Last year over the holidays, tincanknits started a trend where pattern designers on Ravelry gave away a free pattern for a limited time. There was a lot of discussion in the Designers group on the success of these promotions and a debate over whether or not these freebies are bringing down the value of patterns. I tried my own promotion in July and I'm summing up my experience for those who might be interested.
Right now I have 33 published designs, most of which are available as downloads via Ravelry. I haven't abandoned the idea of designing knit and crochet patterns forever, but I have been more involved in making items for my shop lately and haven't published anything new since January of this year. Prior to the giveaway, I would sell 1-2 patterns a month through Ravelry and Craftsy.
Near the end of July, I did my own pattern giveaway as a birthday celebration. Over a 1 day period, I gave away over 1700 free patterns. One of my designs eventually made it into the top 5 of Hot Right Now and I had 3 patterns in the top 20. I would declare the giveaway a success immediately, based on the fact that several people also purchased patterns as a thank-you, making my July sales way above average. One person bought my e-book collection, and one kind person even gifted me a pattern from my wishlist.
Since the promotion, I've continued to have increased sales through both Ravelry and Craftsy. I'm unsure whether or not the Craftsy increase is related to the promotion. I'm guessing that it's not, but I have no way of knowing for certain. I've also had more projects added to Ravelry which over the long-term has a tendency to increase exposure for my designs and might prompt more sales down the line.
General thoughts about my giveaway: I had a very positive experience. People like to get things for free, especially when they are normally for sale, and it drums up a fair amount of goodwill. Yes, many people probably downloaded one of my patterns when they have no intention of ever making the item. I have done that myself a number of times. But enough people have actually used my patterns to make it worthwhile in my eyes. The giveaway definitely boosted my sales, at least over the short term.
If you are already a well-known designer, this type of promotion is probably unnecessary. Having a giveaway on a regular basis isn't prudent because people will just wait until the patterns are free (I don't intend to do this promotion ever again). If I only had one or two designs for sale, I would probably also hesitate. The point seems to be to get wider exposure and tempt people to come back and buy more patterns from you in the future. If used sparingly I think it is a great tool.
I am curious about other types of promotions, like a substantial discount on a new pattern release for example. I would love to hear feedback from other designers or just general thoughts about pattern promotions.
Now to avoid the dreaded picture-less post: if anything could get me back to designing, it would probably be this colorful stack of wollmeise twin.
ETA: A little breakdown...shawls were by far the most popular downloads. i was a little surprised b/c personally i'm pretty sick of them. apparently plenty of other people are still into it. My knit patterns were much more popular than my crochet patterns, but admittedly knitting takes up the bulk of what I have available.