So, you want to make your mark in magazine publishing. Your path to that goal depends on your reasons for wanting to be involved in magazine production. If putting words to paper has always been in your blood and you’ve created a carefully thought out education and career path, you are likely well on your way to gaining the necessary skills and experience. Or maybe you fell into a job at a magazine and decided that it’s where you want to stay. Perhaps you just have a passion that you want to share with others and you want to start a specialty niche publication to do so. Even though the paths to publishing may be different, before you reach the point of putting your name at the top of a masthead, there’s a lot you need to consider.
The publisher’s role
First, do you know exactly what the title of “publisher” entails? Ultimately, a publisher is responsible for the commercial success of a publication. That means he or she sets the editorial direction, tone, and style of the title. Publishers often must also acquire the best content producers and designers, arrange the printing and distribution, and head up the marketing and advertising departments all while managing budgets and schedules. For small or start-up publications, publishers may handle all these roles themselves. Others can delegate some or all these tasks to other talented experts, leaving the publisher as more of a director of operations. The role requires excellent editorial skills as well as strong marketing and leadership abilities to maximize profits.
The path to the top
Publishing is not an easy industry to break into. Typically, hands-on experience is the best way to get ahead in publishing, but getting that experience — even unpaid internships — requires a strong educational foundation in whatever aspect of publishing interests you most. The editorial side typically has a foundation in English, communications, or journalism and various roles in the editorial department. These steps allow would-be publishers to move up the ladder to managing editor and editor-in-chief.
If advertising sales is your interest, it can be helpful to have a marketing or related degree, obtain experience with on-the-job training, and work your way up to a sales manager or sales director role.
Each of these entries into publishing can help you decide if publishing is the right career for you.
Following your passion
If you’re starting a niche magazine because of a passion, you’ll either need to have the funds to surround yourself with an experienced staff or develop the basic skills for creating, producing and marketing your title.
Once you’ve chosen your niche, decide on a revenue model: subscription-only, ad sales only, newsstand sales — or whatever combination makes sense for you. You’ll need to analyze the market. Do enough potential subscribers or advertisers exist to support publication costs? You’ll need a business plan that includes startup funds for things such as office and staffing, content acquisition, quality control, production, printing, distribution, direct mail, and more. Some of these costs are static and some will change with each issue.
You may be able to launch a small niche magazine on a modest budget whereas a full-featured consumer magazine would likely require a much more substantial investment.
Publishing is a risky venture. You need to do your homework, analyze the competition, understand your audience, measure your successes and failures as you learn, and be willing to change and adapt. It’s not an easy path, but for those with passion, perseverance, and an experienced partner like Sheridan, it can be a profitable and rewarding one.
Contact your Sheridan representative or visit our contact page to ask how we can help you streamline your publishing processes, reduce costs, and keep up with changes in print and publishing strategies.