After putting out my own digital magazine, Steele Magazine, for the last 5 years and ultimately putting out the first ever print edition this year, I’ve learned a thing or two about independent publishing. It’s not for the faint of heart and it’s not for those who give up easily. Publishing is one of the most cut throat industries I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Yes, even more so than fashion and healthcare. Here’s what you need to know and a few questions to ask yourself before you consider publishing a magazine, whether it be digital or print.
Digital or Print
I’d advise every one to start off with digital. Make your mistakes there because those are able to be corrected. Once a print is printed it’s a done deal. There isn’t a lot of room for mistakes and mistakes will cost you a great deal of money. Digital is less costly as well. Steele Magazine has been digital for the last 5 years and hosted on ISSUU.com. I absolutely love ISSUU. The digital reader experience is amazing. You can also embed links and video in your digital magazine to increase the reader experience as well as monetize your magazine with affiliate links. I love that I can actually embed the entire magazine on my website as well for more exposure. Depending on what plan you choose you also get insights and analytics for your magazines which helps when pitching to brands for Ad placement as well as seeing what kind of content your readers enjoy the most (or which articles were read more often). I pay $39.99 monthly to host my magazines on ISSUU and it’s money well spent. You can also sell you digital magazines as well (at your own price point) and get paid regularly through Stripe.com or Paypal.
How Often Will You Publish?
If you have a full time job and your magazine is a passion project I’d start with anywhere from 1-4 issues a year. Magazines are extremely time consuming to 1. Shoot and Create Content For 2. Design 3. Find Advertising 4. Market 5. Publish (in that order). I find that even 1 time a year for me leaves me super stressed. But I do know people like my good friend Nigel who started his independent magazine Kolor Magazine, who manages to put out 3-4 Issues yearly most of which are 100 pages or less. Steele Magazine averages between 150-180 pages. Be realistic about how often you’ll be able to publish engaging quality content.
Don’t Expect Help
Publishing is like a secret society and people do not give out information. They aren’t going to tell you how much it costs to print and they certainly aren’t going to tell you where they print. It’s a very tough market to break into and so I understand when independent magazine editors hold that information close to their chest. It took me 2 years for me to find a great place to print my magazine. It took trial and error and a shit ton of research and money. Before I even got this magazine printed I already had tons of people emailing me about their own magazines wanting to know every single thing from how much I paid to what kind of paper I used. It’s called, google.
Learn Everything You Can About Printing + Shipping
This brings me to this point. I did about 100 hours worth of research about printing magazines. I visited printers. I watched videos. I learned what a bleed space was and the difference between 70-100 grade paper. I learned about inks and binding techniques and shipping costs. It is really expense to have a magazine printed. It’s hard to find a place that will print 1 magazine for less than $14. It costs anywhere from $7-$10 just to ship a magazine. Some printers will ship for you. Some printers will print on demand. I’m extremely type A and decided for my first ever print that I’d ship myself. Don’t forget to factor in expenses. You’ll need supplies from mailing envelopes to promotional materials.
The smartest money route for a first time print magazine would be Pre-Orders. Of course you’ll need to already know a few things about your magazine such as size and page number so you can guesstimate how much it will cost you to print and ship. I already had money set aside for printing for my first ever issue. I knew I wouldn’t break even for the first print run of Steele Magazine. This is why it’s wise to start digitally or at least create a fan base before printing a magazine. This ensures that you will have some sales. Luckily, I priced my magazine well and started to make a small profit. I also sold my digital magazine for the first time and put those money’s towards Steele Magazine’s Print Edition shipping costs. Additionally you can look into charging for Ad Placement but you’ll need to be able to back that up with sales + impressions (for digital issues) insights for brands. I used my sponsorship pitch template to help me with securing Ad Placements for the first Print Issue of Steele Magazine. I also had digital analytics to back up my previous years impressions and numbers of Pre-Orders to show my possible collaborators. This made it much easier for me to charge for Ad Placement or convince some of my favorite brands to dedicate Ad Space with a coupon incentive for readers.
Have a Team of Experts and Delegate Away
There’s no way to publish a magazine digitally or physically alone. You will need help. Just think about everything that goes into a magazine. You’ll need: writers, photographers/videographers, stylists, makeup artists, models, brands for advertisements, proof readers, graphic designers and more. It will drive you crazy, or blind or both to try to do it alone. I had help with every single issue. I’ve had writers on digital issues and a graphic designer who put together my latest issue. I did it all on my own previously. As the magazine grew and the demand for it grew I needed professionals to come in and do their thing. I stick to commissioning ads, interviews and writing and let my photographer, graphic designer, and copy editors do the rest.
Have a Contract for Everything
If you’re doing interviews or video interviews have a contract so that you don’t end up wasting time and money. People love pulling out of interviews last minute. Make sure you have a contract in those instances. Also have contracts for ad placements as well as specifications for ad submissions and ownership of photos, permissions and proper credits. I can’t tell you how many people will come out of the wood works looking for payment because you used a photo you didn’t have permission to use or didn’t credit correctly. I had to learn a lot of this the hard way with my digital issues and with this first print issue as well working with people who didn’t actually own photos they submitted.
GET THE LOOK
Be Prepared for No One to take you Seriously
Until your magazine is done and published most people won’t take it seriously. Nobody is going to care as much about your magazine as you are. You will have to be diligent about collecting articles, ads and meeting deadlines and make sure you’re on top of everything. It will be exhausting but it will be worth it. It will be bittersweet when you publish your first digital issue and hundreds of thousands of people are reading it or when you get that first print in your hand and orders start rolling in. Be prepared for it to change your life and be passionate enough about it for you and everyone else.
I’m so thankful for everyone who believed in Steele Magazine and purchased an issue whether digital or print this year. Your feedback means everything to me.