How To Start A Magazine
Well, that is a monster of a question, but it's one that I asked all the time. Atlas Magazine, the magazine I co-founded with my dearest friend, Megan, is my current full time job. I don't talk about it a lot here, because I wasn't sure if people would want to hear about it. But I was out walking with my friend, Alex of "On Serpentine Shores" and discussing blogs, creativity and the online world, and she suggested that I should write about Atlas more on here.
First, a tiny bit of background. Atlas started 4 years ago when I met one of my best friends online, Megan. We were both photographers, both at uni, and both fascinated by magazines. Despite never meeting, and despite being on opposite ends of the planet (she's in the USA, I'm in the UK), we decided to start a magazine. We called it Atlas; why? Because we're international (I get asked that a lot). Atlas was never meant to become a business, all we wanted to do was be creative and have some fun. But as it developed and time went by, it grew and before I knew it, all I wanted to do was work on the magazine. Over 4 years later, that's exactly what I'm doing.
I get emailed a lot by people who love magazines and who have dreams of starting their own, asking how we did it. It would take far more than one blog post to really go into more detail about this, but here is a summary.
When we started Atlas, we discovered issuu.com. issuu is an incredible platform which allows anybody, anywhere in the world to upload a PDF that they have designed and turn it into a magazine. Pages flip, you can zoom in, it looks legit. It's what we started on, and it's what we still use today for our digital magazines. We wouldn't be where we are today without issuu, so I can't recommend using it enough! If your heart is set on print, starting off digitally can be an incredible way to build up a following without having to fork out the money to print your first few issues.
Build A Strong Team
You can't run a magazine on your own. Well... you can try, but there's a reason that magazines normally have enormous teams behind them. There are so many aspects to them, that you'll find it hard to cover them all on your own. You've also got to bare in mind that you might not be the best person for the job. It's pretty obvious that I'm not a graphic designer, so when I stumbled on Jessica Bailey's work at a Falmouth degree show, I didn't hesitate for a second to ask her for help. She's the mastermind behind our incredible typography and layout. Would the magazine look as great as it does without her? No way.
Get on social Media
One of the first steps we took to start building Atlas' name was setting up our social media accounts. We started Atlas before Instagram was big, so our initial biggest platform was Facebook. We were super active, scheduling posts ahead of time, and commenting on people's work. As we were targeting creatives, it was important they heard about us. Know which platform is best for you; Twitter isn't very visual, so get on there if you're wordy. Instagram is where it's at for anything image based. We're also seeing a lot of interest on Pinterest, so work out what works well for you, and stick to it!
Know your Niche
It's so important when you start a magazine to know what your niche is. Are you a fashion magazine? Are you an arts magazine? Do you focus only on fashion photography that revolves around cats (check out Puss Puss Mag!)? Knowing exactly what you want your magazine to be about is key. Write it down, get really detailed about it, and stick that in front of you at your desk. Refer to it constantly and make sure that you stick to it.
Know your Reader
One thing I wish I had known when we first started was how important it is to understand your reader. You should be able to paint a really clear picture of them in your head, and it's quite a fun exercise! Take some time one day to write down a character description of who your reader is. If you're just starting your magazine and don't have any readers yet, that's ok, because knowing the reader you want to target is just as important! Write down who your ideal reader is: What do they wear? What do they eat? Where do they live? What do they do for a living? What are their hobbies? Get as detailed as possible!
Build A Website
Sounds obvious, but if you want to be legit, a website is going to be essential. Whether this is simply a place for people to find out how to get in touch with you, or its a blog, you need somewhere on the interwebs where people can go and it's your space. Make it easy to read, easy to navigate, and give people the info they need. Want to stick to the basics? Leave contact details, social media links, and an about section.
Be Prepared to Work Really Hard - It's Worth It
It probably goes without saying, but starting a magazine is really, really hard. I'm quite glad I was so naive about it at first, because had I known how much work it would involve, I'm not sure I would have even thought about trying. There are so many different aspects to magazines that you end up having to go down routes you probably never even knew existed. But the harder you work, the more you get out of it, and before you know it, it's starting to look incredible. Hard work really does pay off, I promise!
I honestly believe that the reason Atlas has been successful, is because from day one it was just some fun. Megan and I wanted to create something cool, learn some stuff, and have fun. We never wanted to start a business and we never intended for it to grow as big as it did. So my best piece of advice is to really enjoy what you're doing. Don't stress about it too much, and try not to take it too seriously. That's when the magic really happens!
So there you have it; a short guide. If you have any more questions, or something I've said here isn't 100% clear, then please comment bellow or send me an email as I'm more than happy to answer any questions anyone has.
If you fancy being really nice and helping us out, head over to shop.theatlasmagazine.com and pick up a copy of Atlas!