Welcome to the second article in a four-part series on starting a college magazine. There’s a lot of information here; pick and choose whatever seems helpful. Click here to read the first article, or click here to send me a question.
Hello again! This time, I’m going to talk about finding people to work with you on your new publication.
If you think you already have enough people to get going, you can skip this article and read the next one. But I’d recommend recruiting even if you have friends working with you. Staffing can be unpredictable: people graduate, people leave school, and people move on. Having extra writers and editors rarely hurts, as long as you can keep your standards high.
How to Recruit Writers
And, of course, all the people who aren’t writers. Every publication’s needs will be different. However, I’ll explain the setup of the Yale Record, since we have a large staff, work in many different styles, and publish a lot of art.
We typically do most of our recruiting at Yale’s beginning-of-year Activity Bazaar, where all the school’s clubs stand around and coax other students into joining. If your school has one of those, put a lot of energy into that, and bring as many people as you can: It makes you look popular, and it lets you have deeper conversations with interested students.
Prepare your “pitch” beforehand, so that you won’t stumble when explaining your publication. During the event, notice which parts of the pitch seem to interest people most, and put more emphasis on those as the day goes on. If you show enthusiasm, people will sign up.
Other Record recruiting methods include:
- Hanging strange flyers around campus. The sorts of people who enjoy these flyers are also the sorts of people who will enjoy working for the Record.
- Reaching out to students from other publications – many of whom are happy to try writing or designing in a different style. This isn’t “poaching”; you’re just giving people more opportunities to do stuff. (Also, don’t force your staff to give up working on other publications. Be cool.)
- Asking our friends whether they know any funny/talented people, and then talking to those people. (We may or may not also offer those people bribes in the form of pizza.)
- Talking to people in art classes (drawing, graphic design, etc.) to see if they’d like to make some hilarious art with us.
- Putting ads in issues of the Record asking people to write for the Record. Once you have your first issue out, make these large and attention-grabbing and see how many people respond; these ads could be more important than actual paid ads to the survival of your publication. (Or not. The results of advertising are unpredictable.)
In general, you should do whatever the existing successful publications and other clubs on your campus do, plus whatever extra awesome things you can imagine. Remember what I said in the first article — try lots of stuff!
How the Record Gets Attention
Bizarre flyers. We recommend this tactic for humor magazines. Probably nobody else.
The roles you need people to play will be different for every publication. But again, I think the Record is pretty well-balanced. Our board (the people who aren’t just staff writers, but have named positions) includes the following eleven positions. Out of those, positions 1-6 are those most often found on other publications.
- The Chairman: That’s me! The Chairman (Chairwoman, Chairperson) is the leader and public face of the magazine. Ze organizes meetings, leads staff recruitment, communicates with school officials, makes sure the magazine follows college regulations, and so on. Ze also handles financial details, if there is no Publisher.
- The Editor-in-Chief: The head editor, who will read and edit all pieces once the managing editors are finished with them. Also oversees design, keeps track of all writing deadlines, leads brainstorming for new ideas, and so on.
- The Publisher: Handles all the money (this was my job in 2013). The Publisher keeps the magazine’s budget, sells advertisements (if there are any), arranges for printing and shipping, and handles any necessary purchases.
- The Managing Editors: Edit all the written work for the magazine. For each issue of the Record, each Managing Editor typically handles 5 to 10 pieces. The Record runs short pieces, however; if your publication prints longer stories and essays, each editor might only work with 2 to 4 pieces. If the pieces will be quite long (more than three pages), you may need more editors. They communicate with writers, make sure deadlines are followed,
- The Design Editor: An extremely important position to fill. The Design Editor lays out the magazine’s design, makes beautiful flyers, helps artists with their work, designs advertisements for businesses that ask for that service, and makes everyone else on the team feel good about themselves for being part of such a well-designed publication. If you have a complex layout (not necessarily recommended), this person will do more work than almost anyone else on staff.
- The Online Editor: Makes sure the publication’s website works, if you have a website. All articles should be accessible individually, without having to read through a digital magazine. However, it’s also helpful to use a service like Issuu to keep track of a digital copy of each issue. If your publication runs a blog, or other online-only content, the Online Editor works with the Managing Editors to handle those pieces.
- The Supplementals Editor: Serves as chief editor and brainstorm-er for the publication’s “special issues”, which often comment on current events, celebrate recent holidays, or parody some other publication. The Record has published these to celebrate the Super Bowl, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Spring Fling, midterm season, and so on. In our case, the Supplementals Editor also handles our biweekly newsletter, which brings interesting content and a calendar of campus comedy events to hundreds of email subscribers.
- The Art Director: Artists are often harder to find than writers. Thus, the Art Director is responsible for finding them, as well as making sure they’re all submitting their work on time. This person can also serve as a sounding board for artists’ ideas and help the Design Editor fix any problems with the artwork. At the Record, this person’s job also includes finding a cover artist for each issue, since our covers are hand-drawn. (Since every issue needs a cover, this is the Art Director’s highest priority.)
- The Copy Editor: Examines the final drafts of each piece (after the Editor-in-Chief is finished) to fix spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and other small problems.
- The Publicity Manager: If needed, this person can organize “publicity” campaigns — spreading word of the magazine through flyers, social media like Facebook and Twitter, and so on. These tasks could also be handled by the rest of the staff.
- The Business Manager: Assists the Publisher in financial matters, including selling ads and keeping track of the budget. Also collects advertising payments, mails issues to subscribers (if any), and
- The Recruitment Director: Keeps track of people who want to join the publication, makes sure they’re all getting the publication’s emails, and serves as a second public face of the publication alongside the Chairman.
Keep in mind that you might not have a large staff as a new publication. A publication can be run by a single person, if necessary – though I’d advise having at least three people to split up the jobs of editing, money management, leadership, recruitment, and publishing.
Not really part of recruiting, but I’ll include it as a bonus, since it does help you keep staff members around.
Once someone has done enough work for the Record (some combination of writing, art, selling ads and subscriptions, etc.), they are part of our Staff Initiation ceremony each December.
The Record does this in the form of a themed scenario – past themes have included “murder mystery”, “time travel”, and “werewolf Bar Mitzvah”. Lots of fun games and events throughout the night, ending in an official “you are staff members now!” declaration and an actual party. Best of all, no hazing whatsoever! (Seriously, don’t haze people, that’s a jerk thing to do and will lose you good writers).
We think this is a good format for an initiation, and we’d be glad to tell you more about it. But you should do whatever you think will make your staff feel cool and special. Because they are.