Monday, April 11, 2016

Kanna Inspire: Creating an Indie Magazine

It has been a long circuitous route to the idea of creating and publishing a magazine, but Kanna Inspire is finally launched!

I have been playing with creating a version of an inspiration journal for myself since 1997. I've been creating themes for for my art since 2008. I even pitched the idea of creating inspiration journals to a publisher once, with a quick "not interested" response. I then hatched the idea of creating an indie magazine. The closest to success was a version I started in 2012 and finally came to fruition in 2013. I did two versions: one was a 20-page Challenge version with the inspiration photos, color palettes and themes. The second version was a Results version with approximately 20 artists contributing art works that were inspired by the Challenge issue. It struck a chord, but I let the project languish while I coped with moving several times and health issues.

The idea never really died. I kept working on it, establishing a trademark for the name and filing copyright for the issue in 2015. I engaged Jennifer Greenberg at Merely Studio as the Art Director for the magazine and gave her pretty close to carte blanche to create this magazine from scratch. She took my vision and elevated it to a professional, finished magazine. Every time I send her ideas, she comes back with a finished product that makes me giddy with excitement.

Indie Magazine Inspiration

Along the way, I've stumbled on a few indie magazines that keep me coming back for more. I've been using them for ideas and inspiration as I launch my own magazine. I have seen a number of indie magazines, but these two resonate the most with me and I would consider myself long-term subscribers in support of their work. Both are print only magazines (no digital!)

The first one is Uppercase Magazine. This is a one-woman show by Janine Vangool. The tagline is "for the creative and curious." What keeps me coming back for more is how wide and far-reaching that tagline roams...I love a magazine that is all-encompassing creatively. She chooses themes and creative readers submit projects and articles along the lines of the theme. I've been learning from her journey as a one-woman publishing show for her magazine and other projects. She is pretty open in her blog and newsletter with the ups and downs of her business. Besides being a magazine that I would like to submit to, her sharing her business activities is really helpful to me as I launch my own magazine.

The other magazine is Offscreen Magazine. Kai Brach is a also a one-man publishing show. His magazine is an "in-depth look at the life and work of people that use the internet to be creative and build successful businesses." He is also particularly generous and transparent with the costs of publishing and some of the other issues he runs into with running his business. I've probably learned the most from his blog posts.

Kanna Inspire Plans

While I am particularly inspired by these print-only magazines, Kanna Inspire is going to be both digital and print. I'm creating a magazine that works the way I interact with digital and print now.

When the iPad first came out, I thought it was just another cool toy. Until I read a magazine on it and then I realized it was a game-changer. For a few years, I experimented with being completely digital with reading. Before I moved to Hong Kong in 2008, I had a pretty decent library of books that I read and used over and over again. I gave it away because I couldn't easily carry that many books  overseas with me. Even though I gave away the bulk of my library, I kept about two boxes of books and schlepped them with me every time I moved (11 times since 2008). There is something so enjoyable about print.  And now, 5-6 years later after my experiment of being all digital, I have actually started buying analog books again to read and relax at night. The blue light of the screens definitely has an impact on my sleep health. (Side note: it is a little funny when I try to turn up the light or make the font a little larger - and then I realize I'm reading actual paper.) But, back to how I operate today - when I read a print magazine, I often have my digital tools (laptop, tablet, or smart phone) handy so I can look things up online if I'm interested in something. Uppercase magazine has loads of stuff that I want to look up - new artists to follow, shops to check out, etc.

My goal for Kanna Inspire is, if you purchase a print copy, you will always get a digital copy with all of the relevant hyperlinks. The current version is very hyperlinked... if you click on any of the social media symbols on the Editor's page, it takes you to all my social media. If you click on the ad for Merely Studio, it takes you to Jennifer Greenberg's website. If you click the links on the ad on the back page, it will take you to my online shops.


Aiya, this is a tough one. Money is always a sensitive subject. I'm so grateful to Kai for being as transparent as he is about his business.  I won't always be as transparent on the expenses. (Kai is plenty open - so you can learn from him if you want specifics about dollars.) However, I am happy to share what I learn, resources, issues that I've learned and worked through, etc.

I considered just offering the first version for free. But, technically, I did offer the very first version for free. It's still available in the HP MagCloud store. Since I launched this first version, I have since renamed the magazine to Kanna Inspire. I had found a blogger who took the name "Inspiration Adventures" for the name of their blog after I published. I had not filed a trademark, so it was open season.

Because of that, one of the significant steps I have taken was working with an attorney and filing a trademark on the name Kanna Inspire. I will also file copyright on each issue of the magazine going forward. I have already invested up front in my vision for the magazine and will continue to do so for the protection of myself, my ideas, and also for the protection of the artists who may participate in future issues. Hours and hours of my time and Jennifer Greenberg's time have also been invested. As I grow, there will also be other infrastructure needs (such as creating a website that makes it easy to submit projects).

So, why $2? Basically, $2 is a somewhat random choice. I've been checking what people are charging for their digital magazines. I plan to have three versions.

  • The Challenge version will always be small - 16-20 pages. It will be available in digital and print. Currently I plan to continue to charge $2 for the digital version, with the print (digital included) being slightly higher based on the cost of printing, possibly $5-6. 
  • The Journal version - this is basically the 16-page Challenge version stretched out over 80-100 pages with blank working spaces for developing the designs associated with the challenge. The Journal version will be a print-only version, but the Challenge digital version will come as part of the purchase. Printing options are being researched. Right now, depending on the quality and print pricing, the range is still pretty wide of $25-35. I've always been willing to spend a bit on a nice journal that inspires me. With the next issue of Kanna Inspire, I hope to have a Journal version to release.
  • The Results version will be the icing on the cake - it might take me a year or two before I get to releasing this version. I want to get a good subscriber base to make it worth while for artists to contribute a showcase of their project and art. I plan to align the pricing similar to Uppercase Magazine and Offscreen Magazine in the $22-25 range. 


Uppercase publishes quarterly. I think Offscreen is mostly quarterly, but a little less structured. I explored a quarterly publication rate and I think that's a little bit overwhelming for me. Reducing to a trimester (every four months) publishing schedule seems more do-able.

Subscriber Base

The core of making this initiative successful will be creating a subscriber base. While my launching subscriber base is very tiny,  I'm really, really grateful to those early purchasers who are supporting my magazine and vision! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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