Do you want to read more about your community and experiences that matter to you? Creating your own magazine is a good place to start. Here, Kya Buller, founder and editor of Aurelia Magazine gives her advice for starting your own publication.
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I became a magazine editor out of what felt like sheer necessity. I am a woman, I’m a person of colour and I’m bisexual. I wanted to write about my life and my experiences and all of the bits in between, but I didn’t want to be put into any boxes or stereotyped. I just wanted to write honestly and freely, without judgement or preconceived notions of what it feels like to be me.
I’m very in touch with my feelings and I have no problem talking about them, so, I suppose it was only natural that I started writing about them too. What came as more of a surprise was creating Aurelia Magazine, which uplifts the personal stories of marginalised genders.
I noticed, for women especially, to write about ourselves for publications, we often had to offer up our trauma to get published. I didn’t like this. I didn’t think it was good enough. Writing about hardship is worthwhile and important, but I began to challenge the idea that it was the be-all and end-all for marginalised people. I decided to change the narrative.
By the time I created Aurelia, I’d had a few personal pieces published but I couldn’t find the right home for most of them. I was still at university when I founded Aurelia, and there was no real plan. I just knew I wanted to challenge the norm and place a spotlight on marginalised people. I had no guidance, and I Googled my way around buying domains and the cheapest hosting sites. Within an hour of the idea striking me, Aurelia was born, becoming the space I’d always needed but couldn’t find.
As an independent publication, I’m familiar with how tough the industry can be, especially when it comes to money. Today, we’re able to pay writers while being self-funded with added help from our readers, and we’re a space people turn to and love for our commitment to honesty, emotion and cultivating a strong community. I don’t think I ever could have imagined how deeply Aurelia would touch people, but I think it’s inevitable really. It’s due to the incredible work we publish and allowing marginalised genders to tell the stories that may have otherwise gone untold, rejecting sensationalism that drives people apart and instead encouraging people to listen to and understand one another.
I’m very passionate about people carving out their own spaces and it’s the best thing I ever did. Aurelia is loved, always growing, and a much-needed space for people to unpack what it means to be a living, breathing and feeling human being. Here are my top tips for creating your own magazine.
Figure out what will make you different from publications you already love
So, you’ve decided you’re going to create your own platform. One of the most important steps is identifying what exactly you’re going to be, what you’re going to represent and how you’re going to provide it. Naturally, you’ll be inspired by publications that you know and love already, but real success lies in being unique and having a niche that sets you apart from the crowd.
It’s important to ensure you’re not imitating anybody else out there – people will notice and you’ll feel most rewarded by providing a space that is entirely new.
So, first things first. What makes you different? How can you sum this up in a couple of sentences? Let readers know exactly who you are on your website and your social media channels and they’ll know exactly why your publication is so exciting and worth supporting. Plus, they’ll be able to describe you to others, which means a constantly evolving audience thanks to people spreading the word.
Imagine the publication you always needed and go from there
Something I wish somebody had told me when I was starting out is: imagine the most impressive and completely perfect publication that you can because that’s what you should be part of. Even when referring to your inspirations in your head, ask yourself what you’d change or add if you could, and bear that in mind when launching your own.
It’s so rewarding to be part of something that your past self would have benefited greatly from, so it’s good practice to picture that version of you and do your best to impress them. This will influence the type of work you publish, the kind of people you will help just by existing, the way your publication functions from the inside, staying true to your values and honouring your community.
Most importantly, it allows you to grow with your publication. As you evolve, so will your magazine, and this is fundamental when it comes to being open to learning and being fully inclusive.
Take it seriously, have pride while learning the ropes and treat it like a job
I’m an editor-in-chief and a founder because I gave myself those titles, but it takes actually letting yourself be those things before you can start reaping most of the rewards. It took me a while to be able to talk about my roles out loud because I had a classic case of imposter syndrome.
One of my biggest pieces of advice is don’t let yourself fall into that trap – be proud of what you do and your creation. It sounds cliche but it’s true: everything starts somewhere, so give your community time to find you. Shout about it and have confidence. Chances are you’ll have to work most of it out on your own, so putting the hours in is integral to your growth.
Let yourself learn without feeling shame and talk passionately about why your magazine exists and who it exists for. This is a great way to connect with your audience and will put you on the radar of others that may eventually want to work with you on exciting projects and opportunities. If you take it seriously, so will other people. This has been one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned.
Who do you want to connect with the most? Think how to best serve them
Aurelia’s key focuses are representation and inclusivity. This year’s NCTJ report into diversity in journalism found that journalism is 92% white and 75% of journalists come from the highest social classes. Since the very beginning, I’ve been committed to providing a space that not only addresses journalism’s major diversity imbalance but also actively attempts to change it.
We regularly publish stories of identity and life experience, but editorially we often look for a tone of optimism or hope to continue being a safe space. Once you’ve established who your community is, it’s important to nurture it. This can include staying informed on current events, raising awareness regarding social issues, sharing resources for actionable change, providing joyful and celebratory content, and asking your followers what they’d like to see more of.
Events, workshops and courses are also a great way to engage directly with your community and encourage creativity.
Be realistic about money – and think about how you can make some
When Aurelia launched, we had no money at all. We ran as a volunteer-led publication for the first couple of years, and it was only at the start of 2021 that we became a business and are able to pay our writers. It’s a lot of graft – if you’re without a rich investor, then the chances are it all falls on you, the creator, to make your own. I have worked other jobs alongside Aurelia, putting bits away into my savings account which eventually turned into our business account.
A big tip is don’t be afraid to ask your audience for help. We launched a membership scheme with a range of tiers for people to pick and choose from if they like our work and want to support it monthly, and we’re open to one-off donations, too. It’s only ever a good thing to remind people that you’re an independent publication. If you’re offering something new to the industry, then your readers have something clear to support. We also put on a range of events that are ticketed, emphasising that the money we make goes straight back into the magazine.
Another tip (and I got this one from The Guardian) is to remind readers in the footer of an article that they can support you. Going it alone in this industry is tough, and sometimes it’s scary, but it’s so worth it. There’s no shame in taking small breaks while you go back to the drawing board, either. It’s a process.
Keep reminding yourself why you started and imagine the future
I’ll be completely honest – running a publication isn’t always going to be easy. You may well have to do it alongside other work, especially if you’re doing it independently. There’s so much to learn when it comes to budgeting, workflow and overall magazine maintenance. There will also probably be ups and downs. Throughout this journey, I’ve found there have been periods where I felt unstoppable, and during others, I let myself doubt what I’m doing and entertained, even for a second, the idea of stopping.
Keep going. I keep an image in my head at all times of who I was when I spontaneously launched Aurelia, compared to where I am today and where it’s led me to. So many opportunities have arisen from launching my own publication. I’ve met the most amazing people, worked on things that have been literal pinch-me-moments and the best bit is it’s so obvious there’s always more to come and more to achieve.
However, the most rewarding thing is always going to be the words I get to publish, the stories I read and the new things I learn every day. I let myself imagine the future – you should do the same. Sometimes it’s one year from now, sometimes five. The future always looks good because there’s so much possibility. I’ve found it’s what you need to keep pushing forward. Good luck!
Images: Getty, Lauren Maccabee
Kya Buller, founder and editor-in-chief of Aurelia Magazine
Kya Buller is the founder and editor-in-chief of Aurelia Magazine, an independent publication, focussing on the first-person stories and opinions of marginalised genders.
Founded in Manchester in 2018, the magazine has grown a huge and loyal audience and been nominated for publishing awards.