Friday, July 24, 2009

CPC magazine workshop

Although most of the students at the Columbia Publishing Course want careers in book publishing, we do have a fair number who want to go into magazines. Weeks 5 and 6 of the course focus entirely on magazine production and sales, culminating in a 5-day workshop in which groups of 10 people are assigned a magazine genre and given the task of putting together a prospectus for a new magazine.

I was lucky enough to get my first choice genre, men's magazines. I knew most of the men in the course wanted that as their first choice, but I saw it this way: I spent years of my life as a percussionist, which meant hours a day in the company of men (and perhaps not the most mature men you've met). This couldn't be any worse than college. My group was 7 men and 3 women, and my job was Circulation Director. Magazine circulation isn't a career I want to pursue, but I found the lessons beneficial. There's so much to know and understand about the business side of book and magazine publishing, things I never learned as a librarian but are crucial to know even if you want a career in editorial. Over the week, I learned that it's circulation's job to work out the numbers in terms of newsstand versus subscription sales, the magazine's demographic, who your major competitors are (which has more to do with the content of your magazine and less with the genre, surprisingly), and how much it's going to cost you to get readers. It's kind of a scary economic model, really. Despite my lack of knowledge and experience in magazine business, I had a great time during the week. My group found its voice early and even when we stumbled in terms of content, we still believed that we had a great potential product. I think one of the hardest things was separating ourselves from what's already in the market. Sure, we all like GQ and Esquire, but what could we do in our content and advertising to get new readers who wouldn't say, "I don't need this magazine because I can read about this content in magazines I already get?"

Today is the last day of the CPC, so as of Monday Librarilly Blonde will return to its regularly scheduled book reviews and library discussions. Hmm, what to write about first...?

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