Part of my Knowledge Base.


Introduction

I’ve been interested in building my own indie magazine for some time now, I’m looking to record the most useful information I have found related to this endeavour on this page.

Content

  • Content is king
  • Good content comes at a price — decide how much content you’re including and how much you’re able to spend on acquiring it
    • Keep in mind that you will have to find similar amounts of content for each consecutive issue
    • Is it realistic to generate the same amount of content within each publishing cycle?
  • Think about how you locate your contributors/your content
    • There is nothing wrong with re-publishing existing content, if you can get permission and think that it is still fresh content for your specific audience
    • Republishing content can be a great, affordable way to resurface quality material and introduce it to another medium and audience (think online/offline)
    • You can also add value by, for instance, commissioning a set of new illustrations for an existing story
  • Decide whether issues are topical (meaning that each issue focuses on a particular theme) and determining whether your content is timeless or time-sensitive

Paying contributors

  • The question of how much to pay contributors for their work depends on your individual circumstances
    • If you’re not making any profit with your magazine (the so-called ‘passion project’) it might be easier to convince contributors to help out for free
    • If you recycle content or don’t ask for exclusive usage-rights, the fee might be a lot lower or non-existent
    • Some writers, photographers or illustrators might be happy to start with a very low fee that increases as your publication gains popularity and a wider audience
  • The hard truth is that most indie publications rely on a lot of favours by a lot of generous people
  • The reality is that — bar a few exceptions — small-scale indie publishing does not make a lot of money, and that is reflected in the fees paid to everyone involved in the making of an issue
  • If you’re uncomfortable with asking people for favours, indie print publishing is probably not your cup of tea

Production

Type of printing

Amount of colours

  • In most cases an offset print job is using four colours (CMYK), sometimes five and very rarely six (so-called spot colours)
  • Obviously, the more colours the more expensive, although there generally aren’t any big cost savings in printing with fewer than four colours, unless of course it’s just black

Format

  • There are no rules as to what shape or format your magazine should have
  • Your publication can be as small as a postcard or as large as a newspaper
  • You should go with what you personally like and what you think your readers will appreciate
  • The final size and weight of the finished magazine can have a huge impact on shipping costs
  • Closely related to the format/size of the magazine, you’ll have to determine how many pages you need to present your content
  • As a general rule – depending on the binding/cutting method used – it’s most economical and practical to calculate in eight- or sixteen-page steps

Distribution

Self-Distribution

  • Self-Distribution basically means that you are responsible for getting the magazine to your readers
  • Before we talk about logistics, the bigger question here is: how do you reach your customers? How do you get them to buy your magazine? If not through retail outlets, then online is your best option. The great thing about selling directly to your reader is that you can keep close to 100% of the profit
  • Need to set up a system for tracking orders, like Shopify or another custom set-up

Marketing

  • The clearer you define your audience and your niche, the easier it will be to stand out from the crowd and find a supportive, loyal community that is looking for a voice
  • By establishing who your reader is (and is not), you can tailor your voice/language accordingly
  • Another exercise you should do before spending any money on promoting your magazine is to make a list of what you want your brand to stand for
    • Create purpose page that you can refer to for all big decisions

Website

  • A well-designed, responsive, user-friendly website is therefore imperative

Content Marketing

  • Regularly creating fresh content for your website will attract new visitors, some of which you can hopefully convert to paying readers of your magazine
  • Many magazines choose to digitally (pre/re)release some of the content published in the magazine
  • Others create exclusive online content and sometimes refer/cross-promote to their magazine for extended coverage of the story
  • A weekly newsletter can help to stay in touch with readers between issues
  • Frequent blogging, being open about what’s happening behind the scenes, and actively seeking a dialogue with your readers is a great way to establish yourself/your brand as an authority in a certain field

Social Media

  • While it’s worth being on all the major platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram being the main three in Western countries), it’s important to focus on one or two that you think will work best for your audience

Email Marketing

  • No matter how boring or old-fashioned it seems, email is still the most powerful marketing tool for most online businesses
  • Receiving a personalised email just feels a lot more intimate than skimming through a never-ending stream of social media soundbites
  • Respect the time of your customers
  • Don’t feel pressured to send out emails on a regular basis
  • Only send out an update when you actually have something to say
  • “I usually send out an email between two issues to update my readers on what I’ve been up to, and then another one when the newest issue has been released”

Making Money

  • Pick a subscription price that makes sense
  • Try to make shipping free and pricing included in the RRP
  • Replace ads with sponsors if this works better for the readers

Resources