January 21, 2016 § Leave a comment
I Googled this subject line. Results include:
- A Wikihow page riddled with exclamation points by an author who maybe has published a Zine or taken a marketing class.
- A magazine startup guide on MagazinePublisher.com. MagazinePublisher.com’s logo uses the Impact font.
- Various businesses offering to print your magazines.
Of course, these never answered, “How much will printing a magazine cost?” How could they? Every publication is different. When I searched for a printer for The New Territory, I didn’t use any guides and didn’t bother with services online. In fact, I probably spent relatively little time deciding. That said, I humbly offer this case study as an alternative to generic instructions.
How we decided how our magazine would look
Woo, hey, this is important: What’s the footprint (dimensions) of the magazine, and how many pages are you going to print?
Over the holidays, Katie—yes, the Katie of roadtrip fame, and now NT’s creative director (!)—and I fanned a couple dozen magazines over a table in a coffee shop. We talked the tactile aspect of magazines (likes: Offscreen’s size and subtle embossing, how ink soaks into non-gloss paper like the great photos on The Outpost; dislikes: Fast Company’s sandpaper cover, the disposable feel of Harper’s despite some of the most timeless and valuable journalism). We walked away with some pretty firm priorities that helped limit our decisions.
- Quality material: While I’ve been leaning toward a higher-end feel to the printing, the democracy-loving journalist in me cried a little. But, as Katie’s business-savvy husband coached, the magazine is a product, and to convince people to buy it, it needs to feel special. We can still post policy-important stories for free online, but the print product will be exclusive. So, thicker paper, perfect binding (versus stapled or saddle stitched), here we come.
- Size: Small-size publications that would fit well on a bookshelf just feel permanent. Since we’re indie, quarterly and longform, this seems like the right size for us at this time. If we increase frequency, we might redesign to mimic regular magazines, but for now we’re going small and thick.
- Local: The only firm focuses of NT is our regional scope, so we want to source locally whenever possible. And, it’s been really nice to visit printers in person, touch all their papers, see their titles, get good shipping rates, and know that
ifwhen I have boxes of leftover copies, I can just go pick them up and not have to pay for shipment.
- Responsible paper sourcing: We all come from strong roots in sustainability, so if possible, we want to lighten our environmental impact.
What printers offer, and how much they cost:
Turns out, mid-Missouri has several businesses in the national magazine printing scene. I researched a few and visited two. I share the following information for your comparison purposes:
Printer A: 96 pages, with a 60# soft gloss paper and 80# matte cover in 8.5″ x 11″*
* This company runs a web printer, so setup costs are high. The sales rep told me we could go as small as we want, but the web printer doesn’t have a lot of flexibility and whatever margins we slice off would end up recycled. And we’d pay the same price either way. So we were only quoted for a standard paper size.
1,000 copies: $5,306.16 (or $5.31/copy)
2,000 copies: $5,784.35 (or $2.89/copy)
My takeaway from this company was that they were really good, and they’re really well equipped to do big print runs. But, they said, until we can print about 5,000 copies, they aren’t able to do any custom orders on paper. The basic paper options were either too glossy or too low-budget-feeling for our tastes, too. So, the search continued.
Printer B: 96 pages, with 60# offset paper and 80# accent opaque cover in 8.5″ x 11″*
* Listing here for comparison purposes.
1,000 copies: $4,394.26 (or $4.39/copy)
2,000 copies: $5,432.80 (or $2.71/copy)
in 7″ x 10″*
* This printer does sheet printing, so they could fit more pages onto a sheet if we go this size or smaller.
1,000 copies: $4,332.98 (or $4.33/copy)
2,000 copies: $5,326.03 (or $2.66/copy)
Of course, I understand knocking down the size means less space to put words and pictures—and thus we are actually diminishing our potential by rolling with 7×10. But it’s a principle and damnit, we’re standing on it.
Also, since this printer has equipment more attuned to smaller print runs, we save a lot of money on the upfront cost. “Once you get to 20,000, you might want to explore other options,” the sales rep told me. I’ll be super happy if we can get the first 1,000 in peoples’ hands for this first issue, so that is a-ok for now.
I also noticed that even though I told my sales reps we would be printing 128-page minimums, which is still within their 16-page signature standard, I always got quotes for 96 pages. I don’t know if that’s to not lose us at sticker shock, or if 96 is some sort of industry standard. But just so you know, we do hope to be thicker than 96 pages.
Other things to keep in mind when choosing a magazine printer:
1.) How the company will ship. Both these printers are equipped to take your mailing list and ship it out under their media license (Printer B even had a USPS office on-site), so they were pretty equal in that category.
2.) What other custom printing options they can offer. Do you want blow-in cards (those little subscription cards that fall out whenever you pick up magazines from the grocery store)? Do you want your magazine packaged in a poly bag, so you don’t have to design a name label on the cover (Printer A charges $50/1,000, plus a $75 setup fee)? Special inserts? Custom covers? Printer A prints its special covers through a “mothership” partner the specializes in yearbooks. Printer B has a little machine that can do embossing and metallic foiling on-site, but they still have to order die cuts for the process. These are all things you ought to consider ahead of time and ask during a visit.
Another option for self-publishing:
Like I said, I didn’t bother looking at online options, but when I scanned a few sites today, it looked like they were targeting companies just printing magazines as a sidenote, AND the sites charged more upfront than the local presses.
However, if you’re lucky enough to live near an “Espresso Book Machine,” that might be an option for a micro-run of a magazine. The Mizzou Book Store has one, and it does good stuff! The quality feels a little homespun, and the cost per copy is going to be higher, but the store keeps all their projects on file and can print on demand for you anytime. When I taught writing at the Missouri Scholars Academy last year, we got 25 copies of our class book proofed and printed in the span of 3 hours, and with the university discount, it cost just under $5 for a ~60-page book in 7″ x 10″. Not too shabby!
Alright, that’s all I know. Or–is it? I bet if you have questions, I have an answer. Leave me a comment!
September 16, 2015 § Leave a comment
Kai Brach is founder and publisher of indie mag Offscreen, a print book about the tech world. On its website, Brach blogs often about magazine making in a much more informed and succinct manner than I. He also gives talks on his process, and I’ll dissect one because I listened to it this morning and loved every minute.
Things he does that are different and/or practical and/or rad
- Make a spreadsheet of the content plan! Ah, if only I could zoom into that video.
- Use Google Docs as people enter their contributions.
- Make a calm, sophisticated, thoughtful, approachable and friendly layout, to counter the hyperlinked world of the Offscreen audience.
- Use 100% recycled paper! It even has woody debris?
- Replace advertising with unified sponsorships. A reader told him they read every single word of the magazine, including the advertisements. Brill. Eee. Ent.
- Go through stockists rather than traditional newsstands. I have put blinders on the idea that distributors take 20% of your cover price, and retailers keep another 40%. Plus, once it’s off the newsstand, the issue is sent to the crematory. “I don’t want to see my babies destroyed,” he said. Neither do I!!
- He asks his subjects for photographer suggestions. Since this is an international title, it makes sense that you wouldn’t have a robust global network, especially at first. Could still apply to a regional magazine.
- He also, somewhere in there, mentioned that he found people much like I’ve been finding people: Twitter, clicking links, reaching out. That’s encouraging, too. 🙂
And here’s a more recent talk, just as open and interesting as before.
Offscreen is donating $10 of all single issue purchases to help refugees in Europe, hopefully through the rest of the day (it’s already Thursday in Melbourne, oops).
Kai! You’re an inspiration! Keep doing what you do, and I intend to join your print club soon. « Read the rest of this entry »
April 12, 2015 § Leave a comment
The internet has so many publishing platforms and concepts. I’m overwhelmed. I don’t think I want to play that game.
Ok, here’s one that sounds cool: Deca. Its (experienced and acclaimed) journalists formed a cooperative to create and sell longform stories for tablets, phones, etc. with subscriptions that cost $3 per story or $15 per year. They’re hosted on Tugboat, a “storefront” website (publisher? platform?), which reminds me a little bit of Beacon, without the crowdfunding emphasis.
Deca’s inspiration, so the story goes, comes from Magnum, a member-owned photo agency formed in the 1950s as photo technology became more accessible. It’s a great inspiration to cite, though Deca is certainly not the first group of writers to strike out together on the internet (see Climate Confidential, for instance). And they almost always sound cool, really.
“What originally excited me about Byliner was that it wanted to let writers chase those long investigative stories and would pay them to do so,” the author says. “It didn’t work out. That doesn’t necessarily mean such a model can’t work — it just means the expectations have to be different. And by ‘different,’ I primarily mean ‘lower.'”
(Another online publisher, Vook, bought Byliner. Vook appears to market to individual authors and claims Byliner as its “first digital imprint,” though the difference between Byliner stories and other Vook titles seems unclear.)
Ay yi yi, maybe I’m a geezer. But if longform journalism just isn’t a huge money maker, it seems like journalists are working too hard to diversity their platforms for publishing (how to write, edit, get published, get paid), when really we should be working harder to diversity how we’re funded. Some are doing it right, like Texas Tribune with its sponsored events (and angel investors), Rocky Mountain I-News with its journalism training workshops (and foundation sponsors), Belt Magazine with its books and Atavist with its publishing technology that it licenses to other publishers. These multi-pronged approaches combine bold business ventures with quality journalism. That’s true creativity. And that’s a game I think I’d be down to play.
What do you think? Am I being a downer? What platforms/publishers do you think are doing it right? Leave me a comment, I want to talk about it! « Read the rest of this entry »
March 7, 2015 § 2 Comments
Now that you know how I feel about Belt Magazine, you’ll understand my excitement when a mutual acquaintance offered to e-introduce me to Anne Trubek, Belt’s founder and publisher. I tried playing it cool, but probably still used more exclamation points than appropriate.
Anne and I talked in January, but I’ve kept this blog on the backburner while I adjusted to fulltime-freelancing. (Yup, it’s official! You saw that coming though, right?)
Anne was as cool as other interviews made her sound. Since I’m already down with the Belt philosophy, I really wanted to learn how it’s run as a publication.
A lot of our conversation came back to money. Investors are great. Enthusiasm is great. Having sustainable funding to keep it running . . . definitely more painful, but a nice challenge in its own way. Here’s a wee bit of wisdom from Ms. Trubek, edited for brevity and clarity.
PS – If you’re interested in this sort of thing, I also recommend my article, “8 Lessons Learned from New Journalism Business Models.” Whether it’s the Texas Tribune or Belt Magazine, it seems like everyone’s figuring out how to make stable money to support meaningful journalism.
How did Belt get its financial start?
Belt came from profits from our first book and Kickstarter, and that was it. It was underfunded when we started and continued to be underfunded. An investor came on early, which was enormously enabling. If I were to do it again, I’d do it differently. But I am impulsive and I said, yeah, let’s just do it.
What would you do differently now?
Have more money. It really comes down to money. Paying writers is a big monetary commitment. I wish I had also found more funding before launching.
So nobody is full-time staff at Belt, right? It seems like many of your contributors are out there living and working in these cities, and are maybe not primarily journalists by trade.
One of the things I see that’s meaningful is that people send us things—that would not have even been written—because Belt exists. They’re not necessarily writers. A great example is this piece this we ran in December, “Love’s Anger,” about shootings in the context of the Rust Belt specifically. The author’s not someone who’s written about this for a general audience before.
You received 80 submissions in three weeks for your first book, the Cleveland Anthology. How did you solicit them?
My website/blog and Twitter. I put out a tweet and some people retweeted it. And some local places picked it up and said they’re looking for essays here. And a lot of people have stories to tell. It’s almost something people don’t realize they’re missing until something comes forward.
Why do online only?
I’ve never been interested in a print magazine. It’s a lot of work.
What’s your publication schedule like?
3-5 pieces a week. We plan on three a week. Contributors are mostly people coming to us, and that’s mainly because we have been working on the fly for so long. As we go forward, we’ll be doing more columns and regular features, and reaching out to more writers.
What have been your favorite pieces?
What advice would you give to someone wanting to start a publication like Belt?
There’s a low barrier to entry for an online magazine. Lots of experimentation and creativity can flourish without a lot of overhead. We’re at a point in the publication where we have to shift from saying, “How fun is this?” to, “How do we sustain this?” The first 12-14 months were pure fun and excitement. Have fun, and don’t get yourself in a situation where you can promise more than you can deliver.
Hosting events in conjunction with your publication seems to be a trend, especially for indie outfits. You’ve done a “Belt University” series. What’s next?
We do a huge array of different events. We’re actually no longer doing Belt University because we want to do more revenue-generating events around the whole region. We’re planning book launch parties, party parties and themed events.
Thanks so much, Anne! I appreciate you sharing your advice, and look forward to what Belt does down the line. « Read the rest of this entry »