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How to Get Advertising for your Magazine!

» Introduction
As a startup magazine publisher, one of the most daunting challenges that you will confront will be the procurement of advertising revenue. Like Dracula, who needs a steady supply of blood in order to stay alive, your publication will need to implement an effective strategy to ensure a consistent flow of advertising revenue that will keep your magazine solvent, allow for further growth of your brand and maximize its overall profitability.
» Step 1
One of the ways that startup publishers can achieve their ad revenue objectives is by hiring the services of an independent magazine sales representative. Magazine sales representatives can literally jump start a new title and put it on the fast track to success. However, there are a lot of pros and cons to utilizing their services. In my book, The Magazine Sales Rep Directory, I provide a practical and comprehensive list of magazine sales reps throughout the United States and also demystify their duties and responsibilities so that you can have a clear insight as to how they can play a critical role in the successful launch of your publication.
So, youíre probably wondering, what exactly do magazine sales representatives do anyway? In a nutshell, they sell or solicit advertising. I will discuss their duties and responsibilities in more detail a little later on. However, itís worth mentioning that utilizing an independent magazine sales rep for your publication can be both a blessing and a curse. When effective, your magazine sales rep can be a good vehicle for getting new ad accounts. The converse is that your rep could possibly be a source of revenue drainósince you the publisher will be responsible for all ancillary costs associated with your sales repís ability to perform his/her dutiesówith little or no return on investment to show for all your hard earned dollars invested.
So what can magazine sales reps do for you? Well, the bottom line is this; the primary reason that magazine publishers choose to use an independent magazine sales rep is to insure a steady ad revenue base. Quite simply, you can usually hire reps and get them out into the market with no upfront money (or very little), office space, computer equipment, car or health insurance. All you essentially have to offer your sales rep is just a percentage of the new business that he or she brings to your publication. And with a start-up, as with any new business venture, minimizing upfront expenses is crucial.
» Step 2
Another important reason new publishers use magazine sales rep firms instead of hiring a full-time sales staff is the hope of benefiting from the repís existing relationships with advertisers and media buyers. In the final analysis, in addition to having an informative well put together media kit; business relationships can play an important role in getting an advertiser to place an ad in your publication. If youíre a new publisher trying to break into an existing category, you are at a disadvantage no matter how great your idea. A magazine sales rep firm can build a buzz around your title fairly quickly. A sales rep can also act as a sounding board for your magazine idea. If your concept is marketable, chances are the sales rep will want to work with you. If, on the other hand, it isnít, most magazine sales reps wonít waste their time. So, if sales reps arenít returning your phone calls or seem otherwise disinterested in your publication, it might be a good idea to reevaluate your concept, mission statement and business plan. Of course, there can be any number of reasons why sales reps may reject your business; it could simply be that they have too many other clients, conflicts of interest or even lack of experience in a particular category. However, by and large, magazine sales reps can serve as a good barometer for the viability of your concept.
Itís important for startup magazine publishers to remember that magazine sales reps will not completely share the enthusiasm or be emotionally tied to a magazine like the publishers. The fact of the matter is that there isnít much of an incentive for sales reps to sell new launches. Most sales reps will have to work twice, if not five times harder, to sale new startups.
Statistically speaking, magazine sales reps know that very few startups make it past their first year, let alone become commercially viable. In addition, itís typical for new titles to start off with a very small circulation. Since circulation and ad rates are interdependentóthe larger the circulation, the higher the ad ratesóthe financial incentive can be very low. So, for many sales reps the time and effort necessary to make it to profitability just isnít worth it. This doesnít mean that new magazine publishers wonít be able to retain the services of a magazine sales rep. Simply put, new publishers should be aware of the challenges that sales reps face and as a consequence, be prepared to offer generous incentives in order to entice sales reps to handle their publication. In addition, and just as important, you will need to provide the proper selling tools so your magazine sales rep can be effective at advertising procurement. Independent sales reps need adequate materials to sell a title, just as staff salespeople do. So, at a bare minimum, this means having a professional media kit with market research and clear and concise demographical information to back up the pitch. This point canít be overemphasized because it is your media kit, and not your magazine per se, that will ultimately seal the deal for the vast majority of advertisers!
It should be said that some publishers have an aversion to using the services of outsiders. Since independent magazine sales reps may sell multiple titles, they are sometimes accused of lacking loyalty or putting their own interests before the interests of the publication and essentially bleeding publishers dry with costly retainer fees and ancillary expenses. While some sales reps may over promise and under deliver, itís ultimately up to the publisher to specifically state the goals and expectations that it has for the publication.
» Step 3
If you do decide to work with an independent magazine sales rep, you may find that choosing the right person is just as difficult as selecting any other type of employee. In reality, an outside sales repís role and responsibilities are not all that different from those of a full-time salesperson. It therefore pays to follow the same rules you would when hiring in-house staff. A thorough interview process will save you a lot of time and headaches down the road. Some reps may try to make it appear as if you should be selling them on your launch, but remember that youíre entering into a partnership in which both parties need to feel comfortable and equal. Neither should feel pressured into making a decision. Be sure to call around and check references to see whom the sales rep has worked with, i.e. talk to agencies and media buyers, etc. Remember, youíre hiring someone based on his or her reputation in a certain market. If field references donít check out, you probably donít want that person on your team.
As a publisher you should set up clear parameters for your magazine sales rep. Many publishers complain that they donít have as much control with independent sales reps. Itís important to articulate the terms of a business relationship so both parties know what is expected. How often do you want to receive call reports? How often do you want the rep to check in? Some reps may find daily updates annoying but if thatís what makes you comfortable, lay it out from the start so there wonít be arguments later on.
Finally, try to set realistic goals for your sales rep. Donít expect to see results in the first month. Sometimes it can take between six and 12 months to generate new business. Also, be aware that your magazine sales rep may request a retainer to cover the downtime. This amount is usually a draw against commissions which are typically 20 percent of the cost of a page; maybe less if the magazine is more established and will be an easier sell. A general rule of thumb is that it takes 20 to 25 percent of the net cost of a page to actually sell that page. Try to reserve anywhere from 40% to 55% of your total page count for advertising but do so with the understanding that you may not achieve your stated advertising goals in year one. Finally, it is not mandatory that you choose a magazine sales rep in your city or state to solicit ads on your behalf. Keeping these tips in mind will greatly facilitate your relationship with an independent sales rep, increase your overall ad revenue and put you and your publication on the road to financial success.

Shawn Lindsey is the publisher of Color of Service Military Magazine and the author of the newly released book: The Magazine Sales Rep Directory, available on He may be reached at:

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