Well, it’s really amazing to think that today, March 23rd 2012 marks the 2 year anniversary that the first copies of Retro Lovely have seen the light of day (assuming of course some daylight did not reach them at the print plant).
What a ride it’s been.
In that time Retro Lovely has met and exceeded a lot of my initial goals.
I’ve had work published in a number of magazines over the years, a cover of a bike mag, work in Playboy, Alternative Press, the Washington Post and tons of others I lost track of. All too often the experience left a lot to be desired as an artist. What were some of those initial goals? Here’s a few:
- Produce a publication of a very high physical quality, heavier stocks than most magazines, fine art grade printing. Something those in an issue would be proud of.
- Produce a magazine with very high content quality. No pixelated images. Photographs that needed to be chronicled.
- Create a product that would be timeless and far exceed the shelf life of traditional magazines.
- Respect the artists’ work with minimal layout manipulation and in those instances where there was… full review and approval by those artists.
- Respect all those who aided in the creation of the imagery with as complete credits as possible.
- Provide the photographers and models both with free promotional copies of the issues postage paid.
- Provide those same participants the opportunity to obtain additional copies at an aggressive wholesale price so that they could earn money from their art and the project as a whole
- Provide those participants inventory on consignment so they would not even have to invest anything while having the opportunity to make money from the effort.
- Provide excellent value to the fans and supporters.
- Engage and include the fans and supporters to be part of the process with us.
- Provide advertising programs that were realistically priced based on circulation and include opportunities for those advertisers to ensure their investment was at a minimum fully returned to them.
So two years on, how have we done?
Some self review:
Produce a publication of a very high physical quality, heavier stocks than most magazines, fine art grade printing. Something those in an issue would be proud of. To date I have not encountered another publication dedicated to pinup imagery that uses the level of materials printing and finish that Retro Lovely does. From day one people have noticed this and it continues to be a hallmark of this project.
Produce a magazine with very high content quality. No pixelated images. Photographs that needed to be chronicled. Here too Retro Lovely has not only stayed the course but has become increasingly discerning with the images included. There’s a lot about this that would go lost on the average fan. Image file quality, how it relates to the presses we employ. And always art is subjective, I know some would think some images printed are not up to the standards of others but again, that’s subjective, it’s a balance between theme, execution and final output file that is considered in the selection process.
Create a product that would be timeless and far exceed the shelf life of traditional magazines. Retro Lovely has been designed from the beginning to be relevant to a new fan the day the issue was first released or to another new fan 5 or 10 or 50 years later. It is a reason I do not include editorial or event coverage or product reviews. Advertising with specific messages that may become dated are also turned down to help maintain this “timelessness” As each and every one of the issues continue to sell long after their first release it would seem that this goal has been met.
Respect the artists’ work with minimal layout manipulation and in those instances where there was… full review and approval by those artists. Periodically I get an email from a photographer thanking me for the way Retro Lovely approaches the production process. Those who contribute work are required to review the layouts, comment on them and ultimately approve them for publication. Some of the emails are artists commenting about how they’ve had other work printed they never approved to be published (copyrights anyone?) or worse yet didn’t even know was being published. Here too Retro Lovely has raised the bar.
Respect all those who aided in the creation of the imagery with as complete credits as possible. It is stressed during each production cycle that all credit info to be included with all images featured. I’ve heard from a lot of those support people who greatly appreciate this fact.
Provide the photographers and models both with free promotional copies of the issues postage paid. On the eve of this second anniversary I glance at the spreadsheet I maintain on the project. The balance sheet. As of today there has been roughly $25,000 of product and shipping costs expended to provide these promotional copies to those artists featured. Given the number of times I’ve seen publications state up front “we don’t provide free copies to those artists we feature” I think it easy to state Retro Lovely eclipses the average pinup zine dramatically. I do want to note here of one exception to this… Java’s Bachelor Pad. I have heard repeatedly from models and photographers alike that Jason over at Bachelor Pad also does right by the artists in providing them promotional copies. Jason if you should stumble upon this, I tip my hat to you sir.
Provide those same participants the opportunity to obtain additional copies at an aggressive wholesale price so that they could earn money from their art and the project as a whole. While I don’t have specific number on this I do feel it can be touted that no other pinup publication has made more money FOR its artists than Retro Lovely has. How can I assume this? Well I know how much we wholesale to people in our issues. From that wholesale those parties simply selling the issues at cover price… would total a very impressive dollar amount. As I also don’t see any other pinup magazines touting the availability of wholesale to the parties in the issues… well it’s simple math there. In two years there have been quite a few who’ve made some tidy spare income with Retro Lovely and a few among them who now rely on it as a portion of their operating income.
Provide those participants inventory on consignment so they would not even have to invest anything while having the opportunity to make money from the effort. It’s true, I often entrust large quantities of inventory to those featured in them so that they can have the opportunity to make some money, without any of the risk. I’ve had some people in the past tell me I am crazy… and ask “do you trust these people?”. I am often very quick to reply with “You mean these people who have trusted me with their art?” It’s an easy and emphatic YES.
Provide excellent value to the fans and supporters. Current regular editions of Retro Lovely run 120+ pages at a $15 cover price. That’s less than 13 cents per page. I see 60 page zines selling for as much. I see some $9 mags in the same page range… those would come in at 15 cents per page. But if a person bought Retro Lovely on pre-oder at $10… we then drop down to 8.3 cents per page. And this doesn’t even take into account the stark differences in those pages. The weight of them, the quality of printing. Retro Lovely provides more to the customer for less WHILE doing more for the artists in the issues than any other product like it
Engage and include the fans and supporters to be part of the process with us. Early on I decided to include a section in each regular issue called Corkboard. This is where customers could put something of their own… in an issue. They could be part of the physical magazine. Over time customers were also invited to take part in some promotions helping us select models to be featured. 4 times now customers helped us choose cover models with the most recent promotions including not too insignificant cash prizes for those models.
Provide advertising programs that were realistically priced based on circulation and include opportunities for those advertisers to ensure their investment was at a minimum fully returned to them. From the beginning I have been very up front about our advertising. We are not in bookstores, we’re not on newsstands… but I won’t tell you we are either. Each regular issue has a run of several thousand copies but the fascinating thing is that… it’s an open ended number. Later this year we intend on having reprinted several editions that are out of stock, if you refer back to noting how all issues continue to sell the point becomes that while an initial run may be so many thousand units on release… 5 years later it may well be 2-3-5 times that number. When I blog about our 5 year anniversary I will be sure to mention just how many more of each issue has sold since today. THe other part about our advertising is that I have spent considerable money on advertising myself, often it’s hard to really know how cost effective any given campaign is. With that I immediately began offering our ads in a way that for each $10 spent on the ad, also provided a $15 copy of an issue… so someone investing $150 in an ad, would get 15 copies. Sold those copies would put $225 back in their hands. I know of no other publication that remotely comes close to this. Many will talk about their rates being really cheap, but they never tell you it’s printed on demand and maybe they sell a few hundred copies… so the per impression cost is quite high or worse yet they have expensive ads and boast of their numbers but never back them up with any industry accredited auditing. So here, this aspect of providing an advertiser tangible, physical, sale-able merchandise worth more than their ad cost… I feel it goes a great distance to re-assuring value. Sell the copies, you made $75 and the ad was free… A free ad in Retro Lovely and an additional $75 in your bank account beats any other ad offers I see hands down. Plus a really savvy advertiser would pay note to the fact our issues run out and typically trade much higher and could sit on their issues for a year and sell them for much more than cover price. Heck if some advertiser in issue No.1 held on to their copies… well say they got 15 with the ad… they could unload those on eBay very quickly at $50 or so each.
Beyond all this these past two years have introduced me to a great many wonderful artists. That camaraderie is probably the single greatest thing I can take away from this time. Granted no endeavor is not without its pitfalls and Retro Lovely has had its share of them. But on the whole if it ended tomorrow, this has been a very rewarding endeavor.
Here’s to the next 2 years and thanks to all those who’ve helped along the way, especially those artists who took a chance on this project before the first issue ever even existed.
Publisher, Retro Lovely Magazine
23 March 2012