What to Do When a Magazine Wants to Photograph Your Product | A Cautionary Tale of Lost Sleep and Underestimated Timelines

In March 2014, I received an email that made me cry.  A nationally syndicated magazine requested my dream catcher pillow for a Boho Chic nursery layout for their Summer 2014 issue. It would provide the kind of exposure to my shop I'd only dreamed of!

What I'll tell you next includes a bit of what not to do and what you can do to make your life easier if you land in this lucky situation.

The email came in at 5 PM on a Tuesday. The magazine needed to have the pillow by close of business on Thursday. The editors were in New York, while I'm in North Carolina. Because my work is custom or made-to-order, the pillow they were referring to had long since been sent to it's owner in Los Angeles.  This meant I would need to start from scratch to make their pillow.

Belinda Lee Designs | Custom Embroidered | Pillows | Wall Art | Quilt Squares
Exciting email request for sample pillow - with very quick turnaround!

To give you a little background, creating an embroidered pillow is multi-step process.  The process takes about 3 hours and from my estimate (which you'll find was wrong), I needed to get that pillow to FedEx first thing the next morning.  A creative fast-forward video of my creative process is coming soon {Promise!}. But if you're curious, here are the steps for getting this pillow customer-ready.

1. Embroider the design on the pillow front
2. Create the minky cording
3. Create the flange-zipper and pillow back
4. Stitch the whole thing together, stuff the corners and insert a pillow form
5. Package the finished pillow
6. Create a personalized care instruction sheet.

Belinda Lee Designs | Custom Embroidered | Pillows | Wall Art | Quilt Squares
Personalized pillow care instructions

Unfortunately, I had already been up 48 hours straight with my son, who had a stomach bug. I was sleep deprived and not nearly on my A game. Regardless, I was determined not to miss this opportunity.

I put the kiddoes to bed and made it into my sewing studio around 9:30 PM.  By 11:30, I had a really ugly pillow.  You see, I had decided the pink minky trim in the picture was too pale and wouldn't photograph well, so I substituted a darker color pink minky.  This minky looked like Pepto-Bismol.

Pepto-Bismol Pink
photo courtesy of Procter & Gamble
So, I ripped out the minky cording and started again.  By 2:00 am, I had another pillow, but it had a small hole in the front where I ripped out the stitches of the Pepto minky welt cord.  I cried and went to bed.

Early the next morning, I restarted the process and created a whole new pillow.  It was perfect!  I was at my local FedEx by 9 am, which I worried was too late.

I explained to the kind employee, "This pillow has to be in New York by close of business tomorrow. Is that possible?" He promised that a 3 pm arrival would be perfect and then showed me some packaging options. A tyvec bag, which was less expensive, or a box. I confessed that the wonderful magazine was paying for the shipping and what I really needed was for him to put it in whatever would make the pillow look the most beautiful when it arrived in the magazine editor's hands.

Roomy box for my pillow
photo courtesy of FedEx
We went with a roomy box. Then, I asked him what was probably his most amusing question of the year:

Me: "So what happens now?"
Mr. FedEx: "What do you mean?"
Me: "Well, do you pick up the FedEx Bat-phone and tell the delivery person - Get over here STAT we have a delivery that needs to be in New York by 3 pm tomorrow!"

After Mr. FedEx stopped chuckling, he shared that the FedEx truck comes every night at 7 pm. It picks up all of the packages and drives them to the airport where they are presorted.  The packages are then flown to FedEx's major sorting facility in Tennessee {which apparently looks like a massive baggage claim with miles of belts and pulleys}.

From Tennessee, my pillow would be sorted onto a plane which will fly overnight to New York. It will get sorted again onto a truck. Finally, a New York-based FedEx delivery person will put my pillow into the hands of that lovely editor, well before 3 pm Thursday.

I was dazzled and crestfallen all at the same time.  What a modern marvel FedEx is!  Why on earth did I not call to get this information yesterday so I could have had a good night's rest and made my pillow just once?

Now, I won't go into the fact that, at this point, I decided my shop website needed a face lift to handle all the traffic it would get when this magazine issue hit the newsstands.  That's a story for another day. For now, let's just say, there are a few things I wish I had known when I first received the magazine's email.

In case you haven't been taking notes, I'm going to put those wish-I-had-knowns down for you here.
These are the things you should do when a magazine wants to photograph your product:
  1. Find out what your true timeline for preparing and shipping your product is.
  2. Call the package delivery service and find out when you need to get the package in their hands to meet the magazine's delivery deadline. From here work backward, to determine how much time you have to make your product and get it to the editor on time.  It's probably more than you think.
  3. Work while you are your best self.
  4. I was so excited at this request for my pillow that I wanted to get started right away.  But I was already exhausted from being up all night with my sweet son (rotovirus? Yuck!). Burning the midnight oil when I was already over-tired caused me to produce a less than stellar product.  In fact, it took me 3 times longer than normal to create the pillow because I rushed to do it.
  5. Don't change your product.
  6. This is not the time for last minute tweaks.  The magazine contacted you because they loved the product they saw in the photo. Give them what they asked for (and save yourself the trouble of re-inventing your work!).
  7. Utilize the magazine's foresight on trends.
  8. From what I can tell, Boho Chic nurseries are going to be all the rage this summer.  Especially, if this magazine is planning a feature on it.  I'll be stocking up on Boho Chic designs in my shop so I'm ready to meet the needs of the Boho Chic savvy magazine readers.

What trends are you anticipating this summer?  I'd love to hear your insight!