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Incoherent notes now, will try to tie them up sometime later, but I don’t want to forget this chain of thought, so:

Magcloud (POD magazine system) now ships to UK and Canada, which is good. But their cost is still 20 cents per page. So a swanky glossy colour 20pp Magcloud magazine is four Yanqui dollars — before you put your own mark-up on top. So a 40pp magazine and, say, a $3 mark-up is $11, which I think is about what the Fortean Times sells for in the US. Magcloud is a brilliant thing, but I think it’s still too costly.

(Note to self: get Kat to talk about CONSTELLATION, a PODmag done through Magcloud)

However. If you went to Lulu, and selected a black-and-white saddle-stitched format — let’s say 6×9, randomly — the base cost for 40pp of that is a hair over five dollars. Go mad, set your mark-up so the sales price is $8 — same cost as an issue of The Believer. Interzone’s $7.

And then you sell it on your website, children. Or through your Twitter account or whatever the new psychic telephone thing du jour is tomorrow. It costs you nothing but time, and you have brought an interesting physical object into the world. Without having to find someone to push it out of a womb.

It is, really, the new desktop publishing, evolved to remove those annoying things like printers, shippers, distributors and having to leave the house.

Published in brainjuice


  1. Actually, my magazine (Interrobang) is launching next month, and we’re using Lulu with similar specifications to the ones you outlined: 6X9 B&W (Color cover), 64pp, with a cost of $3.53 for manufacture since we’re ordering an initial run of 100 (the discounts are excellent if you order in bulk, and much less than the price you cite above).

  2. Go through Createspace; any size, any pagecount up to 108 pages, a base price of $3.66. If you hate Amazon it’s a problem, but if not, they will give the book/magazine an ISBN and list it on Amazon for free (your choice to list or not).

    You can also pay $39 to upgrade to their “Pro Plan”. If you do the copies drop to $2.15 each. The insides aren’t glossy paper, but hey, neither is Lulu.

  3. Thanks for that, Warren. As always, brilliant.

  4. Warren Ellis Warren Ellis

    Chris: true, but then you’re in the distribution business, as well as the pay-up-front business. And, frankly, fuck that for a game of soldiers. Best of luck with Interrobang.

  5. I’m actually going to do that hulu thing with my book. Seems a lot easier than hassling with a publisher and I can swear in my book as much as I goddam well want to, thank you very much!

  6. I should probably add to my previous comment that those prices are if you buy the books yourself and resell them, which is a pain in the ass. However, Createspace also lets you sell direct from them or through Amazon as POD.

    In those cases the base prices are: $5.06 through the E-Store ($3.55 if you buy the Pro Plan) or $6.46 through Amazon ($4.95 with the Pro Plan).

    With my magazine Crossed Genres, I’ve used both Lulu and Createspace: They’re about the same in terms of quality. Lulu has better customer service, but Createspace is a hell of a lot cheaper.

  7. CRap, meant Lulu, typed Hulu. I love the idea of self publishing on the web. Great invention.

  8. Has the internets not killed the print magazine yet? If the process is to be paid for a magazine-like product, selling pdf’s via a service such as ejunkie can take this a step further and eliminate paper altogether.

  9. Has the internets not killed the print magazine yet? If the process is to make money selling a magazine-like product, selling PDFs via a service such as e-junkie can take the POD model one step further–thus becoming OD (on-demand).

  10. Warren Ellis Warren Ellis

    I have no interest in eliminating paper. I like the option of a digital version, but I also like printed objects: portable, convenient, tactile, socially shareable, doesn’t require electricity to operate, can read it on the bog.

  11. i like paper too. i publish print-on-demand greeting cards online via cafepress, do great business, and have never entertained the thought of e-cards. i guess if e-cards hasn’t killed greeting cards, then there’s still life left in printed magazines.

  12. One major issue that arises: shipping costs. Single-unit print costs are wasteful and they do, when you are buying per unit, increase the cost significantly (considering the pricing we’re talking about). This is the most significant roadblock to this scenario, because publishers and distributors can absorb that cost by making bulk orders for discounted prices, as well as benefiting from a more consolidated shipment package. True you can assemble many magazines in LULU and order them all at once, but it’s still approximately equivalent to the price of an additional magazine (say $5-10 dollar range, thereafter you’re ordering bulk and you should be negotiating for a discount–a thing not possible if you’re ordering ten different items).
    To disclose for an example, I have a book I just put out, POD through LULU. It’s breakdown should show the point fairly well. One note: the proportional value do remain relatively stable, in spite of fluctuations in page count.
    1 unit=$10.66–SH=$7.14–total: $17.90
    25 units=$217.00–SH=17.06–total: $234.06

    You can see here how much of an obstruction this can form to cost-effective use of the POD medium for serial publications. Any real circumvention of this, unless through a flat-out different POD provider would itself constitute a distributor. Maybe that’s the thing needed, although that would contradict the basic idea and from a business standpoint be hideously unstable (all the woes of conventional magazines without the surety of actual subscriptions).
    My pardon for the bloated comment, but I wanted to give this topic a full treatment.

  13. Warren Ellis Warren Ellis

    I’m obviously more tired than I thought, because I just can’t see your point. I’m certain it’s there, and that the fault is mine, but… sorry.

  14. Chris B Chris B

    MagCloud is pricey as a regular magazine, but it makes for a lovely “program”. A 40pp magazine at $11 is ridiculous… but a glossy, full color 40pp program for a cabaret troupe for $15 is a bargain. I’m chatting with a couple of local producers about just this idea and they’re all very impressed with the proof I ordered.

  15. First off, apologies for the two large posts. I will be reposting this on the blog to try and consolidate my thoughts on this topic. Still, I’m discoursing from someone else’s stage. My apologies.

    Shipping and handling charge is unavoidable and expensive. Any attempt to make print media affordable via POD relies not on the unit cost, but the total cost that the customer pays. In any case, we’re talking about buying MagazineX that can be generated for POD print at $7 by any user of LULU (including production cost, your royalties and theirs). However, if it costs an extra $5 S&H (and that’s a generous estimate), a web-purchased copy of MagazineX costs any single consumer $12. That’s paying almost twice the shelf price for an item, and those were generous numbers for POD. People might swallow this expense for a book, but their doing this for serial publications is substantially less likely.

    This is why subscriptions offer an advantage to readers in a shipping-free price agreement (when last I checked, and it’s been a while). Publishers can do this because they buy in bulk at numbers based off of a subscription list and roll those savings into expenses like shipping. With POD you can’t do this and you confront far too many immutable third party price regimens to really control your own distribution.

    I speak from experience on this. I take around a $2 kick in the ass every time someone buys online instead of from me in person (retail), and that’s only if I take the risk of buying over $25 and selling by hand. At that point, the relevance of POD and the model we’ve been discussing dissolves and you are no longer using Print on Demand. You are using Lulu as a printer and you have a publishing company.

    Thank you for your patience, and I hope this clarifies my earlier statement.

  16. Michael – that is one of the major reasons that I use Createspace. Everything you publish through them POD is available on, and EVERYTHING made through Createspace is eligible for Amazon’s free Super Saver shipping. It does mean that they have to buy $25 or more total of stuff, but they can toss a $7 magazine in with $18 of whatever else they might need that they can find on Amazon and get it all shipped free. Total cost to consumer for the magazine: $7.

  17. Maybe I love paper too much. My computer doesn’t quite have the same smell as a freshly printed mag – and you don’t get that with on-demand digital printing, hence why Murky Depths is printed litho. If you’re desperate to catch a Murky Depths for nothing there’s three free PDF sample editions at the website. But to appreciate the beauty of an 80-page Murky Depths you will need to purchase a print version.

  18. Ryan Greene Ryan Greene

    Late to the party here, I’ll admit. No one has mentioned the easiest way to drop the costs of these: Ads. Client pays $.50 per full page ad, per copy sold. Since it is limited to two pages of ads on the magazine, and it is a very specific audience that you are hitting the cost for the advertiser stays low, and they know the circulation #s are accurate so they are paying a very low premium to hit their audience.

    I’ve seen car dealers pay $10,000 for a “target” mailing campaign that sends out 5,000 letters to people who likely cannot afford a car in the first place. If they sold twenty cars off the letter, they could maybe break even on the cost of the campaign. Apples and oranges admittedly, but being able to revise and ad for back issue,s or have a rolling “sponsored by” page that changes as the advertisers do. That way you are not running an out of date ad.

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