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Publishing Your Own Magazine: The Pre-Press Hurdles

Updated on March 20, 2011

A Guide To Help You Navigate The Pre-Press Maze

Many new publishers-to-be figure that they can pull a fast one on the world and do everything themselves, thus having to be responsible for few expenses over and above the printing bill. A one-person magazine is a very difficult challenge and that person has to be not only a jack of all trades, but should have extensive experience in virtually every facet of magazine publishing. There are a lot of pratfalls along the way that have swallowed up many a wannabe publisher. The third issue is the charm. If you can make it up to the time when you release your third regularly scheduled issue, you've beaten the odds. Nine out of ten new magazine publishers never make it that far. I'm not trying to be overly negative, but I am trying to stress that the mortality rate among new magazine publishing companies is acknowledged to be over 90% which exceeds that in any other business, including the well-known ravenous tyro-eating market segments like restaurants. However, if you "plan your work and work your plan" that can help you beat the odds.

It's the best deal in town! Sign the contract today!
It's the best deal in town! Sign the contract today!
The mugshot of Mr. Charles Ponzi, the criminal genius who invented the Ponzi Pyramid Scheme, and patron saint to unethical printers around the world.
The mugshot of Mr. Charles Ponzi, the criminal genius who invented the Ponzi Pyramid Scheme, and patron saint to unethical printers around the world.

Any neophyte publisher contemplating dreams of one-man-band-hood need to address these pre-press questions before even contemplating going it alone:

1) Have you allocated a sufficient editorial budget? Everything in your magazine has to be fully original. Don't even think about just peeling some images off the web and letting them do double duty as illustrations. Not only is the 72 dpi resolution of web pages going to look like a multicoloured onion field on the printed page, but when (not if) the copyright holder finds out you've stolen their images you will spend the rest of your natural life in court.

2) Are you fully experienced in all aspects of Adobe CS2 or 3 and Quark? Are you aware of absolutely everything you need to provide in your "disk ready" submission to have it ready to rip? Getting a magazine ready for the press takes complete mastery of the most minute aspects of this software. Don't think you can fake your way through it. You can't.

3) Would you be providing final press-ready EPS and/or PDF files for the printer? Look at that printing quote very very very carefully. If it states that you are providing "plate ready film", that means that it is your responsibility to pay for the cost of turning all those lovely colourful pages on your computer monitor into huge sheets of lithographic media which are used to "burn" the actual metal plates. Producing "plate ready film" can add as much as the cost of a new small car to your new magazine project.

4) What kind of proofs are you going to need? You can get specific types of matchprint colour key proofs that will be absolutely accurate in colour rendition and it's going to cost you bigtime. Can you just make do with colour laser proofs?

5) Do you live and breathe paper stocks? Are you completely familiar with the grading (#1 is the brightest white, #5 is the grayer) and the weight (#100 is a heavy cover, #50 is a thin interior page) of the coated text papers on the market? Are you aware that a fairly standard (People magazine-sized) saddlestitch of 3 x 32 pg. #2-grade sigs on a #70 matte with a #100 gloss selfcover, is going to cost about three times as much in paper as #5-grade sigs on a #50 matte with a #80 gloss selfcover? Add aqueous coating and really watch that quote skyrocket!

The way some magazine printers operate, you would think that they moonlight as pyramid scheme promoters. If you think that auto mechanics and plumbers can rip off the uninitiated, it's nothing as compared to what some printers do to people who don't know their way around a quote. Before you just blindly sign that contract with Charles Ponzi Printing Co., you owe it to yourself to acquire some insight into the internal workings of that mysterious pile of figures.

First of all you have to realize that printers have various pricing structures:

#1) For people who just walk in their front doors.

#2) For printing brokers.

#3) For their own family.

A good printing broker can negotiate a price somewhere between #2 and #3. You might find that price is about 65% of #1. If you think you can negotiate it yourself, go ahead. A savvy and unethical printer will actually have the quote increase in price the more you try to negotiate it down. They'll justify it by stating that your conversations have revealed additional cost items which were not included in the original quote. Read that as "you're taking up my golfing time, buddy, and I'm gonna make ya pay for it."

If you don't like what you're seeing from your printer's quote, and you probably don't, remember that there are lots of fish in that inky sea. All you need to do is type a few choice words into Google and you'll be presented with lists of hundreds of magazine printers hungry for your business. What you should do is mine the email addys and then send each one an RFQ or "Request For Quote". Send each one individual emails, never ccs or bccs. Be excruciatingly specific what you want. If you're unclear on your specs they won't reply. Once you fire off the RFQs to all of them, within a day or two the quotes will start flooding in. Check them all out and pick the one you like best. You'll be absolutely amazed at the difference from the highest to the lowest quote. I've seen 300% spreads on exactly the same printing job!

Do not just prematurely bypass investigating the much cheaper option of overseas printing. That is not going to work for you if your magazine is a newsweekly, but most magazines have a closing date about four months before the issue hits the streets anyway so there is enough time there to allow for shipping. I had tens of millions of copies for hundreds of my magazine issues printed in Singapore. You have to factor in a minimum of five weeks for the 40 foot FCL to actually get to your distributor, but the savings could really be worth it.

Unless you can confidently state with all honesty that you are "on top" of all these various factors... have you considered another type of enterprise? Like maybe a lemonade stand?


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    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      8 years ago from Toronto

      That's why I hate scammers and do everything I can in my Hubs to expose their low-life lies! :)

    • Shelly Bryant profile image

      Shelly Bryant 

      8 years ago from Singapore and/or Shanghai

      I guess that's what scammers have on us — we'd all rather it (whatever we are doing) be nice and easy. Saying it takes sweat, hard work, etc., isn't likely to get the sorts of results a scammer wants.

    • Hal Licino profile imageAUTHOR

      Hal Licino 

      8 years ago from Toronto

      Thanks. Yeah, the scammers always want to make it sound like you push a button and have instant results. Magazines are made only out of tears and sweat. No short cuts. :)

    • Shelly Bryant profile image

      Shelly Bryant 

      8 years ago from Singapore and/or Shanghai

      Wow, this is some great information! It's funny how easy some companies want to make it sound these days, but there is so much that goes into putting a good magazine together. You've done a nice job highlighting just how much work and insider knowledge is involved.


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