Thursday, January 9, 2014

THE TIME OF MY LIFE.XIII...THE HEARTACHES OF A PUBLISHER




I Should have stuck to being a writer instead of trying   to be a publisher. As they say, the best barber cannot cut his own hair!  Bringing out a publication is a business. There is nothing creative about it.  What you need is money and sense to make more.  You have to employ the right talent to take care of its various dimensions. Each element requires full time attention. The mainstay of a publication (daily or periodical) is the advertising support it can generate.  In fact, this department has a greater role to play in today’s scenario., what with so many publications  crowding newsstands. Many stories are not carried by Newspapers because they might jeopardise the possibility of getting advertising it can generate which comes if its circulation is high which it can afford if it gets ads, which. ..It is a vicious circle.
I was not aware of this harsh reality when I decided to launch a city magazine when we moved to Bangalore .On hindsight, I realise I made many stupid mistakes. The biggest one was not doing my home work on printing and paper rates. As said earlier, I would write my article and mail it; after that, it was the publisher’s lookout. While working in the FEMINA office, I learnt about the editorial aspects, not what happens after.
There is no use crying over spilt milk but let  me tell you how the vessel toppled . The purpose behind sharing information is to warn all those eager entrepreneurs raring to go . A lean, mean organisation survives longer. I should have started small with a home office and a proprietary outfit.  Instead, I tied up with a businessman who had no interest in the venture at all and registered as a Private Limited Company with his  support and  also infrastructural facilities like office space and telephone. So there I was left holding an enterprise with teething problems that could have been avoided.
In lighter vein let me tell you about the launch party we had . My businessman partner insisted on an extravaganza at a 5 Star hotel.  The Crème de la crème of society, advertising and business ,was there .The acting governor (Karnataka was under president’s rule then)had accepted our invitation to inaugurate and we had to line up all kinds of arrangements for protocol and security .The function  was to be at 6.30 pm and at 5-30 pm, I received a bouquet  of flowers from the Raj Bhavan ,  with a note saying the governor was called for an urgent meeting and he regretted his inability to attend the function .Everyone present wondered who I would invite to do the honours. The function began as scheduled and as the head of the state could not come I got the head of my home Srivatsa, to release the first issue of Blossom City, Bangalore’s only city magazine .As my surprised husband (I had not told any one of my intention) walked to the dais, he had a standing ovation from the guests! Well, he had given me his gratuity money to invest! 
Coming back to the publishing fiasco, another factor that  contributed to the death of the magazine , three years after its birth, was  our lack of  shrewd business acumen. Both Anil(my son, he had just completed his graduation in Journalism and joined me), and I took our advertisers at face value and getting money out of them, was no easy task. On the other hand, our printers took advantage of our inexperience in the line and billed us heavily. Soon, we had mounting bills from suppliers and IOUs from advertisers. A very unfortunate situation. So, one day, we just closed shop. There were no assets because the furniture was bought from a loan I had taken from the Bank in my personal capacity. I liquidated it later from my personal money!!
 While it lasted, the magazine had a very satisfied readership. It was wholesome journalism with an objective analysis of civic issues. We celebrated   its first anniversary with a stage show, a spoof on Bangalore, scripted by Anil and me and presented by the staff. Mr. N Ram, Editor of Frontline, was the chief guest and all our subscribers were invited, along with the elite of the city. Blossom City was a perfect example of a good idea handled the wrong way.