Non-profit magazines have one major advantage – they are free of the commercial reality. Thus, they can present topics that have no place in the publications of big media companies. When real professionals and experts combine their skills, non-profit magazines can develop into true gems. One excellent example is Herpetomania, magazine published by the Finnish Herpetology Association. I had the pleasure to chat with Maija Karala, the editor-in-chief of Herpetomania on what it’s like to produce a unique non-profit magazine.
Maija Karala has been the editor-in-chief since the beginning of 2015. She started in the magazine by writing single articles, then moved on to do a regular news section. She was asked to take on the editor’s position several times, but accepted only, when it was turned into a paid position.
Voluntary work is very common in non-profit magazines. However, in the course of a magazine’s development, at one point the association needs to decide whether it is publishing a real, quality magazine and paying for professionals to do it, or whether it will continue on an amateur level and accept the uncertainty that follows. Herpetomania is entirely financed by association’s membership fees. Advertisements are accepted, but not actively sold.
Maija has enjoyed her work as the editor-in-chief of Herpetomania. Her job includes all the stages of the making of a publication. Two proofreaders and a writer of English abstracts help her.
-It’s really nice to do the magazine, I’ve been given full control over it. We have a pleasant and skilled group writing articles on regular basis. In addition, we have an extremely committed graphic designer, who’s been with us for a couple of decades already, Maija says.
Very often non-profit magazines suffer from the lack of writers. Maija was warned beforehand on how difficult it is to collect the articles from voluntary contributors.
-Fortunately it wasn’t quite that difficult. Popular articles have proved a bit more of a challenge, as I have less contacts on that field. Scientific articles have been easier to obtain for me.
Maija hopes to find at least one all-around journalist into her editorial group, to write interview based stories. The current contributors don’t have the possibility to do that type of articles.
Freedom and Responsibility
From the viewpoint of an editor-in-chief the pros and cons of non-profit magazines could be crystallized into two factors: freedom and the work-remuneration ratio. It is very tempting to have the freedom to do a magazine in your way, although there are a bunch of challenges in that process, the kinds the colleagues in big media companies can hardly imagine. Non-profit magazine editors work almost always with voluntary contributors and have responsibility over all stages of production (often the layout and ad sales included).
While planning issues, recruiting writers and ensuring the sufficient flow of the correct type of articles, an editor also trains and motivates contributors, proofreads, edits, balances the ratio of ads and articles, decides on the editorial line and communicates with the printing house.
No wonder Maija says the biggest challenge in the role of an editor is the amount of responsibility. It is a complicated process to produce a publication and it involves a great number of people. If something goes awry, the editor-in-chief is the one taking the responsibility. Fortunately, the efforts usually result in a published magazine.
-The best moment is when you get the freshly printed magazine in your hands and you have once again pulled it through! It is also rewarding to receive positive feedback from the readers, although any kind of feedback is rare, Maija says.