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“PSCS took a chance on us when we were a small start up magazine with a good product but very little knowledge of the newsstand market. We've increased our newsstand circulation by 500% in just two years.”
—Catherine Lee, Publisher,
Discovery Girls


10 mistakes to avoid when launching your title
If you keep these simple points in mind, newsstand success is within your grasp.
Circulation Management, September 2006


As Yogi Berra might have said, launching a magazine on the newsstand is not as easy as it used to be, and it never was. But it can still be done, and contrary to much of our conventional wisdom, it can still be done by independent publishers that have a great idea and a lot of entrepreneurial can-do, but don’t have an existing stable of titles or a lot of publishing experience.
I sometimes find myself working with such publishers – ones that know their subject matter and audience – but as far as putting a new magazine on the newsstand is concerned, they are learning as they go. There are some mistakes that are almost universally made and universally regretted. Here are the top 10:

1. Don’t underestimate the time it takes to set up your distributor relationships.
It has become pretty common knowledge that getting a magazine to market can take half a year from the beginning of the marketing work to the on-sale date of the launch publication. Many publishers know that to get their chain authorizations set up, they have to allow time for marketing calls to be scheduled, presentations to be made and copies to be properly allocated to the retail accounts. But few allow for the time it will take to get proposals from the national distributors, negotiate a contract with mutually agreeable terms and get the wording approved by both companies’ attorneys. The usual 90-day period that this takes can, of course, be shortened considerably, but it is rarely shortened to the time frame anticipated by an eager and optimistic publisher.
Indeed, since this relationship articulated in this contract will be the basis for your newsstand sales success in the coming years, there is little point in rushing it. Get a contract whose wording you can be happy with now and forestall the regrets later.

2. Don’t set up your own billing relationship with wholesale agencies.
With few exceptions – for example, a city or regional magazine with a localized distribution – it does not make sense for a magazine expecting to grow to start by billing wholesale agencies or agency groups directly. Find a national distributor who will do that billing for you.
Aside from any help a national distributor can give you with the marketing and distribution work at the wholesale level, using a national distributor to do the billing to the wholesaler just makes sense financially. Your discount to the wholesaler won’t be as deep, you’ll get a portion of your money advanced to you and you’ll get your final payment in a timely manner.
Working directly with a wholesaler requires a deeper discount to cover the wholesaler administrative costs in setting up an additional billing relationship. As you grow, you will want to find a national distributor to work with – but when you do, it it unlikely you will get that deeper discount reversed. It’s better to start off right. – you’ll save money in the long run.

3. Don’t forget to bill.
If you have set up any small distributors or independent retailers as part of your launch distribution, you need to send them an invoice. Otherwise you won’t get paid.

4. Don’t forget completion notices.
You might not need to generate an invoice for your national distributor, but you will need to send them the completion of shipping notice from the printer.
For many distributors, it is the receipt of this notice that begins the accounting process for each issue in the distributor’s system. If the distributor does not receive this notice, the process won’t be started, the advance won’t be generated and you won’t get paid until the oversight is corrected.

5. Don’t forget to collect.
Yes, this is in fact a common mistake made by publishers. The non-payment of bills by smaller distributors and individual retailers can go unremarked until so many months have gone by that collection becomes difficult, if not impossible. Collect promptly and cut off the deadbeats – you won’t be able to count that circulation as paid on your audit reports anyway.

6. Don’t be paralyzed by the financial reports coming from the distributors.
They are complicated, arcane, Byzantine. Call them what you will, but they need to be reconciled with your own accounting system. The more time goes by before the reconciliations take place, the more difficult they become to complete.
Raise questions as you go – usually they will be answered satisfactorily, and that will help you learn how to read the reports; you’ll ask fewer questions as the months go by.
But errors can happen – promotions may be double paid, returns may be double entered – and if you don’t question the discrepancies, the errors will go through. That may be in your favor, but why take that chance?

7. Don’t miss your production dates.
The issue-specific information in your distributor’s system is based on the production schedule you provide. If you production schedule is changed without notifying the distributor, a print order may not be generated for that issue.
If your publication goes out early or late, it may get lost in a warehouse that didn’t expect to receive it and miss its chance at retail. If issues consistently are sent early or late, the resultant discrepancy in on-sale periods will result in inconsistent sales, which will undermine your distribution and damage your ability to sell copies.

8. Quadruple-check UPC codes.
This includes bipad, manufacturing code, lead digit, check digit and issue code. An error on any of those numbers means that all of your newsstand copies will have to be stickered with the correct code at a cost of 25 cents a copy. It adds up fast.

9. Give your magazine a “newsstand” look.
Few things are as important for the sale of the first issue of a magazine as its cover, and few things are as important for the success of the launch as the sale of the first issue. Take the time and spend the money to do it right.
Of course you don’t want to look like every other magazine on the newsstand – but remember, the successful titles out there have become so by learning what creates the impulse buy and by using those tricks repeatedly.
Cover image, cover lines, colors and placement are all important. Take your cover down to the newsstand, put it with the other magazines, walk six feet away and turn around. Can you see it? If not take it back and re-work it.
And for the first issue,

10. Don’t forget to put “Premiere Issue” on the cover.
This creates excitement at a retail and gives your magazine a boost. It should be prominent – heck, it should be flashy. After all, this is your one chance to use it, seize the day.



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