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RIP for SLV Magazine

Article by Marcia Darnell

Publishing – October 1997 – Colorado Central Magazine

I was shoved into the brutal world of magazine publishing by a devious manipulator known as Ed Quillen, for whom I blame for all my ensuing woes.

In the winter of 1995 I suggested to Ed that he and Martha should expand Colorado Central’s area of coverage throughout the San Luis Valley.

“And if you need another editor, I can help you,” I said, coyly, trying to suck my way into a new job. But my ploy backfired.

“We’d rather you started a magazine down there,” Ed said, probably with an evil grin.

And so it began, two years of blood and sweat, nightmares and tears, tact and salesmanship, slavery and … Where was I?

Oh, yeah, the magazine. I christened it SLV, after the San Luis Valley, which was to support it. Initial public reaction was good.

“Great! We need an alternative publication here!”

“Wonderful! We haven’t had anything since Alma went under.”

“Terrific! Send me your ad rates.”

That was my first obstacle — advertising. I couldn’t afford to hire someone to sell ads, and I hadn’t sold anything since high school, when band members hawked boxes of fruit every year. I needed ads to start the magazine, but I didn’t have a magazine to show advertisers until I started publishing. Catch-22.

Since the rag was going to be based on Colorado Central, that’s what I showed prospective clients. To my utter amazement, it worked. People gave me money to do work they didn’t know I could perform, on a magazine that didn’t exist. I’ll always love my first advertisers.

The initial subscribers, too, showed faith, many of them sending in money before the first issue came out. I also lucked out with contributing writers. A lot of great journalists jumped on my little bandwagon, including Callie Cochran-Hager, Ray James, Michelle Le Blanc Hynden, Lynda La Rocca, and even Ed Quillen. And I found Chaffee Press, which provided printing with heart. Soon I began to feel like a real publisher and considered taking up smoking.

That first summer was great. People wrote from New York, Washington, Nebraska, and even Antonito, singing SLV’s praises in the form of $10 checks. Soon I was covering expenses and it seemed as though SLV would succeed.

Then winter arrived. Except for the Christmas issue, advertising was flat and the subscription list stagnant. I was still breaking even, though, so I held on, hoping that the annual onslaught of summer residents and visitors would boost SLV to the point that it would support me.

In the meantime, I promoted the thing as much as I could, but I ran into puzzling behavior (read: blatant hypocrisy).

“I love your magazine,” I’d hear from someone who wasn’t a subscriber.

“What a great way to promote Valley enterprise,” from a business owner who didn’t advertise.

Valley residents said they liked the magazine, but didn’t buy it. They talked about, wrote about it, and bought the products and services it advertised, but newsstand sales were as dead as Kevorkian’s last client.

I didn’t get it. Were people buying one copy and sharing it with 45 friends? Were they photocopying the thing and posting it at the local laundromat? Was SLV emitting a psychic story beacon to folks in their sleep?

Whatever the reason, I had to do something, since compliments, nice as they are, don’t pay the mortgage.

So, like Napoleon in Russia, I mounted a summer offensive. I placed the rag on more newsstands. I advertised in the local papers, on public radio, and via publicized donations to local charities. I spread the word among supporters that SLV needed business and that this summer was make-or-break time.

Well, it turned out to be “break.” Ads were still paying the way, but subscriptions were at the same level they were a year before. So in August, I closed up shop, folded my tent, pulled the plug, called it a day ….

Am I sorry? No.

Although my finances are the same as they’d be if I’d spent the last two years just watching “Lou Grant” reruns, I’m richer for the experience. I learned how to sell something and do it honorably. I met a lot of wonderful people in the business community. I contributed, albeit slightly, to writers’ annual income and a few good causes in the San Luis Valley. The work was worth it. Or was it?

When I called Callie Hager to tell her it was all over, she said, “You know what? In a few years, you should try it again.”

I told her I’d think about it — if she moved back to the Valley and went into the business with me.

Adventures, after all, should be shared.

Marcia Darnell lives in Alamosa and is willing to do almost anything to avoid getting a real job.

Ed Quillen denies the “evil grin” — he was then worried about getting spread too thinly. Colorado Central, to assuage its guilt for encouraging Marcia to get into publishing, is fulfilling SLV’s subscriptions, and hopes they’ll stay aboard.