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YCE: Bad Idea

Jack Roberts sets his own agenda with literary magazine Bad Idea and gives us his tips for DIY publishers.

Jack Roberts, 28, gave up his day job at the Telegraph to launch the literary magazine Bad Idea. Inspired by American socialist realist journalism, Jack and team nurture up and coming writers and give them space to flex their literary muscles, and two years on, a publisher released an anthology of Bad Idea writing. It took Jack 18 months to get the project off the ground and it has been a steep learning curve: “You learn how to not get taken for a ride,” says Jack, “but the best thing about being your own boss is that you get to set your own agenda.”

Top five tips for aspiring DIY publishers
1. Find start-up money – by any means necessary.
2. Don't be naive about the economics. Thought one should be where your incoming revenue is coming from. Thought two should be how to cut costs and negotiate with your suppliers (printers/web developers, etc.). Don't burn money – a little should go a long way.
3. Look beyond advertising. If there's any future in publishing – either in print or on the web – publishers need to innovate new methods to make people to pay for content. If you think advertising alone will pay for your business over the coming years, think again.
4. Don't give up.
5. Have fun.

* N.B. If you're the fully-funded progeny of a faded rock star/bombed-out CEO, ignore points 1-4.

Name a person or organisation that shares your DIY ethos, and explain why.
I admire the guys at Story Publishing, who publish Little White Lies and Huck. They're passionate about magazine-making, are as persistent as all hell, and are good people to boot.

Send us a picture/video that summarises your view of modern life, and explain why.
This is the concluding image of Hieronymous Bosch's triptych, The Garden of Earthly Delights. After the dizzy pleasure of fantasy, greed and temptation, comes hell...  Surely you can't get more topical than that?


Do you think the recession has helped or hindered your creativity? Why?
Historically, creativity has been encouraged by extreme hardship, but I personally wouldn't advocate it as a lifestyle choice.
The recession has been very bad for independent magazines, with print advertising revenues contracting markedly. Along with the irreversible migration of advertising budgets to search (Google Ad Words, etc.), the money that used to support the independent media eco-system is much diminished.
Hopefully one positive consequence is that it will force publishers to look beyond the ad-funded business model (that is, creative products funded by cross-subsidies), and discover a more direct means of making a living from the content they produce.

Music for a revolution - what song sums up your attitude?
Re-make, Re-model – Roxy Music.

What other period inspires you the most, and why?
Right now it's the 1930s. The booming 1920s ended in economic collapse and a decade of retrenchment, but also serious innovation; intercontinental commercial flights, 'talkie' movies, commercial radio, art deco, hard-boiled fiction, and the invention of the comic book format. We're facing another lean decade, so I'm hoping that, as in the 30s, this will act as a spur to innovation.

Read more of the YCE feature here.