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Magazine Publisher

There are thousands of magazines being published every year on everything from antiques to travel. It's a competitive field, but there's always room for someone with a fresh idea and a solid business plan.

Melinda Maine is the publisher of Austin Woman Magazine. Her ublication featuring remarkable women from Austin, Texas, debuted in September 2002 and is still going strong.

So how can you make your mark? Learn the ropes of the publishing industry first. Maine worked in the publishing business before starting her publication.

She suggests getting a well-rounded education that allows you to think creatively and have an open mind.

"You meet some amazing people in this business who you might just miss if you're not open to different points of view," says Maine.

Margaret Eaton is the general manager of a magazine publishing association. She says interning in the publishing industry and attending a college or university with a good magazine program is a good way to start.

"On the editorial and design side, many professionals started out as interns. Most of the large publishing houses have internship programs," she says.

"They seldom pay any money -- some offer small honorariums -- but they get your foot in the door in a competitive industry."

Tom Person is the editor of a newsletter written for small magazine publishers. He gives advice about the industry on a daily basis.

He recommends taking journalism, business or English. But most importantly, get involved with a school's publications.

"Work on the school newspaper, literary magazine and any other publication you can find. You will not only get hands-on experience, but you will begin building a network of contacts who can help you later," he says.

"The best way to start is with an internship or job at a magazine of any size. Let someone else take the risks of magazine publishing while you learn the ropes. When you are ready to start a magazine, start small --unless you have tens of millions of dollars to invest, that's what you'll have to do anyway."

Person says coming up with a business plan should be an aspiring publisher's first step.

"The money comes from advertisers usually, and they will not be interested in helping you get off the ground unless you can show them that you have a solid, realistic, long-term plan for the magazine," he says.

"And a plan in your head doesn't count. Many community colleges and the Small Business Association have programs to help you build a business plan. Often they even have volunteers from the business world who will help you with your plan for free."

Maine says a good business plan should analyze your competitors, define your mission and present a realistic budget. "Analyze the pros and cons and talk to as many people as possible for feedback."

And remember your target audience. "I think the most important thing when starting a magazine is to think about who the readers of your potential new magazine might be," says Eaton.

"You want a sufficient number of people to be interested in what you are publishing that they will buy the magazine and a sufficient number that an advertiser will be interested in talking to those readers."

Person says you should also look at your motives for wanting to start a magazine. If you think publishing a magazine is an easy way to make money or meet glamorous people, you are going to be let down.

"The best reason to start a magazine is when you see a need for information about a subject that no one else is covering, you can identify a sizable group of people who need that information, and you can identify advertisers who will enthusiastically support you in your efforts to put that information into a magazine."

And just what kinds of magazines have a better chance of success? Person says niche magazines are the answer. "Find a subject that no one else is covering, or a small part of a larger, popular subject," he says.

"A lot of people I hear from want to start an entertainment magazine. Why? Because they see lots of them and it looks like something fun to do. But that is precisely why it would be disastrous to try to start an entertainment magazine. There are just too many of them."

One thing to ask yourself: would you subscribe to your own magazine? "If you could only subscribe to one magazine, given a choice of an existing successful magazine and yours, would you honestly choose yours?" asks Person.

Don't try to do it all alone, either. You'll need help to keep your dream alive.

"You need an editor-in-chief to make sure business gets done, an editor to read submissions, a graphics artist to lay out the magazine, someone to sell advertising, someone to handle subscriptions, someone to do marketing and public relations, a printer, a binder and a fulfillment house," says Person.

"I have seen magazines where all those jobs were done by one person, but not successfully. Magazine publishing is a huge, complex business even for a small magazine."


Magazine Publishers of America (MPA)
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