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Susan Crawford very successful as founder and editor of Ardmore Publications, but still cannot get high school English out of her blood.

In her career Susan Crawford says she had about "done everything." She's been a school teacher and a secretary and then, in 1983, winning our candor award, she says she was fired by a law firm and found that Leslie Norins at American Health Consultants "was the only one who would hire me." With that, she began another career, in newsletters.

In 1987, deciding she wanted her own business in order to not be responsible to anyone, she launched Medical Office Manager and Ardmore Publications.

(Since I grew up going to Saturday matinees in Ardmore, Penn., I had to ask. In this case Ardmore was the street next to her house. "I thought it would help people find us and, since I always thought I might want to publish something other than newsletters, I didn't want that word in the company name." Today the office address is a block away on Peachtree Street.)

Susan agreed to our interview, noting, "I've interviewed a few thousand people but this will be the first time anyone has ever interviewed me."

Began with a partner, briefly

She began the firm as a partnership but that didn't work out. "It was horrible but in the end I wound up with the newsletter."

Editor's Note: I always liked the advice from Lew King. "Never begin a venture as a partnership unless you are convinced your partner brings something absolutely irreplaceable to the venture because only two things will happen. 1. You'll succeed and fight over it, or 2. You'll fail and blame each other."

In 1990 she launched a second title, Law Office Administrator. On its website, the topics covered by the two titles look similar. The list of topics each covers contains a number of overlaps: managing staff, billing and collections, malpractice issues and others.

Crawford says, however, "Only once in a while is there overlap where the same article appears in both titles. Perhaps a piece I do on staff motivation, but it is rare. At the high prices we charge ($249 and $237 for monthlies), the content really has to be so specific to the reader. Our readers are more knowledgeable and critical than we sometimes give them credit for."

"Most widely read" in her field

Ardmore says the medical title is the oldest in its field and that both titles are the "most widely read" in their area. In the "secretive" world of newsletter circulation, I'm unsure how you could verify that, but with circulations of 4,000 and 2,700 respectively, Susan says that no one is challenging the claims.

Somewhat unusual (but highly recommended), the Ardmore website carries photos of the entire staff: Crawford, who writes the medical title; Bill Kimbro, who has edited the law office title since 1996; and Susan Scarbrough, "who does everything else."

A grammar column

Also uniquely, the law office title carries a monthly grammar column. The sample on the website is about conjunctions--coordinating conjunctions, conjunctive adverbs and the other stuff you probably hoped you left behind when you finished high school English.

"It's the English teacher in me coming out," Susan explains. "After a while I did wonder why I was doing this and stopped. And we got a lot of mail and phone calls, 8 or 10 anyway, saying they 'liked it and where was it' so I resumed. When we do reader surveys, the column gets consistent mentions as a favorite feature. Readers write that they Xerox it and circulate it to staff. I suppose I should worry about copyright violations, but I don't."


Ardmore is sticking to strictly traditional direct mail. "We've never done forced free trials. I do send sample issues on request. We used to include them in the promotion package, but I tested leaving them out and it didn't make any difference. We don't do e-mail marketing or publish any e-mail newsletters."

The internet, however, Susan explains, has been a wonderful editorial tool for her. "Especially on the medical office title. I used to have to scramble around in the Federal Register looking for things but now everything is online on the web. We do also get some subs from the website, but it isn't a major effort."

A unique ancillary

Ardmore has published "Lest You Forget," the poetry of Violet Witherspoon. The poems "report" a quarter-century relationship beginning early in the last century between a couple who could never marry. Adding to the intrigue, Crawford received the manuscript from an anonymous source.

"We've promoted it quietly in the newsletter," Susan says, "and did do a stand-alone mailing to our house lists, but otherwise it's been marketed as you would any other small press publication." (It's $21 and Ardmore accepts unpaid orders, trusting poetry buffs more than most consumer newsletter publishers do their subs.) The book was also an all-hands effort at Ardmore. Crawford did the art, Scarbrough the typesetting, and Kimbro "a lot of editing."

It's been a success--going to three printings. "Small printings," Susan concedes, "but good for a book of poetry."

Next in the works is a grammar text compiled from edited versions of her monthly grammar columns. "I intend it to be user-friendly," she says, "and not remind you of your high school English teacher."

Ardmore Publishing Co., P.O. Box 52843, Atlanta, GA 30355, 404-367-1991, fax 404-367-1995,
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Title Annotation:Publisher Profile
Author:Goss, Fred
Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:Feb 20, 2007
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