Archive | March, 2009

CK Media: Following the money (or lack of it)

More evidence is starting to mount of how widespread the personnel effects are going to be on CK Media’s scrapbooking publications because of non-payment of their staff and contributors.

Many of the regular contributors who lost money in the settlement forced on them in the work that CRG Partners has been doing for CK Media are indicating they will most certainly not submit work or do assignments for the company again in the foreseeable future. Many familiar faces will be absent from the magazine in issues starting a few months from now.
But many of the company’s “regular” staff are making it clear that they haven’t been paid either, and many are now gone from the company as a result of this or the layoffs at Digital Scrapbooking and Simple Scrapbooks.
The latest to join the exodus from CK Media is their web hostess (and author of Supply Savvy: Scrapbooking) Erin Lincoln. Erin had acknowledged earlier this month on the CK message board that she was owed money from CK Media for her work for them. Now she has let it be known in a 2nd post on the board (actually dated the 20th) that she left her position with CK Media around the first of March. Her post leaves little question as to the reason why. Erin has taken a new job packing orders for a friend’s online scrapbook store.
Another apparent victim of the payment problems is longtime CK Media contributor Molly Newman. A veteran of both Simple Scrapbooks and Digital Scrapbooking and a regular contributor to Digital Scrapbooking (including in its current e-newsletter format), she indicated a few days ago on her blog that she has not received any payments for her work from CK Media since December.
It is a frightening symptom of how severe the cashflow problems have been at the company when their masthead contributors were not being paid. The company is being stripped of a lot of its top talent, and they will have a hard time replacing it given their current situation.

[Jobs] Michaels Scrapbook Designer, Archiver’s Store Manager, Sales Assistant

The following scrapbook industry jobs are currently available:

Designer, Scrapbooking Papers and Products – Michaels Stores:

The position previously posted on Scrapbook Update for a scrapbooking product designer for Michaels private label is still being advertised on and the Michaels HR site.

This position is full-time and located at the company’s Irving, TX (Dallas area) headquarters. (Please note that the company says on its website that it will not consider freelance, virtual or contract designers for this position. Applicants must be willing to relocate to the Dallas area.)

Position requires minimum two years experience designing scrapbook products (paper, stickers, embellishments, tools, etc.). Qualified applicants should also have a Bachelor’s Degree, and proficiency in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, along with “solid sketching and drawing skills”.

No pay rate is mentioned but the company offers a wide range of benefits, including medical/dental/vision, 401k, FSA, and day care discounts.

Store Sales Manager – Archiver’s (Columbus, OH):
The scrapbook super store is searching for a full-time Store Sales Manager for its Columbus, Ohio location. Some of the responsibilities of Store Sales Managers are managing and supervising store staff, monitoring and controlling inventory, and planning store events.

Qualified applicants should have at least 3 years of high-paced retail experience, and at least an Associate’s Degree. Scrapbooking, rubberstamping or arts & crafts experience preferred.

Sales Assistant – Company Unknown:
An unnamed crafts company is advertising for a Sales Assistant in the “West”. Position requires BS or BA level degree, and proficiency in MS Word, Powerpoint and Excel. Experience in and “passion” for the scrapbooking and rubberstamping industries is also desired.

Responsibilities of the Sales Assistant include:

Provide the Director of Sales with support by maintaining strong and timely relations. Assist and support in the areas of sales, marketing, plan-o-grams, credit, costing and purchasing, and data processing, order processing. Maintain a thorough knowledge of account history, product availability, incentive programs, and sales promotions. In addition, you will create craft/scrapbook projects for retailers utilizing current products. Occasional travel to accounts and tradeshows.


Major Changes for Memory Makers Masters Contest Rules for 2010

The rules for the 2010 Memory Makers Masters Contest have been announced, and they are a huge departure from previous years.

Submissions to this year’s contest will only be accepted online, and there will be a $10 entry fee – both a first for the contest. Contest entries are to consist of only 4 layouts. One is to be a layout created from the theme of “My Life”, and the other three are open choice, to represent the best work of the entrant. The deadline for entries is August 22nd.

In contrast to previous years, which required the submission of never-before-seen layouts, 3 of this year’s layouts (all of them except the My Life themed one) may be previously published work.

But the biggest change of all is in how the contest’s winners will be determined. 20 finalists will be chosen by the Memory Makers judges. The “My Life” layouts of the 20 finalists will then be publicly posted for a round of blind web voting by the public, to determine the 10 winners. Online voting will take place Sept. 9th-20th, and the winners will be announced before Sept. 25th.

Response from potential entrants to the rules changes has definitely been mixed, as can be seen in the Pub on Two Peas In A Bucket. The online entry procedure and entry fee are generally being accepted well, and sentiment is definitely positive about being able to enter without having to send an example layout that will not be returned (as was the case in previous years). However, there seems to be a lot of hesitation and concern about the new online public voting part of the judging.

Generally, concern is that the voting process will devolve into a popularity contest, despite Memory Makers’ promise that there will be rules for the finalists to keep the process blind and prevent it becoming a popularity contest. The concerns of most potential entrants seems to be that because the “My Life” layouts are the ones that are going to be posted for judging, it will be easy to tell who the finalists are, and that it will be impossible to prevent finalists from spreading the word via email requesting that people vote for them. Some people are already indicating that the fact that they feel they could never win the “popularity contest” of online voting will keep them from entering.

Is it impossible to keep public voting from being nothing but a popularity contest? Let’s just consider for a moment that Steve Wozniak has lasted this long on Dancing With The Stars, and leave it at that.

Of course, maybe a popularity contest wouldn’t be so bad for Memory Makers…they’d find out which of their finalists have the biggest fan base, and are the most marketable.


Use Quickbooks for Free!

Maybe even more than January, this time of year is resolution time for many Americans. As we struggle with doing our taxes, we promise ourselves that next year we will keep more organized records and be more disciplined about our accounting.

Of course, if you are self-employed or a small businessperson, the burden of completing your tax paperwork this time of year is even more complex. But if you are someone who works as a contractor in the industry (such as a designer or instructor), and has less than 20 customers paying you for your work – there is actually a free solution to your accounting problems!

That solution is a little-advertised version of Quickbooks called Quickbooks Simple Start. Available for free download from the Intuit website, it is a highly simplified easy-to-use version of Quickbooks. Simple Start’s home screen displays a flow chart of where money is coming in and out of your business, to make it easy to find the function that you need to use. Simple Start also provides invoicing features and tax reports that are exportable to Turbo Tax to make completing a Schedule C or 1065 return easier.

If you have more than 20 customers (people that you work for), there is a paid version of Simple Start that lifts the 20 customers limit. The paid version of QuickBooks Simple Start 2009 has a street price of only $42.49 on Amazon (MSRP $99.99).

The one annoying limitation of Simple Start (both paid and unpaid versions) is that it doesn’t support downloading bank transaction information from your bank. For that, you need to upgrade to the Quickbooks Pro or Premier versions, which start at an MSRP of $199. (Street Prices on are $135 for QuickBooks Pro 2009 and $314 for QuickBooks Premier Edition 2009.)  But for many people, that download capability will be all that is missing from Simple Start, and unless you make a lot of transactions on your business bank and credit card accounts, it hardly seems worth the stiff price of the upgrade for the slight convenience.

Tax time this year has made me decide that I have outgrown my Excel spreadsheets I’d been using since forming my LLC. I’ve been taking the free version of Simple Start for a spin, entering my data while doing my tax preparation. I’m having to enter my data by hand, from scratch, because Simple Start doesn’t support data import of any type. But it has been a good investment of my time – the results are balanced bank accounts and the ability to manufacture a variety of useful reports analyzing my data. My data is now in a format that allows for painless future growth, since it can be imported into other Quickbooks products if my business outgrows Simple Start (which of course is the marketing purpose behind Simple Start’s existence).

I’m having no problem learning Simple Start. It is very intuitive to use and you don’t need to know much about accounting principles. The user interface walks you through everything you need to know to do set-up, and the terminology is things we are all familiar with – write checks, record expenses, etc. I’ve actually found it much easier to use than the Quicken Home & Business version from Intuit that I previously did my accounting with before I formed an LLC for my business and required separate business & personal accounting.

You can’t do much to rescue yourself from the pain of tax time this year, but for the low, low price of…free…you can save yourself a lot of trouble next year by trying Quickbooks Simple Start!


News Notes: CK Media, Layle Koncar, Renee Pearson, Jessica Sprague, Angie Lucas

A lot of news has crossed my desk in the past few days…here’s a round-up of the highlights:

Layle Koncar moves to Basic Grey

Well-known scrapbooking designer/instructor Layle Koncar was let go from her position at Scenic Route in January due to economic concerns at that company. She announced this week on her blog that she will be starting a full-time position with Basic Grey on April 8th.

Creating Keepsakes revamps website; Sprague to move tutorials

CK Media rolled out an unannounced revamp of their scrapbooking and papercrafts websites today. The new site has a new social media-style community on it (existing alongside the old message board at the moment, at least). The new layout is heavy on banner ad space and has a more “web 2.0” feel than their previous design.

Unfortunately it seems some popular content was lost in the move to the redesigned site. In response to complaints about her video tutorials from past issues no longer being on the CK site, Jessica Sprague has indicated on the message board at that she is planning to move the tutorials to her personal site. Sprague, who has been a valued talent of CK Media in the area of digital and photography, indicated she was “very tired of the unreliability of the CK web site”. It has long been a common complaint about the site that bonus content links being advertised by the company’s magazines are not correct or active.

Renee Pearson’s book “delayed” by CK Media; Pearson plans new website

CK Media was scheduled to release the latest book from fabulous digital scrapbooking instructor Renee Pearson (recently let go from Digital Scrapbooking Magazine) this month. However, she revealed on her blog in late February that Digital Designs for Scrapbooking: Getting Started with Photoshop Elements was being “pulled from the publishing schedule” due to the financial situation at CK Media and that she did not expect it to ever be published.

There is some exciting news coming for Pearson’s fans, however. She is about to launch a new website at on April 1st where she will be able to teach all of her popular digital scrapbooking classes. Visitors to the site now can take a look at a preview video and sign up for the mailing list so that they don’t miss anything when it actually launches.

New website is online home for Angie Lucas

Former Simple Scrapbooks Managing Editor Angie Lucas has launched a new website to be her online home now that she is no longer with the defunct magazine. Yeah, write is devoted to topics of “journaling, scrapbooking, and other -ing verbs” according to Angie.


Alert: Scrapbooking Top 50 Now Charging For Listings

Scrapbooking Top 50, the website that bills itself as “ranking and providing the highest quality websites related to Scrapbooking Industry [sic]”, has stopped offering free listings in its directory to website owners. Instead, Scrapbooking Top 50 is now requiring that websites pay a fee of $9.99/month to take part in the rankings. Owners of previously ranked websites are being given 14 days to pay up, or they will be deleted from the rankings.

Consumers need to be made aware of this change because up until now, the site has served as a fairly good directory of what the top-trafficked scrapbooking websites were. Most major sites took advantage of the free sign-up and installed the tracking script on their sites. The result was a fairly complete ranking of scrapbooking websites by their traffic count.

However, the advent of pay-for-play on the site transforms the listings from being a fairly pure index of the most popular scrapbooking sites into an index of “the most popular scrapbooking sites that were willing to pay us $10/month.” It changes the whole purpose of the site, from a service to consumers that is supported by accompanying advertising (just like Google’s search results pages), into one single gigantic billboard.

As of yet very little change has been made to the site to reflect the fact that the content consumers are seeing is all paid ads – the site is still presenting itself as a “comprehensive” guide to scrapbooking sites on the internet. The only change is in one spot on the FAQ page that lists the new cost and on the “add a page” section – places many users are not likely to visit. I hope consumers visiting the site are made aware of the overall change in the site’s mission when companies start to get deleted due to the new payment system.

I’d love to hear from site owners about how they feel about this change – Do any think it is worth it to pay the fee?