A peek behind the curtain…

I thought I would write a bit of a helpful thing this time around, something any aspiring publishers might find useful and that our readers might just find kinda neat.

As you might imagine, it takes an array of tools and knowledge to run a magazine successfully. It always makes me sad to hear about a journal closing for one reason or another. Since LSQ has been in publication for this long, I thought I might pass along some of my lessons-learned and the tools I use to keep things humming.

Let’s start with a bit about my philosophy on running LSQ. There are two main driving factors: uplift and sustainability. I’ll talk a little about each.

Uplift is what keeps us from being dragged down by the negative (and worsening) state of the world. I firmly believe that storytelling is one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal and how we make use of that tool says a lot about us as people, as humans.

There is enough negativity out there right now. I like remembering, and helping others remember, that there is another way of living, of thinking, and that hope still lives despite the darkness.

So, LSQ is centered on uplift. We can talk about hard things, but we do our best to shine a light on the good things that are sneaking through, or even thriving.

Now a bit about sustainability, another of our “core principles.”

It would be a fairly straight forward process for us to run a Kickstarter. Loads of magazines do it. It would also be possible to drain my own pockets in order to do something big and bold, buying lots of advertising space, for example. Neither of those options, along with many others, are sustainable for us.

Sustainability and steady growth are why LSQ is still here. It started almost by accident when I chose to not overextend myself in order to pay authors in the early days. It also manifested in learning to do all of the production work and web development myself. Granted, I already had skills in this area and will acknowledge that helped tremendously.

Every once in a while we’ll hit a point where we outgrow our pot. Submissions grow numerous enough that I need to add to the editorial staff. I decide to start a blog and need to add writers, and then more staff after that.

Often there are physical needs that have to be bolstered. Our servers have felt the strain and needed an upgrade, the blog staff has needed more tools to manage our social media stuff, and the print editions have required physical proofs and as they’ve evolved, we’ve started sourcing artwork.

If at any of these points I had chosen to extend beyond our ability to keep up either financially or in staffing power, LSQ as a whole would have been at risk. The choice to keep everything sustainable means that we’re going strong now, and have no worries about closing any time in the near future.

So now that you know a bit more about the philosophy that LSQ has found helpful in keeping things going, I’ll touch briefly on some of the tools we use to get LSQ out to all you lovely readers. If, like me, running a journal is not your day job, finding the right communication and production tools for the job is important.

  • WordPress, our home base:
    We use a single installation on Media Temple to run both the blog and the issues. There are lots of customizations in there, from the theme to the various plugins we use to manage the site itself.
  • Slack, for team communication:
    This app has become pretty standard in the workplace (especially in the tech sector) and I’ve been using it for years. As LSQ’s staff has grown, this kind of communication tool has become essential for getting information to the team. As a lovely bonus, everyone gets to chat with each other as well and we feel more like an organization rather than just a bunch of folks in an email chain.
  • Submittable:
    Email is not a sustainable way to handle the number of story submissions we get, though it worked OK at the beginning. Now we use this service to handle everything from author communication to voting and proofreading.
  • Trello:
    Between issue publication, organizing the blog, and even keeping track of the staff status, this service has been helpful in organizing the organization. To-do lists, deadlines, and some staff notifications happen here, too.
  • Createspace:
    Love it or hate it, Amazon has its fingers in book publishing in a big way. For LSQ that means we have access to a low cost, low overhead service that allows us to do a print edition. Since we’re not a glossy magazine and we’re oriented toward storytelling, we can produce our issues more like books and Createspace lets us do just that.
  • Patreon:
    This is where all the behind the scenes stuff meets the reader. Our Patreon supporters are the lifeblood of LSQ. They pay our authors and keep the servers running. With each goal met, LSQ has more tools to get the words of women-identified authors out into the world. We’re all grateful for our patrons’ support.

I could definitely keep going, but those are the core tools that keep LSQ going. There are plenty of little things, like Buffer for social media scheduling, and various Google Drive and email tools that round out our list of services we use every day.

I hope I’ve been able to give you a nice glimpse behind the scenes of how LSQ does what it does, and a bit about what drives the way we work. The comments are open if you have questions!