Many hobbyists, professionals, and those who just love a topic or specialized subject matter sometimes choose to start a magazine to provide a place to bring together all kinds of interesting content for others to enjoy. If you have ever wanted to start a magazine, self-publishing is an excellent avenue to get started in the print magazine world. Let’s look at all of the things to think through before you start a magazine.
1. Start a Magazine: Decide on Content
The most important aspect to start a magazine is knowing that you will have access to quality content that will keep readers coming back to each publication to learn more about the subject. Usually, to determine magazine content, entrepreneurs decide to focus on a subject they know a lot about to develop a publication that they feel confident working with over time.
But having a quality content stream of both information and photos that can be utilized in the magazine is the most critical aspect of planning for a successful publication.
2. Do Your Research
Just like in any business, someone who wants to start a magazine should always check out the competition. Are there other magazines that fill this niche? Do other magazines cover this topic in whole or in part? Looking at what is already being published on the topic can help determine if your magazine will find its audience easily as well as what the intended audience is already enjoying.
While the marketplace can sometimes sustain more than one publication on the same topic, successful magazines usually have something unique or special about them that differentiates them from other publications. By looking at both printed and digital publications already out there, try to determine exactly what will make your magazine stand out from the competition before you even begin writing.
3. Roles: What Needs to Be Done
Writer – Content is king so make sure that you have one or more content writers to develop interesting and compelling content about your subject area. Having different voices in a magazine gives it character, so don’t be afraid to plan on multiple contributors. Writers may not only create articles or long-form content but also may write short stories, opinion pieces, or even product reviews relevant to your magazine topic.
Editor – Before you start a magazine, make sure you have someone comfortable not only revising content for its informational content but also can proofread it for errors or other problems. The editor will also work on the layout of the publication and ensure that details like page numbers, table of contents, and other technical aspects of the magazine are correct before sending it off to the printer.
Graphic Designer – Having eye-catching graphics, pleasing photo layouts, and readable fonts and designs within your magazine will help keep your reader entertained. When you start a magazine, it’s important to have a great graphic designer. A graphic designer should have a working knowledge of graphic design programs so they can work on the magazine as well as design advertisements for businesses that you partner with when needed.
Photographer – With the advent of high-resolution mobile device photography, having an in-house photographer may not be needed right away. But having access to quality pictures of at least 300 dpi to accompany your content will add to the look and feel of the new magazine.
Salesperson – Selling the magazine is the best way to get it into the hands of readers, so having at least one person in charge of making contacts with distributors, businesses, or other sellers of your magazine is needed to secure the long-term success when you start a magazine.
4. Revenue: Paying for the Magazine
The success of your new magazine depends in part on securing revenue over time. Not all magazines instantly begin paying for themselves with sales, so setting up two streams of revenue right away is necessary to create magazine success in the future.
Advertisers love to reach their target audience in a variety of ways and a new magazine with a specific audience can be a great opportunity for some businesses within your content area. Create a media kit to show businesses how they can benefit from this partnership by:
- Presenting the anticipated audience type and size for the magazine
- Showing mock-ups for advertisements of different sizes and placements
- Explaining the pricing structure for different ad sizes and choices
- Clarifying the offer to have your graphic designer help complete the advertisement design
- Providing an approximation of distribution potential
Distribution and Circulation
The second revenue stream for a magazine is to secure a way to sell the magazine once printed copies are ready, which you should consider before you start a magazine. A sales plan should consider the potential audience for the magazine and how to reach them through retail and direct subscription sales. Magazines should be easily accessible to interested consumers, so finding outlets to sell or promote the new magazine can jumpstart early sales.
New publications sometimes deliver complimentary magazines to targeted businesses, people closely related to or involved in the industry as well as local book or print publication sellers to encourage their endorsement. If subscriptions are planned from the first printing, include this information in the Media Kit to encourage advertisers to jump on board.
5. Start a Magazine: Formatting Content
Before getting too deep into creating the content when you start a magazine, determining the format to use is critical to ensuring that the final product will look fantastic. Using a free template to get started is always a good idea for first-time magazine creators.
A magazine’s look and feel is highly impacted by the layout of the content, so using a template with locations that will highlight your content, features, photos, and other interesting material included in your new magazine can help save time and make your magazine look professional and polished from the very first issue.
Another consideration when you start a magazine is to think about how it will be bound. Many magazines have a flat spine called Perfect Binding which works well for magazines. Glossy paper covers can be wrapped around magazines that use the Perfect Binding method traditionally seen on magazines.
For smaller publications, a Saddle-Stitched Binding may be the best option. Perfect for magazines up to 80 pages in length and secured with large staples, this less expensive binding may be a good way to get started with your magazine.
Some publications use splashy pictures for each edition while others use a common look or feel for each cover. But regardless of how your new magazine decides to face its customers with each cover, having sharp, captivating covers will encourage more people to pick up the publication.
Turning to a professional cover designer can help make sure the cover of your new magazine looks exactly the way it should.
6. Moving Forward: Continued Content
Entrepreneurs who want to start a magazine usually have a bunch of great ideas for the new publication. But since the beauty of magazines is the excitement of anticipating a new edition, fresh content should always be in process for future publications.
A few ways that new magazines continue to turn out new, interesting articles and stories are through the use of a few well-known strategies.
Guest Writers are a meaningful way to bring new voices and perspectives to the magazine. Look for experts in the field, spokespersons for related businesses, or other respected voices to deliver interesting and relevant content.
Themes can be created for each edition, each season, each month, or other category that makes sense for your magazine. Readers will look forward to upcoming editions when teasers for the next theme’s content are presented, bringing excitement and anticipation to readers and potentially piquing the interest of new readers.
Creating a Calendar that is published in every edition of the new magazine is an innovative way to present monthly themes, and special sections to see in the future or to simply let readers know when future editions will be available.
Spotlights on Businesses or Experts can add credibility when you start a magazine by presenting a focused piece on a company or individual that is deeply connected to the magazine’s main concept.
Social Media platforms can be a great place to increase interest in the new magazine and the magazine can use them to interact with readers, ask about their interests, see what kind of content they want, and even connect with experts in the field who might end up contributing to the magazine in some capacity.
7. Start a Magazine: Printing
When your final draft has been revised for errors in content, proofed for stylistic problems and double-checked for accuracy, it is time to send your magazine off to an experienced printing company.
Be sure to print a few more copies than you anticipate selling so your first edition will be available for anyone who wants it. As you print future editions, circulation increases combined with higher ad revenue might mean that your new magazine will not only break even but start becoming profitable very soon.
It is not uncommon, however, for fledgling publications to take a few editions to catch on and become popular enough to turn a profit for the creators.