How to Start a Magazine in 6 Steps
Starting a magazine is not as hard as you would think. I have started several myself and successfully published them for years. Make no mistake, it is hard work, but if you can meet a few key requirements you can get your magazine off the ground.
What are those few key requirements?
1) You need some money to do this – Every business start up needs some capital and magazines are no different. How much do you need? As little as a few hundred dollars will work (not including your printing costs) to get your first issue on the streets and/or news stands. For a projected higher end book, you will need thousands of dollars dependent on what market you are entering and how big you are going right off the bat. The key will be to learn the skills you need to publish and do the tasks yourself rather than hire an office full of workers and payroll (I will hit on those skills in a minute and talk more about cash in a minute).
2) Equipment – At least one good computer capable of operating the various software you will need (Adobe InDesign and at least Adobe Photoshop), a good digital SLR camera like the Nikon D50 which runs about $750, a phone and a dependable vehicle.
3) The ability to sell – Magazines big and small run off of advertisements and yours will be no different. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a solid sales strategy in place before you take on this project. I will talk more about selling further along.
4) Creativity – You can’t survive without offering something new to your readers in an attractive package and for this being creative is a necessity.
Step #1 – Develop the Framework
You probably have an idea of what type of magazine you want to publish but from here you need to construct some basic framework. Pick a name for your magazine carefully, make sure you are not stepping on anyone’s trademark by searching the US trademark database.
Your website’s domain name is also something to consider when choosing your name. Search for open domains that match your magazine’s name as closely as possible. It is okay to use a few sudo-odd takes on domains for magazines like magazinenameonline.com or magazine-name.com. Register your domain and contact a web development company that you like to start work on your magazine’s new website. I personally like 22 Creative as they specialize in websites for magazines. Your website does not need to be awesome right out of the gate, just something professional that is clear about who you are and what your book is about – expect to spend anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands here. A website is an essential part of this process though, do not skip out on this one.
Okay, you have a name and a website, what’s next? Figure out what you are going to include in your first issue by writing out an editorial outline. Fancy name but in reality, just write out what you want to feature, how many pages you want to devote to each item and how many pages for ads you want to stash away (this will be dependent on how many ads you sell for your first issue). How many pages should your magazine be? Two factors are in play here. One is the cost of printing the magazine as it costs more to print a bigger magazine obviously, the second is how much editorial can or do you want to produce? You do not need a 100 page book your first go around so, dependent on what your competitors are doing, aim for around 50 pages for a local or lifestyle magazine and 90+ for a magazine you want to distribute on national news stands.
Step #2 – It’s Time to Produce Content
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need an army of ‘journalists’ to publish your first issue. I have produced content for hundreds of magazines by myself or with the help of just a handful of people, it is not that hard.
Start with item number one on your editorial outline. Write your text first, making sure to follow basic guidelines for writing editorial (Google search it for tons of help). Have friends read the copy and get their honest opinion. Did you lose your readers attention at any point? Are your facts correct? Do you have any typos?
A picture is worth a thousand words literally. People like pictures, big, colorful pictures and lots of them. Decide on how many pictures you need for the piece and whether or not you can take the photos yourself or if you need to buy them/license them from a stock photo service. If you can take them yourself, head out and start snapping. Take clear, in-focus images and take lots of them. You do not want to have to go back and re-shoot anything because you did not get the shot. Also, set your camera to take 300dpi images, normal smaller resolution images will not work and will look pixilated in the final product – nothing comes off as more rookie than low-res photos in magazines. Remember if you have any people in your photos, get them to sign a ‘model release’ allowing you to use their image in your publication. If you need to buy an image from a stock photo website, make sure you buy a 300dpi image that is suitable for printing. Expect to pay anywhere from $3 – $10 for each photo, if you encounter a website that charges more, you would be over paying.