Monday, April 6, 2009

How Do You Start a Magazine?

When I tell people my goal of starting a magazine, the question sometimes gets asked "Where do you start and how do you know what to do?" I respond with "I start with the end and work backwards." In this case, the end would be a printed magazine sitting for sale on a magazine stand. As I write this blog, I have not yet achieved my goal, so I can't say that what I have done works or is the right way to do it. But I can share with you what I've done to get this far and what my plans are for my next steps.

I started by reading books on how to start a magazine: How to Start a Magazine (James B. Kobak), Starting and Running a Successful Newsletter or Magazine (Cheryl Woodard), Publish Your Own Magazine, Guidebook, or Weekly Newspaper (Thomas A. Williams).

I also visited various websites and blogs by googling different words on starting a magazine business. Some of these resources are:
Mr. Magazine (Samir Husni)
Magazine Launch (free help for small businesses)
Women Venture (based in St. Paul, MN)

Once I did the initial research to find out the basics of what needed to be done, I made a list of things I could do now. This list included things that I had the ability to do, things that were not too complicated for a beginner and things that were free or nearly free.

Find people who have done this and talk to them
As I read magazines and blogs, inevitably I came across references to people who have done this before. Three of the people I contacted each spent a good hour answering my questions and offering advice based on their experience. The magazines of the people I spoke with are
Performing Songwriter
Toy Farmer Magazine
Today's Groom

Join pertinent organizations and take advantage of their networking
I researched the different organizations in my field (magazines, publishing) and decided on which ones I would join based on cost, offerings, etc. I joined these two associations in 2008 and already have attended 2 seminars that they sponsored and found them both very beneficial.
MN Magazine & Publications Association
Women in Periodical Publishing

I've been reading a lot of inspirational literature- Stephen Covey, Anthony Robbins, Wayne Dyer, Napoleon Hill, Zig Ziglar, etc. and they all say not to limit your goals and dreams by your current situation. Dream BIG. Visualize. Plan. Strive. Believe. Write it down. Do it.

Break down the BIG DREAM into manageable goals
Once you have your big goals written down, start by prioritizing them and breaking them down into manageable tasks. For example, one of the bigger steps for starting the magazine was writing a business plan. Not having ever written one, it was a little overwhelming where to start. And once I found some existing business plans specifically for magazines, I was still stunned into inaction by the enormity of the task. But then I read or recalled the advice to keep breaking down a task until you get it in manageable chunks. Here is what I did with the business plan.

1. Print out the business plan
2. Start with the easy sections
3. Write freely just to get the thoughts out (What did I know about it? Why do I feel it can be a successful venture? Why was I the best person to make it happen?)
4. Once the easy parts were done, I realized that I was about 75% done with the plan
5. Seek outside help/guidance for the remainder of the plan handling one section at a time
6. When information is unknown, use your best guess. This should have a high end and a low end with a plan of action for identifying how this can be realistically determined. My example would be answering the following questions?

How big is the world of letter writers?
How big is the world of letter writers who would buy this magazine?
How big is the world of journal writers?
How big is the world of journal writers who would buy this magazine?

Start working on those goals. Still too big? Break them down some more
Have a list of goals
Have a timeline
Be flexible
Be committed
Do something every day to support your dream- even if it's visualizing, writing, planning
Help others achieve their dreams without thought of recompense. It will come.

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