The online journal to Offscreen Magazine — for all the things that don't fit into the magazine. We also regularly publish behind the scenes info about the making of Offscreen. Why not follow along and grab the RSS feed?
Photos taken by Harald Völkl.
For issue No5, I hired the talented Adam Whitcroft to come up with 14 unique icons that would decorate and illustrate the cities we profiled in our “Web Worker’s Field Guide”. He’s done such an amazing job that we both decided to make them available under Creative Commons for everyone to use.
So please go ahead, download them from Adam’s website and incorporate them into your artwork. Happy creating!
I’ve long been thinking about working with distributors to get Offscreen in more brick and mortar stores. With issue No5, I’ve finally made a decision; here are my combined thoughts on the topic of distribution for indie mags.
In the publishing world, distributors work as middlemen between publishers and retail shops by purchasing publications in large numbers and then supplying them to the shops in their network. The benefits for the shops are that they can choose from a large catalogue of publications and have them all shipped to them by one point of contact. For the publisher the advantages are that distributors usually order a bulk quantity, promote the magazines to shops and organise the shipping to those shops. Distributors take a cut of the cover price (usually 15-30%) that comes out of the publisher’s end. So if a magazine sells for $20, the shop will usually keep $8 (40%), the distributor gets $4 (20%) and the remaining $8 go to the publisher.
Frankly, I have a very “vigilant” attitude towards distributors. Most of the large distribution houses have a complicated, overly bureaucratic process that involves a lot of paperwork and gives little or no oversight to publishers where and how their products are sold.
I understand that managing a lot of products and stores can get complicated, but most of them seem to still live in a different century. One distributor’s contract (an attached 7 MB Word document) made clear that it may take 365 days for final payments to come through — mailed in form of a cheque. How are publishers supposed to budget with this? Reading through these conditions, you wouldn’t think distributors actually depend on us publishers to make money.
Wastage is another huge issue for me. Distributors usually hope to stock as many shops as they possibly can, because, well, they get kickbacks from every copy sold. The problem is that they may supply many different shops with, say, 500 copies in total, but due to poor research or market conditions only end up selling 300 of them. The remaining 200 copies will be destroyed since it’s almost always too expensive to return them to the publisher. This model is not just unsustainable, I simply hate the idea of copies of Offscreen being shredded in stores while it sells out online.
Like so many other aspects of the publishing world, coming from the web industry a lot of their processes seem strangely outdated. I don’t like pointing fingers, but do I need to say more than refer you to this distributor’s website?
With all of this in mind I was very hesitant to partner up with a distributor. After much discussion with other publishers, I was referred to two new-ish distributors that stood out: Antenne in the UK and New Distribution House in the US/Canada. Whether they really understand the indie publishing world and try to break with antiquated traditions that treat publishers as if they were at the bottom of the food chain remains to be seen, but so far I’ve had really constructive conversations with both of them.
And so, with the launch of issue No5, for the first time in Offscreen’s short history, I will be working with two distributors in order to get the mag into more local book shops across the UK, Europe, the US and Canada. As much as this move is about selling more copies and expanding our readership, my highest priorities will continue to be being in control and making it sustainable.
With around 90% of Offscreen’s readers buying their copy online, there’s also the question of whether brick and mortar stores remain relevant for the success of a print magazine. The answer — at least in Offscreen’s case — is probably “no”. However, there are few things I find more inspiring and enjoyable than browsing through a high-quality, well-stocked book store, and of course, it’s exciting and humbling to see Offscreen on shelves around the world. For me that’s incentive enough to partner up with distributors and support these local shop owners.
I’m excited to announce the launch of pre-orders for Offscreen Magazine Issue No5 (starts shipping next week Friday, May 3rd).
If you are a subscriber, please make sure to check your order status to see whether this issue is still included in your current subscription. If not, you can purchase another three-issue-subscription here. In case you’ve moved houses in the last few months, please email us your new shipping address ASAP. If you’re not a subscriber, make sure you put your order in before Wednesday the 1st of May to be included in our first major shipment.
Once again, many thanks to our amazing sponsors that made this issue possible.
Publisher, Editor, Art Director
A sneak peek at an interview in the upcoming Issue No5. We’ll be sending our files to the printer at the end of the week with the ink hitting paper starting next week. Issue No5 will go on presale very soon! Stay tuned. :)
I want to sincerely thank everyone who helped make a difference in our March fundraiser. To those who ordered a copy, told their friends about it or (re)tweeted a link to the fundraiser page: we all achieved this together. I hope that looking into the faces of the patients below will remind you that your efforts affect real people in a profound way.
To be honest, I was a little worried that we wouldn’t get enough money together to fund any major treatments. The last issue of Offscreen was released in mid January and from experience 1-2 months after a new release isn’t a very busy time over here and sales numbers are very modest. However, we ended up selling enough copies and future subscriptions that after basic expenses I was left with around $3940.
It was a real pleasure working with Grace from Watsi who helped me locate four patients with treatment costs that are within our budget of around $2000. So, please let me introduce you to…
Abezash is an eight-month-old girl who comes from a family of subsistence farmers in Ethiopia. She was born with rare birth defect that left her without a hole for passing stool. Her parents have four other children, and can’t afford the $800 surgery she needs to live a normal life.
Ngaikiinyi comes from a cattle farming family in Tanzania. He likes helping his father with the farm, but has trouble keeping up because of a condition that causes his knees to angle in and touch each other when straightened. He needs surgery to enable him to walk normally. With full mobility, he’ll be able to participate in his family’s income generation. He’ll also have a wider set of options for the future, including potentially finishing school. Ngaikiinyi’s treatment costs $500.
Ruth is a bright girl who has to painfully walk on the outer parts of her feet because she was born with severe bilateral clubfoot, a condition that causes the feet to grow inward and downward, rather than straight and flat. Clubfoot is completely treatable with surgery which costs $500.
Ponleu is a student. He studies English and Finance at a school in his home province near the Vietnamese border, but he’s constantly straining his eyes because of strabismus, a condition that can cause permanent vision problems and fatigue if left untreated. He needs a $250 surgery to treat his strabismus and realign his eyes so he can continue with school.
With your help, Offscreen paid for their treatments in full this morning. We wish Abezash, Ngaikiinyi, Ruth and Ponleu all the best for their upcoming surgeries and a speedy recovery. Of course, I will continue to post updates about their treatments on this blog as they come in, courtesy of Watsi.
Once again, thank you all from me here at Offscreen and all the folks from Watsi, who have been excited about this partnership with our humble little magazine. We all see you next year for our 2014 fundraiser!
With so much love we received from you guys over the last year, it’s time to give something back. I’m happy to announce the first ever Offscreen Fundraiser!
Half of all profits of the month of March will be donated to Watsi to help them fund urgent, low-cost medical treatments for people in need around the globe. I’ve been giving to Watsi several times in the past and have never felt more confident that my dollars are having a real impact on people’s lives. Though the concept of crowd-funding for charities isn’t new, Watsi does it in a very simple, effective and, most of all, extremely transparent way.
Watsi is also a great match for Offscreen because we’re all about tech and its connection to the humanities. Watsi’s story isn’t unlike others we feature in our magazine: it comes down to a person with a passion for tech trying to solve a (serious) real world problem.
Please help me spread the word to as many people as possible. In the end, it doesn’t matter whether you contribute by purchasing a copy of Offscreen or giving directly. What’s important is that we, as an industry full of problem-solvers, appreciate and support what Watsi is trying to achieve. After all, isn’t that what all of our work boils down to — making lives better?
Today, I’m introducing a small change in the pricing structure of Offscreen. In an effort to simplify the order process and make the pricing of the magazine — both ordered online and purchased through our retailers — more consistent, there’s now only one simple price:
A single issue costs $22, a three-issue subscription $59 — both includes shipping to anywhere in the world.
If you order through our website, this won’t affect you much. Single issues are now 10 cents more expensive, but the price for subscriptions has dropped by 90 cents.
As usual, I’d like to keep things as transparent as possible, so here’s a breakdown of some of the actual costs involved in fulfilling an order for a reader based in the US:
|Single issue price||$22.00|
|— includes postage||$4.60|
|— includes packaging/labelling||$1.50|
|— includes PayPal fees||$1.00|
As you can see, simply getting the issue to your doorstep consumes about one third of the price we charge.
Over the next few weeks (at the very latest starting with issue no5) most of our stockists will adapt to this simplified price as well, so that it makes no difference ordering it online or buying it through one of our shops. In some cases this means you may have to pay a little more at your local bookshop, but since they get a cut of our cover price (usually 40-50%) this benefits not just us, but the shop owners too.
With the upcoming issue No5 I’m also trying to partner with a small distributor to get copies of Offscreen in more local shops around Europe and (hopefully) North America. The change in the pricing structure is necessary to allow for this to happen since the distributor usually takes an additional 20% (on top of the retailer’s margin) of the cover price.
As always, hit me up with feedback, comments or questions. And thanks for your ongoing support!
Proudly announcing the sponsors for issue #5 scheduled to be released in late April/early May 2013. Offscreen wouldn’t exist without them, so please show your gratitude and say thanks via Twitter, Facebook, email or whatever way you prefer.
Last Thursday I was giving a presentation about the making of Offscreen at the Reading Room, a smaller satellite shop of the ever so awesome do you read me?!.
As a self-confessed introvert, speaking in front of crowds has always been nerve-wracking to me, but I’ve made a conscious decision to push myself out of my comfort zone and do more of it (this book has also been helpful). I’m discovering more and more how useful this type of face-to-face sharing can be. Last Thursday’s talk resulted in some excellent questions and interesting feedback that I’m still thinking about today.
Before launching Offscreen, I was desperately looking for resources on how to get started as an indie publisher, just to find that there isn’t all that much help out there. It was a somewhat unusual experience coming from the web which is built entirely on the idea of sharing and exploring its inner mechanics. I realised early on that it’d be immensely helpful to others if I shared my own mistakes and discoveries, as well as keeping some sort of diary. I’ve been doing so ever since launching this blog.
In June this year, I’ll be speaking at ValioCon in San Diego. It’s going to be another step towards a more open discussion about indie publishing and certainly a significant personal milestone for myself. Come join us!
Photos by Mark Kiessling (do you read me?!)