How to Start a Magazine

Craig Elliott asked:

Dreams of becoming a magazine mogul and schmoozing with the other big wigs in the publishing and entertainment world have motivated many people to start their own magazine. Writers looking for an outlet for their work, or a person with a unique hobby or interest may take this option. Often, someone spots a niche that is not covered in their geographic area and decides to address it by starting a magazine of their own.

Unfortunately, for too many, this dream quickly turns into a financial nightmare. The magazine production costs quickly outpace the advertising and subscription revenue. Writing enough quality content to fill a magazine becomes an arduous task. Couple this with securing revenue to cover the costs of production and advertising to potential subscribers, and it become an overwhelming endeavor. So, how does one go about starting a magazine and making it work?

First, it is important to research the potential topic and see what the competition is for that particular market. A local sports magazine might work in an area where there is good support and a solid following for the local sports programs, if there is not already a magazine covering that topic. Trying to bring another national sports magazine to the market would be difficult with such favorites as Sports Illustrated, Sport, ESPN Magazine and others already occupying prominent spaces. This does not mean that a new magazine with a unique slant on the market wouldn’t succeed. Begin by researching what is already available and present a new idea or a new angle on an established idea.

Next, it is important to decide at what level (local, regional, or national) you are planning to approach the market from. If a local magazine is the goal, one person may be able to handle all the tasks. Trying to handle the production, advertising, sales, and writing is too much for anyone to handle when focusing on a regional or national scale. A larger magazine will require help from others to handle all of these tasks.

Another part of this planning process must include a decision on the delivery format. A magazine may be delivered in traditional, print format or in electronic media format. The electronic format is a much less expensive format, after initial setup. The cost of the domain name and web hosting will be the major expense when setting up an e-zine. The print option will entail more cost on each issue. The cost of the paper, printing, mailing, delivering, and storing the magazines must be taken into account. The frequency of issues will increase or decrease these costs. This is why some magazine publishers opt for a quarterly production schedule.

Determining the cost of production and the potential market will help you set advertising rates. This will also set the amount of space needed for advertising, and conversely the amount of space available for articles and other content. When setting advertising rates, factors such as the number of ads in the magazine, the estimated readership, and target businesses must be taken into account.

Pre-advertising and marketing the magazine title will help to build hype and start generating advertising revenue. Putting together a sample layout for use when approaching potential advertisers will help them see what you are proposing. Using the internet can help to build advance interest, as well. Press releases and free, or cheap, advertising will also help.

Filling the magazine with quality articles and other content is essential to the success of the magazine. This content may be produced by you or by other writers, depending on size of the magazine and the market. If you produce the articles, provide the pictures and do the advertising layout you will save a lot on production. If you need to buy articles, pictures, or pay for layout or formatting, the production costs will be higher. Sometimes it is possible to get writers who will work for exposure and a byline without pay, especially if there is the potential for pay later.

Finally, the magazine must be laid out and set up for production. It is important to find a quality printer for the magazine, if you go with the print option. For the first issue, it will be important to estimate the number of magazines needed. For subsequent issues, the subscription numbers and previous sales numbers will help determine print needs. It is always important to print more than the number purchased the previous issue. If an electronic format is chosen, the layout must be attractive and easy to navigate. Once the magazine is laid out and printed, or loaded up to the website, it must be delivered and promoted. A magazine is only as successful as its circulation numbers. Advertisers want to see a good return for their investment. They want to know that their advertisement is reaching as any people as possible. Ultimately, the success of the magazine relies on the number of people who read it.

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