At Gorkana, we monitor over 3,000 magazines, this ranges from the mainstream mags you can pick up at your local store such as Vogue or GQ, to niche independents such as Delayed Gratification (creator of the term “slow journalism”).
But with the usual monthly glossies dropping in circulation month on month, the question has been asked: is print dead?
The hundreds of independent magazines proudly squashed together on display at the MagCulture shop in East London gives a pretty confident answer: no.
I attended an event there this week which showcased a new book called “So You Want to Publish a Magazine?” with a talk from the author followed by a Q&A. The crowded cluster of creatives in the tiny heatwave-suffocated shop showed that there’s still a thirst out there for content, more tangible than digital.
Angharad Lewis, author of said book and contributor to Graphik, interviewed lots of different independent magazine owners to try and discover the winning formula to being successful in a ‘dying’ market. For the MagCulture event, she whittled down her top eight tips and tricks for making your way into the indie mags market:
1. Have a great phenomenal idea
Angharad displayed a quote direct from her book: “you need to be able to justify the fact you’ll be killing hundreds of trees”. Is there an audience for your idea – this has to be the first thought in your head if you want to be successful. Her favourite examples of magazines creating a twist on a typical genre is Anorak, the children’s magazine, and Riposte.
2. Be prepared for there to be 10 times more hard work than you imagine
Mainstream magazines have whole offices behind their content yet are still struggling, so independent creators need to be prepared for some hard graft. Angharad used the example of the two editors behind the successful Eye Magazine – yes they write the articles and create the layouts, but they also do the admin jobs of ordering barcodes and organising orders.
She added that her aim for the book was not to answer all questions but to help avoid pitfalls and mistakes that are made over and over again.
3. Think print, act digital.
Although everyone at the event were all obvious lovers of print, Angharad advised that digital and online are both our friends. A lot of magazines have regretted not focusing as much attention on their digital presence from the very beginning.
4. Be realistic
Wrap, the magazine which has beautiful graphic illustrations on one side of their pages and editorial on the others, were only a couple of pages thick for their first issues. But the strong concept was there, and as they got more popular they were able to expand.
5. Do the sums (and make some money)
Angharad knew finances were a thorny issue so she made sure that she spoke to every publisher about it so new magazines could learn from it. Some magazines are self-funded, such as LAW – and the editor even sold their dream car to finance it! She concurred that you not only need to think of the initial funding but also the ongoing sustainability.
6. Work with your friends
This was the point that Angharad was really passionate about – she told us how you can really hear the tone of voice when a close team work on a magazine together, e.g. in Oh Comely. She used Dazed & Confused as another example – the zine was started off by a real group of people that had formed a sub-culture and the magazine reflected that.
7. Perfect a publishing model
Everything needs to be really thought through: what will the frequency of the publication be, will there be adverts, how will you get revenue, what will the weight of the magazine cost to send?
Works that Work magazine was an example of a publication with a very unique method: social distribution. If a reader is going somewhere – whether down the street or to another country – they can contact the magazine and basically become a magazine mule! They will be given instructions on where to drop off the mags… and they do this for free, with the guarantee that they’ll probably meet someone interesting at the other end.
8. Evolve, invent, expand, celebrate!
If your magazine gets to a certain stage, it survives and there is a good working model then you can start bringing in new things and flex your creative muscles. A good example of this is Cereal Magazine – creator Rosa is incredibly ambitious. Their first issue had a print run of 1,500 but within 2 years this had increased to 25,000. Her advice? “You can’t just sit there.”
Finally, Angharad concludes, if you’ve got this far: time to party.
Now don’t you think “Gorkana Magazine” has a good ring to it?