Guest Newsletter – Simon Brew

Once a month we invite our Patrons, publishing friends and magazine enthusiasts to guest-edit our fortnightly newsletter. 

This month our guest editor is Simon Brew, publisher of Film Stories and Film Stories Junior. Film Stories goes Beyond the Blockbusters, and gives breaks to new writers, with coverage of all sorts of films, big and small. Film Stories Junior carries the same ethos, and is not only aimed at under 15s, but mainly written by them too!

Hello! My name’s Simon Brew, and it’s just over two years since I committed my act of career self-destruction by launching independent magazines of my own. They are Film Stories and Film Stories Junior, that I edit, produce and publish from a pokey little room in the West Midlands.

I’ve launched and edited several magazines across the past decade or two, written some books, and am passionate about print media. I also believe it’s incumbent on those of us who have benefitted from opportunity to extend that to others. I’m a hoot at parties.

You can follow Simon on LinkedIn and Twitter – if you like what you read below, say Hi.

What’s on your mind?

Given that 2020 has been such a taxing year for magazines, my time at the moment is being spent trying to find ways forward for independent publishing.

Can smaller publishers pick up the titles that publishers with massive overheads are no longer able to? I’d love to find out. I don’t think a magazine has an instant right to exist, but I do think some of those that have had to shut up shop this year could have worked on different models. I think we’re in danger of seeing an era for magazines passing before us, and I’m determined to try and do something about it.

Oh, and I’m trying to sell magazines and subscriptions. Keep forgetting that bit:

What’s the best article you’ve
read this month?

I want to champion a couple of independent titles I’ve been enjoying.

 Strong Words is quite wonderful, and I’ve no idea how Ed Needham does it – from what I can tell, he writes, designs and edits the whole thing. I’ve picked up plenty of book recommendations from it, and hugely recommend the magazine.

I also want to give a shout out to Comic Scene magazine, a magazine by someone who also cares deeply about the subject. In this case, the mighty Tony Foster. That he’s been able to keep his magazine going – especially when it covers the less high-profile titles – is some achievement.

Thus, appreciating the rules of this bit of the newsletter are I’m suppose to recommend articles, I’m going to recommend two whole magazines instead!

Am I fired yet? 

Show us an incredible magazine cover

In terms of a magazine cover, I love publications that use their platform to shed a light on things that otherwise might not get the profile amidst AAA releases and famous people. A huge credit to Wireframe magazine then, that all year has been fighting the fight and capturing the spirit of computer magazines of old. This cover alone had me seeking out a game I’d never heard of before I read a word of the article. After I read the article, I bought it too.

What’s your top tip for publishers?

I wish I had a magic elixir or amazing tip for magazine publishers, and if I did please be assured I’d have used it myself. I think if anything 2020 has been a test of nerve and endurance, as well as dwindling bank balances.

I would say – and this is genuinely not aimed at anyone – that front covers are gold dust for projects looking to get noticed. Appreciating there’s a balance between putting something on the front that has to sell magazines and also something of interest, I think there’s a real danger now that we become inoculated to risk. Especially when so many magazines are edging close to a cliff edge. I do enjoy my bad metaphors.

Illustration by Robin Heighway-Bury with thanks to Ikon Images

I’d just suggest still being able to throw the dice, and to carve out a couple of covers a year to take a real chance on. I buy around a dozen magazines a month, and most of them I can pretty much predict the front of in advance. The ones that have really stuck in my mind are the surprises.

That said, given the perilous state of my finances, I’d also suggest ignoring everything I’ve said.

Housty, we have a problem

What problem would you like our magazine guru, Peter Houston, to solve in the next newsletter?

My problem is: “How on earth do smaller publications get noticed? And can you send me lots of money?”

Can’t wait until next month? Check out last newsletter’s question from Sean Wood: ““Housty, if you wanted to launch a successful new title in 2021, would you opt for a print magazine brand with a digital presence, or an online media brand that published a print magazine?”

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