Today I’m delighted to introduce you to a rather different ‘Aspect’-
‘Producing a community magazine.’
A warm welcome to my guest Melissa Compton and Norwich Nights Magazine.
Hi, I’m Melissa Compton, owner/editor/publisher of Norwich Nights Magazine. It is a community magazine focusing on theatre, gaming, books, and food.
I have always been a big fan of teamwork, and it’s as important in running a magazine as any other career. Magazines have many elements, and as editor it’s my job to oversee those elements and ensure they all come together and on time.
Let’s start with time frames. Magazines work a month in advance, but usually you plan at least six issues of content in advance, so you have a road map. The month is generally split like this: two weeks to write and put the issue together, one week to proof-read and sub-edit, one week for printing. I like to state I work 9-5 Monday to Friday, but in reality the hours I work vary. The last two weeks are chaotic; I have worked until midnight the night before the magazine goes to print to ensure it goes out on time.
At Norwich Nights we work remotely, with writers pitching me ideas then sending work in, and we have set deadlines for articles. Running a magazine is full of deadlines, carefully crafted to allow for things going wrong and getting to print on time.
I start with the cover, and personally design all the artwork for Norwich Nights. I don’t have a set template but basically use a variety of software, Canva Pro, MS Publisher, The Affinity Package, The Adobe Package – anything I think is going to add quality to the artwork. I work with A4 pages and let the printer reduce it to A5. Unlike many magazines within the industry, we don’t sell our front cover. Instead we use it to show off food and the city of Norwich, which means I take a lot of photos.
Whether you are a journalist or editor, your mobile phone becomes your absolute best friend; luckily my phone takes amazing photos and I would be lost without it. Before working on magazines my phone lived in my bag, now I sleep with it.
You are probably starting to see the lack of glamour by now. My job is all about smaller tasks that need completing and slot together to produce a larger product. I also have to ensure no more than two fonts are used in the magazine, so we have one font for the cover and a separate one for text. This is usually dependent on which software I am using because for some unknown reason none of the fonts are the same across the software packages. Yes, most of my time is spent behind a computer screen.
My day can be a combination of the following –
emailing writers and authors that we feature in our book pages,
answering advertising queries,
maintaining the social channels,
writing or maintaining the blog,
talking to business mentors,
business planning for structure and growth,
designing and formatting pages,
proofreading and sub-editing articles,
arranging and completing reviews of books, shows, food etc,
networking (Zoom saves me so much time),
admin and accounting,
talking to the printers,
emailing venues that distribute our copies,
managing subscriptions and generally talking to people about the magazine.
It’s a lot of work, and I find it best to slot tasks into my daily routine, for example I do the social media over my morning cup of coffee, I rarely take a lunch hour, I normally work through it without noticing.
Running a magazine is much like being a writer – you do it for the love of the craft. It kind of takes over your life so you need that love for what you do, the glamour is minimum. You do however need to be prepared to live your life in public – the one element of working in media no-one warns you about. From the second you make that decision to work in media, regardless of your job title, you commit to living your life in public. Now this isn’t the same as fame: journalists, reviewers and broadcasters can all attain fame if they focus their energy and decision making in that direction. What I mean is being ready to talk about work whenever and whatever you are doing.
It means being recognised in the street and understanding your appearance is a representative of your brand, and you are always on call. A perfect example of this is my laundry trip: I was going to the laundry which is just outside the town centre. I was in a car, so just threw on some leggings and t-shirt, but while I was out a stranger said ‘Hello. I know you from somewhere.’ I was surprised as the magazine had only been going six weeks, but he recognised me as my picture was printed in the magazine. I remember thinking I need to work on my image, and I was at the hairdresser’s by the following morning.
The downside is that when you are a constant representative of your publication, your personal life is out there too. Not in the same way as a celebrity but for example, when we launched the first issue, I was going through a break-up. The evening of the launch was the beginning of the break-up, so people wanted me to talk about the magazine, do reviews, and I only had two weeks to put the next issue together. I wanted to stay home, cry and eat ice-cream while watching my New Girl box set, but it just wasn’t going to happen. Worst still, I had to be on display and represent the magazine, taking time off wasn’t an option due to the strict time frames magazines keep to.
It’s a huge part of my role that I take seriously and accept, but some warning would have better prepared me to get used to introductions like “This is Melissa, she runs Norwich Nights Magazine.”
I hope that gives you a small insight into running a magazine. It’s a subject that should probably be broken down into a series, to go more in depth on each aspect of the life of a small community magazine owner.
Feel free to send me any questions you might have.
Thanks, Melissa for an intriguing insight into a very different aspect of writing.
This has been a particularly difficult time for yours and similar businesses, and it would be a shame to see all your hard work come to nothing.
You can contact Melissa via the blog https://norwichnightsmagazine.com/
where you can find local and international features on recipes, gaming, and even a review of one of my books 😉
or email her at
At the time of writing, Melissa was working on a new project:
Honest Media Publishing.
This will act as a portfolio to bring together and showcase various interests including the Norwich Nights Magazine, a poetry collection, a romance novel and the forthcoming E/E magazine, which will concentrate on global lifestyle and entertainment.
Good Luck, Melissa and thanks for being our guest today.