{ How To Make Money With Magazines: A Dreamer’s Guide }

September 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

Coverage Area-01Whaddup, readers. If I’ve been a wee bit absent, it’s because, this time, I’m actually moving forward with making a magazine instead of just blogging about magazine-making.

Cue the trumpets: We’re calling it The New Territory, and it’s going to feature the south-central U.S. in full color: a general scope of genres and topics, with a proudly regional focus. Of course I’ll discuss my process here, but The Gasconader will remain first and foremost a cheering/advice section for all kinds of magazines and Midwest art projects. To follow progress on The New Territory (TNT) specifically, subscribe to my new newsletter, The Roar of Discovery.

So. The last newsletter’s subject was getting “Down to Business,” and I highlighted some ideas for generating revenue for this title. After several years working in and around nonprofits as well as small businesses, establishing TNT as a self-sustaining for-profit company is important to me. Going for-profit is a rare approach for magazine focused on meaningful storytelling (rather than lifestyle, say), especially in our region. The only one that comes to mind is This Land Press in Oklahoma. Columbia Journalism Review did a great story about them back in 2012.

While I try to keep a close eye on both editorial and business ends of magazine-making, there’s still a ton to learn. I’m taking a moment today, using The New Territory as an example, to discuss different approaches to revenue and profit. If you want a primer on why it’s a good idea to diversify funding strategies, start with this Nieman Labs article, “The newsonomics of small things.”

Here’s how I weighed each idea, and keep in mind, I have raised precisely -$300 for the project so far. So maybe you should be schooling me. « Read the rest of this entry »

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{ In which I profess my love for Belt Magazine }

March 6, 2015 § 2 Comments

If I could point to a publication that’s doing—conceptually—what I’d like to do, I’d throw my whole stance, Lewis-and-Clark-style, toward Belt Magazine. Belt doesn’t just “lead the pack” in Midwest publishing. It is the pack. A lone wolf, if you will. And as the print-anthology and online-journalism publication heads toward its third year, I’m still as excited about it as when it first came out. Born of a Cleveland writing anthology, Belt Publishing is creating a platform for Midwest writers to congregate and do just damn good work.

Belt Magazine publishes independent journalism about the Rust Belt. Online only, it launched in September 2013, and focuses on longform journalism, op-eds and first person essays of interest to the Rust Belt and beyond.

Belt Magazine publishes independent journalism about the Rust Belt. Online only, it launched in September 2013, and focuses on longform journalism, op-eds and first person essays of interest to the Rust Belt and beyond.

Tomorrow I’ll post a quick interview with Belt’s editor, Anne Trubek. But first, here’s why I think the magazine is so important:

Belt bolsters Midwest regional writing.

“There are a number of high-quality regional publications,” founder and publisher Anne Trubek told The American Prospect. “The New Yorker is the most obvious one—you don’t think of it as regional but it is. Texas Monthly and Pacific Standard are other good examples. There’s not a single example in the Midwest. People read those publications who aren’t in those regions because they’re interested in them, or because the writing is very good. That’s what I would like Belt to be seen as, and become.”

{ See also, “Midwest Lit: the new nostalgia.” }

It’s identified a regional audience for Belt not so much by geography as history.

Which is a little academic, a little heady. And I love it for that.

Trubek again: “There are a lot of similar issues in these cities that had their peaks around the same time, are facing similar problems now with housing and manufacturing loss. They have incredible cultural institutions that are about the same age, similar immigration patterns—there are so many commonalities.”

{ See also, “Where is the Rust Belt?” }

It curates sophisticated, serious, longform journalism and first-person essays.

Some of my favorites include this piece on Pittsburgh’s Conflict Kitchen, a fascinating investigation of a county probate judge’s weird attempts to take down the local parks district, and “A Middle-Aged Student’s Guide to Social Work.” There’s an underlying, unapologetic certainty that social justice, culture and the environment deserve deep journalistic dissection.

“We’re trying to avoid the trap of page views, which snares you into a cycle of putting out more and more things. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that strategy, but if everything’s like that then you’re going to lose certain kinds of writing.”

I also love this closing quote from a Nieman Labs interview, in which Trubek takes a firm stance that people in Rust Belt cities should care about what’s going on in other Rust Belt cities. That there should be a way to get “Clevelanders to read about Buffalo,” for example. This is bold. Most publishers would approach this the other way, right? See what ideas are viable among communities, and then choose a philosophic approach? I’m interested to see if/how Belt might influence the regional identity.

Trubek has pretty much insisted that women be published equally.

At one point, I went to social media and said if we don’t get more women pitching I’m just going to shut down Belt for a week.” – Trubek, to the American Prospect.

Annnnnd its first print magazine is all about wildlife.

I’m in love.

{ Read more about Redhorse: The Rust Belt Bestiary. } « Read the rest of this entry »

{ Plato, Missouri: Center of the U.S. (a new photozine project by Ben Hoste) }

September 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

Have you ever seen Plato, Missouri, looking so good? I hadn’t. But I do really really appreciate when people pay attention to tiny rural places. So I’m really really excited that photographer (and University of Missouri J-School alum!) Ben Hoste is coming back all the way from New York to document a place just 30 miles from where I grew up. If that makes you excited too, you can back the project on Kickstarter!

For the 2010-2020 decade, Plato will be known as the exact population center of the United States, one point on an persistently westward path, which Ben elegantly says, “can be seen as the echo of manifest destiny.” He’s making photozines out of the pictures he’s taking there.

You know what I appreciate? Commitment. This will be the second time he visits and makes a zine. I also appreciate universalizing experiences:

I choose to focus my camera on seemingly momentless situations in an effort to make photographs absent of time. My goal is to explore both a local and universal understanding of America through the people and landscape of Plato, Missouri.

I think Ben makes a good enough case for his project, but just so you know, all my most talented photojournalism friends confirm he’s awesome, too. I’m admittedly a little late to the game (he was already 122% funded when I finally pledged some money), but dangit I want those photozines! If you want one to, go back it yourself, because he’ll only print as many as get backed.

(P.S. – Ben recently finished another local project, “Good Earth: Missouri’s Old Lead Belt.” It’s appropriately beautiful and eerie.)

(P.P.S. – Good Earth reminds me of Stacy Kranitz’s Appalachian photos.)

(P.P.P.S. – Speaking of documenting tiny places, remember that time I did a Q&A with the directors of Rich Hill?)

{ Wildland Magazine }

July 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

Hey look, a magazine! A beautiful magazine! It’s called Wildland.

It speaks to me! Perfect title, flawless design. The cover explains its essence, and I was hooked as soon as Stack shared its newest cover this morning.

Here’s what I found from further research (because beauty like this deserves a full going-over):

  • It’s independently published by one guy out of the UK. His friends help. They split the proceeds, if there are any.
  • It features lots of landscape and documentary photos (breathtaking photos!) from EVERYWHERE, anywhere wild! Slovenia, Scotland, Oregon!
  • It’s stupendously gorgeous.
  • It’s printed on A5 paper, or 5.83″× 8.27″. That’s mostly due to printing costs, but they flipped the narrative to say, “it’s a tough little book to accompany you on your travels.” Easy sell.
  • Each issue has a theme, such as “Natural Connection,” “Escape,” and “Lifestyle.”
  • The first two digital issues are free, the newest one costs $2.55. I feel like I want to hold the book, pore over the images, and pass it around to friends. But that would cost me $12, plus shipping. For now I’ll share the link.
The sparse design of Wildland magazine leaves plenty of room for interior thought and reflection.

The sparse design of Wildland leaves room for interior reflection and stirring-of-spirits.

What’s phenomenal about this little journal is how cohesive each issue feels. Not only do the photographers achieve consistently lofty, spirited outdoors shots, but the design never wavers from story to story. So despite a diversity of locations, each setting fits into the greater theme, almost without trying. And when they do try, with written words, I find it hard to focus because the images themselves are captivating enough. Apt, then, that the first issue should feature this quote:

“I don’t think I’ve ever yet, in any of my books, described a landscape. There’s really nothing of the kind in any of them. I only ever write concepts. And so I’m always referring to “mountains” or “a city” or “streets.” But as to how they look: I’ve never produced a description of a landscape. That’s never even interested me.”

– Thomas Bernhard from “Monologe auf Mallorca” Interview, 1981

So hey. Go check out this magazine. You’ll find deers and mountains and streets, and as you observe, you can write your own description. You also might want to bolt out the door and into the wild. Let me know what ends up happening.

{ Stories about Missourians }

March 15, 2014 § 2 Comments

The very best thing about having a part-time data entry job is all the podcasts I get to listen to. How do people in repetitive jobs get by without them? I go to work for about four hours each afternoon and minus the interaction with coworkers (another bonus, because they’re great people and probably healthier to talk to than the plants in my home office), that gives me at least enough time to go through one or two Longform podcasts, catch up with Story Collider, and enjoy One Species at a Time, if it would ever update on iTunes. I think of it as professional development.

In the last couple of weeks, great stories about Missourians have popped into my earbuds. Yes!! Here’s a sample, but if you’ve heard others, I’d love to give them a listen.

{ SINGING NUNS } “Monastic Life at the Top of the Charts” – NPR’s Music Interviews
Nuns living in a tiny town north of Kansas City are topping the Billboard classical charts, and they don’t even know it.

{ A CURIOUS CASE } “Except for that One Thing” – WBEZ’s This American Life
A St. Louis man is being held in prison for a crime he committed decades ago. He never served time because nobody called him for a it. Clerical error. A lot to thing about in regards to the justice system. The Riverfront Times follows up here.

{ MURDERERS, FIDDLERS, ETC. } “Ozarks: Full Circle” – State of the Re:Union
More prison, a few more happy endings, and a lot of fiddles. This is an old one because, 20 hours a week affords the luxury of archived shows. I’m really happy my radio friend Abigail introduced me to this podcast because it’s everything I love about storytelling. This particular show paints the Ozarks with the same simple brush I referenced in my last post, but it’s focused on love, redemption, and tight-knit communities. If an outsider’s going to come tell our story, this is a good crew to do it.

{ OUR FAVORITE UKRANIAN } “Yakov Smirnoff” – WTF with Marc Maron
Another oldie, and not exactly a Missourian. Yakov‘s been hanging out in Branson since 1993, after his, “What a country!” hook crumbled with the Berlin Wall, and I’ve grown up watching his commercials, so I’m claiming him. I love how deep Marc Maron gets with all his guests, and this is no exception. Did you know Mr. Smirnoff’s branching into positive psychology? He teaches a class at MSU. I also learned a lot about Soviet Russia, like that there existed an actual “Ministry of Jokes.” WTF indeed.

{ THE NEXT BIG THING } Everything on Heart on Yer Sleeve Radio
Abigail strikes again, this time with her own audio project interviewing people off the street, which inherently means Missouri because she doesn’t own a car. Good stuff. It’s probably telling that I was not surprised in the slightest by Cary’s story about puppet evangelists. South/south-central Missourians…that’s just what we do. The latest is from Steve, who tells a nerdy little story about Humans vs. Zombies.

So, now you know a little more about me. What are you listening to? And where are all the good Midwest and journalism stories? My greatest fear is that I’ll run out of Longform episodes, which is feasible if I listened to it straight for a month. So seriously, please comment!

{ Stacy Kranitz: representation in an exploited place }

March 11, 2014 § 2 Comments

Do you come from a place that outsiders get wrong? That’s probably everywhere, right? I know for here, people drive through Missouri on I-70 and just see corn fields, or they know about the Ozarks and think it’s only populated with slow, happy hillbillies. However, I don’t think many people know what to think of the Midwest, or even if they ever do {evidence}. That’s quite different from Appalachia, which invokes broad images of poverty and pretty mountains with pretty much anyone you talk to. I started thinking about this when I came upon the art of Stacy Kranitz a few days ago.

From "Chasing Meth in Laurel County, Kentucky" | Mother Jones

From “Chasing Meth in Laurel County, Kentucky” | Mother Jones

“It became evident that Appalachia was a place where representation had long been vexed,” Kranitz told Mother Jones in a Q&A about her photo essay on meth. In the series, “As It Was Given to Me,” her Appalachia photos trail through the expected foggy mountainscapes and scenes poolgoers draped in American flag towels to the surprising, like portraits of gold-bedazzled men grabbing each others’ thighs and a woman standing between a Native American flag and KKK statue.

To introduce the series, Kranitz writes:

I am initially drawn to stereotypes. Then I look to demystify these stereotypes only to find that they are rooted in some sort of reality. I do not (cannot) exclude the stereotypical image from my representations.

The resulting images are interwoven with both typical and atypical lives captured through controlled and chance operations in the central Appalachian region of America. Ultimately the photographs highlight the flaws of representation in a place with an extensive history of exploitative othering by outsiders.

Photo by Stacy Kranitz
Photo by Stacy Kranitz

« Read the rest of this entry »

{ The Outpost }

March 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

I’m really psyched to highlight this next magazine, The Outpost. Unlike The Great Discontent and Climate Confidential, they’ve been in print for one year, four issues, and have a lot to show for it. Now they’ve launched an Indiegogo campaign to fund a second year.

In short: The Outpost “aims to ignite a socio-cultural renaissance in the Arab world through inspiring its readers to explore a world of possibilities. It has a general scope, a regional focus and a global outlook, and covers a wide range of stories that are meant to inform, inspire and entertain.” I have a huge mag crush on it.

In detail: To go with its campaign, The Outpost released a sample issue online. Follow along, if you please. Let’s start with the Table of Contents:

change cafes

Hell yeah! Sharp headlines, intriguing sell lines. It’s sleek. I’d flip through it. Oh hey, I did flip through it. Next page, wa-PAM:

change cafe spread

Here’s the “Change Cafe” feature. Very cool. The design is a little Esquire-esque, with clever illustrations of shopkeepers as “loopholes in the machinery of progress,” which they discuss in the introduction. The following pages feature short profiles of each place and how they promote social change. Other front-of-book features follow a similar pattern.

I enjoyed reading the feature about The Freedom Theatre. Although I know little about the Arab world, writer Yusuf Hanad made it accessible, showing how the unsettling social climate in the West Bank town of Jenin has bred a cultural revolution. Later, there are features on people with disabilities, abandoned buildings and transexuality in the Arab world. There’s even a short story thrown in.

That’s all to say, this is a quality issue about quality issues, and I’m fully confident their next one will be outstanding as well. Here’s a quick look by Steve Watson (he also interviewed the editor, Ibrahim Nehme, here). Check out what Steve says at 1:42 about The Outpost’s three sections (“What’s Happening,” “What’s Not Happening,” “What Could Happen”):

The Indiegogo page also features some reviews that really struck me. The quotes capture the values of a magazine that I want to keep in mind as I myself go forward:

“Even if you aren’t much interested in changing the Arab world, this magazine will make you think about where you personally stand and, through its stories and reports, make you think about what is possible in your life.” — Dan Rowden, founder of Magpile

“It’s a great thing you’re doing, it’s a revolution what you’re writing … Where will [the young] see the space for them to grow, if they don’t want the old ways anymore? I think and hope they’ll find it in you. When I sat and read the magazine I knew this was a great thing you were doing, and it’s not about the paper and the design for me though they are the best you’ve picked. The thing that gets me is the words, the man walking away from the border on page thirty after not having enough cigarettes to get through killed me, and the sex story at the back warmed me, I sat there in a coffee shop and your pages breathed…” — Adnan Sarwar, winner of the Bodley Head/Financial Times Essay Prize

What joy! I shelled out a bit for a print copy and can’t wait to hold it soon! Maybe you can pledge some money too, and we can have a little Outpost party together?

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