Fulfill your dreams, and learn from them too.
Career lessons learned from fulfilling personal goals.
I have always loved to write. Reading and writing, absorbing and sharing knowledge. Stories. This and that. It’s appealed to me from a very young age and is a trait I voice loud and true to this very day. Like any other aspiring author, journalist, blogger or social media narcissist, I’ve held a dream of seeing my own work in print.
During the winter of 2012, and at that time not being a family man so with plenty of spare time on my hands, I took it upon myself to set a task of creating a magazine, or fanzine (when referring to self-publishing about niche subject matter). At that precise time I had two concrete facts that formed the entire foundation of the project.
My fanzine would be about two things I love. Japan and video game culture. It would also be as slick and professional as possible.
That’s it. That’s all I had. Those two little things.
With my fanzine foundation set, the (alien to me at the time) difficult task of producing and self-publishing a high-grade, entertaining publication had well and truly begun. Immediately I hit a crossroad in the project. I had no content and no capital. More important than that I had absolutely zero audience awareness of my product. No customer loyalty. No nothing.
At this particular point I drew up a list of general content and a theme and at the same time, marketed the idea to communities I had frequented online. My target audience whom I knew were in the similar interest niche as myself. I took the decision to market my fanzine on a pre-order basis, with payment upfront. I agree, it was a very risky move. There is method to my madness though.
Just look around you at the dwindling circulation figures of even the most famous dailies and monthlies in the world. Newspapers closing on a regular basis, the online free press revolution and failing paywalls. Printing is expensive.
It was with this in mind that I decided to take refundable pre-orders and set a stretch goal whereby the fanzine would only go to print if I took a minimum of 100 pre-orders.
Filling 25+ pages with content is no easy task yet it encouraged me to get creative.
This way I would know how many copies would need to be printed and at the same time, with rates already obtained from the printer, I could set a cover price for the fanzine. The idea being to break-even on printing, packing and shipping. Unwritten law within fanzine circles states they should be non-profit, which thanks to my pre-calculations, mine was. Anything over 100 copies would be a bonus, anything under would see an immediate refund, no sleepless nights and my tail between my legs. But at least I would have tried.
So it came to be that upon announcing that a niche publication would be arriving in the Spring of 2013, I set to work on my little project. My ambition.
Filling 25+ pages with content is no easy task yet it encouraged me to get creative. By the end of the content writing phase, I’d completed several smaller articles, secured an interview with a game developer, interviewed well known personalities from Famitsu in Akihabara, Tokyo and finally secured the services of one of the most revered comic artists in the UK, Wil Overton, to produce the cover art.
You can see the final cover art at the top of this article.
With the publication finally complete, after countless hours of blindly using a trial version of In Design, it was time to open paid pre-orders. At this point I decided to set up an e-commerce solution. I sided with Big Cartel rather than taking the job on myself so as to prevent any technical hiccups or allow for security openings.
I flew past my target of 100 pre-orders within the first 48 hours.
Using social media and my selection of frequented online communities, I announced the final details of the fanzine and declared pre-orders would be open for 7 days and would stop once my optimistic target of 100 orders was reached.
I flew past my target of 100 pre-orders within the first 48 hours. By the time the 7 day window had closed I had taken in excess of 500 pre-orders. That’s an Airbus A380, almost filled to capacity with passengers each reading my humble little book. It blew my mind when I visualized it.
To cut a long story short, at this point it was over to me to keep the printer in check, take delivery, check proofs, pack and ship a literal tonne of fanzines. It was no easy feat and probably something I’d never do on my own again. So I documented the entire process and made a mini-movie about it, showcasing the numerous countries my little fanzine had reached.
I’ve no experience at all in film-making, so I was rather pleased with the output from a cheap, outdated copy of Sony Vegas and a knackered camcorder. I’ve included the film at the top of this article. I hope you like my efforts too.
“That’s all very well and good, and thanks for showing off that you made a book and everything, but what about my career?” I can hear you say.
Go back and re-read this article from the beginning. Prior to putting my publication together I had no real prior professional skill in any of the areas required to pull something like this off, and pull it off well.
During the project I gained valuable skills in project management, marketing, budgeting, customer service, e-commerce, design and print solutions and so much more precious knowledge that I have since consciously applied to my every day life and my career. It boosted my productivity levels and sent my creative juices soaring. All of this was gained from one little dream. One little ambition. What do you dream of? What do you aspire to? On a personal, not a professional level.
Dare to dream, they say. Yet living the dream, in some cases, is even more daring, and ultimately invaluable regardless if you succeed or not.