How to Start a Magazine

While different kinds of publications require certain type-specific considerations, the fundamentals of starting a magazine are generally applicable to most titles.

First decide on your audience. Who are you writing for? Form as complete an image as you can of your target demographic. Doing so will help inform your content, making sure it’s relevant and on-target. Content clarity and effectiveness is also improved by an in-depth competitor analysis. Get copies of other magazines in the milieu that you’re interested in breaking into. Dissect them. Analyse what works and what doesn’t, what’s missing, and how you can think you can improve on their model. Then apply what you find to your own title.

Additionally, during the competitor analysis stage, take this opportunity (if you are creating a commercially-minded title that uses advertising revenue as its main income stream) to review who is advertising in your competitor titles and make a note of their details. This will give you immediate access to entities that you have already identified as those who use magazine advertising as a part of their marketing mix.

The next stage is ensuring you know how many pages your intended organ will extend to. If this is a commercially-minded venture, then the total page number is ruled by a number of factors including the editorial/advertising page ratio (how much advertising is needed to help cover your costs) and your printing/distribution costs. Factor in any subscription charges. These calculations complete, proceed to paint a picture of your new creation, ensuring that the advertising and editorial pages are distinct and clear so as to avoid any unnecessary agony down the line.

This should be completed on a ‘flat plan’ of the magazine. To create one, build an image of your magazine in parts on an Excel spreadsheet. Add in your sections, feature headings, or whatever you feel is necessary to ensure a clear diagram of your finished product.

Now that you’ve got a completed blueprint of your magazine, it’s time to sort out the materials and call in the staff. To ensure editorial consistency, create a Style Book that homogenizes all copy within your title. This should cover everything from grammar and punctuation to what fonts to use and the colour palette appropriate to your title. Present this to any writers, designers or sub-editors you bring on board.

Whether you are using freelance designers of not, consider investing in the industry-standard QuarkXpress and Photoshop software for layout purposes. If you’re a small fanzine, then Word can work wonders. When assigning articles, ensure you set word limits and be completely clear what you’re after, and think about photography. Paying professional photographers to attend to individual assignments can get costly; a lot of magazines use any of the number of stock photography sites that are easily found online. For a monthly subscription you can access their image banks willy-nilly.

Now print, distribute, enjoy the accolades, drink the champagne, and start working on your own version of Hearst Castle.


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