Earlier this year, Conor Purcell, founder of indie publications, We Are Here and We Are Dublin, published The Magazine Blueprint, a step-by-step guide to publishing your own magazine. He strived to make this book "The Ultimate Guide to Indie Publishing," and included interviews with over 50 magazine makers from mainstream, custom, and independent publications. Thanks to Conor for chatting with us and giving us a behind-the-scenes look at how this book came together!
SPD: What inspired you to put this book together?
Conor Purcell: I had published my own independent titles and there was nothing like this book on the market back then. It would have been very useful to have something that walked me through the process when I was creating my own magazine. A lot of the books focusing on indie titles are very graphic design orientated, whereas I wanted to create something that was useful for aspiring magazine makers rather than a coffee table book. So far, the feedback from readers has been great, which is very gratifying.
SPD: How did you come up with the list of people you wanted to interview?
CP: It was a mixture of people from magazines I know and I enjoy and some legends of the design world. I also wanted to include people from mainstream and custom titles (The New York Times Magazine, New York, The Happy Reader) as I think they can be overlooked in the independent magazine scene. A lot of people were very generous with their time and insights.
SPD: Who were your favorite interviews?
CP: I really liked what Real Review's (a London-based architecture magazine) Jack Self had to say. Delayed Gratification's Rob Orchard was also very interesting and had a lot to say on getting and keeping subscribers. I also visited Gail Bichler at The New York Times Magazine and it was fascinating to hear how she and her team put together the magazine each week.
SPD: You previously published independent magazines—We Are Here and We Are Dublin—how did those experiences help inform The Magazine Blueprint?
CP: Those experiences taught me how important it was to focus on building an audience at the same time as working on the creative/editorial. And how important it was to get direct sales online. When you are giving 40-60% of your cover price to stores/distributors, it can be hard to make a decent profit.
SPD: What was the most important thing you learned from publishing this book?
CP: A lot of the hard work comes at the start of the process, which is when you need to figure out exactly who your audience is. Go too wide and you risk getting lost in the crowd, too narrow and you won't have a big enough audience to sell to. Once you figure out who your audience is and where they are, you can figure out cover price, design and paper stock, distribution and tone of voice. Then, it's vital to start building your audience as early as possible. If you only think about your audience once you have printed your first issue, you will find it very hard to succeed.
I think the key thing is for people to go for it - but be realistic about building an audience and making money. It's time consuming and a lot of fun, but it's a long-term play. But if you have the magazine bug, do it - there's nothing better than having a freshly printed copy of your magazine in your hands.
SPD: The cover of the book says The Magazine Blueprint is “The Ultimate Guide to Indie Publishing.” Why do you think this book lives up to that claim?
CP: I hope so! So far the feedback I have gotten from customers has been great. I wanted the book to be something that helps aspiring publishers avoid making the same mistakes I did!! I think the mixture of real world examples from my own experience and that of the 50 people I interviewed will ensure readers will be well prepared to take their own titles to market.
SPD Bonus Question: What magazines are you currently reading?
CP: I am working my way back through my collection of Colors.