Guest Blogger: Two Bright Lights

TBL-guestpost4

There is nothing better than seeing your work in print. And we love how HP – MagCloud makes this possible and painless! At Two Bright Lights we focus on connecting magazines and blogs with great images from photographers and other creative businesses, so we understand the importance of beautiful magazines and business collateral. Many of our members use and love MagCloud. Whether they are photographers using it publish a portfolio or pricing guide, or editors using it to publish a print and digital magazine, HP MagCloud makes displaying and distributing their content a breeze.

Photographers, publishers, brides, and vendors have created thousands of beautiful publications using MagCloud, but we wanted to pass on what a few Two Bright Lights editors have to say about MagCloud and share details about the beautiful magazines and publications they create.

Meet Kym Stelmachers of DIY Weddings Magazine and Erika Pitera of Zest Digital Magazine.

tbl  Shalyn Kettering: Could you tell us a bit about your publication and editorial style?

DIYopenKym Stelmachers: DIY Weddings® Magazine is a wedding publication that is written and created by brides for brides.  We cater to the bride with a budget of $15,000 and under with our main focus on the DIY.  We provide DIY projects from brides, wedding planners, wedding vendors and crafters.  I designed the publication to be a “visually pleasing” experience for our readers.  We also decided to change the way we do advertising in our publications by developing a new innovative way to get the same content to our readers without the headache of having to thumb through endless ads to find the real content.  We were the first wedding publication to offer its readers a better reading experience.

Erika Pitera: ZEST Digital Magazine is a seasonally focused mix of recipes, entertaining menus and easy, do-it-yourself home and holiday decor projects. Our goal is to inspire our readers with recipes, DIY projects and entertaining ideas that are approachable for both new and experienced home cooks.

tbl  SK: How does MagCloud fit into your publication process and what have you found most helpful about it as an publishing platform?

KS: Because we are primarily a digital magazine, we wanted to be able to offer our brides, vendors and photographers the option to purchase a hard copy.  When we found MagCloud, we knew they would be a great fit for what we were looking for.  It really became clear to us that we made an excellent choice when we received our first proof.  The quality of their product is first rate! I hear it time and time again how beautiful our print publication is.  MagCloud uses quality paper; the color is vibrant; their delivery and customer service is exceptional.

ZESTprintdigEP: In all honesty, it didn’t at first! When we first started ZEST, we only envisioned it as a digital publication. However, in exploring all of the publishing options out there, we were thrilled to find MagCloud because it allowed us to print our magazine with ease! Its accessibility and quality encouraged us to start designing our publication for both digital and print readers. MagCloud is great because it’s user-friendly. My reasons for that are two-fold: from a reader/consumer standpoint, it’s very easy to discover publications based on your interests or hobbies; from a publisher’s standpoint, MagCloud makes it easy for small publications to print small runs of awesome quality at an affordable price.

tbl  SK: What are your top 3 tips for first time MagCloud users?

KS: Really they makes it so easy to upload, setup, price and manage – anyone can use it.  My only tip is to always order a proof so you know what you are offering your customers.

EP: 1. Be sure to follow MagCloud’s formatting instructions to get perfect results every time. You can get specific instructions customized for your publishing software that make it really easy to export your PDF properly.
2. Take advantage of the document preview to make sure all of your text and important elements are in the safe zone so that nothing gets cut off when it’s printed!
3. Get the most out of the your experience by offering both print and digital versions.

tbl  SK: Kym, We love all of your creative DIY tips in your magazine! Your sea shell bouquet in the last issue was fantastic! Where can people purchase it on MagCloud?

KS: Our Winter 2012 issue just arrived on December 1st and it’s our biggest issue ever.  We have more inspirational ideas, do-it-yourself projects and 12 experts in the wedding industry giving our readers some great tips, advice and budget saving ideas.  In each issue FiftyFlowers.com creates 3 DIY Flower Bouquet projects. What I love about it is they include an inspiration board and they provide the reader with a materials list and step-by-step instruction.  We have gotten so much great feedback that we are going to continue these projects through 2013. You can purchase all of our issues on MagCloud under DIY Weddings® Magazine.

DIY-Weddings

tbl  SK: Erika, The pear on the cover of your current issue looks delicious! Where can we get the recipe?

EP: Those are our Port Wine Poached Pears – they’re yummy and pretty easy to make. You’ll find the recipe on page 28 of our Holiday 2012 issue.

tbl  SK: What sort of submissions are you looking for from TBL members?

KS: I am glad you asked! We have a very special issue coming in 2013 and we are looking for anything that has a “red theme” about it.  We will consider any of the following using a red theme:  Photo style shoots, weddings, candy buffet tables, cake or sweet displays and engagements.  Style shoots and weddings with themes around the circus, boardwalk, carnival, Valentines, Christmas, Fourth of July – keeping in mind that we are focusing on “red”.  We look forward to working with all the talented photographers at Two Bright Lights!

zestopenEP: Your number one priority should always be to make the food or drinks look real and absolutely delicious! Natural light is a very powerful tool. I love food photos that are bright and appetizing rather than dark or dramatic. Props can be great, but make sure they don’t detract from the star of the show! Also, shallow depth of field can really help the food take center stage.

A big thanks for Kym and Erika for the interviews! Don’t forget to check out their magazines on MagCloud and if you are interested in having your photography featured in these and other great magazines check out the Two Bright Lights’ submission software!

A Pinterest Q&A With MagCloud Publishers

Pinterest LogoBy now, you’ve seen some of the investments the social media community has made in Pinterest. The visual inspiration engine resonates with communities in such a natural way it’s no wonder that the little network that could is on a meteoric growth trajectory. But as Pinterest usage and prevalence increases, marketers are beginning to ask themselves how best to leverage the platform to get its message out.

MagCloud publishers have been using Pinterest for some time, with good success thus far. We’ve reached out to some “Pinteresting” publications to understand more about Pinterest’s benefits: Cory Ann Ellis (Pinterest page here)– of AC Ellis Photography, SD Wedding Style and The Cake Lady Bakery – and Trey Hill – who uses both MagCloud and Pinterest for Square Root of Nine, a story telling agency.

Have some thoughts, tips or ideas of your own? Let us know in the comments! And as always, if you’d like to respond to us or the authors, the comments section is the place to be.

—–

MagCloud: Have your publications used Pinterest for promotion recently? What have you seen from the platform that made the promotion unique?

Cory Ann: “We actively use Pinterest to promote our print and web publications. Pinterest is the fastest growing social media platform, and the viral exposure a company can receive through pinning is an important component of our marketing strategy.”

Trey Hill:  “As the owner of a storytelling agency, sometimes it’s hard to distinguish what I do for myself and what I do to further our story. At some point, I just embraced that the line is blurry. I do use Pinterest regularly to bookmark images, stories and styles that I find appealing. I try to temper promoting my business, but do have a few boards that highlight my work.”

MagCloud: What do you think Pinterest might offer publishers that is unique to publishing (as opposed to the advantages for other small businesses)?

Cory Ann: “I think Pinterest offers publishers an opportunity to generate continued support and readership of past publications. When your publication is long off the shelf or not at the top of your promotional efforts, you have the ability through Pinterest to promote past issue sales, articles and advertisers. What a great way to stretch your reach and create a good use of past content rather than collecting dust in a lost folder on your hard drive.”

Trey Hill:  “I’m certainly no publishing expert, but I think whether you’re a publication, small business, non-profit or sports team, Pinterest offers you the ability to curate tangible expressions of your brand’s story. You can craft a character and associate yourself, powerfully, with ideas, imagery and products you admire. However, most brands I interact with on Twitter aren’t taking advantage of this aspect of Pinterest.”

MagCloud: What are some tips that may help other publishers to get started on Pinterest?

Cory Ann: “Try not to only pin promotional pieces for your own business, but also images, services and products that supplement your business or life. For small businesses, Pinterest offers an easy method to allow your customers and readers to get to know the owners and employees by creating personal style boards. A personal connection is so important to brand and business loyalty, and this is a great easy way to reach out to your customers and share in a subtle way, without taking up vital print space. Pin images directly from your site or blog. Be sure the link back on Pinterest leads to a specific post and not just your home page. Use simple clear descriptions and hashtags on the images you pin. Make it easy for viewers to find your pins when they search.”

Trey Hill:  “Don’t be scared to pin things that might not end up in a click back to your website. People respect organizations that are secure enough in their own identity that they are free to applaud the efforts of others. And, when you begin to point people to the things you admire, more often than not, the favor is returned.”

MagCloud:  Pinterest is a highly visual social media platform, how can you use that style to promote your publication? 

Cory Ann: “We are visual people and the use of good images and design can draw a viewer in and entice them to read a full article or publication. We like to post images of our publication that link back to our sale page on Pinterest. Also a board can be created for each article or issue to supplement the publication and drive traffic back for a full purchase or download. Behind the scenes and extra images that don’t make the article are great to draw the viewer in without compromising the distribution of the original content. Most publications are driven by advertisers. By pinning the ads, websites and products of your advertisers, you create an increased value to your ad sales.”

Trey Hill:  “First, let me start with a warning. Self-promotion in social media of any kind needs to be tempered. Heavily. Make sure you’re pinning 15-20 items that have nothing to do with you directly for everyone that points back to you. If you can make that ration even larger, do it. As Brian Regan so appropriately warned, ‘Beware the Me Monster.’ I am continually impressed with Warby Parker’s strategy for pinning. This past summer they launched a Blue Mirror sunglass lens & created a board that featured pins with that shade of blue. Of the 39 pins on the board, only one featured the glasses themselves. That was an interesting idea and could apply to publications as well. Does your current issue have a theme that you could pin from? What about doing boards inspired by the various stories? That kind of thinking gets people excited and generates repins and conversation, which in-turn builds loyalty to your brand and the larger story you’re trying to tell.”

Q+A with Merritt Design’s Jennifer Koskinen

No sooner did Jennifer Koskinen begin using MagCloud to showcase her architectural photography work than she found herself designing MagCloud magazines for her clients, too – quickly parlaying her architectural firm into a photography and graphic design boutique. In fact, MagCloud was a source of inspiration for transforming her architectural skills into graphic design skills.

“I love the creativity of designing photographs and then thinking of how to best present them,” Koskinen says. “MagCloud makes it easy and affordable to experiment with design ideas and try new things.”

  How did your architecture work lead to your new career in photography?

Jennifer Koskinen I fell in love with photography when I got my first camera in the eighth grade. But I’d never considered working as a photographer. I pursued a career in architecture, instead.

After a few years of design work, my firm hired me to shoot scouting photos of one of our projects in pursuit of publication. So I submitted my photographs to a magazine, thinking they’d send their own photographer to reshoot them.

The magazine loved what I sent and wanted to publish them. It was just the validation I needed to start shooting more, and soon I realized that I felt more creative photographing architecture than designing it. I absolutely love photography! It’s hard to believe that I get to do this for a living!

  How did MagCloud inspire you in your graphic design business?

JK I started creating my own magazines with MagCloud to give to existing and potential clients. Everyone loved them, right from the start, and wanted me to design magazines for them, too. I’ve created eight MagCloud magazines so far for other architects, builders, chefs, jewelry designers and so forth, with two more in the works. My clients in turn use the magazines to market their work, which makes for fabulous co-marketing for all of us!

  How did you get started publishing through MagCloud?

JK I’d been interested in self-publishing in general, but could find solutions only for books. When I came across MagCloud, I was immediately excited. The first thing I designed was a magazine for my architectural photography. The magazine format was intriguing, so I even wrote stories and included advertisements for some of my clients.

  How has MagCloud made a difference?

JK Next to my website, distributing my MagCloud magazines to potential clients is the most important thing I can do to attract business. I love the reaction that I get from people when I hand them out. People visibly respond to something they can hold in their hands and flip through at their own pace. I see them feel the paper and the weight of it. The pages hold the color so well. It’s one thing to see my images on a computer monitor – it’s nice to see them in print, too.

There’s nothing else out there that beats the quality and the price point better than these magazines. They’re invaluable, and they give my business credibility. There’s no doubt that my sales have dramatically increased because of MagCloud.

  What tips would you give to someone new to self-publishing?

JK Dive in. When I set out to design something, I look at things I love, study graphical trends, fonts, proportions – even white space and how it’s used. It’s really fun to play with, and MagCloud’s templates make everything so easy. I recommend studying what you like and then creating something that’s your own, including things you’ve noticed and like in other people’s designs. Have fun and try things you’ve never done.

  If your publication were a superhero, who would it be?

JK Pixelgirl! She’s a stylish superhero who can fly – cameras in tow – from location to location, harnessing her amazing powers of composition and her ability to capture the most dynamic subjects in the most beautiful light. And she gets home in time to cook dinner for her son!

Q+A with Alyssa Yuhas of WLWL Magazine

Toronto-based graphic designer Alyssa Yuhas specializes in branding and online design for a variety of clients across North America. But she’s never forgotten her longtime love for print magazines and the thought of working for one.

When she discovered MagCloud, she realized right away that she could publish a magazine of her own. So in 2008, after “months of planning, days of designing, hours of procrastinating (sometimes you just have to) and minutes of pacing,” Yuhas excitedly launched We Like We Love.

  Tell us about We Like We Love.

Alyssa Yuhas WLWL is exactly what the title says – we share the things we like and love. We showcase people who are passionate about their contributions to the worlds of lifestyle, fashion, arts and culture. If you’re passionate and excited about what you’re doing, we want to tell your story.

  Why print and not just online?

AY I’ve always been really interested in magazines – I’ve loved them since I was little. I love the physicality of holding a magazine and flipping through the pages. Online is awesome, but I really wanted the physical object. When it’s in print, people are excited to get involved in it.

  How has your MagCloud publication improved your business?

AY It has given me some great exposure, and we’ve been able to participate in several communitywide events because of the magazine. Plus, it adds credibility to my graphic design business. Potential clients see my name on the masthead, and that’s brought a lot of new work and contacts.

  How has publishing a magazine changed for you in the past five years?

AY We watch our Google Analytics and our MagCloud statistics – and we’re excited to see that the magazine keeps growing and growing. In fact, the MagCloud views of our magazine have increased by 158 percent since our first issue.

We hear from people every day, and we’re getting more and more contributors from all over the world. I think our quality is improving, and people see that we publish on a consistent basis. Establishing that longevity has been fantastic – it helps us earn our readers’ trust.

  How did you get started with publishing through MagCloud?

AY I can’t remember how I found MagCloud but I definitely remember thinking, “This is the best thing ever!”

WLWL is really well printed and gorgeously bound. And now we have new size and binding options. It’s so cool that print on demand is now possible for anyone at a very low cost. Anyone can start a magazine now.

  What tips would you give to someone new to self-publishing?

AY Focus on both design and content. It’s important that your magazine be visually appealing and exciting, and also that people will delve into the stories. You need to strike that balance.

  If you were stranded on a desert island, which books would you want with you?

AY The Chronicles of Narnia series. That was my favorite as a kid. The language and visuals are beautiful. I could reread them over and over again.

Q+A with Paul Lips of Toobydoo Childrenswear

You don’t often find an expert in economics spending the day sketching designs for children’s rompers, tiny T-shirts and extra-small sweaters, but for Paul Lips, it’s a dream come true. This Holland-to-New York transplant had worked in the business side of fashion long before taking the leap to the design side – something he’d wanted to do since childhood.

Since launching his New York City-based Toobydoo children’s wear line in 2008, sales have more than doubled each year. Key to that, Lips says, is MagCloud’s ability to quickly print his high-quality catalogs and ship them to garment showrooms around the world. ”For buyers who’ve never seen our clothing up close and in person, MagCloud helps us present our products well,” he says.

  Tell us more about Toobydoo.

Paul Lips We’re a lifestyle design label for children, ages 0 to 8. Our philosophy is “go happy, go lucky” with “to be, do!” attitude. I think you see that in our garments. Children’s clothing should be fun – but it’s also about function. It has to be washable, easy to put on and easy to wear. There are all kinds of criteria to take into account, and I like having to keep that balance in mind.

  As a small business, how has custom publishing fit into your marketing plans?

PL We present our fashion collections through a line sheet that lists our products and specs – for example, age, price and style numbers. And then we produce a lookbook that features models wearing our garments in various lifestyle poses.

In fashion, it’s important to get from an initial idea to a product very quickly. We can do a photo shoot and, two days later, we can upload our line sheets and lookbook to MagCloud and have them instantly available in showrooms. Every day counts. If you don’t have your catalogs in the showroom when buyers are ready to buy, you’ll lose the order. They’ll buy someone else’s line.

  What got you started with publishing through MagCloud?

PL We were pretty early adopters. Our photographer mentioned it to us as an interesting way to produce our catalogs and ship them internationally. From that point on, we have always used it.

Our customers require that we have line sheets and lookbooks. They like the way our pieces are bound – it’s exactly what they want. They look at them, they circle items they like, they write notes on them. They can take the books with them. It makes it easy for them to order our products, and that’s what we want.

The quality is a perfect fit for us. And with MagCloud, we don’t have to order large quantities. If something changes in our line sheet – for example, we discontinue a certain garment – we can easily update the sheet and send it out again.

  What are your tips for someone new to self-publishing?

PL MagCloud is easy. The costs are so low that you can afford to experiment with different approaches. And you don’t have to buy a lot of software. You probably already have what you need on your computer. We use PowerPoint to lay out our pieces. You’ll be amazed with what you can do with the tools you already have.

  What author, artist, photographer or musician would you most like to have over for dinner?

PL Danish architect Bjarke Ingels. I like how he strikes a balance between playful and practical. That’s what I strive for in all of our designs.

Q+A with LIVESTRONG Magazine’s (SPOT ON Media) Margot Sandenbergh

When Tour de France superstar Lance Armstrong’s foundation needed someone to create and publish his LIVESTRONG Quarterly magazine, it turned to magazine publishing expert Margot Sandenbergh. When Sandenbergh needed a way to offer the magazine as an on-demand product, she turned to MagCloud.

“With custom publishing, you control everything – how it looks, what’s in it, who gets it and how often to publish it,” says Sandenbergh, CEO and cofounder of New York City-based SPOT ON media. “Custom media is one of today’s fastest-growing marketing tools, and one of the best ways to strengthen the bond between a company and its customers – or in this case, a cancer advocacy organization and its supporters.”

  Tell us more about SPOT ON media.

Margot Sandenbergh We develop custom marketing tools for business and nonprofits. We create original content, which might take the form of magazines, video and online or mobile applications. As part of our media service we help our clients define and refine their strategies for customer relationship marketing.

Today’s audience is very media savvy. People are now immune to the same old marketing messages – they almost have an inner voice that acts as a gatekeeper. Our job is to tell them something they don’t know, and make it useful, interesting and entertaining while we do it.

  Why magazines?

MS Because they work. We know that 92 percent of readers spend an average of 30 minutes reading a magazine – 45 to 50 percent read it cover to cover. More than half have purchased a product or a service as a direct result of reading a customer magazine. And 39 to 42 percent keep their magazines or pass them on to friends and colleagues.

  What got you started with publishing through MagCloud?

MS MagCloud is an idea whose time has come. We were looking for a print-on-demand solution and saw an article about MagCloud. We started testing it in 2008, and we’ve kept up with all the improvements since then. We love the perfect-bound binding and the iPad solution.

One of the great benefits of print-on-demand is that it removes the high upfront printing costs, which is great news for small publishers or nonprofits. Nonprofits often have a loyal membership base that is willing to buy the publication from the MagCloud “newsstand.”

  How has MagCloud made a difference?

MS We’ve been able to reach a larger audience. We have an international audience of more than 90 million yellow wristband supporters. We couldn’t possibly print that many magazines. The iPad version on MagCloud is perfect for many people in our audience, but those who prefer a print version can also buy it from the MagCloud site and have it shipped to them anywhere in the world.

We’re creating a 15th-anniversary issue for October 2012. This special keepsake issue celebrating the milestones of LIVESTRONG, will have an indefinite shelf-life – thanks to MagCloud.

  What are your tips for someone new to self-publishing?

MS Know your audience and think about what makes your content unique. It’s always advisable to survey your readers about their interests. We try to use writers and editors who represent our audience – health writers, cyclists, cancer survivors and advocates. That allows for a rich editorial base and content.

  If your publication were a superhero, who would it be?

MS Every cancer survivor is our hero.

Q+A with Professional Photographer James Worrell

Simplicity, color and humor. These are the keys to the powerfully graphic images that James Worrell’s clients depend on to tell their stories and sell their products.

When it comes to promoting his work to new clients and keeping connected with previous ones, the New York City-based editorial and advertising photographer uses those same concepts to stand apart from his competitors.

“To have an affordably and beautifully printed version of my portfolio in this day and age when everything is online – it’s extraordinary, and it makes a lasting impression,” Worrell says. “There’s something still wonderful about the printed piece.”

  Tell us more about your work and your “Photography for Thinking” philosophy.

James Worrell I’ve been a still-life photographer for the past 17 years, shooting everything from cosmetics to food. What I love to do the most is conceptualized still life. Clients will call with rough ideas – maybe they’re telling the same story over and over and they need a new way to present it visually.

That’s where “Photography for Thinking” comes in. My wife and I bounce ideas off each other, produce sketches and send them to the client. The back-and-forth process starts from there.

  How does publishing your portfolio fit into your marketing strategy?

JW My clients are inundated with marketing pieces from photographers and other creative types. So if I can do something slightly different and slightly more special, I’ll increase my chances that someone will pick it up, look at it and even save it.

MagCloud is a wonderful tool that allows me to do a substantial piece, in short print runs, and get it out there at a decent price. And, from a visual perspective, it looks really good. A lot of print-on-demand services are expensive and the quality is poor. My brand is my brand – everything I produce is of the highest quality.

I always turn to MagCloud for part of my marketing process. You have to keep working and exploring ideas, and you have to remain excited about your work. MagCloud is one of those platforms that keeps you fresh.

  You did a very special promotional piece this summer.

JW Yes, in July we ordered 70 custom-printed boxes with my logo on them, each with a light bulb jar filled with yellow M&Ms candy – some had a star printed on them; others featured “Think Worrell.” And we included a 40-page printed catalog of my work called “Worrell: Photography for Thinking.” We created the catalog using MagCloud. We hand-delivered about 45 boxes and mailed the rest. Plus, we shot a fun video of how we pulled the whole package together.

That promotion resulted in three strong gigs right away and several nice thank-you emails from clients and potential clients.

  What got you started publishing through MagCloud?

JW I’ve always been an early adopter of technology. I read about MagCloud on a photo blog, right when the service was introduced. I’ve stuck with the service because it works.

  What tips would you give to someone new to self-publishing?

JW My best piece of advice is: Don’t overdo it. MagCloud offers a simple, elegant platform. Just get started. Don’t overthink it. Use it for what it is: a way to show your work.

  If your portfolio was an ice cream flavor, what would it be and why?

JW I see my business as the perfect vanilla ice cream cone – not some crazy Ben and Jerry’s flavor – just a simple, elegant vanilla. Usually, less is more and the simplest idea can be the most effective, if you produce it properly.