Sharing the knowledge

First published in GYM CLASS 12, March 2015

Illustration by: Mark Long

magCulture’s Jeremy Leslie shares some important lessons mainstream and indie magazine makers can learn from each other.

To learn from the indies:

  • Be loved by a few, not tolerated by many. Cultivate a tight community of regular readers who follow your every move. They will demonstrate a loyalty you’ll never match by trying to be loved by everyone.
  • Take advantage of print: papers, colours, finishes. The advantage of print is the way it engages multiple senses. Make your magazine as magazine-y as possible and stand apart from your competitors. Papers that feel different! Inks that smell! Varnishes that reflect!
  • Don’t fear illustration! Photography retains a misplaced reputation for being truthful when in fact is is as manipulated and unreal as illustration. Take advantage of the great image-makers out there, commission illustration every issue. And why not on the cover?

To learn from the mainstream:

  • Magazines can be ‘just’ entertainment. I love experimental, challenging, awkward magazines, but that isn’t always enough on its own. Share the fun and excitement of making your magazine, don’t fall into the trap of feeling you have to be super-cool to be appreciated.
  • Don’t fear change! Templates and regular formats build familiarity and commitment from readers, and help you plan a new issue. But don’t stand still — keep trying new ideas for content and design. Magazines should evolve issue by issue, not get stuck on repeat.
  • Don’t be afraid to be commercial. Of course your magazine can remain in a little indie haven of small sales and under-achievement. Easy! But what if the same editorial ideas could break out to become popular? Readers understand your magazine is a commercial project — be honest about that and try exploiting what’s great about what you’re doing.
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