The Magazine Blueprint

The Magazine Blueprint

by Conor Purcell

The Magazine Blueprint is a how-to guide to creating your own independent magazine put together by Conor Purcell. From idea to execution and everything in between, the book will show you how to get your independent magazine to market. Featuring interviews with publishers, editors, designers and retailers around the world (George Lois, Gail Bichler, Adam Moss, Delayed Gratification, Steven Heller, Erik Spiekermann, Apartamento, Hello Mr. etc).

Each chapter goes in-depth into the different stages of the process, from finding and building an audience, to figuring out paper stock, size and page count. It also focuses on distribution, marketing, ad sales and leveraging your project into paying work.

We caught up with Conor to find out more…


There’s been quite a few titles on the subject of publishing and indie publishing to coincide with the boom in the industry – why should someone pick up this book?

I liked a lot of the titles that have come out but they seemed more to be focused on the graphic design side, and that’s only one element of making a magazine. I also wanted to focus on mainstream titles and the history of magazines such as The New Yorker. There’s a wealth of information and insight out there from the ‘mainstream’ magazines, and I though it important to include them. Hopefully, someone who picks the book up will get an insight into every aspect of the publishing process, from building and audience to distribution and marketing. Also, I have published my own magazines and edited many, and so have insights from the coalface of bringing a magazine to market – I think people can learn from my own mistakes in the field.

The book is very copy focussed, was this a response to the very visual nature of social media and the internet, or because covers date quickly?

A lot of the books were very graphic design focused and it’s easy to see covers and spreads online. I am not a trained designer, so didn’t want to focus too much on that. It’s an important element, but just one of many. I hope this is a book that people can dip in and out of, and ultimately show them a path towards producing their own title. I didn’t want it to become a sort of coffee table book, but one that they use when putting together their own title. Space was also an issue, as obviously adding another 25 pages with designs on them pumps up the cost of printing. As with making magazines, it’s all about compromise ultimately.

Speaking of covers and because we all know books are judged by them, can you tell us a bit about the design of yours?

I wanted a cover to represent the ‘blueprint’ idea and found a great illustrator called Thomas Sumner, whose work I loved. He had designed a lot of posters, and in some ways a book cover is just another type of poster. I had the idea for a printing press and Thomas came up with the drawing on the cover, and a few colour options. Hopefully the cover stands out and reflects the content inside.

Having spoken to 50 or more mag-makers around the world, were there any universal opinions or insights that kept coming up? (and if so, what were they?)

For the smaller publishers, distribution was a big issue. Shipping boxes of magazines across the world is expensive. One solution is to print close to where your main market is, and use a distributor, although obviously that cuts into your profit margin. Another issue is marketing – how to get as many people aware of your magazine as possible, and get them to hand over their hard-earned cash. While social media is important, many publishers talked about the importance of face-to-face networking and hosting events. It’s crucial that the revenue from copy sales is seen as just one aspect of revenue, as it can be hard to make enough money just from that. A lot of the publishers also talked about the importance of the writing – something that’s often overlooked. Everyone talks about design, and a great cover is easy to share, but ultimately its the writing that will keep people coming back.

Luke Tonge

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