This is the eighth article in a series about surviving as an independent magazine publisher. If you want to start at the beginning, check out the Introduction to The Ball Bearing and the Beach Ball.

The Ball Bearing and the Beach Ball

"The audience is listening" — THX Sound System

"The audience is listless." — Michael Brooke

Ok, you've decided to get focused. You've decided to create a kick-ass magazine guaranteed to BLOW the minds of your very targeted readership. You feel as though all the blood, sweat and beers you've put into this magazine is starting to become a reality.

HOLD ON!!! Let's back up! You say you don't wanna back up? You want big numbers and you want that damn magazine out the door! Well my friend you've put the cart before the horse and I am sorry to hear that.

Again, I have to stress that as a ball bearing publisher, you are interested in QUALITY not QUANTITY. Despite this, I know many of you will have a burning desire for big numbers. Ok - Ok...UNCLE!! You have decided to forget reading all the other chapters and you just want the big numbers...

  1. A number of publishers buy mailing lists. I have never done this — but I do know a number of publishers who have achieved quite a bit of success with this method. I would suggest that business to business publications might have an advantage here — since if you were publishing a magazine on architecture that it wouldn't be a huge stretch to send it out to architects. The problem of course is that if you are sending out something that is unsolicited and it just happens to wind up in the mailbox, you can't really be sure of just how enthusiastic your readers will be. You can only surmise that it will be read, enjoyed and acted upon.

  1. You can bundle your magazine with a newspaper. Newspapers love big numbers. You will find it rather inexpensive to put your magazine in with a newspaper. The expense comes in printing such a huge number of copies. Again, I remind you however that because the magazine is arriving unsolicited, you just don't really know how it will hit.

  1. You can drop your magazine in public areas — just like free community newspapers. While this might get your circulation up, the fact is that it's a bit of wild card. If you do wind up matching the public space with the personality of your magazine, you might find it works out well. On the other hand, it can backfire.

  1. You can hand your magazine out at events — community gatherings, concerts — anytime there are BIG crowds, you can be there with your magazine. You might find it difficult to actually SELL your magazine at events — but there tends to be no end to the number of people who like getting something for nothing. It's a crapshoot.

  1. Head for the newsstand! You want volume? Just head down to your local Barnes and Noble or Chapters! Actually, it's not that easy. Generally you need to have representation. The newsstand business is having a crisis right now. Don't forget the fact that you'll be competing with literally hundreds of titles on the racks. If you sell more than 30% of what you put out there, congrats! That is considered a very successful number. I'll be devoting a whole chapter to newsstands, so for now, let me just say that it's a very difficult and costly road to go down — but it can be an invaluable marketing tool...and not much else.

There are probably another dozen or so ways to physically get your magazine out to people each with its own positive and negative aspects. But I want to stop for a minute and look carefully at what it is you are trying to accomplish.

I am interested in highly specific audience within skateboarding. As discussed in the last chapter, they make up a fair amount of skaters — but not every skater. While it would be great to think that my magazine would appeal to ALL skaters, the truth is that it doesn't. This can be a painful thing to deal with — because we tend to take rejection quite personally. When you release your magazine, you have to realize that people within the community will react to it differently. I want my magazine to leave an impression when it hits a specific type of skater. (just like a ball bearing!) I am not interested in having the magazine bounce off a reader — leaving no impression whatsoever.

This same philosophy must extend to HOW you distribute the magazine. In much the same way I have different types of readers, I have different distribution points. Here are some ideas that might work for you...for sure they've worked for me.

  1. the web is probably the greatest tool for finding specific folks

    1. get aligned and immersed with the subject matter at various websites (3 or 4 should keep you busy enough!)

    2. contribute and post — be a part of the site!

    3. Repeat step b as much as you can

    4. Slowly, but surely you will find that people will find you

  1. Notice that I didn't say "go and build a website." The trick is to leverage what is out there and begin to build a following...once you have something cooking, then slowly roll out your own thing-this "thing" could be a website or magazine, movie or book or some other type of media.

  1. Reread the first two points here — I am not suggesting that you by-pass doing your own thing...I am merely saying that you can take advantage of all the highly targeted traffic that is currently out there by FIRST contributing a third party — not your party.

I truly believe in this strategy. So much so that I am spending the next 52 weeks writing this book for the folks here at Publishing Central.

You could say I am practicing what I preach. Next week-moving from web to actual paper.

Michael Brooke is the publisher of Concrete Wave Magazine.