Monday, October 03, 2005

Rarely Discussed But Important

If you read many magazines or write for those magazines, there is a rarely discussed aspect but something critical to the survival of the publication. It’s the advertising.  At my house, we received many of these thick magazines like Vogue or GQ which are loaded with the full-color advertising.

From my years in publishing, I’m aware those ads pay for the magazine—more than any subscription price or cover price for the magazine. The greatest share of revenue comes from these ads. It’s why there are so many magazines—yet the magazine business has a high failure rate. It is unusual if a publication survives more than five years. I can recall a number of outstanding magazines where I’ve had articles published yet they are no longer in print. Their advertising revenue simply wasn’t there.

It’s one of those facts to keep in mind when you are grumbling about the low pay for some magazines. Many publications choose to keep their payment to the writer at a low rate—and look out for their long-term survival. These editors realize they might not get the best writers for that rate but it’s part of doing business. The best writers gravitate toward the highest paying publications.  In a related subject, when you get your book published, don’t expect slick full-color advertising in magazines. You may have never counted the cost but I guarantee the publisher understands the high value (and often low return/ sales) from such advertising. It’s why you only see books from bestselling authors in these publications (if books appear at all).

Last month, I took several days to write about PyroMarketing (here’s the summary of the book and the key points if you missed it and the 12–page download to the introduction). The fourth point of PyroMarketing is to save the coals. Over the weekend, I received the October 10th issue of Forbes magazine or the issue which highlights the 400 Richest People in America. One article called Buckraker caught my attention with the subtitle, “If you’re rich and powerful, Jason Binn will track you down—and send you his magazine.” Binn has learned the power (and success potential) for niche marketing. He “gives away half of the 425,00 combined print run of his seven magazines.” Why? Because he knows the importance of getting his magazines into the right hands to the right audience. As the article says toward the end, “Last year Binn’s magazines averaged 300 pages per issue, 45% ads, with each ad going for $16,000 after agency and distribution discounts.”

As you pitch magazine ideas in query letters and work with the editors on these articles, it’s important to understand something the editor knows as well.  People buy magazines to read the articles and for the information in those publications but often the power of the survival rate of the publication is tied to the advertising department. And if you want to write books, why are you interested in magazine writing? Magazines have high circulations and reach many more people than books. Book editors read magazines and look for new writers.  While many writers want to focus on books, they need to keep magazines clearly in mind for their writing goals.

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