How to Write an Informational Design Proposal for My Magazine

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Studying the designs and styles of other magazines will help you focus your own ideas.
Studying the designs and styles of other magazines will help you focus your own ideas. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

You have a great new idea for a magazine and plan to approach backers with your concept. First, spend considerable time formulating and finalizing the overall goals with the magazine. You will also want to know your target audience and the demographics. A magazine proposal is much like starting a new business, so draft a business plan for the overall project. Include who will contribute, payroll and how you plan to market to readers while attracting desired advertisers. Remember, magazines are visual, so knowing graphic arts, photography and how to use imaging and layout software are basic prerequisites.

Preliminaries

Establish what your news-advertising ratio will be to cover your costs and make a profit. For example, if your magazine will be 60 percent news content and 40 percent advertising, create several mock-ups with various paging projections. Organize the concept with a news budget that includes story and article ideas and photo essays. Determine how much of your magazine will be text and how much will be graphic or photo displays. Your mock-ups and prototypes should reflect news fixtures such as contents/index and service features such as the masthead, advertiser index and promotion ads.

Download or purchase a business plan template. You can get a free template from SCORE as well as counseling from advisors. Describe what your magazine will require. How many employees, initial cash outlay, frequency, projected paging, top 20 advertisers, how you will attract readers and so forth. Focus on financials: projected sales, advertiser targets, printing and distribution expenses, sales costs, administrative costs, cash flow and profit/loss statements. As soon as you pitch your design proposal and show your magazine ideas, savvy investors will want to see the business plan. Be ready.

Gather advertising, images, stories and graphics to create a prototype magazine. Your mock-up should use real stories and content as opposed to "dummy type" so your advertisers, lenders and investors have a clear understanding of what you envision. An actual size prototype can be expensive to produce, so select key features, ads and service material in 12 to 16 pages to represent what you might actually produce in a 36 to 48 page book.

Show sections, the types of columns and focus pieces you plan to include. Highlight columnists and provide short bios. Use "knockout boxes" or explainer boxes to highlight exclusive features.

Create house ads to promote your target audience and demographics. Explain your value proposition: what makes your publication unique. Decide whether to include your ad rates and distribution presentation in your prototype or separately in a sales kit with sell sheets. You can do both. Create a slide show or a Power Point presentation.

Take your thumbnail sketches of a prototype and a short fact sheet about your publication to at least three qualified magazine printers who can also do distribution and mailing. Be sure you have projected print orders, paging, publication dates and in-home dates before you consult printers. With that information, a printer can quote prices and give you deadlines. Your magazine must have effective and efficient distribution, usually mailing but also newsstand sales, rack-and-stack free distribution and bulk copy. Ask your printer to suggest affordable formats, paper stock and binding based on the types of distribution channels you plan. You'll get mechanical requirements and specifications for digital files.

Magazine readers are shifting rapidly to the Web and in particular to tablet readers such as the iPad. Magazine publishers can attract from 10 to 20 percent of their total sales revenue from digital. Be sure your plan includes how your magazine will evolve in this new media. Show how your magazine will use social media to connect with your audience.

Writing the Sales Kit

Draft the proposal outline using all the items you have combined in your business plan, but with a more focused aim. The proposal can be a short summary or it can be a combination of proposed ideas and the slide show presentation.

Give an overview of the concept for the magazine in a paragraph or two. Describe what it's for, why you think it's needed, and how you are qualified to fill a niche. Describe the value proposition.

Define the target audience and describe in another paragraph or two why your magazine will be received by such readers. For example, if you plan to do a magazine about child care for young mothers in Los Angeles, the intended audience is not likely going to include retirees around the country. Know your audience and make it very clear in your proposal how it and your magazine match on all points.

List timelines and anticipated costs for breakeven of an issue. If you think you can get a complete issue organized, laid out and in the mail in a month for $5,000.00, terrific. But be realistic and use the research you did in your business plan to state the facts. An example would be: Anticipated breakeven is six months. The cost to go to print with each issue is $5,000 per 10,000 copies. You project only $4,000 in sales per issue for the first six months. Then show the breakdown.

Write up brief bios and information regarding additional contributors. If you plan to be the sole operator, describe how you plan to handle growth beyond a one-person operation. Once you have finalized all these steps, go back and edit, revise and polish the proposal. Make sure it reads smoothly so anyone reading it will easily grasp your goal. Run a spell-check, then add any last touches as needed. Proof it all before submitting.

Summarize the way the magazine will appear visually, especially front and back covers. This can be done on a separate sell sheet listing with your vision, magazine dimensions, page count, etc. This material will be in your business plan and you can summarize key points for quick reference. Add supporting examples such as the design and layout you create in slide shows or other multi-media. Make sure your logo for the magazine is attractive and that the fonts are complementary and legible. Add interesting and creative touches to make your magazine stand out.

Your plans and actual magazine will evolve. Plan for changes by creating a sales kit folder that could be used for a year or so. Create individual sell sheets to tuck inside. Sheets can address: Readership, Demographics, Ad Rates, Distribution, Editorial Calendar, Value Proposition, Call to Action. Update each sheet only as needed. Date each sheet.

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