Let’s talk about cash part 1: the basics

We’ve put out a magazine. We’re working on putting out another one, and to keep on putting them out every three months for the foreseeable future. In the run-up to issue 1.1, we blogged and made public lots of details about our creative and editorial process.

One thing we haven’t talked much about, though, is money. So, if you’ll pardon a slightly long post (and this won’t be the last on the subject), I’d like to tell you a little bit about the nitty gritty financial details involved in putting out a print magazine.

In this post, we’re talking about the basics. The basic reality of Libre Graphics magazine is that it’s part of our mandate to produce a print edition. We do this for reasons of reach and efficacy. One of our major reader groups is post-secondary graphic design and art students. This group is vitally important to us because, for the most part, they haven’t yet developed deeply ingrained software and process practices.

To reach these students, we have to go where they are. That’s why we provide free copies of the magazine to professors, student groups and event organizers who have contact with post-secondary art and graphic design students (and also why the editors do things like teach and guest lecture).

But that means that a lot of copies of Libre Graphics magazine get handed out for free, because we know what it’s like to be a poor student and also that there’s power in being handed something, without having to first consider its potential value to you versus its monetary cost.

All of this means that never, ever do we intend to actually sell every copy of Libre Graphics magazine that we print. It’s just plain not in the model. Our goal, instead, is to break things down evenly: half our print copies get sold, half get given away.

For issue 1.1, we’ve printed 1000 copies of a magazine which is 64 pages long. Half of its pages are colour, the other half are black and white. To do that, our cost of printing was nearly $5000. Because printing is one of those situations where economies of scale really apply, it would cost just about twice as much (around $9000) to print five times as many copies (5000). It’s a case of more being far better, if there’s demand for more.

What that means for issue 1.1 is that each copy of the magazine, just to be printed, costs about $5. Then there’s the cost of shipping. We ship from Canada (for reasons I’ll mention in a later post about government grants). Unfortunately, due to the sheer issue of population, not to mention the regional popularity of F/LOSS, a great many of the people who order the magazine are in Europe or the United States. To ship one magazine within Canada, it costs $2.75. Which means that one magazine sold to a Canadian reader costs a little under $8 in overhead costs. The magazine sells for $12. So we’re in pocket by about $4, which very nearly subsidizes one copy of the magazine given away in a classroom, at a conference or at a festival.

Shipping prices, naturally, get higher the farther the magazine has to go. Shipping to the U.S., we break even. Magazines going to Europe get shipped, en masses, to Portugal, where they’re then mailed individually. Sending a box of 50 magazines to Portugal costs $200. That’s $4 per magazine, which is a heck of a lot cheaper per unit than just sending one on its own.

To break it down more, I can say that if 500 magazines on a print run of 1000 were sold within Canada, we’d just about break even. But that doesn’t account for shipping the free copies. What’s more, that’s a scenario that’s not likely to happen.

So, because our print runs are small and because we want to keep the magazine at a fairly accessible price for those who are buying it, we run, not only with no profit, but for the moment, out of our own pockets. Which is where advertising, grants and different subscription tiers come in. But those are three different posts, for other days.

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