How To Self-Publish A Magazine In 30 Days
Last month I self-published my own 66-page digital magazine.
How long, in truth, did it take me to complete it?
Eh, around 30 days.
Do I recommend said timetable for anybody?
Just for the crazy people like me. Let’s get right into it, shall we?
1. Why Make A Magazine?
What’s in it for you, right? You’re about to use up every waking hour of your time for the next 30 days, so you might as well be HELLA sure of what you’re about to get out of all this.
Let’s chat about it:
- Your audience will love it — I created the Post-Grad Survival Guide magazine for my audience of 5,000+. It was a gift. I wanted to help inspire them, and guide them down a better path. The thank-you messages alone will be enough for you, trust me.
- It’s an email magnet — A 66-page behemoth of a magazine is quite an email magnet, ESPECIALLY if you have good guests coming on to chat with you. I’ll release my numbers in the follow-up post to this, but let’s just say it was worth it!
- It’s a networking opportunity — I met some really AMAZING people through this journey. I met someone from the Forbes 30-under-30 list, a pretty famous digital nomad, and someone who retired at 28.
One of them even sent me a book! :) By asking for interviews, it’s actually a roundabout way to meet someone. AND you’re providing value to your audience. AND you’re providing them exposure too. It’s a win-win-win.
- It (could be) a moneymaker — I didn’t release this magazine for money. My thought process was to keep it free, provide value, and maybe get a couple email addresses along the way. HOWEVER. If you stick with the magazine, you could offer later editions for sale on iTunes or your site.
- It gives you credibility — Making a magazine is tough. Making a good-looking magazine is even tougher, but if you can pull it off, audiences everywhere will lend you a massive amount of respect. This is not just an ebook download, this is a gargantuan project that takes entire teams weeks to assemble. I’ll show you how to do it quicker.
Now that we know what you’re in it for, let’s talk about how to actually build this thing!
2. Where’s Your Audience?
Before you make a magazine, I’d strongly urge you to build an audience or have access to a large audience. In theory you could do this without one, but that’s not a great idea because:
- It will be hard to land big-name subjects for interviews. What’s in it for them? Access to an audience of 5? I’m not saying it’s impossible because there’s a lot of awesome people out there who will help you, but I also want to be frank because you’re about to spend a lot of time on this.
- You won’t know what to create. What’s your magazine going to focus on? It’s best to build an audience first and see what sorts of posts they engage with the most (or even ask them straight up) before you create that e-zine.
- It’ll be hard to create buzz. I utilized a giveaway (will speak more on that in the follow-up post) to create buzz. With an audience of a couple thousand, it was relatively easy to get the word out and drive downloads.
3. What’s The Magazine’s Focus?
At The Post-Grad Survival Guide, we focus on creating content that helps recent grads find jobs, or start their entrepreneurial venture.
Or both (because side-hustling is a thing these days)!
So, what was my magazine’s focus going to be? Interviewing recruiters, career coaches, and entrepreneurs to talk about how to get hired or start a business.
Just look at your magazine as an extension of your blog or publication. This time you get to bring on outsiders to talk about what you normally talk about.
And you get to build relationships in the process. Once you know what your magazine’s focus is, it’s time to attract some interview subjects. Do nothing else for the time being — it’s time to cold email.
4. Attracting Interviews With A-Listers (Day 1)
Yes, the big kahunas. I imagine this will be the most valuable section of this article, so I won’t skimp on it.
The MOST ESSENTIAL part of your magazine is attracting the most badass individual possible for an interview. This will become your magazine’s main value offering.
If I got Jeff Goins to come interview with me for the magazine, how many of you would want it? The man has almost 100k Medium followers and makes a full-time living on the internet. What about Seth Godin? Or Gary Vaynerchuk?
It immediately lends your magazine credibility.
Where do you find these talented people?
Type “Productivity,” “Entrepreneurship,” “Life,” “Self-Improvement,” etc. into the search bar, and scroll down to select it under the “tags” section. On the next screen select “Top Writers.”
Select one, scope out their profile to see if you like their content, then figure out where their website is:
Benjamin P. Hardy is a prime example:
He has both his website and social media profiles listed here. On Ben’s website, there’s a contact page.
If there is no website listed, simply go to Twitter and tweet at them. That’s how I got Ben Christensen (member of the Forbes 30-under-30) to come on.
If none of those methods work, just move onto the next person. There’s plenty of fish in the sea.
Quora is also another amazing place to find interview subjects. Type your relevant query in the bar, and select it underneath “Topic.”
On the next screen, scroll down the list of answers and try to find a particularly popular one:
This one from Kanwal Anuvind seems pretty amazing. It has 2,700 votes!
If their answers are getting thousands of upvotes, chances are they’re an expert on something and VERY popular. On their profile screen you can see whether they are, and select to send them a message!
Quora manages their feed by showing answers with the highest upvotes the most. Because of that, it shouldn’t be hard to find a Quora celebrity such as Kanwal.
You must shoot for the moon, though. Find people with tens of thousands of followers. Do this because you’ll want to leverage their audience too when you promote it later.
Oops! I just gave you an inside look at the follow-up post. Move along!
I wanted someone from the Forbes 30-under-30 for my magazine because, hell, it’s the Forbes 30-under-30!
My audience is mostly 21–27 year olds, sure, but this list is known by pretty much everybody. It didn’t matter if my subject’s social media platforms didn’t have tens of thousands of followers — I wanted to attach that headline to my magazine!
It was the deal breaker for a lot of people.
Don’t be afraid to pick people featured in major publications like Entrepreneur, or Forbes and reach out to them!
Take a look at these sites and see who they’re featuring. Then look those featured people up on Google, Twitter, Quora, or even Medium! Get in contact with them.
You know my methods.
Tweets That Convert
When you find your subject on Twitter, it may seem like you’re at a disadvantage because of the 140-character limit, but it’s actually a strength!
You can play with curiosity. Tweet this:
“Hey ___________! I found you on ____________ and wanted to know if I could interview you for a big project of mine coming up, can I DM you?
Personal, flattering, and to the point. That’s a tweet that converts.
Emails That Convert
Let me show you a cold email I sent to Digital Nomad Kate Smith (who I’d been following for quite a while) that got her to accept my interview proposal!
This is where you tell me, “AH you totally used Huffinton Post to land an interview with Kate!” Sure, I did, but there’s A LOT more going on here.
- Personalized Opening
For one, I opened up with a personalized first paragraph. I like to let it fly in my emails and have fun. That was important to capture attention.
2. Reveal Audience Size
Then I demonstrated my audience size. First, you do not need to be a contributor at Huffington to land big interviews. This is false.
I’m fairly confident I could’ve landed this interview without mentioning Huffington because for one, I’ve done it before, and two, Kate’s amazing.
All you have to do in the second section is demonstrate the totality of your audience. I mentioned every tool at my disposal because that’s what I should’ve done!
Mention the amount of followers you have, the amount of pageviews you get, how fast you’re growing, what publications you can feature them in (provided you ask great questions that provide VALUE to that specific audience), and any other noteworthy subjects being featured in the magazine also.
That’s why landing one BIG name is so important, because you can use them as a sort of social proof when trying to land additional big names.
3. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
Have fun in your letter. People like to talk with other people that have charisma and personality. I’d say if you’re doing it right, your charisma could have a minor but palpable impact on whether subjects decide to give you a go.
Hey, if anything they’ll have a fun 30 minutes, right?
That’s the thinking here.
5. Send At Least 10–15 Requests (Still Day 1)
This is the hard part. Send personalized emails or tweets to 10–15 people. You’ll be surprised how many get back to you. Try to knock this out in a day.
6. Conducting Interviews (Day 2–10)
For those who get back to you (most will within one day), schedule calls with them ASAP. Just make sure to give yourself a day to research them a little more in-depth.
If you do this right, by day three of this project you should be conducting some interviews.
To record your calls on Skype, use a free trial of Ecamm. You could also always put your phone on speaker and record using your computer’s microphone.
Full disclosure: I did that for my first two magazines!
Don’t worry if some subjects don’t get back to you until a week later — just record your conversation then and in the meantime get a head-start on transcribing and designing (hence why I say Day 2–10).
Those are the next steps..
7. Transcribe Your Interviews (Day 2–10)
This is a tedious process, but it’s a must if you want to make sure ALL relevant information gets extracted from your interviews.
Open a Google Doc and go to town. Use your keyboards smart keys to pause and play the audio, then listen along and catch up. Skip over the parts where you’re speaking (unless you plan to just feature a straight transcripted conversation in your magazine).
I’ve found that for every 30 minutes of audio, it normally takes an hour to transcribe it.
If you interview 3–4 guests for your magazine, you’ll spend anywhere from 4–8 hours transcribing the audio alone.
Transcribe the day after your interviews if possible. I give you nine days for these two steps because working arond other people’s schedule gets messy.
8. Writing Your Magazine’s Content (Day 11–14)
Guys, I’m not going to sit here and pretend you’re going to make a 66-page magazine like I did. Maybe some of you just want to make a 30-pager, or even a 10-page mini-zine.
Here’s a few quick tips to take the writing burden out of it:
- Post straight transcriptions in your magazine, not finished articles.
- Ask your audience for submissions.
- Feature articles you’ve already written before.
- Ask writers on LinkedIn if you can re-publish their content in your magazine.
People are coming to your magazine for the interviews. If you get them right, virtually anything else you put inside is just decoration.
I would make sure to actually do a write-up for a couple of your guests, though. It makes everything more fun and allows you to stretch your writing muscles. This should only take you three days.
9. Designing Your Magazine (Day 14–24)
I can see it already — everybody’s about to X out of this article because they don’t know anything about graphic design.
This is the biggest roadblock for many, but once you read this section you’ll find it’s more like little a speed bump.
First off, get a free trial to LucidPress (NOT an affiliate link, just a genuinely amazing tool).
Once you set up your profile, you can select a “Magazine” template from your dashboard on the right.
From there, you’ll enter into a new “document” screen, where you’ll see pre-made page templates that ALREADY LOOK AMAZING.
If you want to use different pictures, just download them from Pexels and import.
Guys I have ZERO experience in Graphic Design, but was able to make these beauties because of pre-made templates:
I promise you, it’s not that hard to use LucidPress. It’s fun, too! Designing is my favorite part of the project. If you want a few other template ideas, just download my magazine.
Work through each indidivual story/article, and call it a day after you finish one. I promise it takes about 2 hours to design 5 pages. Your first day might be rough, but after you get the hang of it you’ll be designing pages like a pro in no time.
One thing to keep in mind:
- Keep a color scheme throughout your magazine. Mine had three different color schemes because there were three different sections. Each section — Life, Entrepreneurship, Career — felt cohesive because the pictures, typography, and headlines all shared similar color within themselves. Get the magazine to see what I mean!
10. Finishing Touches (Day 25–27)
You finished early! Good. I built in some days for you to chill out and rest your eyes. Come back to the magazine on Day 27 and give it a quick read-through.
It lends perspective!
11. Marketing (Day 28 -30)
Ahh, now we get into marketing. Unfortunately that’s a post that deserves 2,000+ words in and of itself. The good news is, you have an entire magazine now just ready to see the light of day.
I’ll give you part two in the next two weeks!
If you want to be notified when I publish that article AND get my magazine in the meantime, you can do so here.