In a fairly short space of time, independent titles have had a massive impact on the magazine publishing world. Women are the ones making many of these successful independent magazines. Ladybeard, Mushpit, The Gentlewoman, Oh Comely and Riposte are just a few examples.
Last month, Riposte magazine’s final #RipostePresents event of the year brought together some awesome women who make awesome magazines. Speakers included Liv Siddall, editor of Rough Trade; Lydia Garnett and Lucy Nurnberg, editors of Accent; Liv Little, founding Editor-in-Chief of gal-dem; Angharad Lewis, editor of Grafik and of course, Riposte’s founder and Editor-In-Chief Danielle Pender. Riposte, if you don’t know, is a ‘smart magazine for women’. Each issue features an array of amazing women and explores a range of topics. Each speaker shared their experiences and insights into their magazine-making process(es). I’ve summarised some top tips from the evening for anyone who might want to make a magazine one day.
Focus on the WHY
There are tonnes of magazines out there, and lots of very good ones. What makes your magazine different? Why does it exist? What’s the purpose? These are the first questions you need to ask yourself if you want to make a magazine.
There wasn’t loads of independent magazines for women around when Riposte launched in 2012. Danielle explained that with more indie women’s titles existing now, it’s important for the Riposte team to know exactly why they do what they do and why they make certain decisions regarding the magazine.
Believe in your content
Although each speaker had gone through different journeys, their uncompromising commitment to their magazines was inspiring.
When recently contacting potential stockists for their latest issue, a newsagent told Accent editors Lucy Nurnberg and Lydia Garnett that he found their cover star “neither attractive nor interesting”. He then made a small-minded assumption that few people would want to buy Accent if they saw it in his shop.
Accent is “a global celebration of lives lived outside the ordinary”. Lucy and Lydia want their covers to feature people from around the world with unique stories. Not models and celebrities. Lydia and Lucy’s story shows that believing in your idea 1000% and staying true to your vision is key because not everyone will like or understand what you’re doing. And that’s OK.
It’s relatively easy to make an independent magazine nowadays. You don’t need to wait for permission or the right time. Do as many things as you can yourself and make the most of your resources.
Speakers candidly discussed the challenges of trying to monetise their magazines. They encouraged the audience to think about the financial aspect of things from early on. Liv Little talked about the stress of borrowing thousands of pounds from friends and family to try and get the first gal-dem print issue made, and Danielle admitted that Riposte didn’t start making a profit until issue three.
It’s not all rainbows and sunshine
Readers usually see the finished product of a magazine. A lot of blood, sweat and tears can go into making one issue. Obviously, producing your own magazine is lots of fun. It’s an amazing creative outlet for many people, but be prepared for the stressful and boring parts of the job.
Your team is everything
All of the speakers agreed that the people you work with can make all the difference in the magazine game.
One of the major keys to making a brilliant magazine is to working with the dopest people you find. Try to find others who are just as passionate as you and can complement your skillset and background.
Don’t be afraid to try different things
One of the great things about independent magazines is they allow you to experiment more. As pointed out by Grafik editor and author Angharad Lewis, making mistakes isn’t the end of the world. You always have the next issue of your magazine to work on and improve. Don’t worry about failures and errors because you’ll learn as you go along.
Have you read any of the magazines mentioned in this post? Do you want to start a magazine one day? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
*All images, including feature image, by GT for Riposte