If you’re thinking about publishing a magazine, you should consider following two pieces of advice:
- Find your niche and stick with it.
- Get good help.
Most of what follows here deals with the help part, but the niche aspect deserves some attention. It could be said that every magazine fits into a niche. It’s just that some niches are bigger than others. For example, People fills the celebrity gossip niche, and GQ has mastered the men’s fashion nook. Even Time has a niche—world news.
But chances are you’re not going for the big kahuna quite yet. You want to start a little smaller. Why? Because the chances are also good that you don’t have millions of dollars to spend taking on the giants. Also, your interests might be a little narrower.
Maybe you want to communicate with a community of wood carvers or people looking for entertainment in a particular city or some other area of interest that involves a limited audience. That’s fine. It’s a good way to keep the workload manageable and make good use of your expertise.
Still, trying to succeed all on your lonesome remains a daunting challenge. Good help can allow you to spend more time being creative and less time dealing with the stress of trying to manage all parts of the business.
So now it’s time to move from strategy to boots on the ground. Putting a magazine together requires a number of skill sets, and few people have them all. You might be a great designer and writer but lack business ability, for example. The key is to identify your needs, your strengths and weaknesses and who can fill in the gaps. Here are some thoughts:
Tap into expertise before publishing your first issue
Are you a print person or an online person? Either way, you’re going to need to be internet savvy or find someone who is. A magazine without a website and/or an online edition misses opportunities that grow by the day.
Online magazine writer Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen suggests getting hold of a webmaster and search engine optimization wizard for help getting your magazine off the ground. “[I]f you’re serious about starting a profitable online magazine, you may not have time to learn and do everything.” Pawlik-Kienlen writes. “That’s when you might consider hiring a webmaster and SEO experts.”
Hire good writers
This is another area where it’s a good idea to start well before your first issue. Finding writers who have experience in your niche takes some time, but you can save a lot of trouble if you work with them instead of with someone who needs a long learning curve.
Whether you hire full-time, part-time or freelance writers depends on several factors, including money and comfort level. A full-time staff writer means a considerable financial investment. On the other hand, working with part-time or freelance writers adds a level of unpredictability. They’re likely to have other commitments because, frankly, most writers don’t make that much money. They need the work wherever they can get it.
You can save a lot of headaches and time by hiring the best writers you can find, even if they cost a bit more. Editing and rewriting take hours out of your schedule, and you face the possibility of even more time spent providing direction.
Your writers also should understand SEO and how to make it a part of the content they produce. Both print and online versions of your magazine can benefit from the higher search engine rankings possible with an effective SEO strategy. Just because readers use search engines to find information doesn’t mean they don’t like print.
Use talented photographers and illustrators
Chances are, you won’t hire a full-time photographer or illustrator, but you do need to have them available. Look for freelancers who do the kind of work you want seen in your magazine. A food photographer probably doesn’t have the same skills as a nature photographer, and the same goes for illustrators.
Bring on a designer with strong computer skills
The look of a magazine—whether on paper or on the screen—is critical. You need a designer who can handle design and layout for print as well as digital versions. Your designer must have experience with a good publishing platform and be able to prepare files for both print and electronic applications.
Remember, ad sales matter
You might be publishing a magazine out of sheer love for the subject matter, but you need revenue to support your venture. That’s where a dynamic salesperson comes in. You need one or more who are adept at finding and signing on advertisers for both your print and digital editions.
It’s not easy selling magazine advertising, so you also need someone who can come up with creative ways to add value. Can your salesperson help advertising customers with their marketing? What kind of incentives can your magazine offer to keep and attract new customers and build the relationship?
As your magazine grows. . .
At first, your magazine staff might consist of you and a couple of contractors who can get it off the ground. You might be doing all the ad sales, writing and designing, if you have the skills. But, eventually, you’ll need help or you risk burnout and loss of quality. Investing in other people and their skills can lead to a better publication and a healthier bottom line.
It’s important to remember that spending a little more money on full-time staff as well as part-time staff and freelancers can actually save time, money and stress. There will be fewer errors, better quality content and, consequently, more interest among readers and advertisers.