Sunday, January 3, 2010

Royal Flush Magazine Gets Publishing Advice from Hugh Hefner

This is officially the 500th post on this blog, so let's focus on one of the core subjects of Weimar World Service: Magazine publishing for fun and profit.


The new issue of Royal Flush includes an interview with Playboy editor Hugh Hefner, in which he relates the story of how he founded that magazine more than 55 years ago. I think most people who follow such things know by now the basic story: In 1953, Hef, former Esquire staffer, creates his own racier magazine on his card table with only a small amount of money; wild success ensues.

In the Royal Flush interview, he fleshes that out some more, building on the question of how it was very rare back in the early 1950s to self-publish a magazine. But he did it: "It's like the bumblebee. Aerodynamically, the bumblebee should not be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn't know that, so he does just fine." Starting with $600 of his own money, mortgaging his furniture, and begging friends and family for a few hundred dollars here and there, he built up the money needed to do the first issue. The most significant investor was his mother, who stepped in after Hefner's conservative father refused to invest; she put up $1,000: "It was the first important money that I received," Hefner tells interviewer Josh Bernstein. "From that ... I was able to secure the rights to the Marilyn Monroe nude that we ran in the very first issue."

It's a good article, and well worth purchasing a copy of Royal Flush (a magazine that I can't quite define, but it has lots of interesting articles and is clearly put together with a lot of talent and devotion. Check it out.)

Magazine professionals who read the article will also appreciate that Hefner knows the industry; for a man who learned to repackage and sell himself and his dreams to the world, he has a refreshingly clear-eyed view of the publishing world, what works, what doesn't, and why. We also get a glimpse at how his prowess with promotion and his knowledge of the distribution system in the country helped him with that first issue.

All well and good. Now, how do I get my magazine business plan to Mother Hefner?
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