REVIEW: Publishing from The Underground

By Press Room Contributor Bri Lee, Image taken by Alana Pots

Saturday – 4pm-5pm, Elderly Citizen’s Centre

It’s hard for me to say “objectively” whether or not this session was “good”, because I literally run an indie magazine and asked about a million specific questions and got really good answers. I loved every moment of it. This is a big call to make, but I’m gonna make it: I learnt more about indie publishing in that hour than I have at every other indie publishing event I’ve been to put together. So thank you Justin Wolfers (The Lifted Brow) Zana Kaboyashi (The Follower) and Ivan Gorgiveski (The Line).

The first important thing to point out is that both Zana and Ivan are Newcastle locals making content in and for Newcastle. The Line sounds especially continuously grassroots compared to The Lifted Brow, and when someone asked Ivan how he got sponsors for the printing he said they “just went out and asked local businesses,” which is amazing but maybe not applicable for everyone else present.

Zana had the support of another, larger publication when she was starting The Follower and said 500 people on Facebook liked it as soon as they put it up, which made everything a lot easier. Ivan seconded that the most important thing when you’re starting out is just “getting yourself known.” Justin then spent a little while talking about something I wholly agree with – that if you believe in your publication then selling it shouldn’t feel like selling out. If you’re the person who cares most about the writing and the organisation then people will see that passion and you’ll be the best person to sell it. Justin also mentioned the Brow’s founder, Ronnie Scott, and said that the magazine grew slowly via contributors over several years, which is reassuring!

I asked how they handled any potential conflicts-of-interest from advertisers. What if a company wants to advertise in your magazine but they don’t have a transparent supply chain, they make money from fossil fuels somehow or have shit maternity leave policies? Zana said that for The Follower they made it a rule to only accept locals and arts companies. “It made it harder for us but ultimately we were happy with our decision.” She mentioned later though that things got tedious for her when “the model was dictated by the advertising” and that sometimes she wouldn’t have the time or physical space in the magazine to run the stories she wanted. Ivan reiterated that all of The Line’s advertisers were local businesses as well.

Crowd-funding came up, as it inevitably does, and Justin said he likes the model where indie mags use the crowd-funding websites really just as ways to take pre-orders. Distribution chat came next and things got in-depth. Zana said that The Follower went online recently mainly because distribution had become too much hassle. The Lifted Brow have a cool distribution model that is really big on independent booksellers. They encourage people to go out and buy the books from the stores rather than their own website. Their model is a way more advanced step from what I do, or from what someone like Ivan does with The Line but ultimately that’s what made this panel so good – three different levels of indie publishing with three different approaches and attitudes.