There are lots of reasons why you might want to start your own magazine. Maybe you’ve got a great idea you want to share with the world, maybe you want to represent a culture that doesn’t get enough coverage or maybe you’re just excited about the idea of making something new. Whatever your reasons there’s no doubting that creating your own publication can be a daunting task. One person who knows exactly what it takes to produce a beautiful, well-made and thought-provoking magazine is Andrea Kurland, Editor of Huck Magazine. For almost a decade Huck has been producing fascinating articles and interviews covering extraordinary artists, exciting subcultures and unconventional ideas, and Andrea has been with them every step of the way. We asked Andrea to give us some advice on what it takes to run a magazine.
Ask yourself: why should people care?
Magazines have to resonate in order to stay alive. It doesn’t matter how many people you reach, whether it’s dozens or hundreds of thousands, but growing an audience comes with its own peculiar set of responsibilities. This magazine you cherish, once it’s out in the world, no longer belongs to you. It belongs to the people who pick it up and connect with the stories on its pages. In the age of the self-made indie mag, it’s not enough to be a ‘passion project’; good magazines are not the reflection of a single person’s inner world. They may bear the thumbprints of the people who make them, but they have to speak to the readers who pick them up. So keep hold of those passions that are your first-loves - celebrate them by telling the best stories you can - but never forget this simple question: why should anyone care? Give people a reason to read every last word you publish by showing them how it’s relevant and meaningful to their lives.
Be more toddler and stay nosey for life; follow those trails that spark your interest and ask who, what, why, when and how.
Stories are everywhere. They’re on the street on your daily commute; they live inside every person you walk by. But the best ones don’t come ready-made or pre-packaged for your pages; they start with a lead that sparked the interest of a single curious mind. So be more toddler and stay nosey for life; follow those trails that spark your interest and ask who, what, why, when and how. Start conversations and question everything because you never know where it may lead you.
Signpost, signpost, signpost!
Direct readers to the heart of your stories from the minute they land on a page. Headlines, standfirsts and strong intros are a little tripartite coalition that could make or break your story. Get them wrong, or under-estimate their power, and no one will read the thousand-plus words that follow.
Surround yourself with talented people
Independence doesn’t stem from doing everything alone. Magazines are only as strong as the network that underpins them, so surround yourself with good people who do things better than you. Reach out to people whose work you admire - welcome them in as collaborators and friends. And don’t ignore the people who flock to you - they’re coming to you for a reason. Then guard those relationships with all your might; they’ll fulfill you in ways you can’t imagine.
There’ll be long hours and late nights, tough decisions and hard conversations. But here’s the thing: you’ll love every goddamn minute of this addictive, magic-carpet ride.
There will come a point, as deadline looms, where you contemplate letting something slide. Will anyone really notice if that en dash is in fact a hyphen? Truth is: probably not. But you will. If you don’t want to suffer the suckerpunch of a glaring blooper then stay up for that extra hour to triple-check things before pushing print. Dial in the details; dot those i’s, cross those t’s, run yourself into a Wikipedia rut fact-checking every nook and cranny. And when the mag comes back with that ridiculous typo - which trust me, it almost always will - stare that sucker in the face then move on to the next issue.
Don’t be precious...
Sometimes the thing that sounds great in your head sounds a little less great to others. Pass your work by someone with fresh eyes to test whether they get it. Then open yourself up to feedback. Often the best ideas come from abandoning one thing in order to get to something better.
But never settle
Focus on the thing you do really well and keep that bar raised high. Maybe you pride yourself on amazing illustrations, photography or design. If something isn’t up to scratch, don’t be afraid to kill it. It may be harder to start all over again but it’s always worth it in the end.
It’s Groundhog Day. Embrace it.
The life-cycle of every issue of your magazine will come to feel like the entire cycle of life. You’ll start out all innocent and wide-eyed, scouring for shiny things that you can pick up and play with. Then you’ll come-of-age feeling totally overwhelmed when you realise that this isn’t just a game. Spurred on by a mix of adrenaline and fear, you’ll throw yourself into a bout of hard graft and become a little obsessive and single-minded, possibly falling into a daze of multi-tasking that leaves you disoriented and a little manic. There’ll be long hours and late nights, tough decisions and hard conversations. There’ll be births and deaths - ideas that come as quickly as they go - and more than a few surprises. Then just as you reach the top of the peak and raise your hands to fist-pump the air, someone will knock you back down the hill and make you hike back up all over again. But here’s the thing: you’ll love every goddamn minute of this addictive, magic-carpet ride.