The publisher of Offscreen makes a case approaching “passion projects” from a vastly different point of view.
Last spring we shared an article on Kai Brach and his idea of creating selfish permanence in the digital design world via a print magazine.
“I was doing web designs for clients and I got really tired of producing something that didn’t last very long; whenever you create a website or some other digital design, it lives as long as the next release cycle or the next version number,” Brach told Samir Husni at the time.
Brach launched Offscreen, a luxe print title that offers an in-depth look at the life and work of people who make their living via the Internet, as Brach explained at the time.
A year later, how is the plan working? In his usual transparent way, Brach offers his take on “Indie Magnomics” in Medium.com. His business model is “largely a one-man show.”
“I’m sure people with a long career in traditional print publishing that are part of a bigger team have a much different approach,” Brach says, explaining that he relies on his hefty digital network for distribution, often finds existing content to republish, and collaborates with his article subjects online, interviewing them and writing the bulk of the new content.
“These are all factors that impact the bottom line — how I make money, where I spend it,” Brach notes.
While traditionalist may disagree with his approach toward fees — “Some writers, photographers or illustrators might be happy to start with a very low fee that increases as your publication gains popularity and a wider audience,” he explains — he asserts this is the reality for independent publishers building sustainability.
And this is the key for Brach. He clearly gets that indie publishing is not traditional publishing, and anyone trying to make money from an indie title must disrupt the traditional publishing paradigm.
“The hard truth is that most indie publications rely on a lot of favours by a lot of generous people,” he explains. “Virtually every publisher I talk to tells me that they wish they were in a position that allowed them to pay everyone fully and fairly. The reality is that — bar a few exceptions — small-scale indie publishing does not make a lot of money, and that is reflected in the fees paid to everyone involved in the making of an issue.”
“If you’re totally uncomfortable with asking people for favours, indie print publishing is probably not your cup of tea,” he concludes.
We applaud indie publishers like Brach and so many others who are launching and growing these passion projects. As mass market ebbs and the tribe mentality rises (per Seth Godin), people like Brach are showing us another way to publish and grow.