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Janet Roberts

Publisher Interview: Jade Walker, Inscriptions
By Janet Roberts

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Today's interview is Part One of two parts, in which we look ways to handle email-newsletter transitions. Although the Internet economy apparently has begun to stabilize over the last few months, many newsletters that once rode the crest of the wave in the heady years have either discontinued publishing or are being handed off to new owners.

We've covered the issue in bits and pieces previously, but today, we'll look at the process from the perspective of an owner who has decided to climb down from the editorial saddle. Later, we'll talk with the new editor about how to assume control of an ezine which is strongly identified with its previous editor.

To be most accurate, today's title should read "Ex-Publisher Interview," because Jade Walker has already transferred the business to her successor, Bev Walton-Porter. However, she has not seceded fully from the world of email publishing, because she continues to publish Jaded Writings, a personal-opinion column, and Afterthoughts, a Weblog, on her Web site, emailing the current versions to subscribers via Topica Exchange.

Like many online writers today, Jade has material appearing in a variety of forums. Her "day job" is overnight producer for the New York Times on the Web. She founded and built up Inscriptions, a weekly ezine for writers, into a solid brand name and a well-regarded must-read for all kinds of writers. She also contributes to other online forums and print publications.

Recently, though, she handed Inscriptions over to a colleague, a move akin to Martha Stewart mothballing her KitchenAid mixer. We asked Jade about why and how she decided to move on; if you're considering a similar move, you might find some tips here:

Janet Roberts: When did you know it was time to hand Inscriptions over to someone else?

Jade Walker: Many factors went into my decision. The main reason was simply a matter of time. I spent four and half years working two full-time jobs - no weekends off, no vacations. It was a nonstop ride that I loved, but one that eventually began to take a toll in the exhaustion department.

Secondly, my other writing projects were forced to take a back seat to my work with Inscriptions and The New York Times. Deadlines came first; everything else was secondary. Now that I've handed over Inscriptions to Bev Walton-Porter, an experienced editor in the publishing community, I can focus on these projects and perhaps attain some new goals (bestseller lists, cult fan base, etc.).

JR: What were some of the technical aspects you had to deal with in the transition? Anything you didn't anticipate? Have your readers been able to make the transition, or are you still queries and comments?

JW: I think the transition is harder on my replacement than it is for me. Once I decided to resign from Inscriptions, my job was really simple:

  • forward my "waiting to be published" queue of press releases, articles, interviews and book reviews (about 600 e-mails)

  • train the new editor on the mechanics of writing and editing the site and magazine

  • transfer the domain name and affiliate information

  • write my farewell note

  • -clear off my hard drive and walk away.

I've offered my services to Walton-Porter as a writer and book reviewer, but mostly I just gave up the magazine and wished her luck. That way she'd be able to make it her own without me looking over her shoulder or demanding that she do it "my way."

I'll probably always be associated with Inscriptions since I founded the ezine and built its reputation. If it continues to thrive, though, I'll know that I made the right decision to keep the ezine running under new management.

The only thing I didn't anticipate was the restlessness I felt after I emailed the final issue. Thankfully, that's starting to fade as new projects land in my lap.

JR: Do you have any final thoughts or advice for other publishers?

JW: As an editor/publisher, you must provide useful, entertaining, informative content to a specific group of readers. To do this, your ezine should not be considered a hobby, it is a job and one that should be handled professionally. Generate great content. Pay your writers if you are able to do so, and pay them in a timely manner. Keep a regular schedule for distribution. Promote your magazine and its contents. Most importantly, have a passion for your topic, your publication and your readers. This passion will see you through the lean times.

Click here to see the Inscriptions Web site, which also links to Jade's Jaded Writings site.

To see what Jade is up to now, visit her site.

Ezine-Tips for March 14, 2002

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