Single-Minded dTC Secretary ISO success starts new magazine for the unmarried

January 29, 1993|By Sandra Crockett | Sandra Crockett,Staff Writer

Magazine publisher Linda Schafer needs to get permission before taking time out to talk about her new venture. "OK, I just got approval from the boss," she says laughing. "And me a publisher!"

Ms. Schafer's days are spent answering telephones and doing other secretarial work at Continental Equipment Inc. in Baltimore County. On nights and weekends, she tends to her new magazine out of her Pasadena home.

She is indeed the publisher of Singles magazine, which hit newsstands and stores this month.

"It's been a fun thing," she says. "And it's been a lot more work than I ever thought."

Although Ms. Schafer's magazine is not national -- it is distributed in Maryland, Washington and Virginia -- she believes it can survive and be profitable.

The increase in the survival rate for new magazines indicates there is "light at the end of the doom-and-gloom tunnel of magazine publishing," says Samir Husni, head of the Magazine Service Journalism program at the University of Mississippi and author of "Samir Husni's Guide to New Consumer Magazines."

His research shows that from 1985 to 1990, there were at least 1,500 national consumer magazines launched and publishing at least four times a year. "In 1985 two out of 10 new magazines survived. Now it is three out of 10," says Mr. Husni. "That may look low, but actually it is high compared to other industries."

At least there are plenty of singles around.

According to the 1990 Census, Maryland is home to more than 3.6 million singles age 18 and older; in Virginia there are 4.6 million singles; and Washington claims about 480,000.

L But there is also plenty of competition for their attention.

"In Search Of" ads fill the back pages of local magazines and newspapers. But answering ISO ads is usually a case of respondent beware because there are no accompanying photographs.

Ms. Schafer hopes her glossy, 71-page bi-monthly magazine, which sells for $3.50, fills a niche by offering a "personal profile" section as well as articles geared to singles.

In the personal profile section, the ever popular ISO descriptions of "handsome, attractive and sexy" are backed up or disproved -- you be the judge -- with photographs.

Articles in the first issue include "Sex: The New Rules," "Country's Back and Nashville's Got It!" and "Volunteer."

The 39-year-old mother of two knows it can be a jungle out there. After all, she is single. Also, she had no experience in publishing, writing or printing. She hadn't even considered the idea of publishing a magazine until about a year and a half ago when she saw an out-of-town publication.

"It was a holiday weekend in 1991, when a friend told me about a bachelor book that originated in Florida. I subscribed and it had personal bios and pictures."

"It was nice to see individuals with profiles, and not just things written out in shorthand where you need a dictionary to figure it out.

"I thought: 'Hey, this would be kind of fun for Baltimore. But this is something that would be not just good for men, but good for women,' " she says.

"I was up all night thinking about it, and there was such a feeling of intense excitement that came over me. I thought, 'Is this for me? Is this something I should do?' "

Ms. Schafer decided it was, and then spent nearly $50,000 starting up the magazine. She put her most valuable possession on the line -- her home. "I got a second mortgage on my home. And I had a little savings that I used. A lot of friends did help me by making calls and doing research for no cost."

Along the way, there were a lot of doubters.

"At first my family and friends thought that it was kind of neat. But they honestly didn't think it was going to go through -- not until they saw the product," says Ms. Schafer.

Financially, it has been a burden.

"Yes, I am broke. I've been broke for about the last two months," she says. To help shoulder the load, she is thinking about taking on a partner.

But being temporarily tapped out has not made her regret the decision to publish. "I've made my mistakes," she says. "It's been learn as you go. But it's also been fun."

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