How to make a magazine – Part 3

A good writing partnership is like a marriage; and so is a bad one. By Issue 8, a new possibility had arisen which neatly illustrated the difference in our approach. I saw an ad in Private Eye and through that, David and I started writing topical comedy for the Treason Show.

David is an artist when he writes. He will polish and perfect a sketch, or a song, or a piece for the magazine that will more often than not be recognised for its true worth. I, on the other hand, enjoy a full-force flood of ideas rushing by as I stand there like a salmon catcher on one leg. If I’m lucky, I’ll capture some semblance on those ideas on paper and there’ll usually be a lot of them. I will work on them but I’m less inclined to perfect them (I take a slightly different approach to novel writing) and firmly believe that the deadline is king. Better to get something down than have something lose its topicality and therefore its reason for being written.As it’s our own magazine, we can dictate the deadlines, which can be a double-edged sword.

I would say, in issues 8 to 11, that we had a better idea of what the mag was – and wasn’t. We were more prepared to carry work from other people and looked into paid advertising and sponsorship for the first time. Neither really worked for us; we just weren’t commercial enough for ads, plus it might be difficult to separate them from our own spoof content. We did free gifts again, partly as a thank-you to our loyal band of readers.

The design continued to evolve and I continued to try and get us reviews and coverage. Two magazines – Pentacle and Pagan Dawn carried (and still do) lineage ads for us and we got the occasional UK and international reader off the back of it. They rarely came back for a second copy though! I think we realised round about now that the magazine had a limited commercial future – unless we wanted to churn more issues and as a consequence diminish the content. We opted for art over commerce and David decided to step aside from the gag, sketch and song writing.

But a series of magazines is a valuable source of material and a credible track record to use elsewhere. Some of that content was recycled and expanded to create The Little Book of Cynics. And I still use the magazine as a calling card to showcase gags, articles and cartoons to potential editors and employers.


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