10 Hot Tips for First-Time Publishing
By Cheryl Woodard, posted Updated October 2008 [PRINT
I frequently meet people who are thinking of starting a new
content website, newsletter or magazine. Often such people
spend most of their time worrying about how their product
will LOOK, not how it will appeal to readers. Sadly, more than two-thirds
of new publications started by first-time publishers flop within
a few months. Take these steps
to increase the odds that your own publishing ideas will succeed.
1. Concentrate on markets that you know very well.
For a small publisher with limited resources, the best strategy
is to stick to a subjectyou already understand very well. If
you really know what you're talking about, then your content
is probably going to be useful to its readers. In addition, you'll
find it easier to manage your publishing business if you have
a deep connection to your topic.
2. Listen to your readers and advertisers and develop products
responsive to their needs.
The worst mistake people make is this: They concentrate on what
they want to WRITE, not on what their audience wants to READ.
Great communicators listen as well as they speak.
So, give your customers plenty of opportunities to tell you what
they think. For example, use chats and online polls or e-mail to solicit
their comments and suggestions. And study the information habits
of your audience before you design your publication: Make sure you deliver a comparable mix of features they're used to finding at other websites or magazines.
3. Aim for readers who have continuing information needs.
It takes money to find new readers and earn their trust, so
look for people who will need you years from now as much as they
need you today. Within every subject area, there are people with
transient needs and people who remain interested for the long
haul. For example, you can concentrate on divorce lawyers not
individuals going through a divorce.
4. Get help from experienced people.
Experienced people can help you learn quickly, and the quicker you learn the publishing trade, the sooner you can
expect to succeed. As soon as you can afford to do
it, hire people with publishing experience to advise you.
Meanwhile, you can get excellent advice for free from people
right in front of you like your printer, website host or banker. If you
come across someone you respect, don't be shy about asking them
for business suggestions.
5. Adopt good ideas whenever you find them.
Don't reinvent the printing press. Study other
publications and get to know other publishers. One fast way to
master the business is to study what's already working for other
publishers. For example, collect media kits from other magazines and websites,
or renewal promotion letters from other newsletters, and see if
you can borrow some good tactics from them.
6. Befriend influential people in your market and ask them
to support your publication.
Key people in your field can support you in many ways: sharing
their thoughts in a column or interview, introducing you to their
colleagues, or simply helping you understand trends and new developments.
Reach out to them!
7. Study the results of your actions.
You can learn much more
quickly if you keep track of what you're doing so that you can
concentrate your efforts where you are most effective. Track email promotions, for example so that you can discover which appeals produce the highest response rates.
Monitor reactions to individual articles and web pages, too.
8. Be prepared for change.
Save some of your resources for the proverbial rainy day, and
always consider alternative strategies ahead of time because
the one thing you can count on is change. New competitors will
come along, readers will change their reading habits, and your
organization will continually evolve. Many inexperienced publishers
lock themselves into a single strategy and they fall apart when
their circumstances change. For example, can you keep publishing
even if a key editorial contributor decides to quit?
9. Look for add-on or spin-off profit opportunities.
Once you've got a trusting relationship with advertisers and
subscribers, look for add-on or spin-off products you can sell
to the same customers. Many niche publishers make most of their profits
from special reports, electronic newsletters, seminars, books, videos and other ancillary
10. Plan well before you leap into production.
Publications are relatively easy to launch but hard to maintain.
Make sure you've chosen a subject that you care about and that
you're suited to a publisher's lifestyle. Do a lot of homework before you launch — learn as
much as you can about publishing, study your audience and your
competitors, and carefully define your own goals and aspirations.
Don't go forward until you've got a long-term plan you can live
I recommend my book
for first-time publishers. You can read
the whole thing in one weekend, and you'll learn everything
you need to know about starting
publications. Look for it in your local library, well-stocked bookstores,
or buy it right now from Amazon.com by clicking on the cove.
Questions about our services?
If you are working on a publication and you need specific advice,
feel free to email
us. We work with newsletter, magazine, and book publishers
of every variety. The chances are good that we can help you,