$100k/month: The Inspiring Growth Story of Foreword Reviews

In your own words, what does your company do?

Foreword Magazine, Inc. is a trade media company for the publishing industry. Our primary focus is to review books from independent publishers. Indie presses range in size from university presses to authors self-publishing. Curation, in the form of reviews, is essential for getting the attention of librarians, booksellers, rights agents, and other publishing professionals in order to purchase books. Foreword’s foundation was built on reviewing literary fiction, poetry, children’s picture books, translations, and topics like climate change, diversity, and multiculturalism. Most importantly, we strive to promote voices that are unheard, overlooked, or even silenced.

📈 Monthly revenue: $100,000

📈 ~% Churn: N/A

📈 ~% Net profit: 5%

📈 Funding: N/A

📈 Initial cost/investment to start the company: $25,000

📈 Number of team members: 7

📈 Number of founders 3, one left shortly after first year (me!).

📈 Started: 1998, April

How does the company make money?

Our primary revenue stream comes from print advertising and digital/web sponsorships. The publication is free for booksellers and librarians, we are supported by independent publishers trying to reach them. Our secondary source of income is a fee for review service, (Clarion, introduced in 2001) which allows publishers to pay for a critique from our reviewing team if their books are not chosen for review in the magazine. We originated this service which has now become an industry standard. We also have an awards program which recognizes hundreds of books each year for quality and brings in 20% of our revenues. The last bits are a mix of syndication of our content, subscriptions, and representing publishers at international rights shows.

3 strategies that have worked to attract and retain customers?

Hiring a Circulation Service: During the pandemic, we suddenly found ourselves slim on opportunities to reach prospective subscribers due to cancellation of trade shows. So, we recruited an outside circulation vendor to help us grow our numbers with telemarketing, email marketing, and direct mail tip sheets based on their experience and placed on the covers of our magazine.

Improved Website and Data Management Systems: We also created a 24/7 ordering system on our website that allowed international and domestic customers the opportunity to to learn and do business with us contact-free. Or not, their choice on how they wish to interact with us.

Online Webinars: We are spending a lot of time speaking to small and medium associations about the value of trade reviews and the importance of editing as an industry expert. We try to keep these non-Foreword forward so as not to compromise our integrity and that education has seen tremendous growth in awareness of our services and sales.

3 things that you’ve learned about hiring and retaining great talent?

My employees are the most important asset. I make sure they know it. And I try to hire well. Here’s what I think about when interviewing:

✅ We are small but mighty, and having a new hire fit our culture is imperative. One of my favorite things to ask people during interviews is to have them tell me about someone they admire and list three reasons why. Persons range from their mothers, Gandhi, pop stars, or athletes. What their reasons for inspiration tells me is actually a reflection of what the candidate is actually striving for.

For instance, one said Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia. Their three reasons to admire him were outside-of-the-box thinking in the way he ran his company, his generosity and give-back attitude, and how he inspires his employees to protect the environment.

✅ Our company runs on a level of organized chaos that is not easy for a lot of people. Since training takes a while in our complicated industry, finding out if they are actually inspired to perform in this atmosphere is key and usually leads to long-term employment.

✅ After hiring someone who is smarter than me, I try to get out of the way and let them put their ideas and collaborative attitude to work with the rest of our team. I think that is how companies grow sustainably, from the inside out, not top down.


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