How we learn to make a magazine pt.1

Everybody that’s been with us from the beginning knows that we, collectively, knew nothing about running a magazine when this whole adventure started, right?  Nothing. The big ZERO (coincidentally, the same of stitches I’ve knit in the last month). I hadn’t the foggiest what made Amy Clark Moore and Linda Cortright so tired.  Now I do.  It’s a big job.  It’s not really that any one part is super duper scratch-you-head-difficult, but it’s complex – so many independent things all mashed together, happening at the same time, commanding your attention and running around in your brain like one of those tickers on time square.

I thought it might be interesting to blog about the process.  Let y’all see what goes on back here, behind the PLY curtain.  A kind of how-we-learn-to-run-a-magazine series, real-time.  It could be good.  At the very least it’ll give me a bird’s eye view of the process and maybe help me figure out ways to do it better.  Maybe you will have suggestions!

I should start with explaining the work schedule — Kitten and I have 3 kids together and we have a week on/week off schedule, both with the kids and with work.  Meaning that I get the kids for a week while he works and he gets them for a week while I work.  Kids for a week, work for a week.  Pretty great arrangement, I know. This week he has the kids so he’s doing Shakespeare camp, trips to the pool, and reading lessons and I’m working.

Now let’s set the PLY stage — right now we’re in the middle of a cycle, but we’re also at the beginning of a cycle, and  we’re at the very very beginning of another cycle.  There’s a lot of cycles.  A cycle of cycles, you might say…

The middle of the cycle part is the Autumn 2014 issue, due out in September (the Community issue).  The beginning of the cycle part is the Winter 2014 issue, due out in December (the Worsted issue).  And the very very beginning of the cycle is the Summer 2015 cycle, which might seem strange since I didn’t mention Spring 2015, it’s in there too but I don’t have to do much with it for a bit.

Let’s begin with the Autumn 2014 issue.  I’m not doing much on it except waiting! I said we’re in the middle of its cycle.  It’s actually a bit past middle.  It’s at Kitten’s right now.  Last week he started design, illustrations, and layout, he’ll continue it next week, as well. I’ll have more work to do on it after that but I don’t have much to do with his process.  I trust him completely and it always comes back to me looking amazing.

What I am working on this week is the issue after that – Winter 2014, the Worsted issue.  The authors that wrote for it had 2 separate due dates 2 weeks apart and the second batch of articles just came in. I have to say that it’s going to be a fantastic issue.  I’m deep in the initial edits and author-returns.  I read through, leave comments and questions for the authors, and then send it back to them. The article often goes back and forth several times before it moves to the next step.

When I get it back the last time, I read through it on it’s own, as a stand-alone piece, check if it needs any changes, anything rearranged, titled etc.  Once I read through all of them like that, I read through them all again as a whole, as a magazine, and make sure we don’t repeat the same info over and over again.  That’s one of the things that can happen with a themed magazine. If everyone is talking about silk, lots of articles will have similar introductions or the same background information (silk production, micron count etc.).  I try to minimize that and if I don’t catch it all, Levi or Kitten does later on.

So that’s what I’m doing this week with the Winter 2014 issue, reading through some articles for the 1st time and some articles after they’ve come back from the author for the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd time.

I told you we were at the very very beginning of the Summer 2015 cycle, right?  That’s the other thing I’m doing.  The mood board went out a few weeks ago and article/project proposals come in each day (you still have time to submit, by the way).  In my e-mail client each issue has a folder and each issue’s folder has a “yes” “no” and “maybe” folder.  As the proposals come in I put them in these folders.  The no and maybe proposals eventually go into a “prospective ideas” folder but for now they stay in case I can use them afterall.  Yes that’s a photo of my actual e-mail client.  It’s crazy in there.  Over 100 folders!  Am I the only one that does this? Every so often I go in and try to make it more manageable, rearrange and rename but it always grows and grows.

Other random tasks this week:

  • Talk to web-guy about subscription management software.
  • Pack and mail this week’s back issues (usually about 5 hours).
  • Editorial meeting tomorrow where we’ll talk about website, current issue, and future themes.
  • Write my article for the worsted issue.
  • Run credit cards for all the advertisers and wholesalers that have one on file.
  • Listen to 54 new voicemails regarding subscriptions.
  • Plan Winter photo-shoot (locations and date).
  • Answer last week’s e-mails.
  • Put up a couple of new questions on the FAQ.
  • Contact Zinio again about PLY (argh, they won’t respond!)
  • Send check to printer for reprint.
  • Send in quarterly payroll taxes.
  • get people to post their tipjar tips for the Winter issue.
  • sell our new webads (you know, the ones you see over there to the right, they’re helping us offset the fact that we don’t have many ads in the magazine).

Plus I’ve got to garden.  The vine borers may have taken the squash (any advice on this is welcome too) but the tomatoes are in full harvest mode!

ps.  please don’t think this post is in any way complain-y or woe-is-me.  I love love love my job.









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