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How to publish a digital magazine by yourself

Luca Filigheddu

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There are many good reasons for publishing a digital magazine and one of the great features of digital publishing is that it’s accessible to smaller teams of people and even individuals.

Before we get started with our hints on how to publish a digital magazine by yourself, we just like to point out that the essence of digital publishing is quick bites of regular content. The key words in that sentence are “quick” and “regular”.

What that means in practice is that if you are a one-person operation or even if you are part of a very small team, you should think very seriously about having a process in place to allow you to shift some or all of your work onto someone else if you find yourself unable to do it for any reason. Just as actors have understudies so that the show can go on, so digital magazine publishers should have systems in place so that their digital magazine can go on. So, having said that, let’s look at how to publish a digital magazine by yourself.


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Put your Editor’s Hat on First

When looking at how to publish a digital magazine by yourself, the first point to understand is that putting any kind of magazine together requires a variety of skills, which is why it can be a bit of a challenge for people to publish magazines literally as one-person operations (although it can certainly be done).

When starting out, you first need to get to grips with the role of magazine editor. As a minimum, you’ll want to have 12 issues mapped out completely in advance. In the digital world, this will probably be about a quarter’s worth of magazines, although in principle 12 issues could cover a much longer period.

Planning out these issues in advance should clarify both the amount of work involved in creating the magazine (and therefore the amount of time it will take to prepare each issue) and the amount of budget it will require.

Create at Least One Trial Issue

Your trial issue fulfils two purposes. First of all, it lets you have a dry run at putting a magazine together before you have to do it “for real” i.e. to a publishing deadline.

Secondly, it can serve as a free edition for your customers to introduce them to your publication and will be the start of your archive of back issues. Assuming you have time on your side, you may want to start by trying to create your trial issue under “real-life” conditions and see how far you get.

If everything works first time you could either say “great” or raise your ambitions to challenge yourself a bit more, it’s up to you. It is, however, far more likely that you’ll find some of the assumptions you made when you made your 12-issue editorial plan were unrealistic, at least for now.

For example, you may need to get more practice at using your software before you can produce issues at the sort of speed you anticipated, or you may find that getting hold of people for interviews takes longer than you thought and hence impacts on your production schedule.

You may also find you need to rework your budget assumptions. Even though the actual mechanics of digital publishing are generally substantially cheaper than paper publishing, you will still need content created, and that comes at a cost, particularly if you want to incorporate high-quality photographs and/or multimedia elements into your magazine.

Get Selling and Marketing

You may know that you have a relevant and engaging magazine full of the best content around, but other people are only going to find this out if you get out there and make them aware of it.

If you are a one-person operation or a small team, you are going to have to find the right, i.e. workable, balance between pushing your digital magazine through every possible channel and spreading your time, energy and budget too thinly to have any sort of meaningful impact in any of them.

As an absolute minimum, you want to have your digital magazine in either the Apple or the Google Play stores (preferably both). Even if you would prefer to sell it purely through your own website, very few new publications can afford to ignore these channels.

After this, you need to look at the sorts of places your potential customers are likely to be found and then, depending on your resources, focus on the channels which are likely to bring in the best returns. If your operation expands later, then you may opt to increase the number of sales and marketing channels you use.