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What it takes to be a publisher

December 27th, 2007 · No Comments · Profiles in Riding

28_coverindexThere have been two very interesting stories recently about key publishers, and publications, in the motocross industry. Publishing is one of my interests and it’s one of those areas that seems like it should be really easy, but isn’t. It’s dreadfully hard. Like the restaurant business, way more ersatz publishers crash and burn than ever succeed. Which makes those who succeed all the more remarkable.

The first article I saw was a piece on Loyalty, Character, and Motivation by Tim Cryster of RacerX Virtual Trainer. The key part, for me, was the one paragraph where Tim talks about his high school friend and RacerX founder Davey Coombs.

Not everything that motivates me comes form a despairing source. Peers of mine that are successful motivate me. Davey Coombs, the creator of Racer X Illustrated has been one of my best friends since high school and he motivates the crap out of me. Not sure if many of you know this, but DC started Racer X in high school. At the time he took every picture, wrote every word, and published the newspaper version of Racer X all throughout high school, college, and beyond. I remember thinking that what he was doing was cool and all, but never could have imagined that he would be able to take his little magazine and turn it into one of the most respected and read magazine in motocross. I remember asking him, ‘How are you going to compete with Motocross Action, or Dirt Rider? Those guys are so big!’ He just laughed and said, ‘Those mags are ok, but I can do better!’ And it’s not just Racer X. There is Racer X Canada, Road Racer X, several websites, the Motocross Show, most of the event programs for the Supercross and Motocross series, his work with the AMA, and so much more. He has dedicated himself to the sport and sacrificed more than I could ever imagine, being the best at what he does. That’s motivating stuff when your friends step up to the plate and knock it out of the park.

DC is a veritable publishing dynamo. The guy must never sleep. I’ve never met him, never even seen him, but his accomplishments utterly astound me. The other story was a post on the Cousin Weedy Yahoo forum by VMX Magazine co-owner and editor Ken Smith. VMX is a gorgeous, collector-quality publication dedicated to the preservation of old bikes. I cannot begin to imagine the work, dedication, and investment (both fiscal and emotional) it takes to put it out four times a year. Ken shed a little light on that and helped all of us understand what goes on behind the scenes of this shiny, sexy vintage magazine.

[…] it took Ray [late founder Ray Ryan — Ed] twenty issues before he had attracted sufficient advertising to cover the cost of printing a 96 page magazine. We hope to get there, no question. Why is it as black and white as that you may ask? The answer goes a long way to covering one of the other queries – was Ray an existing successful publisher or independently wealthy? He was neither. Ray (and Barbara) scratched out a living for over five years I can assure you, and the term “on a shoestring” couldn’t be more appropriate (then and now!).

I guess the point of this is that all of these guys inspire me. Each them had the courage to follow their dreams and the conviction to keep pushing. Too often we let life get in the way and we make excuses for not doing the things that matter. And then we wake up to find it’s too late. I am guilty of that myself. Here’s to using 2008 to be a little more like those who inspire me. What are you going to do next year?

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