It was all a bit poignant really. The final issue of Scrapbook Inspirations landed on my doormat the other day and as I flipped thru the magazine the overwhelming feeling was that it was a great issue. Lovely layouts, good overall design, lots of fresh new faces, but no mention of the issue ending, just no “In the Next Issue” page to hint that it was the last.
When Scrapbooking Memories & More (who remembers that magazine!?) had the plug pulled by the publisher after only a few issues, everyone who was involved with the magazine was angry that it never seemed to have the full backing of the publisher and had never really been given a chance. Because of my involvement with UKScrappers, and a project I had done for Design Eye ( who were part of Quarto Publishing, who also did Creative Scrapbooking in it’s first iteration) I had already been approached by the publisher asking me to get involved with the magazine. I had steadfastly refused, partly because of the SM&M work, partly for my own reasons. I was also, at the time, working on a scrapbooking book project for Design Eye and Reader’s Digest with Shimelle (which came to nothing in the end, after all the work had been done, again, because of a publisher decision on the market at the time) and just didn’t think, along with UKS, that I would have the time.
Things change, as they do, and when SM&M ceased, and a timely call from the publisher at Quarto came, I broached the subject, letting him know that I was free to submit, as were the other team members and he said “Did you know Future is publishing a scrapbooking magazine?” He said he would be happy to get submissions, but if a regular gig was what the team wanted, he thought Future was the way to go. Serendipitously, Jane, CJ, Shimelle and I (along with Anne and Vanessa) were all booked into a Centre Parcs weekend with some scrapping friends. We had plenty of time to chat about the death of SM&M and the state of scrapbooking publications in the UK and decided we would compile a presentation about us to present to Future and see what happened. We did, with our scrapping credentials and samples of our work, and practically as soon as it hit Future we got a call to come to London for a meeting. This was just after the launch issue came out, after issue 2 had been planned, but with issue 3 still in progress. So those of us that could make it toddled off to London to meet.
What I remember from the meeting is first silence as the editor and overall editor looked thru our work. I can remember wondering if they thought it was crap because they were quiet for a while as they flipped thru albums and looked at minibooks. Then there was a wave of relief when they all burst out with delight, saying they loved everything they saw and that we would be an asset to the magazine. Phew. From then on it was just talk talk talk talk talk, with all of us tripping over ourselves to get out the ideas we had, the editors outlining their thoughts and the team sharing theirs. A few layouts were selected then and there, a few more meetings followed, and soon we were in the swing of a regular publishing schedule.
I looked back – the first layout was in issue 3 and I did the cover for issue 4 (stock photos not my own kids) and we went from there. We got tied to an exclusivity contract in the UK, which was fine as we had little desire to work for any other UK magazine, although we were still free to submit to any US publication, and had the book come to fruition that would have been ok too. I had already been published in US mags and books, CK, MM, PK, so didn’t have any burning desire to submit to them. I wanted my work shared in the UK because I had made the UK my “home” so was happy to focus my energies there. And so we became THE SI TEAM, with a couple of layouts in every issue, work apportioned on a rotating basis. The editors were happy that we were almost always on time and it was rare for work to be commissioned then rejected as not good enough (another phew – they seemed to like what we did and the ABC report confirmed SI had the highest sales figures in the UK so the target audience seemed to like it too) It was exciting to see work in print and in some ways stretched me as a scrapper, doing pages about things I may not have otherwise, using paper that were not always my first choice, and trying to make pages for an audience that was not just my family.
And so it went.
There were grumbles on anonymous sites about the team being old hat, that being published was down to cronyism and moans about the same old kids over and over again. The mag was deemed for the beginner by some, some who obviously didn’t get that in order for scrapbooking to thrive it needed a fresh influx of scrappers on a regular basis. A magazine, an impulse buy on the news stand, was a perfect way to ensure that. Advanced scrappers are already scrappers. They don’t need to be caught by the hobby. And would the smaller number of self-proclaimed “advanced scrappers” really pay for a subscription or would they just scoff and say “You call that advanced? Pah! I’ve been doing that for YONKS!” and “I can see all I want, immediately, and more current, in blogs and elsewhere on the web.”? Who know really what part that played in the planned redesign and an expansion of the team? Perhaps some, perhaps none, but the reality is that the scrapbooking industry is experiencing a bit of a downturn at the moment, partly due to the credit crunch, perhaps partly to the quick explosion of the craft, which was always going to be difficult/impossible to sustain. I know from UKS that we are gaining members every day, lots of newbie posts about how they are “new to scrapbooking” and lots of emails thru the Contact Us link asking for info, where to take a class, can I make an album for them, yada, yada, yada. Subscriptions were strong, or I’ve been told they were, but advertising was just not what it needed to be.
Looking at my US magazines it seems clear what part of the problem might be. Firstly, US magazines have many many more pages of ads for manufacturers – tool makers, paper makers, supplies of all kinds. The UK mags seem to depend more heavily on small shops to advertise. During a downturn, many must wonder if spending the equivalent of a full years advertising on UKS, with the chance to update on sales and special every day, for a single print ad is the best use of their money. And the big manufacturers would have perhaps felt that their money was better spent in the bigger markets (US, AU, SA). Personally I would have preferred SI to go the way of TSBM and drop to 6 issues a year rather than cease regular publication, but that is just me. Even when I had stuff in the magazine, and even when I had seen most of the team work already on our team site, I still did a little dance of joy when the magazine landed. I loved seeing it all put together, loved the Reader’s Gallery stuff (which we didn’t usually see in advance) and just liked the feel of a magazine between my fingers.
I do fear the death of the print media – as someone who always reads magazines and books, I would cry real tears of loss if I could only read magazines online, or books on a e-book reader. SI is another casualty of the print v net war, I think, and wearing my UKS hat that makes me feel a little bit to blame, as I have stood for a long time with one foot in each camp.
But there is an upside, those of you who are still reading, although only a personal one. I am freed from the tyranny of the step-by-step! Every month when the assignments came I cringed when I knew my layout needed the SBS of a technique. It was never that I was lacking in ideas, I had them every day. But knowing that it had to be an interesting technique that could be communicated in a couple of photos made it hard to strike a balance between a cool technique and the space allowed. Those layouts were never allowed to be just a really nice page – there had to be something to “teach” abut nothing so complex that it would take up too much space. Perhaps that is part of what caused the complaints about SI being too beginner. But people forget, don’t they? that they were once beginners too. And that goes back to the point about “advanced scrappers” and would they buy an “advanced” mag, even if we could agree on what that entailed? But back to SBSs – OK, so maybe I just decided one day to slit along a pattern on some lovely patterned paper and tuck the photo underneath – no fanfare, no EUREKA! moment in my head, it just made sense so I did it. I liked the effect so I did it again, maybe getting a bit more complicated in my cutting the next time, or cutting a second sheet to layer over the first for a dimensional look. But not everyone thinks like that and I have had more than one person say “I never thought of that!” while flipping thru my albums, just like I often look in the UKS gallery on at a blog post or a layout in another magazine and think “Wow. Wish I had thought of that!” So I think we all tried to make the SBSs useful, interesting, and if not always “new” then at least new to someone. And now I am also freed from the need to use new papers or supplied to me papers on all my pages and it was sometimes mentioned that “muddy” colours didn’t reproduce well so I know I tended to lean brighter than I might have chosen otherwise. Older papers (which we ALL have a lot of) can now be used without worrying can they hunt up a stockist now?
So I made a layout yesterday. I forgot how fun it could be, just grabbing a few photos that had been crying out to be scrapped, shopping in my stash for stuff that worked, pushing the photos and embellishments around on my workspace, and then sticking it all down then thinking “I like that well enough for it to go in my albums” rather than “Will that look good in the mag? will people like it?” It’s nothing special, but it tells a story, captures a moment, and the kids, coming home and walking past my desk, both said “I remember that day!” with a smile. In the end, that was ALWAYS what scrapbooking was about for me.
That went on for far too long.
So here is the layout. Like I said, it’s nothing special, it won’t win any contests, there are no earthshaking or innovative techniques, but it’s a nice page and it made my kids smile. Who could ask for anything more than that?