Melissa Joulwan has always done things her own way. Now she gets her own magazine! She started a blog, built a following, wrote three award-winning self-published cookbooks, and recently, moved to Prague with Dave, her husband and photographer.
I’ve written about her success as a self-published cookbook author: 5 Things I learned from Selling Almost 300,000 Cookbooks, and Self-publishing Success wth a Paleo Cookbook.
But this! She gets her own magazine?
I didn’t find out about Melissa’s latest venture until a friend showed me a copy of a $15 publication she bought at Whole Foods. She had raved about a recipe for a larb salad (really good, by the way) and wanted to show it to me. And there was Melissa, in Well Fed, her own magazine!
Here’s how Melissa Joulwan got her own magazine (and made good money at it too):
Q. I can’t believe I missed this. A few years ago, a publisher that distributes newsstand publications approached you, right?
A. Yes. In 2014, the publisher of OCM Publishers discovered our cookbook in Book People, an independent bookstore in Austin. He asked if we owned our own content and could adapt the content into a magazine format.
OCM has excellent distribution channels set up with Whole Foods, Sprouts, Costco, Barnes & Noble, and other big grocery stores in the US and Canada.
Q. These are the publications that look like magazines but stay on newsstands for longer than a month, right?
A. They stay on newsstands for three months.
This new audience doesn’t know me from my blog and discovers me in a store. They’re not necessarily different from my existing audience, but they’re not people I have tapped online.
The magazine also acts as marketing for the cookbook. I’ve heard from readers that they found me online and bought my cookbooks. I also hear from people who have all the cookbooks and buy the magazine because they’re convenient for travel or take to their aunt’s house.
Q. Did you make the magazine with recycled content from your cookbook?
A. Yes, to start. Some examples of recipes are Ginger-Lime Shrimp, Velvet Stir-Fry, Pizza Noodles, Korean Beef with Kimchi Relish, Moroccan Cabbage Sauté, Crispy Chicken Livers with Cauliflower Rice, Sunrise Scramble, Pan-Fried Sardines, and dozens more — plus there’s paleo how-to information and other informative essays, all pulled from the Well Fed trilogy of cookbooks.
Q. Who owns the content of the magazine?
A. I own it all.
Q. How often do you produce a publication?
A. Our first one came out in 2015 and the second one in 2017. If the publisher could get me to do four publicatons a year they would be really happy, but it would turn into a full-time job.
Q. Was it your job to hire a designer and pay him?
A. Yes. Michel Vrana is talented, patient, good-natured, and super detail-oriented, and a badass cook. By day, he’s primarily a book cover designer. Michel has been an integral member of our team for years. It was a pretty easy design project for him, because he could adapt his work from our cookbooks.
Q. How does payment work? Is it like a book, where you get an advance plus royalties?
A. Yes. When we signed the contract we got an advance, and then after the magazine closed, we get a royalty of 30 percent.
Q. Thirty percent! Book royalties are usually 7.5 or 10 percent max!
A. I know! He estimated we would make around $30,000. We have surpassed that.
Q. That is awesome. What about your fans who bought your cookbooks? Did any get mad because of recycled content?
A. The surprising thing is that they buy the magazine anyway, because it’s convenient to carry in the car, or to share with others. I worried my followers would be mad that it’s basically recycled content, but the opposite is true. They’re excited and supportive. Nice.
Q. What will happen when you don’t have any more content to recycle?
A. It would be a lot of work to do a magazine from scratch. Maybe we could do a book later, based on new content, or put content from the magazine on the website, because we retain the ownership.
I don’t want to keep repackaging my existing cookbooks and not give people anything new. Our third magazine will be two-thirds recycled content and the fourth will be 50 percent recycled.
Q. What is your advice for an author who wants to have his or her own magazine like this?
A. Keep in mind that I had a cookbook that was already successful, and it was self-published. I can’t imagine a traditional publisher allowing the content of a book to be turned into a magazine.
My biggest takeaway is that there are advantages of self publishing that aren’t immediately apparent. People are continuously chipping away at the stigma of self publishing. There are great opportunities when you own your content.
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(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.)