Let’s look at other ways a freelancer could sell their work. Besides building an app, which I’ve touched on before, one could create their own hardcopy magazine, publish an e-zine, blog for an existing site, or write a column for an existing magazine. And instead of wasting time on the freelance sites, you might look to Craigslist for writing assignments. Today, let’s concentrate on the seemingly impossible, creating your own hardcopy magazine.
In 1994 and 1995 I produced private line magazine. The complementary website, over four hundred pages, still exists at this address: http://www.privateline.com. It is now an archive and not updated. private line in hardcopy was 24 to 30 pages, every two months, published all by myself with only a few contributors. It focused on the telephone system, with a hacking angle that had some comparison to the great 2600. It was a critical success but a commercial failure, its demise caused by the bankruptcy of my leading distributor, Fine Print. They owed me so much money that I could not continue printing or mailing. Sigh.
It is probable, however, that I could not have sustained the magazine, even without the crippling bankruptcy. I had to do everything, which was writing, cutting and pasting the layout, dealing with the printer, whom you always had to pay up front, and finding advertisers. If you have a team, however, and if you can afford to have everyone working without pay for a while, you might still be able to swing it. I had good and encouraging relations with Borders Books and Tower. Their agents simply looked at sample copies, deemed them acceptable, and gave me orders for their stores. Because of this, some people bought private line in Tokyo at a Tower store. Very cool. There was a major problem with distributors, though, and that was how much they took.
It was common that 40% to 60% of your title’s price was taken by the distributor. Copies that didn’t sell paid nothing. So you have to run the numbers very carefully when you start printing hundreds and hundreds of copies. Which brings up another point. The more copies you have printed the less unit cost you suffer. But your overall bill goes up, up, up. Printing just a few copies is very expensive. I mentioned a team. You really need someone in charge of finding advertising so you can concentrate on production. If you are a writer, or the only writer in the mag, you shouldn’t have to deal with ads or the printer, or managing subscribers.
Barnes and Noble and independent magazines are still stocked with hundreds of titles. Someone is making money doing hardcopy magazines. If you have a passion for an underreported industry or interest you may want to consider this expensive possibility. Make sure your topic is something advertisers would be interested in or, failing that, that you have group of ardent followers willing to pay for subscriptions. I enjoyed producing a magazine and I could go through it again with help and financing. But without those things, I’ll take a pass. Next blog entry will be on publishing an e-zine. I’ll need to research this field before I report because I haven’t done one before. Perhaps these are the future. Stay tuned.