Epic Fail – “The ACM Affair”

I kind of like this expression, “epic fail.”  When my teenagers first started using this term about a year or two ago, I thought it was a little silly.  If the boys were playing a video game and had lost, the other would say it.  If my daughter was retelling a story about high school and someone had been embarrassed, it would be used.  As I listened to the context in which they used it, I grew to appreciate the expression.  So this is the story of an epic fail, not mine so to speak, but still…

For the past year I’ve been designing for a British company called All Craft Media, aka KALmedia.  They published a magazine called “KNIT,” formerly called “Yarn Forward.”  This is a very long story and if you want to know details, I refer you here to read the 8,000 posts to catch you up to date.  But to make a long story short, the publisher  has done some “shady” things in the past, like not paying designers and not returning samples, not fulfilling subscriptions to yarn clubs, etc.  Apparently, she previously changed the name of the company, her husband “assumed” the new company and then claims were made that they were not obligated to take on the previous company’s debts, i.e. designers who had not been paid.

For many months on KNIT’s group page on Ravelry, things were very bitter.  Designers who were new and had not experienced that treatment were saying so, which made the designers who hadn’t been treated well rightfully upset.  Speaking for myself, I understood why they were upset, I understood that it was grossly unfair, but since that hadn’t been my experience, I felt the need to say so as well as offering my sympathy for the crappy treatment they’d received.

I had some personal contact with the publisher, she seemed fine, answered my emails, and paid me (although not on time).  I also worked with a bunch of lovely people there; first there was Zoe Clements, she was the editor with whom I first dealt.  She left sometime last summer (maybe this should have been a clue for me).  Then there was Naomi Leeds, the new editor.  She was wonderful, too – very supportive, professional, and easy to work with.   Then there was the constant, Mandy, the office administrator, who dealt with all the persnickety issues of invoices, packages, payments, etc.  I also had contact with tech editors.  It was mostly a pleasant experience.   I received payment for work done and my samples were returned as per my contracts.

However, I was wary about submitting again and  hesitated to do so until I’d received most of my payments for the four designs I’d done in 2011.  So, this February, when I’d gotten all my payments, I submitted again — 6 designs, of which 5 were accepted.  It’s always nice to be published.  Even though I’d had to source my own yarn, I was happy with the arrangement that allowed me to get my samples back (something US magazines don’t usually do) and that the terms allowed me to publish them myself in 3 months.

The first one, a vest, had been done and received by ACM and was scheduled for their one-skein issue 50.  The next two, an infinity scarf and a shawl, were done and sent and were scheduled for issues 51 and 52.

The first Friday of this month, I received an email from the editor stating that she’d been called into a meeting and told that the company/magazine was no longer.  I later learned through Ravelry that most British businesses are paid monthly and have a one month lag time, meaning everyone at ACM was not paid for April.  They had been told to leave and return on the next business day to collect their personal effects.

I have a couple of things to say about all this:

1.  I’m devastated for the staff at ACM.  They lost their jobs and in this economy where jobs are not so easy to come by, I feel sad for those people I’ve come to know, like and respect.

2.  I feel a fool for not listening to those voices who were telling me what their experiences with the company had been and not realizing that it could happen to me.

3.  I’m out the money for the yarn (I try to source all yarn for all designs as soon as I’m accepted) and the money for the designs.  In this case it was a few hundred dollars for the yarn and a few hundred for the published pieces.

4.  In two cases, I am very embarrassed, because there were two (well-known) yarn companies who provided yarn support and I’ve had to tell them what’s happened.  They’ve both been extremely nice about it, but I still feel like it may influence their decision to provide yarn support the next time.

5.  I feel lucky.  I’m getting my samples back.  The vest was mailed back to me by an anonymous source and the other two which were in transit have been “returned to sender.”  I’m going to publish these pieces personally through Ravelry.

It is disappointing — not just the bankruptcy, but also the treatment a lot of people had and are continuing to receive.  Not the worst news — no one is dead or dying or critically injured, but still not really what I wanted to hear.

The talk now is that the magazine has been bought by Tailor Made Publishing and Zoe is back at the helm under the title “Yarnwise.”   Tailor Made is not associated with the previous publisher or her family.

I’ve been reluctant to say anything about this for a many reasons, but mostly because I’m over it.  Still, as my kids would say — “epic fail.”

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