I've received, in the past six months, literally hundreds of e-mails from subscribers wanting to know where their issue, that they paid for with their hard-earned money, was. The truth is - we've had some very difficult financial problems due to the stock market crash last year, advertisers pulling out due to the uncertainty of the economy and so on. When I tried to obtain a loan for the business so that we could print this issue, the loan was rejected because we've never had to borrow money to meet our biggest expense: The printing of the magazine. Since our first issue, we've ALWAYS made a profit. That profit has always been re-invested in improving the magazine, increasing our circulation to meet more collectors and increasing the overall printing quality of every issue.
A little over two years ago, Focus Magazine made the transition from web printing which was a bit like a mass-produced, assembly line magazine (I cite B&W as a perfect example of this) where the actual time spent on an issue is less important than doing everything possible to move this issue onto the printer and getting it off. That's the way, I believe, a large, commercial, web printer makes the most profit. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. But overall print quality is not a reason why that is. Many of you can go back through older issues of Focus (2- 12) and look through those issues to find numerous reproduction problems. Pre-press took a day or two and then plates were made and we went to print and that was it. A week later, I had a finished copy. It was inexpensive, affordable and an extremely efficient way to get a finished product.
In June, 2007 Focus Magazine began a relationship with Brilliant Graphics. To my "horror," pre-press took two weeks, minimum, and printing, folding and binding the magazine took an additional 2-3 weeks -- and that was rushing it. After my first experience with Brilliant Graphics -- I wanted to do everything in my power to run back to my old web printer! Where were my 1-week magazines? Where was the speed and efficiency?
Then I received the first copy of Focus Magazine printed by Brilliant Graphics. I was in shock, really. The magazine was GORGEOUS. It was one of the most beautiful piece of printed work I had ever seen in my life. Something on par to the quality of LensWork of one of Lodima Press' books which just always made me relish the overall print quality. For years I had eaten a very good piece of steak at my favorite steak chain restaurant, where speed and efficiency is primary to overall quality and then someone had taken me a world renown steakhouse that people traveled to from all over the world just to eat a piece of steak. Upon first bite of this steak, or upon first view of this magazine, I was hooked. And so were my advertisers, readers on newsstands and subscribers. In the second half of 2007, Focus Magazine sold more subscribers than we had in entire two years we had been in business. We had obtained advertising from some of the highest level AIPAD galleries in the world. Our newsstand sell through rate was in the 70% range, meaning for every 10 copies of the magazine put in bookstores, 7 would sell. While the average sell-through rate for other magazines is in the 30-40% range and we had been averaging high 40s, low 50s.
And we began doing very, very well for some time. We printed four more issues with Brilliant Graphics -- and then last July and August I was kept extremely busy working on Rabbi Sinclair's book. So, I finally had time to begin selling for the December 2008 issue of Focus Magazine around the first full week of September... and then the stock market nearly collapsed. And advertiser after advertiser either went out of business, lost their full time job and had to cancel, or was unsure if their doors were going to be open next week.
I'm sure many of you will ask - "Why didn't you just use the money in your savings account to print the next issue of Focus and wait?" The answer is three-fold. A: To print, fold and bind a magazine is no small expense. By the time all of the expenses are factored, between my time, the time the editors spend on the magazine, the time spent laying out and designing the articles and ads, printing, folding, binding and postage we are in the six-figure range. And once one issue is printed and paid for, what about the next and after that one? Of course, we could cut expenses and run off to the next web-printer and have Focus Magazine printed as an assembly line product with very little care or concern given to its overall product and more care and concern over the time spent on press.
And of course, even if we would approach a bank for a loan that would fund everything for a year, which would run very close into the 7-figure mark, then this magazine would be in debt of over $1 million with interest.
Simply put: It wasn't smart business strategy. The right idea was to hold back, keep in touch with as many remaining advertisers as we had, work to get new ones, keep in touch with all of our subscribers, create a new central location where all of our subscribers can be kept up to the second on the latest news on the magazine (via our Facebook account and fan page) and then when the time was right, we would print.
We have finally approached that time.
Below are images taken from the first day of printing of Issue #18 of Focus Magazine. Every 16 pages is printed on a 25 x 38 sheet of paper. One side holds 8 pages and the other side holds 8 pages (16 page signature) and then the paper is folded, trimmed and bound. There are 12 of these 16-page signatures this issue, plus a cover. The magazine should be ready to ship to subscribers by early September.
I thank all of my subscribers, for their patience. We have never given up and many of you have never given up on us.
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