Is the magazine viable?
You may have an idea that you're full of enthusiasm for, but is it a sound business proposition? Begin by asking yourself some questions:
Is there a demand for this magazine?
Are there enough advertisers in your market place to
support the magazine?
Is there enough editorial to sustain your magazine?
Who is your audience and how will you reach them?
Can this magazine be profitable?
Do you have the cashflow to manage start-up costs?
Know your costs
Your main costs are likely to be staff, print and distribution. Add them together over one issue and it will give you an idea of how many pages you can afford to run to and make a profit at the same time. Next, add up all the editorial you have planned, including set pieces that will occur in each issue. Then add up your advertising. If you combine these figures it gives you a maximum number of pages you can print. The number of pages a magazine runs to should be divisible by four and preferably by 16. Being divisible by 16 means there are fewer sections to print. You will probably find a 48-page magazine cheaper to print than a 44-page publication.
The sales pitch
A sales person's job is to generate income for the magazine. This can be achieved through adverts, classified or inserts including CDs, stick-ons, belly wraps, promotions etc. In reality all a good sales person needs is a contact list and a telephone. The sales pitch will do the rest.
It is essential, however, that the sales person knows their product. They must understand their audience, what the editorial will be, who the competition is. It's a good idea to make a list of why a company should advertise in your magazine. At the same time, make a list of reasons why people have said 'no' to advertising. And always close the call making sure you have explored every different type of advertising available to a client. If you don't know the answer to a client's question say so - and make sure you get back to them with an answer.
Adverts come in a variety of formats and, these days, many are sent in via email in pdf format. In some cases, however, an advert will arrive by post with just a compliment slip as the logo and some editorial scribbled in biro. In these cases, the production department has to use its design skills to create an advert which is then sent back to the client for approval.
Get the words right
Your editor will source the editorial for your magazine. You may need an inhouse team of writers or you may choose to source the copy from freelancers. All copy will need to be sub-edited to fit the house style and eliminate errors. The final pages will also need to be carefully proofread to ensure that no mistakes slip through. Remember that the editorial is the core element of your product. It's important to invest time and money in good copy
- otherwise nobody will read it!
Good magazine design makes a huge difference to publications. It helps the reader find their way about the magazine, ensures that the copy is easy to read and creates impact. Many successful magazines have editors and designers working closely together to optimum effect.
However, some magazines, particularly business and niche titles, adopt a more streamlined template approach which saves on cost and time. In this case the copy may be flowed in by the production team, or even by the sub-editors working on the copy.
Draw up a flatplan
The flatplan is a sheet showing what content will appear on what page. It's usually drawn up by the editor in consultation with the advertising and production managers. The editor will know roughly how many words are required to fill each page and so will commission on the basis of the flatplan. Similarly, the flatplan sets a target for the ads team in terms of how many pages they have to fill - and they will have a 'yield' (profit) that they aim to make on each one. It is not uncommon for the flatplan to change - for instance, there may be a need to drop a story, or add in some extra ad pages.
Manage the print
A good understanding of the print process is a key skill for any publisher. The production manager will prepare the magazine files in the format required by the printers, and then monitor the process to ensure the magazine is printed to specification - sometimes visiting the printers to pass the publication on press.
Do you have the software?
The two main software packages used by magazine publishers are InDesign (Adobe) and Xpress (Quark).
InDesign is a newer kid on the block, giving the more established QuarkXpress a good run for its money. It's also easier to pick up and work with if you already use other Adobe products. Pagemaker, InDesign's predecessor, is also still used by some publishers.
Get the magazine out there
How do you get the magazine out to your target audience?
These are the most common ways:
You simply distribute the magazine in public areas or post them to people. This is relatively simple but puts all the pressure on the ads team to make the revenue required.
To make your magazine available through newsagents and supermarkets, you will probably use a distribution company such as Menzies Distribution. Generally, a percentage of your cover price is taken by both the distributor and retail outlet.
A subscriber will pay you a yearly subscription in advance and it will be up to the publisher to maintain this information electronically and mail the subscriber's copy after each issue is published. There are specialist companies who will do this for the publisher. This is the most cost-effective method of distribution as it automatically controls your print run and there is very little wastage.
Explore online opportunities
Could you create a website to complement your magazine? For many magazine publishers, the 'threat' of the internet has simply offered a great opportunity to publish
in a different medium.