Focus on Kindred Spirit with editor Tania Ahsan
Today we investigate into the ‘Mulder to the Scully’ of other spiritual magazines, Kindred Spirit! Editor Tania Ahsan describes how you can avoid being the kind of PR she’d move houses to avoid (don’t call her Sir) and reveals the kind of features she’d bite hands off for…
About the publication:
Who reads it and how many of them are there?
35,000 circulation, most are in the 35-65 age bracket and have an active interest in spirituality.
What subjects do you cover? What stories are you most interested in covering?
Anything Mind, Body, Spirit; green issues; alternative health; spiritual development; self-help; mysteries and magic.
What makes you different from the other outlets in your sector?
We’re the Mulder to the Scully of other magazines in this area. Often their tone will be one of thinking there is something there but not crossing over into actual belief – there is still scepticism in the way things are written. We, like our readers, have certain beliefs that we’re not ashamed of. The articles can sound a bit ‘out there’ but that makes us a haven for those who might be ridiculed elsewhere for valid philosophical ideas about where humanity is headed. We’re also unisex so have a sizeable male readership and other magazines in this sector tend to be quite female-focused.
How do you decide the content, front covers and headlines?
We look at what is going on in the MBS world and look at important dates that are coming up. We also try and talk to our readers as much as possible to see what they would like to see more of in the magazine. Occasionally I’ll be a bit of a petty dictator and cover something just because I was thinking about it in the bath and thought ‘that’d make a brilliant feature’.
Do you produce a features list? Why? Why not?
We do but it can sometimes be a bit delayed due to the sheer volume of things we have going on at any given time. The features list is mainly so that the rest of the team knows what is coming up and can tie that into marketing or commercial projects.
Do you use freelance contributions, and if so, are they for any particular section/type of work?
Yes, we do. We tend to commission out features but regulars and sections like Travel are pretty much done either in-house or through existing contracts now. As a bi-monthly we have very few commissions to give out but a really compelling idea is likely to make me bite your hand off for it.
About you and freelance journalists:
Do you like freelance journalists to get in touch with you directly to pitch ideas? And if so,how? (What should the pitch include and any specifics about how they should send that information to you)
They can email. The pitch should include a brief summary of the proposed article, whether you have case studies or not, how long you envisage it being and whether it ties in with any particular news ‘hook’. In the first instance though, you should take a look at our contributor guidelines, which I can email to you if you send me a request for them.
Name the three most important attributes that make a freelance journalist stand out for you and would make you use them again?
1. Great ideas for articles which are relevant, innovative and exclusive. 2. Wonderful writing. 3. On time and to length delivery.
If you can, tell us about the best approach you’ve seen from a freelance…and the worst…
The best was from a woman who emailed, called and then faxed me till I responded. She persevered and I capitulated. The worst was from someone who got the name of the magazine wrong, addressed me as ‘Sir’, and wrote two sentences very generally about a subject (that we’d just covered) without any sort of angle or new take on it. The cherry on the cake was that he hadn’t actually read the magazine, by his own admission, and had just looked at our website.
Do you work closely with PRs (e.g. for supplements, round tables, events) or do you keep them at arm’s length?
Depends on the PR. Just as there are people you’d like to invite into your home and feed cake and there are others who you’d move house to get away from, so it is with PRs. I’m not prejudiced (“some of my best friends are PRs”) but the ones who don’t really care too much about what you cover and ‘blanket-bomb’ you do need to be kept at arm’s length.
If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
Relevance of press releases –I don’t need releases on everything from nose hair clippers to Will & Kate’s wedding.
How should a PR approach you about their client?
What information/input from PRs is most useful to you?
Specific new releases, events, openings and offers within the MBS field.
When is the best time for PRs to contact you & what is your deadline for contributions?
If via email, anytime is fine as I get to them as and when. I prefer not to be contacted by phone unless your boss tells you you’re fired if you don’t chase me by phone. Contact us with information around three to four months prior to the release date of any given product or service. As a bi-monthly, we are quite long lead and we fill up quickly.
Describe a typical day at work: What are you editorial duties/responsibilities at the outlet (e.g. commissioning, subbing, features, interviewing)?
I start with a mug of the strongest, blackest coffee in the western hemisphere. I then click on my emails, feel despondent at how many there are, close my email and look at what’s going into the next issue. I sub and edit the copy (this primarily involves removing exclamation marks and subbing in my own errors that I like to call ‘house style’). I then picture research using an agency we subscribe to and try not to get distracted by the disturbing amount of quasi-pornographic shots that come up when you put ‘joy’ into the search engine. After a bit of that, I re-check my emails, feel despondent at how many there are, close my email and go make another strong, black coffee. By the end of the day, on a good day, I have a few features ready to be designed, about three emails answered, and my hands have the shakes from too much coffee.
What interests you most about your job?
The readers. I think my job is essentially about the readers so I am a bit of a stalker when it comes to them. When I attend shows, I’m all up in their faces wanting to know what they like, what they don’t like, what we can do better, do they want a shoulder rub… I haven’t had a restraining order on me yet. I live for the results of our reader survey. Sharp implements have to be removed from my desk in case I try to fall on my letter-opener if a reader moves abroad and doesn’t want to change their subscription to an international one.
Where have you worked previously, and how did you end up in your current position?
I’ve been a bit of a magazine ho, working my way through B2B, customer and consumer titles. I’ve worked as editor of Tandoori magazine and of Prediction magazine. I was editorial director of Feast publications. I went freelance in 2006 and managed to nag the publisher of Kindred Spirit into hiring me as a freelance part-time editor.
Do you Twitter? Why, why not? No, I personally don’t, primarily because it is the Devil’s Work. The magazine twitters but that’s another member of the team who understands/likes the internet and doesn’t stand waving a pitchfork at it, yelling ‘get thee away, Satan’.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Google is like someone with a Phd – not a real doctor.
What media do you seek out 1st thing in the morning?
None. I like my mornings to be peaceful. I wait till I get in to have a read of my Guardian.
If you could time travel what time would you go to?
I wouldn’t go. I’d say “no thank you, Doctor Who, I would like to live in the present because the past is about regrets and the future is filled with software updates for things you don’t know how to use in version one. I’ll stay here and have another drink, if it’s all the same with you.”