Q: Is newsstand distribution a good way to increase our magazine
Answer: Newsstand distribution is very expensive
and you should never consider it without a good business rationale.
For example, if your advertising revenues would increase significantly
because of the extra copies you sell in retail stores, or if you
can generate large numbers of new subscriptions through retail
distribution, then you should definitely give it a try. But make
sure you have a solid business reason for trying it, and quit if
the results don't measure up.
Major League Competition - Take a hard look at the magazines
in your local Tower Records or bookstore. Notice that most magazines
with newsstand distribution are fat (at least 100 pages per issue),
glossy, professionally designed, and consumer friendly. Be prepared
to match these standards if you want to play ball in this league.
Getting Distributed is Easy - If your publication meets the
standards we just described, then the distributors will want to talk
to you: they are constantly looking for more magazines to carry.
They will ask you a few questions: first, you must be able to list
a 'competitive set' of titles like yours. They don't care if you're
better than People Magazine, they just want to know that you are like People
magazine and might be expected to thrive in the same outlets that
carry People. Next, they'll want to know the demographics of your
readers (in order to place the magazines in appropriate neighborhoods).
And finally, they'll want copies of your magazine to show to retailers
(who will decide whether or not it fits in their stores).
You can talk directly to the major national distribution companies, which are:
Comag www.i-cmag.com and Disticor www.disticor.com and
Kable Periodicals and Ingram Periodicals www.ingramperiodicals.com.
You can read about newsstand distribution in the trade magazine, Circulation
Management, which also has a list of distributors.
Staying on Newsstands is Tough - Distributors will bump
you off their list if your magazine cannot consistently achieve
sales levels of 25% or more. Distributors will also bail if you
consistently fail to meet deadlines, but the main reason they reject
magazines is slow sales.
Publishers also have to deal with the very slow payments coming back from retail
channels; it can sometimes take six months or more to collect the cash from
retail sales. Some publications cannot afford to wait so long between the time
the printer wants to be paid and the time the retailers finally pay for sold
I recommend my business how-to book for publishers, Starting
and Running a Successful Newsletter or Magazine. It will
help you understand the key circulation decisions like this one.
second book, Every Nonprofit's Guide
to Publishing (co-authored
with Lucia Hwang)
covers editing, design, production, budgeting, and website
strategies in greater detail. Look for both in your local library,
now from Amazon.com.