Publishing an Indie Craft Magazine: an Interview with Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood

The third issue of CraftSanity Magazine is just out, and this is cause for celebration. In this age where we’re losing printed craft magazines seemingly every day, Michigan crafter (and podcaster) Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood is keeping an independent craft magazine alive.
I got to talk with Jennifer about how this project is both challenging and deeply satisfying, and how she decided to take the publishing plunge.

In an era where print magazines seem to be dying left and right, what led you to start one of your own?
Ah, yes, I was expecting this question because starting a print publication in this climate does seem a little nuts. There are a couple of reasons why I took the plunge into print. First, I should clarify that CraftSanity Magazine is a hybrid publication in that I circulate it in both print and PDF formats, so this two-prong approach seemed less risky than launching a strictly print publication. As a print journalist with a background in daily newspaper reporting, I’m passionate about print media. However, there is no denying the future of media is electronic. So I decided to create a publication I could circulate in both print and electronic formats and let readers decide which format they prefer.
I love the fact that the magazine is printed 20 minutes from my home here in West Michigan and that I get to go pick up the boxes of magazines when the print run is done.  My daughters Abby, 7, and Amelia, 5, always get the first two copies out of the box. For reasons I can’t quite put into words, creating a magazine that people around the globe can flip through and toss into their project bags makes me exceedingly happy. 
Printing a magazine in full color with minimal advertising is challenging, but not impossible. I launched the magazine using money I earned selling CraftSanity Weaving Looms, so I didn’t have to take a loan out or threaten to tank the family finances. I plan to circulate CraftSanity in print as long as there is demand for it. The first print run was kind of an experiment. After the first issue sold well, I decided to continue printing subsequent issues. However, I am well aware that printing in full color may not be financially viable in the long-term. And if I get to the point where print sales drop off, I can continue to publish electronically. So no worries.
One advantage I have over larger publications is that I’m essentially a one-woman show with kind assistance from my husband (pagination), mom (proofreading), sisters, friends and contributors. I keep the costs down by doing most of the work myself. I work with contributors, chat with advertisers, organize circulation, test patterns, design projects and take a majority of the photos, too. So basically the only way I’m able to do this is to work really, really hard and do as much as I can on my own. 
I’ve wanted to launch a print magazine since I was a kid and I felt like it was one of those “now or never” situations. I wasn’t deterred by the fact that there is plenty of evidence that “print is dying” because I own an iPad and still prefer the experience of paging through craft books and magazines in print to reading publications electronically — although I am warming up to the benefits of electronic media. (For example, I’m completely addicted to Pinterest.) I basically created a magazine filled with projects and stories that interest me, and I’m thrilled to have found an audience for it. 
What’s one thing most people don’t know about what it’s like to publish an indie craft magazine?
It’s one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done in my professional life. This gig pays less than my old newspaper job, but when you work for yourself and can mold a publication into whatever you want it to be, it results in a sense of satisfaction that a big fat paycheck from The Man can’t quite top. 
What do you want CraftSanity Magazine to do that other print craft magazines aren’t doing?
Each issue of CraftSanity Magazine includes more crafting variety and content than your typical mainstream craft publication. I’m a multi-crafter who enjoys many craft mediums, so my magazine always includes a fun mix of projects ranging from sewing and embroidery to crocheting and knitting. I’ve featured hairpin lace, basket weaving and basic rug hooking, too, and I’m always open to reader suggestions.
Advertising is limited, so readers aren’t buying a book of glossy ads with a few craft projects sprinkled in. There are always more than a dozen detailed projects, plus a paper doll, book and product reviews, handmade stories, inspiration for crafting with kids and Q&As. I also write profiles and select recipes to run in each issue. My main objective is to pack as much DIY content into each issue as I can because there’s nothing more disappointing than buying a magazine that doesn’t have much in it. I want my readers to  feel like they’re getting a lot for their money.
What has been the biggest surprise of this project?
I never assume that people are going to like my projects, so I’m pleasantly surprised that the magazine has been so well received. The biggest surprise, however, has been how excited my kids are about it. They often tag along when I deliver the magazines to bookstores and craft shops in West Michigan and like to help stuff envelopes for mailing. The magazine has inspired them to want to start their own kids version, so we’re working on some handmade zines that they’re writing themselves. So, as a mom, it’s been really wonderful to watch my daughters get inspired. 
What future plans do you have for the magazine?
I plan to continue to respond to reader feedback and work to enhance the publication. I want to keep featuring work by established and emerging artists, writers, crafters and cooks from around the globe. So if you have a pattern, tutorial, story idea or recipe to submit, by all means let me know. Email

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