10 Hot Tips for First-Time Publishers
I frequently meet people who are thinking of starting a new newsletter
or magazine. Often such people spend most of their time worrying about
how their publication will LOOK, not how it will SELL. Sadly, more than
two-thirds of new publications started by first-time publishers flop
within a few months. Luckily, there are some simple steps you can take
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 market you already understand very well. If you really know
what you're talking about, then your publication 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 field.
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. Of course, great
communicators listen as well as they speak. So, give your customers plenty
of opportunities to tell you what they think. For example, use fax-back
polls or e-mail to solicit their comments and suggestions. And study
the information habits of your audience before you design your publication.
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.
The quicker you learn the publishing trade, the sooner you can expect
to succeed. Experienced people can help you learn quickly. Sometimes,
you can get excellent advice for free from people right in front of you
like your printer or your banker. If you come across someone you respect,
don't be shy about asking them for business suggestions. And as soon
as you can afford to do it, hire people with publishing experience to
5. Adopt good ideas whenever you find them.
In other words, 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 or renewal promotion letters
from other newsletters and see if you can borrow some good tactics from
6. Befriend influential people in your market and ask them to support
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
7. Study the results of your actions.
Especially if you are new to publishing, you're 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. Code your subscription order forms,
for example, so that you can see which direct mail letter or advertisement
produces the most orders. Then concentrate your money on the top producers.
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 ancillary 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 publication make most of their profits from special reports, seminars,
books, videos and other ancillary products.
10. Plan well before you leap into print.
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. The best insurance is to 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 with.
Questions about our services?
If you are working on a publication and you need specific advice, feel
free to email Help@Publishingbiz.com. We work
with newsletter, magazine, and book publishers of every variety. The
chances are good that we can help you, too.