Going Down For The Third Time: A financial report from 1981

Going down jan26

“Publishing has much in common with gambling: the player either takes a risk or quits the game. And the one impulse that separates publishers from their more raffish fellow gamblers is that publishers believe that they place their bets for the good of society.” JP Morpurgo in his Life of Allen Lane: King Penguin.

1980, like 1979 before it, was a bad year for UC’s finances. Income, at £13,830, was only 93 % of costs, leaving a deficit of £1,080. Fortunately we earned £230 by subletting a desk to the ANC, £60 in book royalties, and we had £430 stashed away in the UC monthly deposit account; the net deficit on the year was a bearable £360. So we faced 1981 with some confidence.

Since the New Year matters have gone steadily from bad to worse to terrible. Unless we think of something quickly, the cumulative losses will overwhelm our over­draft (secured by personal guarantees from collective members) and the magazine will fold. Income for the first four months, at £4,290, is 12 % down on last year, despite a 17 % price increase, while costs, at £5,240, are 9 % up, turning a surplus of £130 into a deficit of £950. And we now have no other sources of income or nest eggs stashed away to cover our losses.

So what are we doing to get back in the black? First, we are organising a series of benefit concerts in London. We hope that once these gigs become established as regular events they will make a useful contribution to our funds. Second, we are producing a leaflet to promote the magazine which will be included in the mail shots of as many friendly organisations as are willing (if you can help us with this, please let us know asap). The main difficulty with this, as anyone who has been to one of our meetings will appreciate, is getting agreement as to just what UC is about, who it is aimed at, etc! However, the knowledge that UC may be bankrupt in a few months is concentrating our minds wonderfully.

Finally, and inevitably, we are jacking up our prices by a swingeing 31 %: from the next issue, UC47, the inland sub rate will be £5.50 (£10 for two years); renewals will be accepted at the old rate until the end of August.

We know that many other small magazines are losing money; 1981 will no doubt see the death of several well-loved and long established titles. Will Undies be one of them? Don’t miss the next horrible episode: subscribe today!

Where The Money Goes: Out of each £ spent last year, 35p went on printing (despite using one of the cheapest printers in the land); production (including typesetting and pictures) took another 21p (the design, except for the covers, is all done by unpaid members of the collective); postage, packing and carriage were a further 20p. The remaining 25p consisted of office costs (9p), subscription dept. wages and travel expenses (9p) and miscellaneous (7p), which included promotion and the book service. For each £ spent in 1980 we earned only 93p (1979: 92p).

What Subscribers Mean To Small Magazines: Everything, and here is the best statement of that. We found it in Co-Evolutlon Quarterly, who reprinted it from Fuse, the Canadian cultural and news magazine. Our plight is their plight, only more so, given the greater reluctance to subscribe to magazines in Britain.

… Every reader that has any warmth towards any small magazine should take out a subscription. There are many reasons why this is a must. And I mean essential: 

– Firstly, every small magazine would then be­come self-sufficient. For Fuse with a circulation of 10,000 we would operate on a budget of $90,000. This would mean that the production and writing labour of the magazine could be paid for. There would be no profit. I repeat – no profit. 

– Secondly because not enough readers of such magazines take out subscriptions it means the following: a) twice as much time and energy is spent on raising money through hare-brained Inef­ficient schemes – like Advertising and Distribution; b) that same scramble diverts the focus away from the function of a small magazine which in part Is to develop alternate editorial content. 

So by not subscribing to such magazines the reader is unintentionally dealing the magazine a death blow and simultaneously helps to editorially weaken his/her welcomed reading material. I’m afraid it’s that simple … 

Index: yes, we’ve finally published an Index to the first nine years of UC (see p. 47). Half the profits from it will go to UC (the other half to Charmian Larke of the AT Information Group, who compiled it). If all our readers ordered themselves their own personal copy, that would make us solvent again at a stroke. It’s just a thought …

Recycled Stationery From Conservation Books: This ad is being paid for by a commission on orders generated. So you can help to keep us afloat by ordering reams and reams of notepaper . It’s just another thought …

Donations: we consider that UC should aim to pay its way in the market place without the need for regular appeals for donations. In practice the magazine has lost money in all but two of the last nine years; hitherto these losses have been largely offset by income from Radical Technology; this income has now fallen to almost zero. Undies has acquired a world-wide reputation which has never been reflected in our circulation. We accept that this is largely our fault: our energy has gone into editing and designing the paper rather than into selling it; the past five years have shown that this ‘build a better mousetrap’ philosophy doesn’t work. So, yes please, we are asking for donations, but not to cover current losses but to pay for our promotional leaflet and other marketing costs.


Taken from UC46 June-July 1981

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