Indie Publishing
Field Notes

We love sharing our process of making a print magazine and building a sustainable indie publishing brand. New here? Start with our list of popular posts.

Talking dollars

I always appreciated people speaking unambiguously about their income, like Maciej Ceglowski who on stage at XOXO honestly and unapologetically told the audience that he made $181,000 last year. It’s out there and the taboo is gone. It must be freeing to him and to some extent I’m sure to the people around him too.

Talking about money is something individuals in our industry often awkwardly avoid. We all know there is a lot of it going around, but everyone’s just in it for the love of solving problems and making the world a better place, riiight?

I’ve been thinking of opening my books too, considering that I’ve been very transparent with everything else happening behind the scene. Having spoken to a lot of folks in the tech world, there is a bit of a misconception in that some people think Offscreen is very successful in dollar terms. Those who are vaguely familiar with how traditional publishing works understand though that ‘success’ in this field is closer to ‘making it sustainable’ than ‘getting rich’.

So, here it goes. Here’s how ‘successful’ Offscreen is in numbers. (Don’t forget to read my notes below.)

Income through magazine sales (online and retailers): $138,963.08
Income through sponsorships and other channels: $42,880.53
Total revenue (financial year 2012/2013): $181,843.61

Printing costs: $36,526.17
Shipping/packaging costs: $42,701.87
Other expenses: $37,774.34
Total expenses (financial year 2012/2013): $117,002.38

My profit/income for the last financial year was $64,841.24 before tax.

Some important notes to keep in mind:

  • The financial year in Australia runs from the 1st of July to the 30th of June the following year. All numbers in US dollars, converted from Australian dollars at the current rate of 1 AUD = 0.939 USD.

  • This may seem like a high salary in some places in the world, like Berlin where the cost of living is low. Offscreen is based in Melbourne, Australia, where the cost of living (in my opinion) is closer to that of New York City.

  • The financial year above covered the expenses and income of three issues of Offscreen.

  • Offscreen is my full time job. I currently don’t have other sources of income.

  • Offscreen does not employ any staff. I hire freelancers and contributors to help get an issue done. Their cost is reflected in the ‘other’ section of the expenses above.

Letter to the editor

Posted on Aug 25 2013 in Letters

Hi Kai,

Eight months back, last December, I got to know about your work and the publication of Offscreen. I am following the journey you have undertaken since and I admire the initiative of yours in bringing to life stories and experiences of individuals whose efforts otherwise remain hidden. I came to understand about the importance and emphasis placed on human interaction, collaboration and coordination in developing something worthwhile on web and beyond and its effects on many facets of life.

My life has also been enriched through an endeavour of mine since September, 2012 when I created Lucky Compiler. While chronicling the lives and creative processes of personalities from the world of art and photography I have seen how minute and often overlooked aspects defined them as a person and their careers professionally. This has also helped me in gaining deeper insights about life in general.

My satisfaction lies in creating something meaningful and I thank you for creating something as significant as your publication.

Warm Regards,
Dhruba

Made my weekend. Thanks Dhruba!

Letter to the editor

Posted on May 27 2013 in Letters

Hello Kai,

Hope you are all doing very well.

Last year I got a surprise of my life, Offscreen Magazine. I found the first issue in an art and design book shop in Clerkenwell, London. At that moment paying £8 for the mag was not easy while this tiny amount of money once fed me for nearly a week. So actually I didn’t buy it at first.

However the elegantly taken cover photograph called me in my dreams continually even I had no idea what it was about. I knew I needed to buy it asap. I went back to the book shop a couple of days after and found it at corner of the bookshelf. I fell in love with it immediately. It was not only because of the beautiful look, but also the people and their stories reminded me something I used to do/have. (Now I am more than happy that I made a correct decision especially when many people moan that they missed the first issue.)

More than 10 years ago, an era when there were tables with backgrounds, Java Applet water reflections were everywhere, CSS was only for decorating text and hyperlinks, Macromedia ruled the animation world with Flash and Blackberry was only known as a fruit. I graduated from uni with a degree of digital design. I learnt how to construct a website day and night. When I was in high school, I built several websites for my own interest. I used to love web design so much! However I was disappointed with the reality in this field — no fixed deadlines like print media, people didn’t respect it enough. So I dropped out and became an editorial designer since I always collected beautiful and informative magazines. I do a very good job at balancing text and pictures together nicely. But when I have been getting better and better at InDesign and the user-interface of Dreamweaver seemed to be more and more unfamiliar, I thought I would be labeled as an editorial designer for my whole life and would never have any chance to code again.

Interestingly the web design field has moved in a different direction in the last few years: more intelligent, more creative and more fun. It makes me want to do some web design work. I was very lucky that I got the opportunity to have some web design training courses and do some web design work recently. It allows me to understand the stories in your magazine a bit more. But they always inspire and encourage me to practise more. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this magazine! As an editorial designer I can tell your efforts of managing nearly everything of this magazine yourself is uncountable; as a still-learning-very-junior-level web person I feel this magazine links this community in a brighter and stronger way and makes me feel I am not alone at doing this. Now I started to develop a better relationship with web design and hope I won’t give up on it again.

In a few words, thanks for bringing us such a great publication! Look forward to seeing more content either online or in print.

I wish you all the best,

Ting-Kai C.

Could not have a better start to the week. Thank you so much, Ting-Kai!

The nerve-racking choice of paper

Posted on Mar 20 2013 in Letters

As someone who frets big decisions, being in the publishing business can be a real pain sometimes. I was reminded of that in the last few days as I needed to make a final call on ordering several tons of paper for the next three issues.

After running into a few minor consistency and quality problems with the last issue, I felt a bit let down by our paper supplier. IGEPA’s Circle offset, the stock we had used up to that point, was my all-time favourite choice of paper. Using 100% recycling material, it boasted a superior quality with an unusually smooth finish. Unfortunately, it lost that superior quality when the manufacturer recently changed paper mills.

Since launching issue No4 I’ve been discussing alternatives with our printer. Again, the environmental impact was my main filter. I only considered 100% recycling papers with no whitening bleach used. After a few test prints on two different stock options, I decided to go with EnviroTop.

The next step turned out to be more nerve-racking. When selecting a stock type, its grammage will determine how heavy your magazine turns out to be – and in turn, how much you’ll end up spending on shipping. This is measured in grams per square meter (gsm). A standard office paper usually has somewhere between 70gsm and 90gsm.

The weight itself however doesn’t determine its perceived thickness. That’s where the paper volume comes in. A paper with a volume of 1.3 contains 30% more air and is therefore less compressed. Higher volume means thicker but not necessarily heavier paper.

Both variables define how thick and heavy a paper feels. The challenge is to find the best fit for your specific publication. Thicker, high-volume papers often convey quality, but depending on the format and binding technique, more solid papers make it difficult to keep the magazine open (my German printer calls this Klammerwirkung, the ‘peg effect’).

It eventually came down to making a decision between EnviroTop 100gsm and the next heavier option, 120gsm – both with a volume of 1.3. In the end I opted for the heavier version which will make Offscreen about 2.5mm thicker and around 50gm heavier. I’m aware that it will add to the Klammerwirkung, something I’m a little concerned about but the 100gsm version just didn’t have the same superior feel to it.

And that is what’s so nerve-racking about choosing good stock. There are many variables that need consideration. Due to our small magazine format, we print on larger sheets to be most efficient. These larger sheets are custom-cut by the paper mill and therefore need to be ordered several weeks in advance, and in large quantities.

In moments like this I really miss the transient nature of making things for web.

← Previous Blog Home Next →

Dispatch
Every Tuesday

Join 13,177 readers and receive a hand-picked selection of great apps, accessories, and articles in your inbox every Tuesday.

A newsletter you’ll look forward to receiving. Every Tuesday we’ll send you a compact, curated collection of useful apps, office accessories, and tech reads.

Find out more

No spam ever. Unsubscribe with one click any time.