Guest Newsletter – Joanna Cummings

Once a month we invite our Patrons, publishing friends and magazine enthusiasts to guest-edit our fortnightly newsletter. 

This month our guest editor is Joanna Cummings, editor of Your Crochet & Knitting and a supporting editor of Knit Now, magazines from the craft specialists Practical Publishing. Passionate about magazine publishing, Joanna was Deputy Editor of the B2B titles The Analytical Scientist and The Cannabis Scientist for 3 years, writing across everything from automated analytical technology to medical cannabis, from sports doping to laboratory efficiency.

In her spare time, and with three science writers and former colleagues, she co-edits HEX Science, a weekly e-newsletter that tackles stories about science and women’s health through a (snarky) feminist lens.

You can follow Joanna on LinkedIn and Twitter – if you like what you read below, say Hi.


What’s on your mind?

I’m currently working like a mofo as a craft mag editor, in a sphere of newsstand publishing that Covid has made more cut-throat than ever.

Your Crochet and Knitting & Knit Now

With many people stuck at home and bored out of their skulls, an increasing number are taking up crafts such as crochet and knitting. But with this increase in potential audience comes a real challenge, as key players are pulling ever-more ingenious ways out of the bag to grab readers’ attention. Having said that, it’s fantastic to work in an area of magazines that hasn’t taken a hit. It makes me all the more grateful that I edit on a subject I am personally very passionate about – taking such a creative approach requires serious and seemingly unwavering energy!


What’s the best article you’ve
read this month?

You know that feeling when you read an article, and wish to God you’d written it? One of those brilliantly clever, witty and incisive pieces that almost make you want to pack up and go home? Well this is one of those.

Illustration by Jacquie Boyd with thanks to Ikon Images

It’s no secret that everyone, and particularly women, get ridiculously mixed messages about appearance, ageing, body image, motherhood…etc. This article is one of the most surreal, intelligent and hilariously funny takedowns of this I have ever read. It’s tough going through life as a feminist, when many people assume you’re a humourless crone with a collection of testes in jars – too angry, you lose em, too much levity, you lack gravitas – but so refreshing to read something that successfully treads the delicate line between fury and comedy. It’s a balance we have a lot of fun negotiating in HEX, and this absolutely nails it.

I guarantee you’ll appreciate it, even if you’re not a woman/feminist/hell witch who eats the bodies of men who have wronged you.


Show us an incredible magazine cover

A New European cover from a couple of years ago, when Theresa May was the villain of the piece (feel free to take a moment to think fondly of those times).

I like it because it’s a striking cover, of course, but also because it ties in to a concept that I feel particularly strongly about: the concept of women as witches. It’s more or less impossible to be a high-profile female politician these days without someone drawing that comparison, but this image, along with the tagline ‘the week May’s Brexit went up in smoke’ really hammers home how freaked out people are by women in power. It’s all very ‘ding dong, the witch is dead’. At least they gave her a cool pair of shoes, I guess.


What’s your top tip for publishers?

I have 17 top tips, but the credit goes to Ann Handley for her article on newsletters.

Illustration by Sergio Ingravalle with thanks to Ikon Images

When we started HEX, none of us had any real experience of starting newsletters – just a vague concept that they were ‘on the up’. As well as a top-notch masterclass sesh by Sian Meades-Williams and Anna Codrea-Rado, this no-BS piece by Ann Handley was invaluable.

A pandemic is in many ways a great time to launch a newsletter – with no pubs to distract anyone you definitely have a more willing readership – but this must-read 17-point list reminds you that you have to stick to the same MO as when creating a magazine: for example, find a clear niche, have a distinctive voice, encourage a sense of belonging, build a sense of cohesion, find the ‘so what?’. It does say, “a crisis is not the time for Marketing to be clever or snarky”, the latter of which we definitely ignored, but it gave us a great springboard ­– as well as the balls to be, well, ballsy, and write in a tone and on topics that felt right for us.


Housty, we have a problem

What problem would you like our magazine guru, Peter Houston, to solve in the next newsletter?

My problem is: “How can we boost the audience of our newsletter, when we have zero budget?”

Can’t wait until next month? Check out last newsletter’s question: “I’m a new mag publisher, I know my subject but I don’t know the industry, how do I get better fast?”