by Anita Sands Hernandez

QUESTION: I just saw that Arianna Huffington sold that little E-Zine "Huff Post" which she started for zero dollars, nailing 315 million dollars! Last I heard a website is 3$ a month. All she did was find a lot of amusing, sharp writers and NOT pay them and publish their stuff online until everybody was reading the thing. Do you have any how to's on starting a magazine or newsletter?
ANSWER: I sure do! My tips are these:

1.) Calculate the money available in your community and how best to tilt the table to slowly make it trickle down your way. To do that you must DEFINE your target COMMUNITY and readership. Arianna worked out of Hollywood where she had a persona, being wife to a fellow who'd run for governor. She was also big in NYC so folks trusted her gossip. Her reporters' scribblngs. For you an e mag  might involve  a different niche markets. I have a kind of tiny, online newsletter right now. It's small but it targets enough people who are interested in astrology and reading the future  A). To attract clients for astrology and B) To train tomorrow's stargazers! I have exactly 1900 readers every month. 1200 surf to my newsletter (my counter told me that, said I get that amt. every month, and have done so for 20 years in a row.) And another 400 or 500 get it sent them by me personally via email client in my GOOGLE CHROME browser (it used to be Netscape which was much better as it KEPT a set of lists of names. GMAIL CANNOT DO THAT.  I used to have 50 names on each list, and about ten lists. And I put the column STARPOWER MAP OF THE MONTH up at my TWITTER PAGE.

For my kinda business it's useful to have nearly 2000 people a month reading my star predictions as it's BUMPING into people that gets me some paid work doing actual charts, natals, progressions, transits and other kinds of readings. I don't dare go above 2000 people. My horoscopes are hand made, not computerized. As it is, I have to make a list of people waiting to get work I owe work right now. Owe work all the time, too.

But 2000 readers is a good number for what I do. One of my 2000 newsletter readers suddenly falls in love, or considers a new job or a new house, they write me for help. I charge 25$ an hour for that help and that's why I can afford to give away a star newsletter for free. It's a cottage industry, I'll grant you but I recommend the madness of the method if you don't have a product that you manufacture in large numbers. If you make glass wind chimes and can make ten thousand a month, well, my newsletter wouldn't be of help, although---- maybe you  could build some kind of NEW AGE ONLINE catalogue of 'MAGIC TALISMANS' for the NEW AGE person and sell all ten thousand. There are no limits to what a catalogue or newsletter can do you know. I just had to set my limits where I set them cuz I was burning my eyes out typing horoscopes!

The main thing is, if you can, do your newsletter or magazine for free. You can get a server that gives freebie websites and start a cyber newsletter for total free. It's easy. Here's how I did it. The formula is that you find a fascinating subject (fascinating to others, not just yourself) which you know up and down. I chose one I could do well. Astrology. Fortune telling. But it could have been holistic healing, healing herbs, cooking, gardening or child raising which I also do well. In your case it could be motor cycles, tattooing, dieting (not my specialty!) sex and/or singles bar pick-ups, making marriage work (again, not my specialty!) travel, home decor, feng shui, any stuff like that.

I knew fortunetelling, astrological prediction and I KNEW that I knew it, from years of doing it for thousands of people and I also knew that people would pay for that service, so I did this little, homemade Star Gazing newsletter,Star Power Map of the Month.

I already had that free web site (ten megs) from Earthlink, my server, though there wasn't anything there. It was totally blank. So I took all the articles I'd ever written on herbs and love and raising babies, and some metaphysics, palms, stars and new age consciousness... lessons on reading palms (my graphics were scanned by a pal as I didn't have a scanner, still don't) and I turned the bunch into HTML pages, easy as WORD software has that option. I use MICROSOFT WORD ..found in OFFICE 97 as it doesn't lock people out which WORD OFFICE 2000 does, overcoding things! I suggest you do dig up some free software online or from a 'used ware dealer' but try the old version as it's not overcoded. Don't give Gates any more money. Or use NETSCAPE BROWSER's 'composer' part of the old fashioned, 1995 browser. Best htm writer I know, way way easier insertion of graphics, too. Get Netscape vers. 4.7 or 4.5 It has best email client, composer for HTM and  text and a browser which does not surf the net. But I have mozilla firefox II for that. I just point the browser default to altavista as it doesn't jam the browser.

Next, I took all my articles on love, money, the new age, humor, mental illness, disorder, chaos, buying real estate, cooking, gardening, pets and holistic health remedies, import/ export with the third world, charities, how to run one, salary yourself, and every durn guerilla capitalist business one could do from under a table, and converted my typed words to HTML in a second, (USING SEAMONKEY free download HTM composter.) WIN 10 has a text editor, hit WIN KEY then R it comes up. I use ZTREE also, a better best TEXT EDITOR and FILE MANAGER BOTH. (You create your directories with it.) This allows me to save articles I find online as research, to reprint. It allows me to save old emails or an old documents as html, no big trick. Then, I got a free download of CORE FTP and click on my FTP icon, it comes alive, its' program, it's little box/menu opens and I FTP them to my web site so it looked like a real magazine standing out in cyberspace.

I loaded my html pages to the web site with this FTP program which by the way, you get for free no cash gratis online. Just do a search on "FTP" and the word "FREE" and download CORE FTP in ONE MINUTE.  Then, you can FTP (file transfer protocol) to your free web site. Anyone can figure it out without even schooling or having a tekkie with you.

No tekkie moi, I got my magazine or newsletter up in cyberspace all gorgeous. I was so proud.  I emailed a few hundred of my star clients around the USA the news that it was there, and I sent them the URL (universal resource locator) so they could forward it to their pals.  It is, as you know,

After telling my pals it was up, next I put the URL into search engines, did it all by myself. They offer to list you on search engines for money, but it's simple enough. Most search engines have a spot where they ask if you'd want to give them an URL to review. DO IT.

Now, with friends and their friends (and their friends, that kind of thing is incremental) and with all those search engines, my web site started attracting interest. People who'd searched on 'free daily astrology' would find me and they wrote me. Maybe I got and answered one letter a day. My touch was personal. I could always send them a copy of the newsletter automatically every week, so they wouldn't forget me or fall out of touch, after we had corresponded. In my browser, I saved not only their addie but notes: "Capricorn rising, fights with wife, has two kids, works as pc programmer in Sydney." Basic stuff.

Via my personal interest in them, and my weekly newsletter, I  built a kind of 'community' via this web site. Not true community as the thousand people who know me do not know one another. (I wish I knew how to make a chat room at my site!) But a kind of  community in that I KNOW all of them.

My Windows, my Microsoft Office 97, a free FTP program, my earthlink free web site (given at no cost to me by earthlink as I subscribe to them as a server) was all it took. I built a simple web site, which is html pages. I threw my old articles (How to marry money, how to write a script, how to do yoga and reach nirvana, etc,) onto the web site, one by one, dozens of them. info onto search engines, did that myself, didn't use a service to d o it. Takes an hour once a month. This web site gets me a 'community' that extends from here to australia. It is not a physical contiguous community. It only works due to email being free. If I had to mail newsletters with stamps it would die in a sec as I am parsimonious with postage! I'd have a heart attack just watching all that money slide into a post office slot!

Now, Do you have a web site community? Or are you planning a newsletter to a hard copy target, via mail, in your area? IF you are in a town, city, then that community may prevail. That will be your target market. You will either be giving or selling hard copy to them. Right/ is that the eventual plan? I say eventual as the best way to do it early in game is not to charge them for hard copy but to give it away, virtual email newsletter, and then get advertisers the day you go hard copy on paper. Just today I had some guy offer me fifty bucks to put an ad for DRIP EMITTER technology on my article on using drip emitters in the garden. The gal who does just a humorous mommy page, gets 40k a month from her ads, so you see where I'm going with this? FREE isn't free LONG!

Do you plan an online newsletter for your WEBSITE COMMUNITY? Or a hardcopy paper newsletter for a physical town? Define your terms. The kind of COMMUNITY you pick defines many things, mainly the potential receipts for the actual sale of the mag. And then, your receipts for carrying paid ADVERTISING. As the former sale receipts are often small at first, as you aren't TIME LIFE with distributors in every state and city, how much can you earn selling a hard copy newsletter, new to the marketplace...? NOT much. So go around that..don't bother charging! That way you can drive your readership way way up! Many top alternative newspapers in L.A. started that way. The L.A. Free Press, The New Times. So many. And all are still alive.

As the ad receipts can be big, you go for that from day one. You create circ. by giving mag away first few years, which our biggest (non news) mag did, The Recycler. That one out grosses all the mags in LA now. It is thick thick thick and has freebie classified ads for everything, house rentals, house sales, bikes, cars, buses, the works.  Everything. When I want a lawnmower, there's a section. A used PC. Guitars, freebie giveaways, lost pets, roomate finder. Anything!

Are you in a big city that already has such a mag as the RECYCLER? Many big cities do not. NYC doesn't. Only paid ads. But if you do the FREEBIE ads like the RECYCLER, then the peoiple who seek out your mag at markets, schools, cafes is huge and then when you print and gie away fifty thousand a week, then your ad revenue is likely to be Huge. But you can't do this in a Small town. A small town would work as a miniaturized version. See, viability and longevity is what you want. You can do it in any town, it's the size of the mag that will vary. And ad receipts will vary too.

2.) NEXT, one way is desktop publishing the other is job printer. You gotta set your type on your PC and ask the printer what he'd charge to do it on newsprint paper. then pick which way you go.

3.) CONTENT. I put this last. Silly me. You do what? Run a healthfood store?  You do a HOLISTIC mag, obviously. You start with a newsletter about new scientific discoveries in the world related to the healing properties of the Newest vitamins which you happen to sell? You want to save the world, then do Anti War anti-Wall Street, Anti-Oligarch political talk (and get yourself burned down? maybe?) You run a new age community? Or want to? Do ORGANIC GARDENING. Want to write about mind tech? Choose the flavor of cheese that you're hustling. That you love best. Speaking of cheese, my gal pal wants to do a biz on American Artisan cheeses and a newsletter just on that! Hey don't laugh. It's a niche market and that's what MAKES A MAGAZINE!

4.) CHEAP OR FREE is best at first. Drive up your circ list over the years. Then accept ads. Do a lot of PR for yourself online. Hit all the websites and extoll your webpage. Nobody will know it's you. Stress that all that information is FREE. Obviously, nobody turns down something to read that's cheap or free. When a circulation list is big then you nail money for ads. In my case, with a cyber newsletter, I have a product. A personalized horoscope. At Christmas I have gift scopes. I have palm readings if you send me a xerox of your palm. Some sites have books for sale, cosmetics, lavendar perfume, home made jam, used books. I also sell FLOWER SEEDS.

Just take care that your product fits with your line of expertise. I probably could easily sell talismans, jewelry with magical powers, oils and unguents, herbs.........being a kind of cyberwitch. Instead I give away recipes. My best one is for the most magical raspberry jam in the land. The trick is that when you put berries and sugar in pot, you add the juice of an entire lemon and its rind, the outer rind, when you boil the 12 oz. bag of berries. THAT jam turns out to be so full of pucker power, so lemony and MAGICAL that it's unlike every other jam in the marketplace.. Now if you remember that one tip, you'll be glad you read this far and maybe visit my POORHOUSE GOURMET website and pick up my recipes for other very tasty and unusual things!