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Forums Letters to the COW Team Publishing a magazine

  • Publishing a magazine

  • Dan Barter

    April 2, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    Hi Everyone!

    Say, is there a forum specifically for the folks who produce the cow-zine? Reason I ask is that I layout a small magazine for a publisher friend of mine, and occasionally bump into publishing related problems or issues. Might be nice to be able to ask the guys here who are actually doing it.

    Thanks, love the cow!


  • Ron Lindeboom

    April 2, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    We have a forum for InDesign, which is the software we use to lay-out the COW Magazine.

    If the questions are not pertinent to InDesign, please feel free to ask them here in COWmunications.

    Best regards,

    Ron LIndeboom

  • Dan Barter

    April 2, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    It’s odd, actually. I find I run into problems in layout, but that are related to publishing. Stuff that doesn’t exactly fit in the InDesign forum. For instance, is there a good on demand printer out there that folks use? How do I calculate leading, which seems, based on what I’ve read, almost a VooDoo type of process depending on the type of layout you are doing. These don’t all seem to fit naturally into the mechanics of InDesign. Maybe someone who has actually published a magazine could steer me right.

    Here’s a good recent example. We are a magazine geared toward new, unpublished horror short story writers. I have a GREAT team of folks, but we’re all basically new at the process. Since I’m doing the magazine layout and design, I get the stories fresh from my editors, but occasionally find the formatting has gone weird or there’s 5 spaces instead of a tab for every paragraph.

    As willing as I am to do all this work for my friend for free, I’m not necessarily sure that fixing the stories, formatically. (like that word?) should be my job. Is there some line somewhere that a designer should draw, regarding these sorts of issues?

    As I said, this is basically done for free and for a friend, but I might run into this on some other job.


  • Tim Wilson

    April 2, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    [Dan Barter] “As willing as I am to do all this work for my friend for free, I’m not necessarily sure that fixing the stories, formatically. (like that word?) should be my job. Is there some line somewhere that a designer should draw, regarding these sorts of issues?”

    If you think about that one, you’ll see that it’s actually a question about the relationship between your “boss” and you about the division of labor. You’ll get good advice on that in the Business & Marketing forum.

    Re: fixing the work of non-pro authors, I feel your pain. The one and only requirement to write in the COW Magazine is to never have been published in an industry trade magazine. Well, there’s some other stuff about professional qualifications and all, but the point is, NO professional writers. I assure you that the articles I get from some of the most accomplished film production folks you can imagine is as formatically challenged as what you see.

    Short version: until you get your “boss” to take it on, you’re the one who gets to clean it up. Kind of like the guy who shovels up after the elephants in the parade. His friend asks, Why don’t you quit? And the guy says WHAT?! And leave show business???

    That said, I hear you on the need for a general design forum. We have ones for film and video (Art of the Edit), web design (cleverly entitled Web Design — yes, it’s also eponymous), but nothing more general for print design.

    Let us talk about it a bit. Might be time to fire one up. And if you have any more thoughts about the forum, or are willing to host it 🙂 by all means, pipe up.

    And of course, with any questions about the mag itself, the Creative COW Magazine Feedback forum…


    Tim Wilson
    Creative COW Magazine

  • Dan Barter

    April 3, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    Tim, thanks for the feedback. It is good to know that I’m not alone with my formatting issues. I’m certain this will get worked out in the long run, particularly since he won’t get his magazine delivered to the printer on time. If I have to do design, layout, cover and most of the story art, plus the formatting, it’ll be tough to meet a three 30 day deadline.

    By all means, please talk it over. I think there may be more of us out there. I’m not dialed very far into the horror genre myself, but my friend/publisher is. He talks often about amateur start up ezines or magazines that don’t get very far because they don’t know the next step.

    With regards to your “host” pitch… nice curveball. Though, I’m the guy asking questions. Wouldn’t you want someone who answers them? We are making a change from ezine (PDF) to actual print this April, so I’ve got some stuff figured out, but am by no means an expert.


  • Josh Olenslager

    April 3, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    Although I haven’t had much experience in designing/publishing (a few editions for the college lit. mag.) I can only pass on a bit of info that might address your problem. I do have a professional writing degree and deal with publishing my own work. So using these two areas of experience, here’s what I’ve seen is a common structure for formatting guidelines that are out there.

    1. It makes a huge difference on your end if you’re (as a publisher) soliciting certain authors for their work or if you take unsolicited manuscripts and have a staff that weans them down to final pieces which will appear. If you solicit the work, you’re sort of behind the 8-ball for formatting. You’ve basically given the author the upper-hand, because they know you want it. You can request a format that works better for your design work, PDF, Word, RTF, etc., but if your “boss” is set on a piece, it will arrive how it arrives. If you are taking unsolicited submissions, simply set your guidelines to say something like “submissions must be RTF (or whatever format you like to work in and is good for your design program) in order to be considered. Submissions which arrive in other formats will not be read.” Then stick to your guns and reject stuff that doesn’t fit your guidelines. This is pretty standard procedure that authors are used to seeing. So find the format that is easiest for you to work with and stick to it. (Then if you have a 5-space instead of a tab, at least you’ll be more comfortable approaching a fix.) No manuscript should arrive in shambles, either in content or formatting. Make your submission guidelines are professional and demand professionalism on the author’s end, too.

    2. Make sure that the lines of communication are open between staff members on your publication. Even if you’re doing this as a favor or on a voluntary basis, make sure that the people you work with know what your limits are. If you can only dedicate so many hours or with certain technical formats, make sure that this is known and respected. I’ve seen too many things go wrong between editorial and technical staff to think otherwise. Everyone should have a clear idea of the commitment, roles, and workflow of the team around them. No sense in holding things in until they become unbearable. That is how things end up failing. Good communication is key for success. Some sort of master plan for the transition from ezine to paper-zine is the first step. Clear the air and set the expectations before you get too deep into the process to recover.

    Hope this bit of information helps a little bit. Consequently, I would also be interested in a separate forum based around the publishing structure and how it function.

    Thanks! Good luck Dan.


    Digital Media, Thought Equity Motion

  • Dan Barter

    April 6, 2009 at 2:54 pm


    Thanks, that’s some great feedback. We are actually taking short stories from new authors, not specific authors. So I guess that would be considered unsolicited in this scenario.

    We’ve got a fairly clear submissions page, but it mostly covers the “what” rather than the “how” requirements. Probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to include something on formatting as well.

    Thanks again. Good stuff.


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