Glossy Talk: 50th issue milestone for Footprints magazine
Big feats in the world of small publishing get me excited. Without the cash flow of the corporate giants of the media world, little-known titles are often labours of love put together by people who are passionate but pennyless because they want a printed platform to express ideas that are not always commensurate with generating large readerships or advertising dollars.
Arguably, this small-fry status also gives them a lot of editorial freedom, but it can be a challenge to keep one's head above water, both financially and directionally, even if your definition of success doesn't have a dollar sign in front of it. Janet Camilleri is the editor of Footprints, which is now in its 50th edition. Here she talks about getting the first issue up, nurturing local talent and what drives her editorial ethos.
GWAS: What inspired you to start Footprints?
Janet: About 12 years ago, I got to the point in my life where the glossies I’d been reading just didn’t do it for me anymore. I wanted to read something uplifting and positive, something proudly Australian, about real people and their stories, but most of all about having a relationship with God and the difference He can make in our everyday lives. And so the first issue of Footprints was launched back in January 1998.
How has it evolved from that first issue? To be honest, I cringe a little now when I see the first issue. It was very basic in format (just a bunch of photocopied pages), and the writing was amateurish and in need of a good edit and polish! But right from the start I felt very strongly to start where I was at. Out of tiny acorns, a mighty oak tree grows!
Christian titles are often a genre onto themselves: how is Footprints different? For a start, nearly 100% of our content is from Australia or New Zealand – many other magazines rely on American writers, or reprint American stories. There is nothing wrong with this, but my vision for Footprints was to nurture and support our own talent, and share our own stories. I wanted to create a publication that is relevant to THIS country, not another American import.
There is a big focus on “celebrity” writers these days, yes, even in Christian publishing! I guess this is because publishers KNOW that they have a guaranteed readership, which equals higher sales. However, I have found that just because somebody is famous or has excelled in their chosen field, does not necessarily make them a skilled writer. Instead, we provide a forum for our readers to share from their hearts and life experiences, to encourage others who may be facing the same struggles or situations.
Finally, most magazines are run as a business. Footprints is a not-for-profit enterprise, run by a group of volunteers. It truly is a “labour of love” for me, and for all our helpers – we are motivated by our love of God, our love of writing, our love for others.
Who is your readership? It is hard to say exactly without sophisticated (and expensive!) market research, but from what I can see our readers are mainly Christian women aged 30 and up, from all different denominations and walks of life.
However, we have readers from as far afield as New Zealand, Vanuatu, Japan and the United States and even women who are not Christians have told me how much they enjoy reading Footprints. I’ve also heard plenty of stories from women who say they have trouble wrestling their copy of Footprints away from their husbands, so that they can actually read it!
How have you garnered ad support? Did it come easily? For a long time we didn’t have any ads in Footprints at all. In the early days, I was approached by some rather strange people and businesses, which scared me off advertising altogether! In the last few years, however, I kept having people ask about advertising in Footprints, and I began to realise that maybe it was time to reconsider. I had a revelation that rather than being “scary”, advertising could in fact help us to achieve our goals. Obviously, any income from advertising would be a very welcome addition to our budget, and would allow us to grow and expand. But the turning point came when I realised that part of our vision is to support and encourage other Christian businesses and ministries – because we know how hard it can be – and offering affordable advertising and promotional opportunities would be a great way to achieve that!
Where on the glossy spectrum do you see Footprints sitting? Imagine a magazine that combines certain aspects of other magazines – thought-provoking stories like “Marie Claire”, tips for home and family life like you’d find in “Better Homes & Gardens”, articles on relationships like “Notebook:”, ideas for healthy living like “Women’s Health & Fitness”, examples of inspirational women like “Weight Watchers”, real life stories like “That’s Life” and “Take 5”, tackling current affairs like “The Australian Women’s Weekly” – that’s probably the best way to describe Footprints’ place on the glossy spectrum!
What's next for Footprints? We are constantly striving to improve Footprints, one step at a time. In our next issue, for example, we are very excited about our layout which has been given a bit of a makeover! Later this year I will be representing Footprints and leading a workshop at the Faithwriters Conference in Sydney, and at the Word Writers Fair in Brisbane.
In the longer term, the vision is for Footprints to become a full colour, glossy magazine with a lot more pages; available bimonthly or even monthly (instead of quarterly), at newsagents across Australia! There are also plans to one day hold Footprints women’s conferences, have regular radio spots, and release more books (Clues to your Calling was launched in 2003; Decadence: treat yourself to 10 years of Footprints was released in 2008.
Only God Himself knows for sure what the future holds. In the meantime, we will keep doing the best we can to offer a wholesome, inspirational magazine for the women of Australia.
GWAS readers can go to footprintsaustralia.com to request a free trial issue.
Girl With a Satchel