When it comes to digital publishing, indie authors have endless options. In addition to ebooks, authors can produce blogs, podcasts, and even digital magazine apps.
One new platform that makes it easy for users to publish magazines is App Zine Machine. Created by App Clover, LLC, a resource in the mobile app market, App Zine Machine launched after 21 months in development.
“Everybody has a blog, everybody has a website, some people have podcasts,” Len Wright, CEO and co-founder, said. “Very few people out there publish their own magazines. It has a special, we call it cache or panache, jokingly.”
App Zine Machine is a web application that uses HTML5. The platform makes it easy to add video, audio, or other interactive content that actively engages an audience. Users assemble their magazines in the application and then export them as apps for sale in Apple’s Newsstand.
Wright said that App Zine Machine was made for writers, entrepreneurs, and businesses who are passionate about publishing and want to build up their brands but either may not know or may not have the time to make complicated apps.
“I’m not a coder or a techie,” he said. “I’m not a programmer whatsoever. I don’t even know HTML, so for me a lot of the systems out there were just a no-go from the start.”
With App Zine Machine, all users need is an Internet connection, he said, though Chrome is the best web browser to use.
“You can be anywhere in the world and create a magazine,” Wright said. “You can even do it from the iPad.”
How App Zine Machine Works
The platform has a WYSIWYG editor that makes it easy to drag and drop images and text, as well as upload content the same way users upload to blogs.
Magazine publishers have the option of using professionally designed page templates, which they can customize by moving images, changing fonts, making text bigger, and more. Wright said in the next three to four months, there are plans to add even more ways to customize.
For users also selling print versions of their magazines, they can import PDFs they created using InDesign and Keynote, among other programs, to the system. One thing to keep in mind, however, is to take out any QR codes from the print version, Wright said. QR codes on iPads may feel odd because readers will have to swipe their phone on their tablet to get the link, he said.
By taking advantage of the HTML5 capabilities, magazine publishers can learn a lot about their readers and find ways to earn more money from their work.
“You can have ads, as an example, or a video testimonial, speaking to your customer,” he said. “You can have opt-ins, surveys, and even in-app purchases of up to $999.”
App Zine Machine also offers its users 90 tutorial videos that explain all the steps necessary in brainstorming, researching, writing, designing, launching, and marketing a magazine.
“It’s the largest course that is mobile magazine specific that we’ve come across in the market so far and it will continue growing,” Wright said.
Signing Up With App Zine Machine
To celebrate the opening up of App Zine Machine, users can sign up and pay a one-time fee of $2,997 for a lifetime membership, Wright said.
There are no other costs associated with publishing via the lifetime membership, and users can publish two different magazine titles. They can cover similar topics, or be as different as car magazines and doctor journals, Wright said.
Users don’t even have to start publishing the magazines right away or at the same time, he said.
“They can begin with one and then next year start another,” he said. “But they’re unlimited issues, each one, and they’re lifetime for that. So really, it’s a great deal for people out there […] Most of the platforms out there you’re looking at approximately $500 a month, ongoing.”
Wright said he has tested most of the other platforms. In some cases they are cheap, but they are often much more complicated to use.
“You usually can’t make something really cheap and have really great service at the same time,” he said.
Soon, Wright said App Zine Machine will change its pricing model to $397 per month for two magazine titles. There is a 30-day money back guarantee, which gives publishers ample time to test the platform and launch at least one issue, he said. And so far, the majority of users have been happy with the service.
“We have a really low refund rate,” Wright said. “It’s lower than 1%.”
Currently App Zine Machine works only with Apple.
“Apple owns 81-83% of the tablet market so we went there first,” Wright said. “Apple encourages the indie magazines, whereas a lot of the other platforms so far are just favoring the well-known ones.”
Apple takes a 30% cut, same as regular apps, Wright said. But Apple also takes care of all cancellations, subscriptions, and payments, he said.
Wright said App Zine Machine’s market is independent magazines.
“We want to get into platforms that favor that and give them a marketplace that give them some tread,” he said. “Apple has done a great job so far and I’m hoping they’ll continue even more so […] Right now the Newsstand is commanding 30% of all iOS time being spent, on all iOS devices, so it makes it worthwhile. And not only that, the Apple people spend more [on apps] than the people on Android so far.”
However, he also said digital publishing is in early days, and he expects a lot of growth and competition in the future.
All App Zine Machine users have to sign up for an Amazon S3 account, so they can store their magazines in a secure environment. Wright said this also ensures that App Zine Machine does not have access to or keep copies of magazines made on the platform.
“[Publishers] have complete control and ownership to their content at all times,” he said.
Additionally, users can edit and republish their magazines, and the system keeps all past issues, Wright said. The magazines are saved into a proprietary format, he said, and when a publisher is ready to sell a new issue to the Newsstand and go through the app setup wizard, they receive the code to upload to their Apple developer account, where the app will go through an approval process before going live.
Although at this time it’s not possible to export the magazine app to PDF or other formats, Wright said publishers always have the ability to download the magazine code if they want to take their publications to other outlets.
“We don’t want to lock anyone into our system in that way,” he said.
What Differentiates App Zine Machine From Other Platforms
According to TechCrunch, popular news/magazine apps include Flipboard and Zite, though Zite was recently acquired by Flipboard from CNN. Other competitors are Glossi, which may be used to incorporate links and social sharing when pitching ideas, PressPad, and possibly Blendle, an iTunes for newspaper and magazine articles.
Wright said App Zine Machine has many features that set it apart. Aside from giving users the ability to transfer their content to other platforms, not requiring any code, and using HTML5 so publishers can have opt-ins and collect subscriber email addresses, App Zine Machine offers video training–Wright said there are 16 hours alone on how to get content for a magazine. Other videos show how to hook advertisers and sell ad space, and how to find popular people to grace the covers.
Wright said the platform is also busy arranging exclusive marketing deals “that allow for members to have a unique edge or advantage over anybody on another platform.”
One example is a recent deal with PreApps, which helps to build buzz and get reviews before and during a magazine app launch, Wright said.
“All of our members get an exclusive deal that they get featured for free,” he said.
Another recent deal is with prMac, which writes press releases that go out to 750 Apple-related media outlets.
“And we’ll continue to add marketing resources that [users] can actually tap into and either get a major discount or some sort of deal that’s exclusive.” Wright said.
Lastly, Wright said App Zine Machine’s service also sets it apart from other platforms.
“We have a dedicated ticketed email service that allows you to get a response and have somebody who, if need be, will get on Skype with you and work through it,” he said. “Other companies charge up to $100 per service call, and a lot of them are outsourced.”
How Indie Authors Can Use App Zine Machine
Magazines in all niches are welcome, Wright said. Currently there are 130-140 members using the platform, covering topics such as work at home parents, eating gluten free, and fitness, he said. Other magazines are about:
- music (sometimes specific genres or record labels)
- indie writing
“I don’t think I’ll be surprised at any magazine that comes out now,” Wright said. “There’s all different types, and wherever there’s a [dedicated] group there can be a magazine.”
Indie authors in particular can use magazines to help build their brand. Wright said both books and magazines give people the opportunity to make their voices heard, but magazines can help continue the conversation. Readers also tend to spend a lot of time with digital magazines.
“The average time spent on a mobile magazine, [according to ] Adobe [is] 53 minutes and I think Apple says 2.5 hours,” Wright said.
Indie publishing is socially driven, he said, which means indie publishers are able to compete with the more established brand names.
Some ideas for magazines indie authors can publish include:
- reviews of books
- indie author features
- nonfiction niche (for nonfiction authors to build their audience)
- book excerpts
- backstories and other additional information about a book
“When you think about it, isn’t that sort of the concept Stephen King did?” Wright said. “With his leaking a chapter at a time? What if you did that and then added advertising to it in a quality, not in-your-face way, but in a way that actually complemented the material? You could actually bring more income into the book.”
He also said App Zine Machine is in talks with a few publishing houses to create magazines that feature author interviews and other curated content around authors, similar to what Random House and Flipboard are doing.
“[Magazines are] a great mechanism for showcasing work,” he said. “A magazine has a different type of feel to it, and the thing I like most about it is 73% of readers engage in the advertising.”
He said readers are trained to look at the ads in a magazine.
“When I buy a martial arts magazine in print […] I look through the magazine and honestly I’m reading the ads just as much as I’m reading the content,” he said. “I buy stuff because it’s my passion.”
Other magazine uses include companies who produce in-house magazines for their staff, magazines as leadership or networking tools, and magazines that build authority in a niche.
Using App Zine Machine Successfully
Wright said they initially created a test magazine called Appreneur Magazine.
“We never spent more than [the amount for] a large pizza and we grew our downloads,” he said. “There [were] about 200-300 downloads a day, and 3,000 [total] downloads during the period we were testing. It was $4.95 per month.”
One member has been producing three separate magazines for the past four months, and he has 3,000 subscribers each paying $3 per month, Wright said.
“If you don’t have more than 100 subscribers, you’ve probably chosen a wrong niche,” he said. “You should be able to get 100 subscribers easily within your first couple of months.”
Wright recommends publishing magazines monthly, due to the amount of work involved. Some people are even putting out quarterly magazines. However, he said in some cases publishers can put out weekly 10-15 page magazines that are valuable to an extremely targeted niche.
“We suggest you add [ads] from an income standpoint,” Wright said. “People actually want to see ads in magazines.”
Ads can give a magazine credibility, he said. Wright also said publishers should charge for monthly subscriptions.
“You can go free if you want too, but […] if people are willing to pay for it, and you’re giving valuable information, why not?” he said. “Even if it’s $1.95 or 97 cents, at least it’s something that adds to your business bottom line.”
When marketing a magazine, Wright also said it’s important to establish a budget.
“Not having a budget means you’re going to put more sweat equity into it and it will take you longer,” he said. “But there are many tools out there.”
He cited Facebook as an example. Users can join groups related to their magazine’s topic, and participate and add value.
“You can create a promo code that allows people a month or three months free subscription [to your magazine],” he said.
After the promotion ends, readers get a push notification that they must pay to continue receiving the magazine. However, Wright stressed that people should not spam groups on Facebook. Instead, they should contact the manager of the group to introduce themselves, and then offer a free one month or three month gift subscription to all in the group.
Future Features of App Zine Machine
Wright said he expects App Zine Machine to grow ten times more this year compared to last year, and that there are a lot of plans in the works.
The first thing is expanding onto other platforms, such as Android for Amazon and Nook.
“We want to be on as many platforms as possible but do it in a way that’s strategic,” he said.
Additionally, every month App Zine Machine will be adding content about marketing tactics and strategies that have worked for members.
“We’re going to be doing interviews and hot seat calls,” he said.
A hot seat call is a 15-20 minute video where multiple people from App Zine Machine will talk about a specific magazine and what can be changed to increase its effectiveness, whether it be the quality of content, images, or marketing techniques, Wright said.
App Zine Machine plans on adding an ad network that is specific to mobile magazines, he said. They will also launch a community where members can help each other fix any potential issues or errors publishers have in getting magazines accepted in the Apple Newsstand. And they plan on creating “a content library with over 50,000 articles people can buy for $3 if they need filler content,” Wright said.
Lastly, Wright said App Zine Machine will create a digitial, do-it-yourself comic book maker, to give publishers a voice in a different way.
To try out App Zine Machine for yourself, use this link. Full disclosure, I am an affiliate. But if you don’t like the platform, remember you have a 30-day money back guarantee. Enjoy!