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About Me:I'm a geeky, happy, sewing-obsessed wife, mother and crafter. I'm an American living happily in the UK with my lovely husband and tween daughter. I create handmade handbags, quilts, and other accessories. I love writing my blog and publishing craft tutorials, and I also write quilt and bag patterns. If you're looking to be featured or want other information, email me at jennaexcell(@)gmail.com
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ETA: Word has just come down the pipeline that Kerrie is putting ACM in bankruptcy, which leaves all subscribers and contributors in the dust. HOWEVER, she also appears to have had her father register as the Managing Director of Handmade Living magazine as she is rumoured to be banned from MDing the company herself. So there appear to be future plans for these magazines.
Also, if you need information about getting listed as a creditor or getting your copyright/distribution rights back now rather than the 6 months’ stipulated in the contracts, see my post here.
I’ve been agonising about writing this post. This entire experience has been so upsetting, and I very rarely complain about anything but myself on this blog. Plus it feels unprofessional to complain, you know? And I was worried about one sponsor in particular being upset, but now that I’ve discovered I won’t make a friend and colleague angry, I want to share my story. And by the way, I will not be censored on my own blog, so there’s no point in sending me a ‘legal’ letter demanding I remove this post on pain of remaining unpaid with an unreturned sample. I pay for this website and I’ll say whatever I want on it. It’s not libel if it’s provably true, so before firing any emails at me, read carefully – nothing I’ve said here is untrue and libel doesn’t apply to opinions.
Much of the history of KAL Media/All Craft Media has come out on Ravelry, so if you aren’t on it, you’ll need to create a free account to be able to read it. I’ll label all Ravelry links with a (Rav) so you know which is which. Here are some relevant links, and I want to emphasise that these are all good people who’ve made the VERY difficult decision of whether to go public about their experiences:
- Blog post by Alex of Dull Roar
- Blog post by Joyuna
- Blog post by Anniken Allis
- And if you want to hear about it from a non-knitter, here’s publishing blogger Abi on Making Light
- Here’s an interesting (Rav) thread on the whole sordid history of KAL Media and All Craft Media
- Here’s an interesting NON Ravelry history with excellent links from Joyuna
The company is rumoured to have less-than-stellar communications with designers in the past as you’ll see from the above links, and there have been reports from designers of discovering their designs had been resold to North American magazines with no notification.
I was approached by the editor of Modern Quilting (UK) magazine, and we eventually agreed a small price for a small design. I was so excited at the prospect of being in a magazine! I did the work, and also started hearing some rumblings about the company All Craft Media, and its former incarnation KAL Media. Past designers hadn’t been paid, and hadn’t had their samples returned.
I sent in a bag and pattern to the quilting magazine. I am ashamed to admit I didn’t research the parent company first, or I might have avoided all the heartache this whole episode has caused. But I sent it in. Please believe me when I state the editor is wonderful and gave me complete creative control, and the tech editor is a whiz. I attach NO blame to them AT ALL. Rather, I believe the problems stem from the haphazard way the entire company is run and originate at the top, not the middle or the bottom, as they seem to have done in the company’s former incarnation. Although it would be nice if someone in the middle or lower tier would post the samples back to everyone.
I haven’t actually received the magazine (a Twitter friend informed me yesterday that I am actually in it), but I’ve heard from subscribers that there have been many delays so maybe mine’s in the post. Although having read this post from Crobyworks I am not going to hold my breath. I tried to purchase an instant download, but it’s not exactly instant. It’s been 2 days and my order on the Inside Crochet page says ‘Order Processed – No Gift’. I am unable to download anything, nor did I receive any communication suggesting I could do so.
I can’t complain too much about not being paid, as *technically* they have till the end of May, but what they haven’t done is send my sample back, despite assuring me that the SASE envelope I paid for had been used to package it and it was sitting in the office, ready to be posted. I PAID the postage already; all they have to do is shove it in a mailbox. It’s a soft bag, it’ll go in.
I was asked to do a second project for them. After some expressed concerns, it was suggested I do the work anyway, and then if I wasn’t paid and didn’t receive my sample, I could simply hold onto it. I purposely didn’t sign a second contract, deciding I’d wait to commit to it when I got my money and sample. I want to stress that I attach no fault or blame to any editors or tech editors or writers or designers. Those people are good people, trying hard to make the best of a bad situation. They are in an impossible situation and I genuinely feel for them.
Well, the due date loomed and passed, and I heard nothing. I haven’t been paid (again, they do have till the end of May to do so, but if they can’t pay their editors, they probably won’t pay me and remember they said they’d pay me before I send out the next design), and despite the fact that my bag was allegedly packed up and ready to go, it hasn’t made its way here. ETA: I got my bag back!!! It was postmarked 4 May (the day this post went live) – I don’t know if it was the post, or the email sent on my behalf by a bloggy/lawyer friend, but it was a nice ‘birthday present’.
And all last week, and all of this week, I’ve been miserable. So, so miserable.
There’s a little voice eating away at me inside, even after I’ve decided not to send it. It says: You better send it in anyway, Jen. Because you don’t want to burn any publishing bridges, even if you never get paid and never get your sample back. You’re not any good. Your designs aren’t any good. No one will ever want to publish your stuff except these people, so you better suck it up and do it. And that, my friends, is not a good place to be. Because, my friends, I convinced myself that the fact that I hadn’t been paid meant that my designs and my work are worthless. And logically I know it’s stupid to think that, as I have a project coming out in another extremely reputable magazine later in the year, and clearly my sponsors think my work is worth something. Please understand I’m not after compliments. Nor do I need you to tell me that my designs are shite. Maybe you think they are. That’s fine, but please respect the fact that I’d never come to your blog and tell you that you’re rubbish, even if I disagreed with your politics. I just want to warn others to prevent them from going through the same heartache that I have.
I emailed friends about it, my husband has had to shore up my self-doubt, and to be quite frank, my Bipolar brain started to interpret the whole mess as complete chaos. And chaos is what sets my Bipolar Disorder into full blown frenzy. I stopped sleeping at night. I constantly questioned everything – the website, the bees, my designs, everything. I thought, What am I doing this for? Why do any of it if I’m going to be so upset over it?
You know, if a doctor is negligent, or a police officer abuses his power, or a university professor commits plagiarism, there are professional bodies which colleagues and laymen can go to and express their concern, which can take appropriate action if need be. But craft bloggers have no such organisation. How do you decide when to stay silent about your experiences and when to share them? We usually share good experiences, not bad ones. And certainly not embarrassing ones. It’s been a really tough decision, but I’ve decided that if I save ONE fellow designer/quilt blogger from this, it’s worth it. I never want anyone to go through what I’ve gone through.
IF YOU ARE AFTER YOUR NAME IN PRINT: Trust me, there are magazines out there who do want your designs. And if you’re going to design for someone and not get paid for it, make sure you agree to that up front. But DO THE RESEARCH first. Not later. And if you get contacted by these people, make an informed decision. My personal advice is to save yourself lots of heartache. But even if you decide you want to have your name in print so badly that you’ll put up with no payment and no return of your sample, at least you’ve gone in with your eyes open. It’s a very savvy business model – they contact bloggers who’ve never appeared in print before, who’ve likely never heard of their history. And they know we’re all desperate to be published – that’s the holy grail of design. So desperate that we might not question anything they say.
And buying their magazines? Well, I’m not going to counsel you against it. But I personally don’t feel confident sending any more money to someone who doesn’t pay their own staff, and doesn’t pay the designers whose designs feature in the magazine. I’d rather pay the designers direct by buying their patterns from them (this mostly applies to the yarn world and Ravelry). People aren’t furniture. They’re not rugs you step on as you make your way to the top. They’re people, and they deserve to be treated with respect and courtesy. The truly sad thing is that the magazine actually fills a hole in the market. We have no UK based modern quilting magazine that we can get excited about and sell designs to. But by burning the quilt bloggers, they’re burning their chances at excellent, excited and nearly free publicity. All you have to do is look at the buzz constantly generated by the big online quilt magazine to see what kind of potential there is out there for good, modern publications who treat people with dignity.
I do know for a fact that I’m not the only blogger who’s been made to feel a fool by All Craft Media/Kerrie Allman/KAL Media, and I know that many of you are frightened to speak out publicly against them. Perhaps you hope you’ll get paid if you stay silent, or get your sample back. There’s an interesting post about what’s happened to past samples in a (Rav) thread that might enlighten you. But I’d also like you to weigh that hope against the unassailable fact that if we don’t all speak out and unite, more bloggers and designers will be in the same position that you and I are in. And that’s the saddest fact of all. My friend Fiona at The Sewing Directory has also posted about this. The author of Sewing Mad has also posted about her negative experiences with All Craft Media. Sarah at Sarah Sews has also spoken about her experience. And Lynne at Lily’s Quilts has spoken about her work for ACM as well.
I’m sorry I had to write this. I’m still in pain about it. I hope you understand my decision to try to exorcise the agonising demons I’ve been fighting for the last month. You may not agree with my decision and that’s ok. But I’m hoping I’ll save someone from being plagued by self doubt by sharing my own. I deeply appreciate my readers’ patronage and I appreciate you reading this.