The self-proclaimed “ultimate guide to indie publishing”, The Magazine Blueprint by Conor Purcell is a comprehensive guide to setting up, establishing and running an independent magazine.

So practical is this guide by writer, designer and publisher Conor Purcell, that it comes with a warning to ward off those looking for a bit of light reading: “If you are looking for a coffee table book to gaze longingly at, or a book filled with beautiful graphic design, this isn’t the book for you. This is a hands-on, useable guide to dreaming up, creating and promoting an independent magazine.”

The blueprint is handily broken down into six sections: Getting Started, Execution, Design & The Cover, Where’s the money?, Build it and they won’t come and What’s next? 

The author's accounts of his personal publishing experiences are corroborated and bolstered by interviews with The New York Times Magazine, cover designer George Lois, Buffalo Zine and magazine graphics master David Carson (among many others), while each chapter is dotted with tips from the people behind independent magazines like Intern, Nang, Magculture and Zeit Magazin, resulting in a rich, constructive and highly functional body of advice for anyone looking to take the plunge into the world of magazines. 

“Just as as photography didn’t kill painting and TV didn’t kill radio, the advent of the internet has not killed print.”

Purcell's introduction (complete with inspirational Yoda quote: “Do or do not. There is no try.”) shares his own experiences of navigating censorship and publishing fees in the United Arab Emirates to publish his first magazine, and makes a convincing argument for why print still matters in 2018. “Just as as photography didn’t kill painting and TV didn’t kill radio, the advent of the internet has not killed print.” While it’s true that mobile apps have occupied a large proportion of our information sources, as he puts it: “the best magazines will never be replicated online.”

The challenges of setting up a magazine are manifold: beyond distribution, marketing and branding, there are also the issues of choosing the right paper stock and size, finding a good printer, figuring out the design and editing — the list continues. As with all challenging projects, Purcell reminds us that “creating something beautiful is achievable — and extremely rewarding.”

In anecdotal, second-person bursts of wisdom, Purcell explains the basics of magazine publishing, addressing aspects like “the big idea”, audience, vision and values. These are the nitty-gritty essentials that form the foundations for subsequent stages in producing a magazine: the logistics of curating content and self-promotion, the design and cover, financing your project and, ultimately, evolving your publication for the purposes of its longevity.

"The journey won’t be easy and it won’t always be fun, but the rewards are immense."

The Magazine Blueprint educates and elucidates, dismantling misconceptions (“the first thing is to understand that nobody (initially at least) cares about your magazine”) and stamping out naivety with swift, valuable assertions (“Once your magazine hits the shelves, the real work starts”, “Don’t expect to get very far without face-to-face meetings”, “Don’t work for free. Some clients like to persuade creatives that ‘exposure’ is something worth working for. It’s not”).

Purcell’s parting gift is a reading list, with reviews of over 25 books that he believes “every aspiring magazine maker should read”. His list spans everything from design, to typography, to marketing, with titles such as Stephen Heller’s 100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design, Jeremy Leslie’s Independence (interviews with 12 leading magazine makers) and Ruth Jamieson’s Print is Dead, Long Live Print (50+ interviews with indie magazine publishers). 

Purcell concludes by reminding his readers that “the journey won’t be easy and it won’t always be fun, but the rewards are immense,” adding, in “the immortal words of Jerry Seinfeld”: “Is there something else you would rather be doing?”

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