Focus with Signature Publishing’s Amanda Clifford

Amanda Clifford edits three of Signature Publishing’s children’s titles; Dinomite!, Easy Peazy and Funtastic.

Dinomite! is the first and only dedicated monthly dinosaur magazine for children aged between 5-10 years.

Easy Peazy is a monthly magazine for girls who love crafts, cooking, colouring and creative things.

Funtastic is a monthly pre-school magazine aimed at making learning fun, especially for boys.

This week FeaturesExec caught up with Amanda to discuss juggling three titles, how PRs can help her, and what she’s do on a relaxing day off.

About the publication:

Tell us a bit about the titles you work for:
I edit three children’s magazines for Signature Publishing; Dinomite, which is all about dinosaurs, Easy Peazy, for little girls and Funtastic, for pre-school children.

How do you differ from other media outlets in your sector?
Dinomite is the only magazine that’s totally dedicated to dinosaurs. It’s packed with facts and pictures, but also features big boy brands, such as Ben 10 and Gormitti.

Easy Peazy appeals to creative little girls who love making things, colouring and drawing as much as they love all the current big toy brands, TV characters and cute animals.

Funtastic is the only multi-character magazine which appeals especially to little boys. Every issue has a four-page Jolly Phonics workbook – Jolly Phonics is the programme followed in most UK schools for teaching young children to read and write.

All three magazines have high parent approval.

What stories are you most interested in covering?
In Dinomite, anything about dinosaurs, obviously, but we also feature big brands, TV programmes and films with monsterish-themes, such as Ben 10 and Aliens in the Attic.

Easy Peazy – creative products that appeal directly to young girls and merchandse linked to popular brands, such as Barbie, plus girls’ hobbies, like dancing or fashion.

Funtastic – popular boys’ brands with which we can create educational and fun features.

All three magazine feature lots of competitions.

How do you decide the content and headlines?
With all three magazines we try to make the material we feature as current as possible, so tie in with big film, computer game and TV releases. We try to create a varied mix of reading, competitions, puzzles, artistic activities and posters.

How does the editorial process run? Do you have specific days when you focus on different aspects or is the planning on a much more ad-hoc basis?
We work on all three magazines at the same time, so while we plan the content of the mags carefully, we work on them in an ad-hoc way.

Do you produce a features list?
No – because the magazines are constantly evolving and changing as we work on them.

Do you use freelance contributions, and if so, are they for any particular section/type of work?
We use freelance designers, artists and photographers.

About PRs:

Do you work closely with PRs?
Yes, very closely.

What information/input from PRs is most useful to you?
PRs who’ve looked at our magazines before they contact us, are brilliant. That means we both know exactly how their clients will fit in with our magazines.

What’s the best starting point for a PR who wants to tell you about their client?
An email.

Do you have a PR pet hate?
PRs who haven’t bothered to find out anything about the magazines, so waste your time, and theirs, by sending information that’s totally irrelevant.

When is the best time for PRs to contact you & when is your deadline for contributions?
I’ll look at emails any time and we have about a six week lead time.

About you:

Describe a typical day at work:
As soon as I arrive I look at my emails, while having a cup of coffee.
Then usually have a catch up with my assistant, Julie, and designer, Carol, and freelance designer, Wayne.

Then set to work putting the mags together. There’s no real structure to the day, as every day can be different. Working on three mags means that I have to constantly change focus, so one minute I’m talking about a Stegosaurus, the next I’m looking at pictures of Sylvanian Families and two minutes later I’m editing a Pingu story. I also work closely with the covermounts – a crucial part of children’s magazines today. And as many of the characters we use are licensed, a lot of time is taken up by getting features approved.

What do you love about your work?
I’ve wanted to work in magazines ever since I was a little girl, so this really is my dream job. I also have three young children, so it’s great to produce magazines that they love! The biggest buzz I get is from readers’ contributions – letters, pictures, competitions entries – knowing that children enjoy our magazines and take the time to tell us so, can reduce me to tears! Oh yes, and good sales figures make it all worthwhile, too!

Where have you worked previously, and how did you end up in your current position?
I started my career on the WOMAN picture desk at IPC about 18 years ago in the days when women’s magazines were very different – I think it was selling about one million copies a week! I was very fortunate, working on such a big magazine, as I moved around. I then worked on the features desk, then became Practicals and Lifestyle Editor, overseeing beauty, fashion, cookery and home pages and managing a large team. After my children were born I went freelance, doing mostly homes, consumer and lifestyle features for lots of magazines.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Never be rude – that work experience person may be your future boss!

If you weren’t doing this, what would you do?
I’d love to write children’s books.

What’s your idea of a relaxing day off?
Spending time with my family – ideally me lying by a pool reading a book, and them having fun in the water!
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[img|jpg|Amanda Clifford (left) and her assistant Julie.]

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