Marimello hearts CROQ: interview with Heather Mann

To be fair, we here at Marimello heart all magazines. But, our newest fave is CROQ, a fairly new, independently published zine devoted, and we mean devoted, to the new crafts scene and indie business. We also had the honor of chatting up Heather Mann, editor and publisher, about CROQ and about zines, magazines, promotion and why it’s OK for DIY not to mean DI-all-Y

Like most great ideas, CROQ is the child of necessity. Two years ago that Dayna Mankowski of CraftyScientist.com popped up on the Sampler LiveJournal voicing a need for a collaborative print zine about crafts and the crafty lifestyle. There simply wasn’t such a thing in existence. Heather says, “The idea for CROQ came out of the excitement of the crafting community that had emerged online -- we wanted to use that excitement to create something that wasn't just an online thing, but an actual print zine. Also, there weren't really ANY magazines out there at the time that focused on the hip/indie craft crowd, so we wanted to make the magazine that we all wished existed.”
“A zine is basically just a self-published magazine. We do everything ourselves, thus the distinctive "zine" instead of just the ubiquitous "magazine." And, we are an actual in-print on-paper publication, not just an internet-only publication therefore, we're not the same as a blog. We wanted to be on paper, not just in cyberspace.”

M: Agreed! What’s the significance you see in moving from online to print. How is that important/significant? Why not just start another Web site? There’s been some hemming and hawing about the decline of print media.
H: A magazine is a self-contained work that is put into print, and then becomes the definitive version of itself. CROQ #4 will always be the same in future print runs as it was when the very first print rolled out. A website is more amorphous. The look gets updated, the content is edited. Things are tweaked. If a print publication is a still-life, then a website is a temporary art installation. Here today, gone (or different) tomorrow.

M: Do you see CROQ growing from “distinctive zine” into a ubiquitous” magazine? Do you think that is a natural progression, or something different?
H: Yes, CROQ has the potential to grow into a magazine. We have a unique point of view, and we are covering some topics that nobody else in magazine publishing is covering. Our potential audience are the young crafters who are on the internet looking for the next big inspiration. So hopefully what you said about some people rejecting print media for the internet exclusively isn't true of those young crafters out there who are our potential readership! I think a jump from zine to magazine would help older readers (those who aren't familiar or comfortable with the sassy 'zine, or who don't find info on the internet) find our publication. So, zines are "distinctive" because they are much more specific and narrow in focus. Magazines become ubiquitous because in order to appeal to a larger audience, they broaden their focus.

M: You use the word integrity in reference to growth. We think integrity is a huge word. For whatever definition you use, integrity is something to maintain. We too think it is possible to maintain that integrity, voice, creedo, whatever too, but we sense an implication that integrity can be lost through the process. What are your thoughts on this in relation to CROQ's and in the larger picture, the craft culture's growth?
H: It's the age old punk rock argument of "selling out" versus being "punk rock." If you maintain any measure of success, those who are still stuck in obscurity call you a sellout. In reality, if the same team is planning, writing, and designing CROQ, then does it really matter if we staple it ourselves? It doesn't fundamentally change our voice or our message.

M: So then what of self-promotion? Is self-promotion DIY—like DI-all-Y—an essential part of the process, or it is something you can farm out?
H: Well, we're getting to the breaking point as far as doing it ALL ourselves goes. Our staff is located around the country, and nobody is close enough to team up to do the physical labor part (printing, stapling, folding, packing orders). Order volume is getting to the point where it might be nice to farm some of it out - either have it printed somewhere else, or just hire someone to help with the assembly. I think the publication maintains its integrity regardless of how much of the physical labor is done in-house.

M: So with all this growth, how are you promoting CROQ now?
H: Right now, we advertise on the internet, we sometimes sponsor events (like the Indie Craft Experience in Atlanta), we swap promos with other indie businesses, we receive press coverage from magazines and websites, and we do craft shows. At the moment, that's all we can do.
Plans for growth include a better compensation plan for our writers. We would like to increase our circulation, too. I would love to tap into some of the 85,000 registered members of Craftster.org. Do you hear me, girls?

We hear you, Heather. Here are some CROQ submission guidelines. Submit to it. Subscribe to it. Love it. Read it three times before you go to bed like Marimello.


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