The Not-So-Glamorous Life of Publishing

June 1, 2006

People think that working at a magazine is glamorous. Even a little volunteer-run one like us. And there is something sexy about being part of a grassroots publication. We can go after those stories we always wanted. We can meet so many people in our community. We can build that community ourselves through events like Mr. Hyphen. We can toss around crazy, creative ideas and then decide, Why not? Let's do it! We can do whatever we want.

But there's so many gritty, unglamorous details that we have to attend to. Like mailing your issues out. Like getting up at 8 in the morning to fill our cars with folding chairs, magazines and candy so we can table at a street fair, just to reach a few more people. Like pulling all-nighters to get the files to the printers. The truth is that publishing is not glamorous at all. It's not party dresses and high heels and flutes of champagne. It's a lot of jeans and t-shirts while devouring mediocre pizza.

Anyways, thank you to all the folks who continue to believe in us and support us. When we're moving those heavy boxes of mags around and getting paper cuts from envelopes, we think of you. It helps us see the big picture — gritty details be damned — and motivates us to continue in our endeavors to put out the best pan Asian American magazine we can. To those of you who hang around this site but don’t subscribe, I hope you’ll consider doing so.

If it seems like we're always trying to sell something, we are. We're trying to sell the idea of that this world needs a progressive, independent Asian American magazine. That we need a voice to represent us. We think this is so important. That's why we've been working on this magazine, for free, for years. We do it for the love. But love can only take you so far. We need cold hard cash. And after working for 3 years now, we still lack some basic resources, like an office. We still can’t pay our kick-ass contributors for the stories they write, photographs they take, and illustrations they draw. I feel bad about that. They are talented and deserve to be paid. We work so hard, but have so little to show for it when it comes down to the money. If there is truly a need for a progressive, independent Asian American magazine, and we’re fulfilling that need, then shouldn’t we have enough subscribers to support ourselves?

It’s a constant struggle to keep this magazine going. And that makes me doubt sometimes. Is a struggle because people don't read anymore? Is it a struggle because we suck as business people? Is it a struggle because Hyphen isn’t fulfilling the need? Or is it because the world really doesn't need magazine like Hyphen? Is having independent Asian American-made media really not all that important? Have we been wrong this whole time?


Melissa Hung

Founding Editor

Melissa Hung is the founding editor of Hyphen. She was the editor in chief for the magazine's first five years and went on to serve in many other leadership roles on the staff and board for more than a decade. She is a writer and freelance journalist. Her essays and reported stories have appeared in NPR, Vogue, Pacific Standard, Longreads, and Catapult, among others. A native Texan, she lives in California. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.



I do believe you have a valuable voice and contribution to make, and the magazine format can reach more of the people who want to read content in hand, rather than online via a web browser. But, the production cost of a magazine is exorbitant. So the dilemma and question is: what kind of a business model can keep the lights on and operations going? Generally speaking, sponsors and advertisers can keep things rolling, but advertisers want to see a large number of subscribers, and there are probably few sponsors that would be willing to underwrite a noble cause as this. If you ever figure out what it is that Asian Americans value enough to put their own dollars behind it, in a non-profit sponsoring philanthropic kind of way, I think you'll have the breakthrough that we're all looking for!