Guest Newsletter – Rachael Hansford

Once a month we invite our Patrons, magazine publishers and enthusiasts to guest-edit our fortnightly email newsletter. The aim is to inspire others with magazine-related content, connect Patrons and build our community so we can learn from each other.

This month our guest editor is the lovely Rachael Hansford, founder and publisher of ACNR, an open access medical journal for neurologists, rehabilitation specialists, neuroscientists and allied healthcare professionals. You can find Rachael on LinkedIn and ACNR on Twitter – connect and say hi.

Tell us about yourself

I’m the Publisher of ACNR (Advances in Clinical Neuroscience & Rehabilitation), a medical journal which I launched 22 years ago as a magazine (i.e. not peer reviewed content).
After university I did a postgrad in Printing & Publishing at the London College of Printing, and eventually ended up in Edinburgh managing a cardiology magazine for a small family publishing company. I don’t have a medical background, but I do have a brother with brain injuries – and I also have an aversion to being told what to do. Starting a neurology magazine with no backing or real business experience seemed like a perfectly logical career step!

What are you up to at the moment?

We’re working on launching an online community for UK neurology specialists. We have the platform in place, and I’m on a charm offensive to persuade individual neurologists to join us and bring their colleagues. I’m loving the conversations it’s generating, and having the chance to get in depth feedback about the journal. One senior professor said, “You’ve already created a community, it’s just that communication has been a bit one way until now.” So this feels like a natural progression, but I realise it won’t happen overnight and I’ve been really grateful for all the advice from my publishing friends.

Illustration by Dan Mitchell with thanks to Ikon Images. Like what you see? 
Patrons receive their first 5 Ikon Images illustration uses for £50 each

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

I recently read ‘Philosophical Designs’ in Slightly Foxed – a magazine which reviews old books. You can’t read the article online (how quaint!) but the magazine website is here
The article reviews ‘The Elements of Typographic Style’, which – let’s be honest – doesn’t sound that riveting. However, I found the article very poetic, and it highlights the power of the printed letters in their own right, suggesting that “bad text does not deserve good letters.” I’ve since bought the book.

I think partly I enjoyed it because it made me a bit nostalgic. My dad had a big old letterpress printing press, and as a teenager I sometimes made money printing invitations on it. I enjoyed choosing fonts and piecing together the individual letters and lead spacers. I also remember printing sticky labels for my parents’ 18th wedding anniversary when I was 13, and sticking them all over the house and car.

A Golding Pearl printing press like the one we had at home

Show us an incredible magazine cover

This might sound a bit egotistical, but I’m going to choose the most recent issue of ACNR – and also say that it had an impact on me, rather than that I loved it. The image we used was drawn by a 13 year old, and entered into a competition for people with Tourette’s Syndrome. It expresses how they feel about having Tourette’s and I just think it’s really powerful. It’s also the first cover we did after our designer Donna died suddenly last year, so it reflected our mood a little.

What’s your top tip for publishers?

I’m pretty dubious about answering this question to be honest – my approach to publishing ACNR hasn’t followed any standard business practice, I’m sure!
Having said that, I’ve always focused on keeping the costs under vice-like control, while producing a good quality product. A neurologist recently commented that she could never understand how the journal was free, but really good…so we obviously got the quality right.
I’ve had a massive advantage in that we know exactly who our readers are and how to reach them. I guess that’s the key thing magazine publishers need to know, otherwise how can you give readers content they will want to read? Or know how to pitch to advertisers?
Looking back on it, I can’t help thinking that my ignorance and enthusiasm was an advantage sometimes. I had no worries about inviting people to write, even if they were world renowned. Often they said yes, much to the editor’s surprise. I suppose the moral of that story is to aim high.
Most of all, try to enjoy the ride! The years go by very quickly, and you might find yourself wishing you hadn’t wasted so much time worrying about things that never happened. Or maybe that’s just me…

Housty, we have a problem

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

My question is: What first and zero party data should I be collecting from my readers when they sign up?

Need more of this in your life?

Subscribe to our newsletters here and follow us on social on the links below.

Back to top of the page