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10 Hot Tips for First-Time Publishing

By Cheryl Woodard, posted Updated October 2008 [PRINT VERSION]

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 products.

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 with.

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 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, too.


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