We’re in the era of self-publishing, where just about anyone can put something online and try to sell it. Within this idea of “the little publishing engine that could,” lies a new trend in independent magazines that is carving out a name for itself. These solo-preneurs publish without the support of a larger institution, control their maverick subscription strategies, and truly own their labor of love from conception to distribution. Writer’s Edit says, “Independent magazines are defying the predictions of many that print magazines are a fading relic of the pre-digital world.” What are these little-but-mighty magazines doing that the rest of us should be paying attention to?
The rising star of the independent niche magazine
Not only is there a proliferation of independent magazines, a number of publishers also have launched their maiden voyages into these well-charted waters. The latest data shows that 7,000 new publishers emerge each year for more than 50,000 small, independent titles printed in the U.S. alone.
Many small-press publishers focus on genre-specific books, such as self-help, horror, or romance. Kinfolk magazine is one example of this genre with longevity since 2011. The magazine’s mission is for readers to “simplify their lives, cultivate community, and spend more time with their friends and family.” In Australia, the Alphabet Family Journal (AFJ) launched with a Kickstarter campaign in 2014. This small-time publication has a world-changing idea: to create media that shows the reality of “the personal foundations of our homes in their many different forms.” Traditional publishers take note: this magazine used a multi-media approach to launch by using videography to share their vision.
While these are just two of a growing sea of independent publications, this market niche already has its own recognition structure in the form of the Independent Publisher Book Awards and the Independent Publisher Online (formerly known as Small Press Magazine).
Benefits of the small press
Independent niche magazines can afford, in a sense, to take personalization to an entirely new level. The idea of “niche” is that you appeal to a very specific subsection of the market. Often, these publications are created by their own readers who are intimately familiar with their target audience preferences. They also have the creative leeway to allow themselves to push the envelope all the way off the desk if they feel like it adds value for this readership.
In an increasingly digitized, frenetic world dominated by social media, the small boutique publication is a calming balm, an invitation to the senses to feel the paper under our fingers and slow down to absorb the more sensory experience these magazines offer.
Hands on Heritage has this to say about these small-but-mighty voices in the publishing world: “By printing primarily what interests them and focusing on authors they trust, this group is growing rapidly. Whereas many major publishers consolidate and lose money on book returns and operating costs, small presses flourish because their books meet high standards for appearance and content, and are handled efficiently and profitably.”
What’s next for independent magazines?
The entire publishing industry is in flux and independent niche magazines are doing their part to revolutionize traditional print. With the online digital landscape changing so much; print feels much more reliable and valuable.
One independent publisher put it this way, “The quality of your readership is what you’re actually selling to a brand. It’s not that you’re in however many stores in mainstream travel points, it’s that the people who actually buy your magazine read it cover to cover. That’s what is valuable about indie magazines.”
What’s New in Publishing (WNIP) agrees with this assessment, stating, “I think we should be confident that the best magazines will not only survive, but thrive.” They suggest that independent publishers will continue to carve out a narrow niche between traditional publishing and distribution and the digital space, in part, because magazines are still recognizable as a source of pleasure, with gorgeous designs, and creative high-quality content. Despite the encroachment of digital publishing, these magazines are likely here to stay.
Contact your Sheridan representative for a consultation or visit our contact page to learn how Sheridan professionals can help you streamline your publishing processes, reduce costs, and keep up with changes in print and publishing strategies.