Words by Giselle Melendres, editor in chief of Mad Sounds
It’s been about three years since I first started Mad Sounds, and so many incredible things have happened within the short lifespan of this magazine. To this day, I still remember the feeling of seeing an issue of my magazine being promoted as a Staff Pick on issuu.com, or the moments when I would squeal to my parents about the positive feedback we would receive from our followers on Instagram. In December of 2015 I had my first ever “business” call with issuu, and in February of 2016 I had the opportunity to attend issuu.com’s Generators Camp: a conference/workshop in which myself and six other publishers were recognized as some of the best millennial-produced publications on issuu.com. This year, we reached 8.5 million impressions across all of our issues, and have gotten to work with some incredible people in the entertainment and publishing industry.
Now, this post isn’t intended to list off all of the accomplishments of Mad Sounds, or humble-brag under the guise of an “introspective” blog post. Mostly, I wanted to bring attention to the fact that through all of the exciting and rewarding moments, there are moments when I am completely lost, and/or unsure of my own ability to be a “successful” publisher in a competitive industry. And ultimately, I continuously find myself faced with a terrible case of imposter syndrome, in which I question why my publication has even received the recognition it has, and marginally obsess over the ways that I can expand and improve the publication to an even more professional level. The harsh reality is, I am only 19, and I don’t know what I’m doing. At least, not to the extent that a publisher with years of experience, knowledge and a more extensive history of job experience than my own would.
My journey with Mad Sounds has been a process of trial and error — from the designing process, to exploring this extremely foreign idea of networking and collaborating with agencies, publishers and other experts in the industry. All the skills I have developed in producing Mad Sounds have come from a cumulative process of making mistakes and learning as much as I can from them. (I started the magazine on Pages for the Macbook, if that’s any indication of how much I had to learn.) And although what I’ve learned has proved to be extremely useful for running and editing Mad Sounds, being such a young and inexperienced publisher comes with significant challenges.
I think one of the biggest goals of a digital publisher such as myself is to one day be able to print, distribute and sell your magazine and see your work in bookstores across the nation. But when you’re a college student with little savings, it’s extremely difficult to turn those dreams into a reality — printing requires a lot of money. Of course there are investors and grants, and there is only so much that the paycheck from my part-time job can afford me, but ultimately, the idea of monetizing a publication becomes one of the most important solutions in this endeavor, and I still question how, myself, a 19 year old publisher, is even going to think about doing this.
I still have so many questions about how to monetize my magazine, like: How much money would need to be negotiated in working with advertisers? Would I need to find myself a lawyer or business partner in order to monetize at all? How do I obtain a business license? And even…how do I file taxes?
And in addition to finances, or the lack thereof, one of the many challenges that comes with not monetizing (yet) is the constant effort to establish a professional perception of my publication, despite the fact that I do not have the financial means to legitimize or validate my authority as a brand. One of the most difficult questions to answer has become, “What is the budget for this shoot?,” because the answer is almost always a slightly embarrassed, “Well…”, and a long-winded explanation about why we do not make any money off of the magazine, but would really like to someday.
Essentially, being a nineteen-year-old publisher has its downsides, and at times, I’m completely flustered by the fact that my magazine has received the recognition that it has recently, when I’m literally a baby. But, just as Mad Sounds is doing, I am making constant strides to improve myself and educate myself as much as I can in both the publishing industry and business, and I’m working towards expanding the magazine as much as I possibly can. The industry holds a lot of opportunity and a lot of fear in my mind, but I am also extremely grateful to have received endless support from my family, friends and my digital publisher, issuu, all of whom have so kindly believed in my work.
So in the end, imposter syndrome is something that both haunts me, and also encourages me to do more and improve my craft as much as I can. I hope that whoever reads this knows that in every endeavor, it’s easy to discount your abilities, compare yourself to others and focus on the things you haven’t accomplished yet. But having your doubts and insecurities does not mean that your achievements are any less valid or legitimate than they truly are, and every mistake or moment of inexperience you have is worth celebrating.
For now, I’m trying to celebrate the unknown as much as I celebrate the success, and I know that one day, I will stop feeling like such an “imposter” for my own achievements.
You can follow Giselle on Twitter and Instagram @gisellelisabeth. Read her Mad Sounds success story on issuu.