PRINTER and PAPER
When Melissa and I began the process of starting our magazine, Rethink Monthly, almost two years ago, I remember paper choice being one of the biggest decisions for me. Normally, I would say that choosing the right printer would be the first place to start but, fortunately, I already had a good relationship with a local printer whose work I admired. So, for us, this wasn’t really the first step.
Finding the right printer is vital. Having a good relationship with your biggest supplier is of the utmost importance. Like the old adage goes, If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back – the same is true when having a good working relationship with your printer. If you pay on time, recommend others to them, keep them in the know well in advance of any changes you’ll need to make, they will be happy to help meet or exceed deadlines and go above and beyond in the printing process, making your product the best it can be. You need them just as much as they need you, so make sure you do whatever you can to solidify a great working relationship. For us, this step was already in place. We needed to move on to creating an image.
So, before figuring out how many copies to print or the amount of pages in our publication, I felt that paper choice was vital in making our publication a success and therefore the decision on what type of paper to use needed to be determined first. Most Christian publications are done on the cheap – not that I blame them, its just that a large budget usually isn’t attainable – so the quality of paper and lack of color seems to be the first to go. For us, lacking in paper quality was not an option.
We decided to go with 60lb. Gloss Book paper right out of the gate – the most expensive paper that our printer offers. I was so determined to make sure the quality of paper was top notch, that I didn’t really think about the long term effects. It wasn’t cost effective. It was beautiful and glossy and shiny but we were spending too much money. A few months later I realized that we could get the same results even if we changed the quality of paper. We went with 43lb. ElectraCote – much thinner paper but the colors seemed to pop more. So, even though we downgraded paper, we improved our image and saved ourselves a ton of money. If I would’ve spent the time looking into this before we printed our first publication, I could’ve saved our company thousands of dollars.
Live and learn. Finding a printer is important. Finding the right type of paper to print your publication on is equally important.
CONTENT and DESIGN
Content and design are two of the most important factors when determining the image of your future publication.
What is it going to look like?
What is the image we want to portray visually?
What is our agenda?
What do we want it to be about?
What image do we want portrayed when people read the publication?
If content is king – then design is queen. It’s the beauty that sets the content ablaze. Nothing sets me off more than to read a great story but the packaging looks like garbage. Unfortunately for the Christian media industry, this is the norm. They believe they have some great content (which, depending on the publication, can be questionable) but, more often than not, the package turns potential readers off.
This is another reason why Melissa and I started Rethink Monthly. We were tired of what we saw coming from the Christian media industry. Mediocre content – mixed with a questionable agenda – seasoned with crappy design, layout, and packaging. We were tired of the message being skewed by the vehicle it was being delivered in.
My thought is this: If you are already investing time and money and resources into this great content, then why not support the content with great design? More often than not, if your design doesn’t support the content, you’ll lose potential readers. And if you don’t have readers, then what good is the content after all?
But just as easily as you can miss the design mark, you can also shoot it to death – something I did early on in our journey in starting our publication.
Right off the bat I began scrutinizing every design detail regardless of how big or small the design feature was. I’d spend hours doing and re-doing different designs. I’d work and rework different images, fonts, and colors into the layouts, trying to perfect the ultimate publication. Not that it’s bad to rework designs and perfect them to your liking, but I was simply overdoing it. I was more concerned with design than content. Don’t get me wrong, we had a thorough process of checking our content and we liked what we were producing but I was letting the design dictate the content when I should’ve been letting the content dictate the design.
It took a few months of overworking myself and becoming less and less satisfied with the outcome, even though I was spending more than the appropriate time designing the layout. It took a while but soon I began to realize my mistake and now have taken more of an organic approach to the design – letting the content speak for itself and having the design come alongside in a more simplistic fashion.
Like I said before, content is king. But in order to have a successful publication, you need to allow the design of the publication to accentuate the content. It’s both-and not one or the other.
ALL IN or ALL OUT
“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”
We’ve all heard that age old idiom. It means, in short, if you have a certain number of “eggs”, it would be safest to put those eggs in different “baskets” and not put them all in one basket. To put all your eggs in one basket would be to risk losing all of your eggs in case you were to drop that one basket.
It’s a model most businesses assume as well as individuals personally investing money or resources. It’s also a model that many parents instill into their children, guiding them to be good at many things and broaden their abilities and responsibilities.
Growing up I remember my youth pastor encouraging me to put as many “tools” in my “toolbox” as I could – consistently grow and learn and produce skills that will later benefit me down the road of life – a jack of all trades. This is what I’ve become. And as frustrating as it can be at times, I’ve found that this has helped me more than hurt me.
All of these things are good – investing, growing, learning – we shouldn’t limit ourselves and our growth to one or two things but rather broaden the aspects of life and knowledge. But there are certain times, times that cannot be predicted only experienced, where this model simply does not work. And I, of course, found this out the hard way.
Right off the bat, I thought it would be beneficial to work on having a successful website, and a podcast, and work on other potential branches of Rethink Monthly – a women’s publication, a teen publication, etc – and soon found that I was spreading our resources and time and energy too thin. I was spending too much time on other “great ideas” and not devoting my time and energy into making the best possible publication. Don’t get me wrong, I was pouring a lot of energy into it, it just wasn’t my entire focus.
Sometimes, I believe, we need to put all of our eggs (resources, time, energy, money) in one basket, one that we are passionate about and one we want to see succeed. I believe, in these specific times, when we devote everything we have to developing our product, we will see results eventually. It might not be today or tomorrow but eventually it will pay off and then we’ll be able to use its success to build and branch and develop other ideas.
As I’ve let these other “great ideas” fade for the time being, I’m sure I’ll have plenty of time in the future to develop them once again.