Dear readers, it is with great pride and a touch of sadness, that we must hang up the gloves on the printed version of Big Write Hook.
As you know, I’ve been completely open about the financial risk the magazine was always going to be, the success of which hinged on several factors: support from you lot (which was great), advertisers (which was non-existent) and social influencers (which was mixed).
We wouldn’t have even been able to make it to the second print at all without the unexpected success of the Launch mag, which is entirely down to our loyal followers.
But unfortunately, despite my best efforts, we are unable to sustain what we have built in order to make it to a third print. Obviously, I am a bit gutted, but that doesn’t mean to say I am not immensely proud of what we have all achieved.
I would like to sincerely thank everyone who has helped, supported and contributed to our success along the way. That means you, reading this. Thank you!
By far the most important and amazing aspect of the magazine was connecting with so many real people. I would like to personally thank everyone who bought the mag, particularly those who promoted us on social media for no other reason than they wanted to help: Rob Cass, Iain Dolan, Peter Keay, Paul Oltai, NorthbankBren, Michael Shepard, Adam Thorn, Emma Whiting, Mark Lovell, Gary Milligen (and Cara), Graeme Standard and Tom Dutton, amongst so many others restoring my faith in humanity one tweet at a time. There are far more people to mention, so apologies if I’ve missed you out.
I want to reserve a special mention to Mike Prime at Beyond The Ropes. He was the first to buy both the Launch issue and Round 2. His support on the podcast and retweets have been a constant source of gratitude, inspiration and respect from me.
The Fight So Far
The printed magazine was the culmination of 12 back-to-back monthly digital issues, which I wouldn’t like to get slept on, so you can view them here.
I am very proud of the time and effort that went into producing these and if truth be told, I was ready to call it quits after we had made it to a full year, as it was relentlessly taking up my time.
I had spent so many hours trying to get advertisers on board and look for investment to print, but I just couldn’t get anywhere. Nobody seemed to have the same faith in the mag as I did and it was a very frustrating period.
It was my final throw of the dice, to draw up a business plan and pitch it to John Moores University Centre for Entrepreneurship for their Bathgate start-up grant. After months of preparation, they gave us the green light and even upped the amount I applied for. The first time they had ever done that, which is probably the greatest success of the magazine thanks to the foundations we had built.
Their backing secured enough money to help launch the printed version of the mag and I would like to thank Claire Horan personally who talked me through the whole process (whilst I was on my lunch breaks) and gave me the opportunity to pitch the business in the first place.
I believe the business plan was a good one, but I would say that because I came up with it and watch The Apprentice. Have you seen how stupid some of those people are and they actually make it on telly?
Anyway, we wanted to flood the market with the Launch mag, price matching our competitors and even running at a loss if you had a discount code. We tried to create a little buzz with some free t-shirts too which I pressed myself. All in all this strategy worked. This was a success, in part thanks to advice from Danny Flexen and exposure from Steve Wellings and the Boxing Asylum Nuthouse Podcast whose listeners backed us in their droves.
We gave a lot of magazines away for free to local barber shops, which I think was a mistake looking back on it. Not only because there was no way of knowing whether they got read, but also because it was knackering lugging them around town all day, I’ve only got little arms like Jordan Pickford.
We also gave away plenty to boxing gyms around Liverpool which was definitely well worth it for the kids.
I did all of this in the hope that we could get people hooked on the product in order to buy the second issue and we could be sustainable. A classic drug dealer tactic I learned whilst erm… being a law abiding citizen and doing nothing remotely illegal.
I also tried to spread awareness through Facebook groups and tagging people in picture tweets, but I think people grew tired of that by the second issue. So that was a little ineffectual.
Most importantly, I had hoped to secure an advertiser to help fund the second magazine and believe me I tried. Bloody hell, did I try.
I got in touch with everyone: boxing equipment businesses, clothing and apparel suppliers, hand wraps, whiskeys, watch shops, car showrooms, protein and nutrition companies, muscle food types, razors, beard specialists, gyms, local PT’s, saunas, yoga classes, coffee shops, building firms, security firms, taxi companies, barbers, but nothing came of it all.
In fact, I was close with around three or four businesses only to be let down last minute, but I can only thank them for their time. It does seem like a risk with little reward.
Without an advertiser, it was difficult. I always say “if opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” I done that with the magazine, I wanted to write for a mag, so I made my own one. I can’t just go and make another company to advertise in the mag because then you end up building all these doors like some sort of Takeshi’s Castle honeycomb maze and then what are you left with? All these businesses and this terrible analogy.
The time it took getting contact details, putting together proposals, taking calls, failed last minute promises was quite disheartening. So in the end I thought, “fuck it, we will go it alone!”
We negotiated a better price on the printing costs, reduced the paper weight, more than halved the print run and passed on the cost of postage for the second mag, which everyone seemed happy with. So costs were down, but ultimately sales did not meet our break even point and that is why we are here today.
The next step for me is to shift any remaining magazines for those who want them this week and I feel it’s only fair not to discount them as a mark of respect to the people who invested in the mag at full price. It’s not about making money back because I will give the remaining mags away to local gyms for kids.
I didn’t want to mention on social media, through fear of it looking like it was only done for marketing purposes, but we also gave away a lot of magazines and t-shirts to people down on their luck, including a child with cancer and a few people who were short of money.
One of the things I hope defines the magazine is that we always wanted to be conscientious and tried to be a force for good not only in what we wrote about but also in how we acted privately. I’m not sure if being public about these actions would have helped sales, but it just didn’t sit right with me to capitalise on a good deed, even though I’m telling people now. It’s a conflicting one.
A Lack of Resources
I think in the end, being unable to make it to a third print was not just about money, because it has never been about money; doing 12 magazines in a year for free pretty much proves that.
It was more a question of time. Or the lack there of. Having to try and get all these advertisers on board, organise the magazine agenda, liaise with writers, plug on social media, run the website, sort out orders, write and post mags, it was too much for me to do alone, especially when most magazines have departments of people to share the load.
Pepper all that in with living life and having a full time job, I just wasn’t able to do it all whilst I have more important things on the horizon.
I have no doubt that if I was able to focus on the magazine as a full-time job, for 8 hours a day, I could make it sustainable. But I’m not in a position to commit to that, as it would also require more financial resources in a market that doesn’t look like it is growing very well.
I feel like when you look at the market for print media, they are all waning. Recently the i newspaper, my paper of choice (fuck the Sun), went into administration. Closer to home, when you have the likes of Boxing Monthly giving away three magazines for £5 then it’s always going to be tough. If they are struggling, then what chance do we have? So the fact we even made it to the second print, to me, is something to be celebrated.
I also think a succession of poor boxing decisions, namely the draws between Canelo v GGG and Wilder v Fury, are turning people off the sport, which is not helping. Though I’m not blaming bad judging for being unable to shift a few mags.
I take great solace in the fact that, at least on a creative and content level, we could mix it with the big boys. Comparing front covers with the editor of The Ring was a nice moment for me… I might even be after his job in a few years.
In fact, the feedback we’ve had from readers comparing us to the professionals makes me believe I wouldn’t be too out of my depth working for any magazine and having Big Write Hook mentioned in the same sentence as The Ring, Boxing News, Boxing Monthly, KO London and Ringside Seat is something I really appreciate.
Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, but we never wanted to be the same as them, or anybody else for that matter. We wanted to be different. And I think we done that. Maybe to our own detriment. The tried and tested works for a reason.
The content we covered was unique, giving first time writers the chance to see their name in print was an achievement too.
We gave a voice to the voiceless not only with our writers but mentioning good causes like debt advice, testicular cancer and autism awareness among others. Hopefully we helped someone on that front.
We challenged popular opinion with controversial topics on ring girls, alcohol at events and the gambling industry, which opened a dialogue to talk about progressive change. This of course, made possible by a fantastic team of writers.
It was such a pleasure to work with so many great writers from our first contributors: Connor Hutton and historian Jim Marshall to the talents of Liam Lawer, Oliver McManus, Chris Weatherspoon and the ever brilliant David Payne. Through reading their work, it has helped me to become a better writer myself… though I can’t blame them for my typos.
Again a huge thanks goes out to every writer who has ever contributed to our magazine.
Above all, the man that made it all possible is Ryan Wilson. Our designer. THE designer.
He made a blog, a business. He is the reason why the writers wanted to write for us in the first place. To see their page look like nobody else can make it look was one of the things that made people so willing to give up their time for us.
The serendipity of meeting Ryan on Twitter was a God send for me, meaning I could focus on writing and not on my own sloppy designing. I cannot overstate my gratitude towards him for his time and talent over the last two years. I have no doubt we will remain friends in the future, and I’ll probably never stop owing him pints for the work he has done for the mag since coming on board.
I wish him nothing but success as he grows with his little family: two creative boys and a lovely wife – how she let him spend as much time doing the mag as he did I’ll never know! He will crack on with his new job learning about 3D design and if he is half as good at that as he is at being a dad and designer, he will be running the place in a few years.
MeAs for me, and not to sound selfish, I will take this time to focus on myself.
First and foremost, I need to learn to drive because it’s getting embarrassing now (though I blame my parents for being poor).
I’ve got a wedding to plan next year, so that’s going to be stressful and after that I will be looking for a new job – one where I can use all the skills and experiences I’ve learned as Editor in Chief of Big Write Hook. I did also make that job title up, I could have called myself Grand Master of the Universe if I wanted to.
I will continue to post opinion pieces sporadically on the website, but I wont be taking any submissions from here on in. I want to write about the topics I’ve been giving to all the other writers over the last two years. I want to be a writer again and not just an administrator.
I also want to spend a bit more quality time with my friends and family… and watch Liverpool win the league. Which leads me on nicely to my next ambition.
I’m going to get back into stand-up comedy as well, which I’ve missed doing. I’ll be working on writing an hour solo show, which you should all come to and then I’ll probably close the book on that chapter too. Then I might write a book. Who knows? I’m like the artist formally known as Prince making music just for myself. Only with writing stuff.
I suppose the door will always be open for a third Big Write Hook. After all, everybody likes a trilogy. Let the rubber match marinate for a few years.
So for now, I would like to offer my deepest gratitude to everyone who has been there along the ride. Thank you for all the support. Keep up the good work and please, protect yourself at all times.