If you are an old hand at mail order, or just a newcomer to the business, sooner or later you are going to want to try your luck at having your own publication. It can be profitable.

There are some pro’s and con’s to running your own publication. The good points include:

PRESTIGE  —  You are the editor and publisher. Your opinions will be read across the country. People will know who you are and what you do.

PROFIT  —   You get free advertising for all of your mail order products. You can earn additional profits from the sale of advertising in the publication.

VISIBILITY  —  As a publisher, you can build yourself a reputation in mail order. As you become better known, you can write articles and editorial opinions for other publications.

Although there are a greater number of positive factors, remember a few of the negatives to becoming a publisher:

LONG-TERM RESPONSIBILITY  —  Many folks begin a publication and forget that it will be an on-going commitment to advertisers and subscribers.

FINANCIAL COMMITMENT—  Too many people spend all their money trying to start a publication and don’t plan far enough ahead to keep it going. In the beginning there will be more costs than profit. But, don’t give up. Perseverance will produce profit.

TIME COSTS  —  It takes time to develop and produce a new publication — doing layouts, collecting material to use, creating and pasting up ads. (But, you can cut that time by working smart. Read on.)

If the scale of interest still tips toward your desire to give it a try, be prepared to put some time and dollars into getting it off the ground. If you are willing to invest these things, you could become a success. Careful study and planning will go a long way in making your publication a winner.

There are many styles and sizes of mail order publications on the market. To be successful, you must choose one that is simple to prepare and inexpensive to reproduce. The use of a personal computer can greatly enhance your ability to produce a professional-quality, eye-catching publication. Many software programs for all types of computers are available that will aid you in designing, laying out, and printing your publication. Some programs even come with a variety of ready-made newsletter and tabloid templates that only require you to insert your text and choose your art.

Even if you do not own a computer, you can still produce a top-notch publication at minimal expense for maximum profits. Experience has shown that the best and least expensive format to begin with is an 81/2″ X 11″ standard letter-size sheet. By folding it in half, you create a 51/2″ X 81/2″ size publication. This size is termed by many a “four-pager” publication. An “eight-pager” would be created by using a second sheet, folded to the 51/2″ X 81/2″ size and placed inside of the first sheet.

Unless you compose your publication on a computer, you will need to paste-up each page every time you publish a new edition. It will be easier to lay out every month if you have some layout sheets printed in non-reproducing blue ink. Check with a local print shop. They can print these for you or sell you professionally prepared sheets already designed to your specifications.

The layout sheets for your publication should be divided into two columns per page, and lined horizontally every column inch. This layout will produce sixteen one-inch spaces per page (eight per column). This design is the starting point for determining the cost and selling price per column inch for any advertisements you sell.

Take your layout to your local offset printer and get a price quote for 1,000 copies of your 81/2″ X 11″  sheet, printed on two sides and folded. If you live in a major metropolitan area you may find a large office supply store that offers self-serve high-speed photocopying at a discount cost. Determine how much it would cost to reproduce your publication yourself using their copiers.

Let’s assume your printer wants $40 to print 1,000 copies of your four-pager.

On a four-page publication, reserve the front page for your masthead and editorial copy and three pages for advertising. You will then have 16 one-inch spaces on each of the three additional pages. These 48 spaces are available to sell. If you can sell each space for $5, you will generate 48 x $5.00, or $240 in revenue for just one sheet folded in half!

If you publish an eight pager, you profits increase.You will generate $80 income per page from advertising. Remember, though, every ad of your own (or articles that use up ad space) reduces your income. An eight pager, less the front page, can generate seven pages of advertising revenue totaling $560.Your cost for an eight pager for printing would be approximately $80 for 1,000 copies, leaving you a before-mailing profit of $480. If you mail at the third class bulk rate, your postage should run approximately $192, leaving you a net profit of $288! Not bad for pasting up a few pages!

You can start by putting together a four-pager layout. Select a name that tells it all, in one or two words if possible. Something simple like, “The Mail Box.” Decide how often you are going to publish: once a month, bi-monthly, quarterly. Write your short editorial copy for the front page and type it up. In your first issue you may want to tell about your publication…what, where, when, who, etc.

Be sure to advertise what circulation you will have. Will it be 1,000…2,000…5,000…or more? The greater the circulation you have, the more you can ask advertisers to pay per inch.

The next step is to paste up the ads. If you have products that you personally sell by mail order, you can use them to fill the pages of the first issue. Better still, write to some dealers who advertise in other publications and offer them an introductory ad at a special reduced rate in your  first issue.

When pasting-up ads, make sure to keep them in a neat column width. Carefully place then in even rows. If someone submits an ad on colored paper (making it hard to reproduce easily), dip it in household bleach and place it on a paper towel to dry. The bleach will take out the color background so that your printer can handle the reproduction.

Many publications in mail order are co-published. Co-publishers are your advertisers who choose to print a quantity of the publication and mail it out on their own, receiving commission on all advertising sold by them. As the prime publisher, you insert a box on the front page with “Co-Publisher” printed above it. Each co-publisher runs an ad in your publication one time, paying the full rate, and agreeing to mail 50, 100, or more copies with his name stamped in the co-publisher box.

The co-publisher mails out his copies directly to his mailing list. Since it is a co-publisher publication, you as the prime publisher will not solicit ads directly, but receive ads placed through the co-publisher. The co-publisher sells ads on commission. If you establish a rate of $10 per one-inch ad, your co-publisher keeps 50% of the payment and sends to you the ad to be run, along with your 50% profit.

Co-publishing is a method of distributing your publication without having to mail it yourself. However, experience has proven that only about 40% of co-publishers actually mail their copies, so your publication may not get distributed as widely as you expect. The results would then be very discouraging to you and the advertisers, (even though some of them did not do what they agreed to do). Do everything you can to insure the widest possible circulation for the greatest possible profit.

In order to achieve maximum circulation with your publication, it is a good idea to get your hands on as many other publications as possible. Compose a mailing list from all the names and addresses of advertisers listed in these other publications. This will help you achieve a wider circulation as well as solicit new advertisers. You can also advertise your publication in other mail order tabloids and ad sheets. Offer a free issue to anyone who inquires.

However you build your mailing list, always send your publication out at the least expensive postal rate possible. Inquire at your local post office for information and instructions on third class bulk mailing. To qualify as a third class mailer, you must make a mailing consisting of a minimum of 200 pieces. Third class costs considerably less than First Class, and the discounts go even higher as you presort your mailing before depositing it at the post office. Third class mailers pay an annual fee and an additional fee if they use a mailing imprint in lieu of stamps. You do have to sort and bundle your mail by zip codes, but it is a small task when compared to the substantial savings you will realize.

As your publication grows, you will want to continue to improve its quality. Improve your professional technique by learning more about graphic design and typology. You can do this by reading books on graphics, layout design, and composition techniques. Go to your public library. The growth of desktop publishing has created numerous magazines that teach the basics of design. Check for some at your local newsstand.

There are many elements to publishing that you will learn and refine quickly as you put out your own publication. If you have a local printer, you might be surprised to find he is willing to help you by sharing information and shortcut tips. He prospers as you prosper. Also, read a variety of other publications, examining them for style and format. Make notes as to how you could use their techniques to improve your own publication.

When you have reached a circulation of 5,000 or more, consider a changeover to tabloid format. This is the small, newspaper-style that is printed on large web presses. The savings over standard printing are tremendous. However, for starters stay with the 51/2″ X 81/2″ format until you are comfortable with the entire procedure.

You can make a substantial income with your own publication. Many mail order dealers have done so. As your publication grows, you will discover numerous avenues for expansion and growth. You CAN publish it yourself — and be a winner! We wish you the very best.

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