Publishing For Profit

Launching a magazine is a risky venture. Navigating the pitfalls requires sufficient advertising, circulation, content -- and a bit of luck.

and Macworld.

The Magazine from Cover to Cover: Inside a Dynamic Industry, by Sammye Johnson and Patricia Prijatel (McGraw-Hill/Contemporary Books; $21.95) gives the reader a thorough look into the jobs that construct a magazine’s framework.

How to Write a Business Plan, 6th ed., by Mike McKeever (Nolo Press; $34.99) provides step-by-step instructions for preparing a first-rate business plan and loan application.


Generate an idea and secure a target audience. To make your magazine concept a reality, first research the idea to determine if there is an audience that will support it. “People who tell me, ‘This magazine is for everybody, about everything, reaching every age’ [are wrong],” Husni says. “There is no such thing anymore. We are in the era of laser targeting.” Brides Noir successfully identified and targeted the underserved African American bridal market.

Find advertisers and identify your audience. According to Cheryl Woodard’s Starting & Running a Successful Newsletter or Magazine (Nolo Press; $29.99), the key is identifying an audience that is interested in purchasing a particular publication. Holding focus groups or conducting surveys can gather this information.

Find a distributor. More often than not, this requires the use of a circulation consulting company to get periodicals from the printer to bookstores and other retail outlets. These companies have contacts with national distributors and wholesalers. They generally charge $1,000 to $3,000 per month but can shop your magazine idea around to national distributors.

Monitor costs at all times. When calculating costs, keep in mind that a healthy, established magazine spends one-third of its budget on printing and production, one-third on editorial expenses, and another third on distribution. Also, in the beginning stages of starting a magazine, 60% to 70% of the startup budget will go toward printing.

Starting and operating a magazine can be expensive, so publishers must prepare themselves for the possibility of negative revenue. “You have to plan on zero revenue for the first year,” Husni warns. “Do you have enough money to publish a magazine for a whole year without getting a penny back?” If the answer is no, Husni says you may want to rethink starting a magazine, otherwise you could become one of the many publications that never make it to a second issue. To get your magazine past its freshman effort, create a five-year budget that outlines your costs.

Manage printing and postage. Printing is the largest expense of starting a magazine. Depending on the paper’s quality and weight, printing costs generally range from 75 cents to $1.50 per copy, with the amount decreasing as the number of copies increases. New publishers are usually required to pay up front, until a printer—publisher rapport has been established, after which a payment plan is granted.

The cost of postage fluctuates regularly but is generally one-third of the magazine’s production costs. Periodical rate postage can decrease your costs significantly, but requires a complex application process. The appropriate forms and statements for periodical rate applications can be found at

Create editorial and design. Magazines require a staff that can

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