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A Self Test: How Good are Your Ideas about How to Start a Magazine, Content Website, or Newsletter?

By Cheryl Woodard, Updated March 2008 [PRINT VERSION]

Let's say that you've got an irresistible itch to launch your own newsletter, content website or magazine. Before you run out and buy a printing press (or the modern-day equivalent), sit down and ask yourself these questions:

Do you have an entrepreneurial personality?

Entrepreneurs aren't satisfied with the status quo, chafe under someone else's direction, thrive on chaos, and habitually seek out a variety of new challenges. It takes more work than you can possibly imagine to safely launch a new publication. Only a fool--or a crafty entrepreneur--would even dare to try it. Is that you?

Are you moved by passion, a vision, a mission, or a dream?

Love is important. If you love your subject, or you are driven by a personal mission of some kind, then you'll find it much easier to survive the rigorous life of an independent publisher. Do you have a burning desire to move the world in some way, or a long-standing passion for your subject?

Do you have something valuable to say?

Can you deliver a winning website or print publication not just once, but for weeks on end? Maybe so, but give yourself top points ONLY if you have convincing evidence that your readers need to hear what you have to say to them. Lots of would-be publishers forget to make sure there is a deep and abiding need in the world for the information they want to provide.

Can you convince other people to help you?

Charm can be better than money in the bank if you're a publisher because you will need support from so many different people--from writers to printers to bankers to the post office. How well can you inspire, motivate and direct people?

Do you (and also your readers) have a sustained interest in your subject?

Success takes several years to achieve for most publishers. Are you dealing with a subject that you can live with for the long haul? For example, if you want to write about your divorce, write a book, don't launch a newsletter. Hopefully, you'll soon recover from your divorce and move on to a different topic. The same goes for your readers: are they going to need you in five years the same way they need you today?

How is your tolerance for financial risk?

Publishing is a very risky business with an extraordinary failure rate. There are lots of ways to control the risks if you are willing to consider them. For example, getting other people involved, either as investors or as contributors can vastly improve your odds of success. Can you tolerate risk and at the same time take sensible precautions to maximize your chances of succeeding?

Have you got connections?

The more you know about your subject, the greater your odds of success will be. Are you starting out with influential friends in your field who will help your publication gain a foothold?

Adding Up Your Score

Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 5 for each attribute where 5 is extremely strong and 1 is extremely weak. If you score below 10 points, better look for a job on someone else's publication instead of starting your own. If you score between 10 and 25 points, then you ought to look for collaborators with talents that complement your own. If you score 25 or better then chances are good that you're going to love being a publisher.

More Information

I recommend my book for first-time publishers. This is the how-to book you've been waiting for, written by a co-founder of three computer magazines, PC Magazine, PC World, and Macworld. You can read it in one weekend, and you'll learn everything you need to know about starting publications. You can also learn about editing, design, and web publishing from my second book (co-authored with Lucia Hwang) called, Every Nonprofit's Guide to Publishing. Look for both in your local library, well-stocked bookstores, or buy them right now from Amazon.com by clicking on the cover images on this page.

Questions?

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, too.

 
 

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