Mike's It's hard to figure it out sometimes!
In the early 1970s I decided to change careers. I'd worked as an office manager in Birmingham, in the rag trade, and the company went bust.
A move down to Wallington, Surrey in 1971, with a new wife, two daughters and a stepson meant I had to find a way of making a living capable of supporting us all. It's a long story before I was able to find my way so I'll condense it down to a few paragraphs.
I had decided I wanted to write a men's magazine, a magazine that men would want to read. If you were not around at that time, the magazine industry was quite different to the current crop. Men only read 'hobby' type magazines, such as car or fishing or train magazines and a general magazine for men would not sell. Well, that was the consensus in the publishing trade.
There were, of course, Playboy and xx magazines but they had world-class writers and featured photographs of some of the most beautiful women in the world. I had no money, was unemployed and living a hand to mouth existence, barely able to feed my family. I also did not have any experience at writing, editing, publishing or any of the other skills a magazine requires.
I managed, in 1972 after a whole year's effort to find a publishing house willing to pay me £300 to produce a dummy; it needed the finished paper, 2 complete articles, a design on the page for all other articles and a list of contents for the first 3 issues. No mean task for a novice publisher but one I had thought about for a long time!
I had previously set up an interview with Alex "Hurricane" Higgins prior to his winning the World Championship Snooker title. I'd met and arranged a monthly column with Dave Prowse, later to become Darth Vader. I had also set up a daylong interview and some driving at the country's leading car racing circuit and racing school. That I never followed this one up has been a lasting regret!
Before the dummy was completed, I had a call to go to London and outline what I was producing. At the meeting, it became clear that the moneymen had decided this was a waste of time, as men would not read a 'general' type magazine. They paid me the £300 and that was that. The good part was I had not actually spent any money on the dummy but now had £300 to produce something real!
To save print costs I cut the magazine down to pocket size – it actually fitted a man's inside coat pocket. 76 pages; these included 16 pages of colour. The magazine was titled, Verve. I wrote the entire issue, had it typeset in long galleys, borrowed a box camera and took photographs of a young Swedish woman in Hyde Park, designed and did the layout of the issue. I then found a printer in Birmingham who agreed to give me credit but at the last minute told me they now needed a guarantor before they would print!
I found a guarantor and the first issue of Verve was published in 1972. We printed 40,000 copies.
The problem with magazine publishing if you don't have funding, is with distribution. If you reckon to sell 50% of your print run, your take is 45% of the cover price, and in 30 days you will get just 30% of the above. Of course, you have to give them the second issue within 30 days so you have to produce 2 issues before getting a penny! The printer may not be prepared to print a second issue unless he is paid for the first issue, and so it goes on. If you fail to provide a second issue the distributor would not pay you anything at all for 120 days. It's tough.
I produced 3 issues in all but it was the second that gave me most concern. I had tape-recorded an interview with a Birmingham hospital doctor and in the interview, I asked whether or not doctors ever considered using euthanasia. She said it was not unknown for doctors to switch off life support systems or withhold vital medication. It's been a long time since the interview and I have not seen a copy for 30 years so I forget the details but this was very provocative stuff and I had a vision of the police raiding the house and dragging me off to some dank dungeon somewhere!
It never happened and no one seemed the least bit interested. The only letters I received were about a sex article I had written. If you write about sex then you're not considered a serious person.
It's hard to figure it out sometimes!
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