I met Sarah (virtually) recently and it was really no surprise that she is warm, friendly, smart and passionate about stationery. And also has a barking dog that saves it’s energy for when Sarah is on the phone. Just like my dog. While getting to know Sarah it occurred to me that she has a wealth of great info for our stationery designers and she was kind enough to share her thoughts. Make sure you sign up for her blog: ThePaperChronicles.com – it’s a great snapshot of what’s happening in stationery.
SHQ: What’s the best part of being the Editor-in-Chief at ST?
SS: That’s a tough one to answer! I love getting to scope out trade shows, and just experiencing pop culture with an eye to design trends. In reviewing submissions, I love getting to see so much marvelous work — I am often completely flabbergasted by the talent out there.
It is really amazing to see designers rise and thrive. To that end, I always feel very rewarded when I can bring about a business connection, e.g. between an artist and a showroom.
And I love slowly creating the editorial of each issue article by article, image by image, and then seeing it slowly coming to life during production in tandem with the ST team. Often I get so caught up in the entire process that I forget others will even read it. So then when I receive positive feedback from readers, it’s truly rewarding.
SHQ: What trends do you see coming for next year?
SS: I don’t see foil — specifically gold foil, with tones like copper and rose gold important too — slowing down at all, though I think pared-down presentations of this or any design trend are most dazzling & enduring. Overall, I think anything that bears the touch of the hand resonates — we are seeing something of an artisanal backlash to the digital age.
SHQ: What’s the best way to get products in the hands of retail buyers, high profile blogs and publishers without sounding desperate?
SS: I would find my targets and approach them accordingly, e.g., not with one big, one-size-fits-all, mass push. So, do your homework — e.g., find out who to approach at that retail venue and reach out to them individually, tailoring your query to the spirit of their brand. If you want to be a specific magazine, look at the masthead and find out who the right editor is. Same would go for blogs & publishers. I think everyone appreciates being approached by someone who knows a little bit about how each company operates and its distinctive way of delivering what it delivers. For me, I like to receive an email query telling a little bit about a given item, with the offer of sending a sample if I’m interested.
In your correspondence, spell the first & last names right, spell “stationery” right — and let them know you’ll follow up after say a week. If you don’t hear back, try to be patient and understand they’ve most likely got a pretty full plate. The occasional follow-up is fine, but take care to not cross the line into stalkerdom.
And while there’s nothing wrong with talking up your line — promoting oneself is to be lauded after all — don’t focus on your sales pitch so intensely that you are not open to any advice that may fall on your plate. Finally, if you take that advice and modify your line, reach back out — giving full credit to your new mentor of course! And if any of this doesn’t pan out, it is really hard not to take rejection personally — but keep reaching out and eventually you will find a good fit.
Personally, for almost every vendor that approaches me, I usually try to find the best spot to showcase their line, which can take time. For that reason, I always get a kick out of including someone in ST who submitted imagery a few issues back. I think most magazines, stores and blogs try to tell a story with what they share — so even if you don’t fit into the one they’re telling, you may well fit into the next one.
SHQ: When do magazines, blogs and retailers start scouting for holiday themed items? How far ahead of the game do we have to be?
SS: Hmmm, that’s going to vary. ST doesn’t really follow the consumer calendar — it is targeted toward buyers and retailers, so we start thinking about winter holiday for our summer issue (which I start working on in spring if you can believe it!).
For my blog, I start thinking about holiday when consumers do — typically fall, though hopefully I’ll have started planning it a bit earlier. Since it drives their bottom lines, retailers I think always have holiday in the back of their mind — they’ll start planning at the summer gift shows — but if they think they can move one of your items, and you can deliver it quickly, they may incorporate it into their mix even after the selling season has started.
SHQ: What do retailers tell you that they wish stationery designers understood about their business?
SS: Oooh, another hard one! I think having a brick and mortar, or even an online venue, has gotten so challenging of late. A lot of retailers dislike it when wholesalers selling direct to consumers — they feel it undercuts their chances of succeeding with a given product line. That is a common complaint, but one I hear less and less these days. I do think smart (and therefore more successful) retailers know their distinctive mix, presentation, expertise and customer service attracts and retains their clients —they’re not going to see an Etsy shop as a serious threat. But they do love it when their vendors promote them on social media! And they love it if they can be the only one carrying a line within a certain radius, say 20 miles. I also think the more they know about the story of the artist or line, the better they can romance it.Sarah Schwartz is the founding editor and editor-in-chief of Stationery Trends, an award-winning, design-focused trade quarterly magazine devoted to all things paper. In producing each issue, Sarah reviews a huge volume of work encompassing both up-and-coming designers and established industry icons, plus many in between. She travels to trade shows around the world to spot emerging trends and is a frequent industry speaker — her seminars at National Stationery Show are typically standing room only and sell out each year. Sarah has been quoted extensively in the media and blogs at ThePaperChronicles.com. After graduating from NYU, she worked in various editorial positions in publishing including a stint in HarperCollins’ illustrated book division. Sarah lives in Ohio with her husband, young daughter and small dog.