Making a magazine


A non-exhaustive, definitely non-expert account of what I’ve learned so far.
By Sophie Gordon

It all started with a message from my friend Gavin. Having taken a year-long sabbatical, he’d been travelling for a few months and blogging about his experiences everywhere he went. A common theme started to emerge from these blog posts: the people who had enriched his time in each place. And so, after mulling it over on various long train journeys and bumpy bus rides, Gavin asked me:

“I’m thinking about putting together a print magazine/journal with short stories, essays and illustrations. Interested in getting involved?”

I replied: “Count me in.”

Fast forward a year, and what started as a germ of an idea is now a physical magazine celebrating the human side of travel. In many ways it still feels like the beginning for Beings, but it also feels like a good time to look back over how we got here.

What went right? What could have gone better? Maybe there are some pearls of wisdom to glean from this. At the very least, it might be an entertaining read.

  • Be true to the ‘why’

Early on in the process, Gavin drafted a one-pager that summed up the idea at the heart of Beings, the inspiration behind it, and how it should make people feel. Together, we refined it, we redrafted it, and then? We stuck with it. Not only was this useful for getting writers, illustrators and photographers onboard, it was also a yardstick to measure all our decisions against. So even when it came to typographic choices and considering what size to make the magazine, we could go back to why we were making it in the first place and base our decision on that.

  • Do your research
    There are some things we realised quite late in the day… things which it would have been helpful to know earlier. So, while it might be exciting to plough ahead with the writing and the design, do the admin too! For example, if you’re planning to make more than a one-off magazine, you’ll need to apply for an ISSN number. You might as well check this off your list sooner rather than later. We also found a brilliant guide made by Human After All. Their ‘Publishing Playbook’ is basically a bible for magazine-making from start to finish. Read it.
  • Don’t be shy
    You’ll be amazed who’s willing to help you if you just ask. And, no one’s going to know about your wonderful creation if you don’t talk to them about it.
  • You need to be an optimist, but also a pragmatist (or find people who are)
    If it wasn’t for Gavin’s optimism – his willingness to ask around, give it a go, and dream a little bigger – we wouldn’t have got anywhere. Similarly, if I hadn’t asked ‘With what money? How about crowdfunding?’, we wouldn’t have had any funds to get our magazine off the ground. And if it wasn’t for Fiona (who single-handedly designed the magazine) and her bucket-loads of creativity and practicality, we would have had a whole load of ideas and content but no actual magazine. What I’m trying to say is, choose your team wisely. Or, if you’re running things solo, you need to be all of these things. 
  • Enjoy it
    An unspoken rule for us was to make the whole experience fun. We’ve encouraged contributors to tell stories they care about, and made time to celebrate when things have gone well. Hopefully that comes across in the magazine. Why not pick up a copy to see for yourself?

Beings is available to buy online and in an increasing number of lovely shops including magCulture and Ideas on Paper. See what we’re up to @beings_mag


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