10 magazine making tips from 2016’s top launches

by Grace Wang in November 2016
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On Saturday, we held our pop-up library and series of talks here at Somerset House. Visitors came to browse through every magazine shortlisted across every category in this year’s Stack Awards, and left their recommendations using our ‘Read This!’ bookmarks (pictured above and below).

If you missed out, all is not lost. You can still come to our Magazines for Good sale at the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch on Saturday 10 December, where we’ll be selling hundreds of magazines entered into the awards, all of them at half price or better, with all proceeds going to Refugee Action.

All the speakers in our talks had been shortlisted for the Launch of the Year category at the Stack Awards, and all of them were full of ideas and advice for starting a magazine. We loved hearing them all in one place, so we’ve compiled a list of 10 tips from the talks below…

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1. Find your gap in the market
Heval Okçuoglu from 212 shared her experiences starting a biannual magazine in Turkey. There were no local, existing biannual magazines, so their launch raised awareness of the form and offered something new for readers.


2. Test the waters online
Accent magazine’s Lucy Nunberg, Luke Tudor Griffiths and Lydia Garnett spoke about having a website prior to print, which let them hone their vision of making icons out of ordinary people.

3. Hand-deliver your magazine EVERYWHERE
On top of dropping magazines in local London shops, Lucy and Lydia flew to New York for their magazine launch, and lugged heavy suitcases of the issue to different stockists there. It seems that saying, “But we’ve come all this way!” helps too.

4. FYI, get to know DPI
Ladybeard magazine’s Hannah Abel-Hirsch, Kitty Drake and Tyro Heath confessed that prior to their Sex issue, there was a Body issue they made while still at uni, which took an unexpected (and very pixelated) turn as they didn’t know about printing measurement dots per inch.

5. Make a dream list, and just keep emailing
When Ladybeard were researching for their first issue, they created a “dream list” of everyone they thought were the best voices in that field, and just persistently emailed them for a commission… even at the expense of being blocked on one occasion.


6. Emulate the ‘Private Eye club’
Padraig Reidy of Little Atoms talked about the importance of a publication giving readers the sense that they’re part of something fun, interesting and exciting; that they’re part of a ‘club’. He noted that he subscribes to Private Eye for exactly that reason. Holding good events also help.

7. Act on advice
Though it may be daunting (and heart breaking) to receive feedback on the magazine you poured everything into, Padraig believes it’s important to take note of criticism, noting that a comment from magCulture made them increase their text size in the second issue.

8. Get your subjects to create content for you
Liv Siddall, editor of Rough Trade Magazine talked about pumping out a 64-page issue every month, on top of creating podcasts, videos and more for the music shop. To make things easier (and the features more personal) she asks band members to create content for the magazine, getting them to document their own tour, interview each other, write horoscopes, create comics and artwork.


9. Work hard for the support of your gang
As well as bringing in chocolates for everyone, Liv put in the hours at the pub, and made an effort to get to know the very knowledgeable staff at Rough Trade. This led to community-driven, interesting and funny features submitted by staff, which helped define the magazine’s unique personality. (“If this magazine was a person, would you want to hang out with them?”)

10. Make a mag with people you like chatting to
Flying in all the way from Bogota, Lina Rincon gave an inspiring talk about banding together with her pals to make Yuca magazine. As half the team are based in Barcelona, their editorial Skype meetings usually begin with an hour of chit-chatting — books, films, art exhibitions — getting them into a creative state of mind, before talking about the magazine itself.

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