Magazines have historically been the best marriage between commerce and content. They were some of the first publications to be sold to a mass-market, and they were the chosen format of some of the first and most-dedicated self-publishers. To this day, the zine world boasts some of the most loyal followers and regularly sold-out runs of collectible publications. But self-published magazines are no longer narrowed to an underground subculture. The good news is that niche periodical publications have developed into a new luxury specialty market. But how do you make money with a magazine?
3 KEYS TO SELLING YOUR MAGAZINE:
1. Know your audience
Magazines are created with an audience and commerce in mind. Who are you selling this to? How do you know them? Your magazine will be successful when it appeals to a specific group of people that you know and can reach. Is it your blog following? A local historical society? A specialty community? A certain look, style, or aesthetic? Knowing what your audience wants and who, exactly they are, not only influences content, but your project’s specifications. How many pages? How many copies will you need? What does it cost to print? How will your audience know to buy it? These are all things worth asking.
2. Sell advertising
Traditionally, the cost to create and print a magazine was covered by advertisements. Not only that, but selling advertisements can be part of the revenue itself. The type of advertisements you sell depends on how your content connects to different brands, and how your audience connects to those brands. When you approach local business or brands with advertising opportunities, have some facts about your audience that show why it’s a good opportunity for that brand or business. Show your reach, the size of your following, the demographics. Make your case for why that brand or business wants to be seen by your friends, fans, and followers. Create different ad sizes at different price points so you can hit your goal in a variety of ways.
3. Create the next one
Sometimes the first project’s biggest success is how it creates a market for the next issue. The magazine format inherently creates the expectation for more. Readers expect another issue; they expect to share, leave behind, give away those glossies because there will be another one next month or quarter. Use your first issue to build the following for your 2nd, 3rd, and 4th.
WAYS TO SELL YOUR MAGAZINE
Small Press, Zine, and Comic Book conventions are a classic market for self-published magazines. They’re low price point and read-anywhere appeal makes them easy products to add on to larger sales or as stand-alone souvenirs. At events, you can deliver your publication directly to self-selected fans. Take a look at FakeGeekGirlsLikeUs, who published art and comics sourced from the creator’s Tumblr community.
Through your blog
Blogs and magazines share the basics of shorter, image-driven content that showcases trends, collaborations, how-tos, and editorial content. If you have a blog, you have created content that pairs well with a magazine. You can create a city guide, a short collection of favorite recipes, or gather favorite posts in some other way and make it available for purchase through your own site. Use Blurb’s Bookstore Widget, known as Book Preview, or link to your own storefront in the Blurb Bookstore. Add new content to inspire a purchase. Your magazine is a tool to expand your brand into the physical world.
Showcase community collaboration
Literary Magazines have been doing this for 250 years. When you gather content from talented people around you, your publication is stronger and your audience is your community and that of your contributors. In fact, several writing programs, like the prestigious one at the University of Nebraska Omaha, use Blurb for their literary magazines. You can gather poems, photography, stories, etc. into your publication, and make it available to the community that supports your work.
As a companion piece to a project, or Kickstarter incentive
Use a magazine to showcase the behind-the-scenes work on a project, or as part of a larger Kickstarter fundraiser. Fans of the finished project may also be interested in that supplemental behind-the-scenes.
Large print run through Large Order Services, larger stockists
If you want to design your magazine with unique specifications and plan to distribute it, check out the story of Mouthfeel Magazine, who worked with Large Order Services to create a specialty publication and distribute it to stockists around the world.
Consignment in local business
If your magazine’s audience has a local hangout, consider working with the store or café owner for a shared opportunity. Offer to sell the magazine at the register on consignment, where part of your sales go back to the store in return for the counter space. This was the strategy of Paris Kim’s own Marjorie Magazine, which appeals to San Francisco’s vintage-loving, thrift-store tribe.
For some more insights into making a magazine, check out Making a Magazine: 10 things you need to know.