Behind the Scenes with Paper Crafts Magazine

Paper Crafts Magazine is one of the most prominent print magazines in the paper crafting industry. For many designers, there would be no greater thrill than to see your own original project featured within its pages! That is why I am so thrilled that Susan R. Opel, Creative Editor of Paper Crafts magazine, accepted my invitation to share some “behind the scenes” details of how a project submission actually finds its way into the printed pages of their fabulous magazine!

Behind the Scenes with Paper Crafts magazine

Hi everyone. My name is Susan R. Opel, and I’m the Creative Editor for Paper Crafts magazine. Today I’d like to share a little bit about what goes into gathering the content for our magazine and special issues.

Can you believe the publication process begins almost seven months before you see the final printed magazine?

Our mission as the leading card-making publication is to empower our readers to make personal and meaningful connections through the art of paper crafting. We publish easy-to-recreate projects featuring the latest techniques, products, and trends by designers who are our readers. Through our clear step-by-step instructions, variety of styles, and our growing online community, we strive to inspire all paper crafters in an everyone-can-play community where all are welcome to contribute.

This mission is the driving force in gathering inspiring projects for each issue.

Before the Call

In the two weeks before each call for submissions is posted on our site and here in the call listings at, the editorial team gathers to plan the issue. The six people who attend these meetings – Editor in Chief Jennifer Schaerer, Managing Editor Kerri Miller, Trends Editor Cath Edvalson (via Skype – she lives in NH), Senior Editor P. Kelly Smith, Online Editor Holly Anderson, and me – discuss the scope of the issue at hand and hammer out a lot of details.

The Paper Crafts editorial team

Once we have the basic plan determined, I work up the call for submissions. My job is to clearly convey what we are looking for in the issue, but many editorial eyes look at the text before it goes public just to be sure. Since we depend on submissions from our readers (and anyone can submit – ANYONE!), this is a crucial piece of our publishing puzzle.

Call for Submissions

Calls are generally open for two and one-half weeks, allowing paper crafters ample time to sketch, plan, and create. The midnight deadline on Mondays always generates a flurry of activity on our submissions upload page!

During those two and a half weeks, I begin the next step of the process. As submissions begin coming in, it is my job to review every project online and begin narrowing down the number of projects for further consideration.

I look for great design, superb execution, clever uses of product, and fresh approaches to catch our reader’s eye, because that’s what our magazine is all about!

Consider the Numbers

For our most recent Holiday Cards & More issue, my initial narrowing down process still netted us a much greater number of projects for consideration than we could possibly publish. Here are some stats for your reference:

The number on the left is the number of projects submitted for that category, and the number on the right is the number of projects that “made it to the table” for further consideration.

Preparing for the Editorial Team Review

Once the midnight Monday deadline has passed, I spend Tuesday reviewing all of the projects that were submitted at the last minute, and then it’s time to print and sort them into categories.

For example, if the same stamp is used on two (or more) different cards, both printouts are placed together so that we can choose just one. And sometimes sections are sorted by style or icon or technique.

There were 2601 cards submitted to Card Creations 10, and this is about 50% of the submissions printed up for review by the editorial team.


Photo Guidelines

You’ll note from the stack pictured above that all of the designer’s personal information and project details are on the back of the scan– the front is just the photo of the project with no name or other identifying information, which is why we ask for images with no watermark. And, since this is the one chance for a design to be considered, we request that projects be photographed on a neutral background with no props to allow us to see the project in all its glory. Colorful buttons, doilies, and patterned paper backgrounds distract from the projects themselves.

Go-to-Gal Teri put together a funny blog post about submission photo guidelines HERE.

Every project that “makes it to the table” for submissions evaluation by our editorial team has done so by virtue of its great design, fresh approach, and current product. From there, though, we focus on picking the projects that best suit the concept of the issue and what our readers want, not to choose based on WHO made the card. This is why we call our submissions “blind” – even our Go-to Gals submit! No one is ever a shoo-in.

The Editorial Team Review:It’s Decision Time!

So Wednesday of submissions week finds the editorial team you met earlier (minus Cath who can’t join us in person from NH) around the big table in the conference room. Kerri is the numbers girl – keeping track of how many projects we need for each section. P. Kelly reads the initial call and reminds us what we’re looking for in each section. Holly polices sentiments, and Jennifer keeps an eye out for duplicated or outdated product.

All of us pay close attention to styles, because after years of annual reader surveys, we know the balance that pleases our reader. Fun & cute tops the list, then clean & graphic, then classy & elegant, and then shabby chic/vintage. This knowledge often drives our choices, and with so many fantastic submissions, we often have very difficult decisions to make. It’s a blessing that there are five of us so that we have a tie-breaker when necessary!

What I love about our team is that we are a team – we have different tastes (like our readers do), but we also can spot good design whether it’s our taste or not. And if you can make us laugh or get misty, we love that. And we think our readers do, too.

Give It A Shot!

So, why not give it a shot? Our next call for submission will be posted Wednesday, June 13th. Fast forward to the new year and get creative with birthday and Valentine’s Day themes! I look forward to reviewing your submissions soon!

An additional fantastic resource for anyone who is interested in submitting to Paper Crafts is our Top Ten Things to Know When Submitting to Paper Crafts magazine where you will find more tips to help with any other questions about submitting that you might have.

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