert. He is willing to try something new out. If things don’t do so well, he moves on. There is no bad feelings or negative repercussions. As a designer and an artist, I can’t tell you how much that means to me. In this economy it is difficult at best to find someone willing to take chances. The way he looks at it though is if we don’t try we don’t know. To him it is worth the advertising space he is contributing to see. It is one of the many, many reasons I am so loyal to this one publishing company.
This was an incredible experience for me. I also have many bouts with lacking self-confidence, as you know. I don’t think that is always a bad thing because it keeps me working at my very best, but it can cripple me at times when I know I should stand up for myself. But each time that I am successful when I do stand up for what I believe in and not let myself be a push over, it strengthens me for the next time. Diversifying myself also helps, as I said yesterday. If this were all I had going, I don’t know if I would have been able to bring myself to risk losing it. But by having it just a piece of the entire picture, the risk to my overall business was lessened and I was able to do what I felt was right.
In speaking with Robert after all was said and done, I have come to the conclusion that I wasn’t really mad about the project, I just felt hurt because something that I put so much importance in was (I felt) treated as an afterthought. Little did I know the turmoil that was going on at that magazine. It was much bigger than my little project. In the end, they showed me that it DID matter to them – very much – and knowing that it was very easy for me to make a compromise. After all, I am a reasonable girl. Being validated like that was probably the best payoff I could have received.
I hope all of you with your own businesses or those of you who are considering marketing your creations remember this story. You have to believe in yourself in order to expect others to do so. People will only give you the amount of respect you demand. “Demand” sounds like a strong word, but it doesn’t have to be acted upon in a negative way. If you treat people with respect and ethically, the right people will recognize that and return the favor. The others don’t matter anyway.
So for the next couple of days, I will be working to get the instructions for all these pieces together. I guess we switched gears again! I don’t consider working like this a negative. It is quite exciting and keeps me fresh and on my toes and my work is never boring as you see. I will still keep on presenting the pond figures piece by piece in my other blog and here too, as I think it is fun t do it that way.
Again, I am grateful too for all the friends here on LJ’s who encourage me and help give me the confidence I need to make these types of decisions. Your support is really as they say “priceless”.
Thanks for reading and I hope you all make beautiful, wonderful creations today!
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"