Independent publishing at the Guardian

by Steve Watson in February 2014
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While the rain was lashing down this weekend I was indoors, shut in a room with 16 publishing obsessives who had come together to figure out how to make an independent magazine.

Some of them already had their magazine out in the wild. Steve from food magazine Root + Bone was there to sharpen up what he’d already created, and brought a wealth of experience to the course. Root + Bone is distributed for free in restaurants, bars and other foody places around London, and we spoke a lot about how he could expand his already considerable readership (they’ve printed 10,000 copies of both issues so far) and what an effective digital strategy might look like for him.

It’s a great magazine that brings a totally fresh perspective to food writing, so keep your eyes open if you’re in London, or drop him a line and he’ll send you a copy if you cover the cost of postage.

Some students were literally about to push the button on their first issue. Greg was on the course to gather information for Holo, a media art magazine that found its feet on Kickstarter, and is due to be printed in the next few weeks.

It was really interesting hearing him speaking about the realities of using Kickstarter to begin a publishing project, and there were clear parallels between what he’s doing now and what Guy Andrews and the team were doing with Rouleur when they launched back in 2006.

When Guy spoke to the group on Saturday morning he recalled that in the mid-2000s British cycling was riding the crest of a wave, gaining in popularity and creating a niche for a quality independent cycling magazine. These days Google is bringing together artists and technologists and banging the drum for ‘dev art’, the meeting place of art and code, and it’s easy to see how Holo could find its own niche by covering the subject in an accessible way for people who know nothing about computers.

And of course there were lots of students who had an idea for a magazine, but who were still a fair way from printing their first issue. For example Danielle returned for her second masterclass, developing her idea for Stand & Deliver, a comedy magazine that treats its subject with the sort of respect afforded to other art forms, and takes the very sensible approach of letting the comedians tell the jokes rather than beating them to the punchline.

She’s got a fantastic concept, a great designer and lots of contacts in the comedy world, so we decided that her next step is to find an editor who can help turn her vision into reality. I’ve got a couple of ideas for people she might try, but if you’re reading this and thinking that you’d like to be involved in creating a totally new type of magazine about British comedy, drop me a line and I’ll pass your message on.

It was a fantastic weekend, and I think the Guardian have got enough interest for us to do it all again next month. That’s still being confirmed, but as and when I hear a firm date I’ll share the news here.

Root + Bone
Stand and Deliver

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