The Making of a Magazine

Isn’t it exciting when a new issue of Alpacas Magazine arrives in your mailbox? All those lovely photos and informative articles — what a great excuse to skip barn chores for the afternoon! I expect many readers have thought exactly that.

On the other hand, have you ever wondered what’s behind each issue’s arrival in their mailbox. Here’s the “behind-the-covers” story.

Work on an issue starts three or four months before the magazine is due to be mailed, when story ideas are developed. Sometimes story ideas come from readers; sometimes from the AOA Board; sometimes from brainstorming by the magazine team. The editor reviews ideas and talks to authors, and, eventually a list of stories and authors is created. 

Meanwhile, the design and layout team begins sorting through photographs in the magazine’s files. We receive photos from professional and amateur photographers alike. Often story authors provide photos for the stories they are submitting, but not always. The magazine team searches for images for the cover and main stories, as well as noting photos that could work as “fillers.”

The deadline for stories and photos is about six weeks before the magazine goes to the printer. The magazine editor reviews every story and checks for accuracy, as well as assisting with grammar and correcting typos. Sometimes authors are not able to finish their stories by the deadline for a particular issue, and their story is removed from the lineup. Sometimes unexpected stories are submitted at the last minute. Eventually the editor must decide which of the stories will go into the issue for sure, and in what order.

InDesign LayoutOnce a story is finalized, it is sent to the graphic designer, whose job it is to make the story “look good” when laid out on a magazine page. Where the photos go, whether or not to add graphics for interest, what color scheme, what fonts…all these decisions take place for every story. The editing and design work are all done on computers.

The advertising manager contacts regular advertisers and sends reminders to all AOA members — advertising in Alpacas Magazine is an important part of many of our readers’ business plans, and we don’t want them to miss a deadline. While many of our advertisers have their own ad designers, some do not, so we allow time to create new ads for those that need them.

AOA staff are also busy updating the magazine’s mailing list, adding those who have subscribed since the previous issue and correcting addresses when subscribers have moved. The completed mailing list is sent to the editor, who uses it to make a “print order,” telling the printer how many copies to print and where each copy should be sent.

When the cover design, stories, ads and photos are all finalized, the layout for the issue is created, again using computers. Magazine team members review the layout and approve it before the files are sent to the printer. The printer will “marry” the pages, which means they will match up the pages that print together, and check the files for errors. Another version of the issue is created using the printer’s software, and every page is reviewed one last time.

When the “go-ahead” is given, the magazine files are uploaded to the printing press. The type of press used is an 8-color Heidelberg press. The paper is fed into the press from giant rolls which the press cuts into large sheets which run at 12,000 sheets per hour. Pressmen must check the pages to make sure they are “in register” because each of the four colors of ink is applied separately. Each color must line up exactly with the color printed before it or the final image will look blurry. ModernLitho Press

Printed pages are cut and bound automatically, covers are added, and a finished copy of the magazine is complete. The magazine is complete, but the process is not — now each copy must be put into a protective mailing envelope and the address for that copy stamped on the outside. After being sorted by Zip Code, all the copies are taken to the Post Office for distribution to subscribers.

While subscribers are busily reading their new copies of Alpacas Magazine, the magazine team is still at work, tying up loose ends: collecting payments for advertisements, making payments to authors and photographers for their work and, of course, developing ideas for the next issue.

Those of us on the magazine team hope you enjoy each issue of Alpacas Magazine — it is a team effort, and we could not do it without your help, whether you are a writer, a photographer, an advertiser or a reader. Thank you for your support…and watch your mailbox, because a new issue is on its way!

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