It should be interesting to note that in a country of about 250
million people, nearly everyone is seeking some kind of part
time income, business starting ideas, news and views on financial
matters, moneymaking ventures, a profitable cottage industry...
or a way to enhance their lifestyle in some way. One of the most
popular of all spare time businesses is mail order selling.
Surprisingly, there are relatively few publications currently in
print for this vast market.
Yes, there are a few slick magazines and professional trade
papers serving the direct mail (usually referred to as direct
marketing) field...those megabucks companies who mail tons of
letters and brochures, run full page ads in national
publications, and whose advertising budgets are in the tens of
thousands of dollars annually.
On the other end of the scale, we have a few good publications
for the beginner, the hobbyist and the person looking for spare
time income. There seems to be a void between these two extremes,
however, specifically the small to medium mail order operator who
has apparently been overlooked by all publishers.
There are approximately 300 smaller publications currently in
existence, mostly the one or two-page variety known as ad sheets,
but these are primarily self serving, basically in print to make
money for each publisher, but contributing very little to the
overall mail order field or to the individual small or mid-size
Many of these smaller papers lack the quality of appearance or
physical size, and the result is that they don't attract
attention or command the respect that large publications enjoy.
CAN YOU FILL THE VOID?
There is a definite need for a good mid-size trade magazine, and
the market is out there. What requirements would be needed for
entering the field with a new publication? Aside from the
capital, a background in advertising, marketing, direct mail or
sales would certainly help. Experience in printing, graphic arts
or as an employee at a newspaper or magazine would certainly be
an asset. But all these can be learned, so a lack of any of them
need not deter you from becoming a publisher of a trade magazine.
If you have the desire and interest, spend some time at your
local public library and check out some of the books that can
give you a crash course in publishing. You can then buy a few to
use as daily reference guides to help you in your new venture.
Naturally, it will require money to put this idea into print, but
the amount is negotiable, depending on what scale you wish to
begin, how elaborate you plan to make your publication, how my
issues will be printed, etc. Will you go alone as a sloe
proprietorship, as a partnership with your spouse, relative or
friend, or will you incorporate and take on several partners,
each of whom will invest a predetermined dollar amount in the new
venture? The answers to these questions will help determine the
You might plan to invest $50,000 in getting your first issue into
print. Then again, you may not. If necessary, you can do it for
about $100. This meager amount will get you into print on the
lowest possible scale, with the smallest size, least number of
pages, and fewest number of copies printed. But at least it will
be a start. Let's be a little more realistic while still being on
the conservative side, and estimate an investment of $1,000.
There are many small publication on the market that probably are
published for that amount or even less.
THREE BASIC ELEMENTS
These are what will determine success...or lack of it:
1. CIRCULATION- The smaller ad sheets generally have a
circulation of 1,000 copies or less per issue. Some of the better
magazines and papers boast 3,000 to 5,000 circulation... and few
will quote circulation figures of about 10,000.
Anything less than 5,000 probably won't be worthwhile if you hope
to gain recognition and enjoy growth as a publisher, so try to
make that figure your minimum target.
2. CONTENTS- Aside from physical appearance, which should
certainly be first rate (typesetting, graphics, halftone
illustrations, paper stock, cover design, layout) a new
publication will be judged on it's contents. A worthy magazine
will have its readers' interests in mind by including material to
help them start a new business, increase results of their
existing business, keep them abreast of new trends, developments
or changes in the field that might reflect on their operations.
Primary features will include articles by recognized authorities,
writers who have something to contribute, new ideas, book
reviews, news about latest products on the market, an editor's
page, letters from readers...anything that will help make your
publication read and valued. A supply source directory or
listing is another important feature that will be found in a good
3. ADVERTISING- This is what feeds your publication, keeps it
growing and growing. An adage which has become overused but is
still valid is "Without advertising a terrible thing happens:
NOTHING." Businesses must advertise to sell...a magazine must
solicit their advertising business to survive. There must be a
marriage between advertising and editorial content that blends
and balances, keeping both reader and advertiser happy. You need
advertising revenue to keep your publication in existence, but
too much of it with little readership and people will not read or
subscribe. Too many features without advertising to support the
magazine and you will lose money. You should strive for a 70/30
ratio at the start with readership on the heavy side
eventually trying for a 50/50 balance.
HOW TO DETERMINE AD RATES
There is no definite answer to this, but a good rule-of-thumb is
$1 per inch of space per each 1,000 readers. If your circulation
is 5,000 then a fair ad rate would be $5 per inch. When you grow
to 10,000 circulation you can then increase the ad rate to $10
per inch and so on. To get an overview on the subject, pick up
several magazines with various circulation figures and check the
ad rates for each. You will then be able to more accurately
determine your own ad rate schedule and scale rates according to
the space you sell from a single one column inch to half page and
full page ads. Naturally, the big money is selling the larger
space, but the majority of steady advertisers will be using the
smaller one and two inch ad sizes.
Be Sure To Include A Classified Section
Many advertisers, especially beginners, swear by classified
advertising, so you should offer it. Most authorities agree that
classified advertising, dollar for dollar spent, is the
advertisers' best buy. Results are usually smaller, but so is the
cost to advertiser compared to larger space. Your ad rate should
be approximately 5 cents per word per thousand readers. A magazine
with 10,000 circulation would then charge 50 cent per word.
All such discussions about ad rates is speculative at this point.
After your first issue is in print, you can analyze the entire
situation and make price adjustments as necessary.
TYPESETTING & LAYOUT
This is probably the most difficult part of putting a magazine
together, and if you don't have prior experience, you may have to
employ some outside help. You can purchase layout sheets from a
graphic arts supply store. these are sheets lined in light blue
ink indicating where to place copy, illustrations, ads,
headlines, etc. The printer's camera doesn't see the blue, so the
lines won't be printed, just the copy you have pasted on it. Use
rubber cement or a wax stick for laying out your copy. It's fast,
efficient and clean.
THE PUBLISHER ISN'T THE PRINTER
Let's make this distinction: You will be the publisher of your
magazine, the one who makes it available to the public. The
printer is the one who does the physical work of putting ink to
paper. Some publishers also do their own printing, but most of
them sub-contract the actual printing to a commercial print shop.
Even before you have everything ready, shop around and talk to
your local printers. Tell them what you plan to do and ask for a
price quotations on printing your magazine. Try to get at least
10 estimates because prices vary greatly among printers. If you
need some help with the layout or typesetting, ask if they will
be willing to assist you, and at what additional cost.
TURN YOUR TYPEWRITER OR COMPUTER INTO A TYPESETTER
Professional typesetting is very expensive. You can save this
expense by doing all your own typesetting on an electronic
typewriter, PC or word processor. Later on you might want to
invest in one of the new desktop publishing systems that can pay
for itself many times over.
Whatever method you use to write your editorial material, type
one section at a time, then paste it on your layout sheet as it
will appear in the final printing. This is the most economical
method, but it is rather time consuming, so you might want to
turn this chore over to your spouse, family member, partner or an
outside typist. There are many home typists who will be happy to
do this job for you, and the cost is relatively low.
Long before you begin preparing your layout sheets for your
magazine, go after advertisers. There are three ways to go about
1. Run a small ad of your own in publications that are currently
read by the very type of advertiser you want in your publication.
NEW MAGAZINE COMING SOON
Reach a greater share of your market for less. Target date March
1st. Projected circulation: 10,000. Special low introductory
rates for new advertisers. Write for Discount Rate Card and
2. Scan all the publications carrying your potential future
advertisers, clip their names and send them your discount offer.
Make it enticing because you'll need all the advertisers you can
get. Don't be afraid to give them half price, one time discounts.
include your offer in a good sales letter and circular or
brochure that fully describes your new magazine. Be sure to
include a listing of all the important features you will be
3. Rent a list of businesses suitable for your magazine. If you
live in a moderate to large city, check your local Yellow Pages
for list brokers (under the Advertising heading) and call them.
tell them the type of names you're looking for. Make the same
type of introductory discount offer as above. remember: For your
first issue you want to get as many new advertisers as possible,
regardless of what size space they buy, or whether you make a
profit or not. Your objective should be to make your magazine
familiar to potential new advertisers so they will come back and
repeat their ad schedules.
A little trick that some publishers use is to clip ads of some of
the top names from other magazines and reprint them in their own
publication free. It can serve two purposes; First, it adds
prestige to the magazine by implying that the advertisers have
paid to be there, giving a good impression to other potential
advertisers; and second, if the advertisers get good results from
this freebie, they might want to come back with a paid ad in
subsequent issues. To do this right, of course, you should key
each ad and send a checking copy to all advertisers you have
included, informing them of the free ad so they can check
results. However you get advertisers for your premier issue,
don't be too concerned with making a profit from them at this
early stage. You might, or you might break even... but you will
probably lose a little. the profits will begin coming when each
advertiser starts repeating in future issues.
When your magazine comes from the printers you'll want to get it
out to the readers and potential subscribers as quickly as
possible...and to as many as possible. If you have predetermined
a circulation figure of 10,000 copies, most of them will be given
a free. That part will really hurt your budget, but it's an
expense that you'll have to face. You can't very well run an ad
hoping to sell 10,000 copies. It would probably take several
months to a year to get them distributed, and you need speed
You'll have to rent a name list. You'll also have to mail under a
Bulk Mailing List, so check with your local post office and apply
for one early. the savings will be well worth it.
When mailing sample copies be sure to include a strong pitch for
subscriptions. You'll probably have a cover price of about $2 or
43 with a subscription price of about $12 to $20. Somewhere
between idea and publication date you'll have to decide whether
your magazine will be a monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly. it
would be a pretty good idea to begin with a quarterly until you
get your bearings and get a few issues into print. You can always
step things up and publish extra issues if the opportunity is
there, but it can mean disaster if you commit yourself to a
monthly and can't meet the deadline. Advertisers and subscribers
will be on your neck. play it safe and give yourself some
breathing room with a quarterly.
In your mailings of sample issue, be sure to include offers for
advertising at special introductory rates, possibly a discount on
a trail subscription. Within the magazine itself, you should also
have some offers of your own, special products of interest to
readers; books, reports, services you offer - anything that can
be helpful to others and profitable for you.
So, is there room for a new, quality magazine? Of course. There
will always be room for new blood in any field, and there will
always be someone with insight, daring and initiative to start a
new magazine. Why not you?
In the above example a general mail order magazine as the example in
this report, but the principles can be applied to any market
within the general mail order scope: Classified advertisers, Book
& Information Sellers, Consultants and services, copywriters,
artists, legal aid, etc. Whatever your field of interest, check
the magazines already in print. If there isn't a good one, now's
the time to start your own. If you don't, somebody else will.