So you want to publish a magazine?
So you want to publish a magazine?
When we found out our friend Angharad Lewis was writing a book about magazines, we knew we had to get the inside scoop! I caught up with her after spending some time with ‘So you want to publish a magazine?’ (beautifully designed by She Was Only)…
FFF: For our readers who might not know you, what has your role/experience been in publishing and design? how do you split your time these days? AL: I’m a bit ‘fingers in pies’ – I divide my time between freelance writing (a bit of journalism, a bit of book-writing, a bit of copywriting), teaching at The Cass School of Design and being co-editor of Grafik. I joined Grafik in 2003 (when it was still graphics International. We were a monthly printed magazine until 2011 and at the moment we’re an online publication.
FFF: Tell us a bit about the book in your own words, who its for, and why you created it.. AL: I guess it’s a bit of a user manual for anyone interested in the endeavour of independent magazine publishing. As well as giving lots of practical advice about what is a fairly complicated business, the book is also hopefully interesting for anyone who (like me) is quite nosey about magazines and how they’re made and how publishing models are structured. It’s packed with the knowledge and experiences of about 50 people involved in the magazines world, from makers to distributers and retailers – I tried to come at the subject from all angles and tackle the more tricky aspects of the business head-on and in a very accessible, hopefully entertaining, way.
FFF: How much of your own personal experience with Grafik did you draw on for this book? AL: The bones of the book really come from my own experience – knowing what areas were relevant, what questions to ask, and how things behind the scenes of magazines fit together – but this skeleton was fleshed out and animated by calling on the generous input of lots of other indie publishers from around the world. Also, I hope that having ‘lived it’, I am able to give a bit of humour and the human side to what might otherwise border on the ‘dry’ when it comes to subjects like distribution and advertising.
FFF: Do you see your students still interested in making printed magazines? AL: Definitely. There’s no diminution in the interest in print. Printed magazines have a magic you can’t match with other media. That said, digital platforms are absolutely essential now and the really exciting things are happening when very clever people find ways to combine the two. Students often bring a surprising and enlightening view that I would not otherwise have seen, because as a generation, they’re breathing digital like air, whereas I’m of the generation that had to learn it.
FFF: A book like this is always a snapshot of the publishing industry, any observations on where we’re at? AL: We’re enjoying a time of amazing diversity – so much so that the volume of new titles being launched can actually be pretty overwhelming for readers. I think this will inevitably settle down in the next few years and sustainability will come into sharper focus – for magazines to stay the course it’s a constant battle of devotion to your vision versus concessions to financial realities and that applies to the full range of sizes of magazine ventures, from the tiniest side project to commercial ventures. It takes an immense amount of time and energy to make a magazine, so the magazine makers who have a really natural, instinctive relationship with their readers, and who are indefatigable in finding new ways to survive and innovate will show us some interesting things in the next couple of years.
FFF: The format of a magazine is always an important consideration – at 168 pages in a handy 230x190mm softback format the book is quite magazine-y! – was that intentional? AL: The format was one of the first things we thought about – we wanted something that felt easy to carry and refer to – a bit like a nice diary or notebook – to emphasise it’s handiness and functional nature as a tool. I suppose I’d like to think of it being carried around as a trusty companion while someone is going about the business of planning and making a magazine!
FFF: Any favourite insights, observations, quotes or interviews from the book? AL: That’s a tough one. I’m such a nosey parker that I love chatting to people about what they do and seeing where and how they work – especially magazine people, who are a pretty impressive bunch, with some really niche and surprising areas of interest, expertise and reference points. So I had a lot of great experiences along the way. One of the things that delighted me most was how upfront and happy to share almost everybody was in exposing their know-how and the inner workings of their mags. And I got to meet and interview some heroes, which was intimidating and a thrill. This is kind of silly, but the toilets at Midori House (Monocle HQ) made me chuckle – seemingly more technology in one lavatory than I have in my whole house!
FFF: Now you’ve produced one book, any plans or desire to do it again? AL: This is the first book I’ve done solo (I’ve done a few in collaboration with co-authors in the past) and it was an epic mission! But it’s really satisfying – if a little nerve-wracking – when a book you’ve worked so hard on makes it to the shelves and hopefully people’s hands, so yes, I would love to do another (in fact, I’m already working on a tentative outline…)