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A message for subscribers

Some of you may be wondering what's going on at To-Do List, and where the next issue is (#4). Our last issue was #3 (the green self-loathing issue). You are right: There has been a lag between this issue and future ones. Basically, an independent magazine such as ours can be a tough nut to crack in terms of funding, and we are trying to find innovative ways to fund the publication of the magazine. I've decided the best way to spend the next few months is to concentrate on a book that I am writing for Harper Collins. The book is about quirkyalones, a concept that came out of To-Do List. I am hopeful that the buzz created by the book will generate publicity and lead to interest from funders. I want to ask for your patience as we go through this transitional time. I've written a bit more about this on a post below. Please scroll down for more about the situation here.

In the meantime we will be updating our website later this summer to add a "list of the week" section and some other web-only content. Please check back with us to see these lists, and if you would like to send yours in for consideration, you can send your list to the attention of Jessica Longo, To-Do List, PO 40128, SF, CA 94140.

Thanks so much for your early support. I will be keeping subscribers posted in terms of new developments.

All the best,
Sasha Cagen

International Quirkyalone Day, February 14
Visit the IQD site for party report, photos, and press on our growing movement.

In Your Local Bookstore
Look for two essays from To-Do List in your local bookstore. Jenny Bitner’s “The Pamphleteer” kicks off the pages of Best American Nonrequired Reading, a new collection edited by Dave Eggers and the folks at 826 Valencia. Sasha Cagen’s “The Quirkyalone” makes an appearance in Regeneration, a collection of twenty-something voices.

To-Do List Seeks Financial Backing
I’m incredibly proud of what we have accomplished publishing To-Do List since 2000. Pieces from our small, independent, completely volunteer-run magazine have been reprinted next to essays from The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine in an anthology. We launched a movement of “quirkyalones,” a new idea that puts a positive spin on being single in a world that all too often makes single people feel like there is something wrong with them.

To-Do List has been recognized for general excellence with an Utne Reader Alternative Press Award, Reader’s Choice for Best New Magazine, 2000. We’ve also gotten a host of media attention, including national recognition on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” and in a BBC documentary, Foxnews.com, San Francisco Bay Guardian, SF Weekly, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, Chicago Tribune, Writer’s Digest, and more.

To-Do List has all the appearance of success.

But there is a problem that I can no longer ignore. The issue of money.

The revenue we bring in from subscribers, ads, newsstand distribution, and small donations is good; it has barely covered the costs of publishing issues #2 and #3 (I saved up for #1). Postage costs have gone up and production for small runs is expensive. After we publish each issue, our bank account is empty, and needless to say, there’s no money to pay me or the other professional designers and editors who work with me. My to-do list for publishing this magazine is miles long. Working with writers, soliciting funds, dealing with distribution, circulation, a website, and subscribers all takes time; there aren’t enough hours in the day to publish a magazine and support myself.

(I work days as a proofreader and weekends and evenings on this magazine.)

We toil and receive such acclaim. But we can’t continue to work this way. I can’t continue to run To-Do List this way.

To-Do List needs your help. We need resources.*

Poetry magazine famously received a donation of $100 million this past year. When I read about this vast sum, I wondered, what about a donation one percent that size for a promising, youthful, smart magazine like To-Do List ? Just $1 million would be a miracle. $500,000 would be great. $100,000 for the next year would be terrific.

A major donation (which, by the way, would be tax-deductible) would allow us to make an investment in the long-term growth of the magazine by compensating staff. For the first time in three years, this would include paying a part-time fundraiser; part-time ad sales person; designer; and myself as the publisher, so I can focus on editorial, advertising, and development. The next year would bring an intense focus on increasing circulation and building a greater stream of revenue.

A gift would make it possible for To-Do List to keep growing and provide you with more introspective essays, more fascinating lists, and more unpredictable original features. In an age when many nonfiction magazines such as The New Yorker and Harper’s are inaccessible to emerging writers, To-Do List is a venue for talented voices like Raj Jayadev and Jenny Bitner, whose work has been reprinted in magazines with larger circulations.

Four donations of $25,000 each would make it possible to make a real go of it building this magazine as an alternative on the newsstands. Two donations of $50,000 would work. One lump sum of $100,000 could help make magazine history.

To-Do List is a fiscally sponsored project of Intersection for the Arts, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization. All donations are tax-deductible.

Another possibility is finding someone to come on board as To-Do List’s publisher. Working in close collaboration, the publisher and I would define the magazine’s future, business strategy, look, and voice. If serious investors of over $100,000 want to get more involved, I am open to a discussion.

These are just a few ideas. I’m very open to talking about creative ways to fund To-Do List. If you are interested in helping, please contact me at [email protected] for budgetary information and to discuss.

If you are a subscriber waiting for issue number four, I apologize for the delay and ask for your patience. The sad fact (sad because there is nothing I would rather do than work on our next issue, other than lie on a beach in Maui) is that I cannot produce another issue without knowing there is a financial light at the end of the tunnel. I’m doing everything I can to fundraise to make future issues a reality.

In a New York Times Book Review article, Judith Shulevitz wrote, “It should come as no surprise that at any given moment, much of the innovation in journalism bubbles up from little magazines staffed and edited largely by people who are just starting out.” She was writing Lingua Franca, a must-read magazine about intellectual life that won multiple National Magazine Awards and became extinct last year.

Please don’t let this to happen to To-Do List.**

If you can help, or know someone who can, please get in touch with me at [email protected] I look forward to talking with you.

All the best,
Sasha Cagen

* You may be wondering how other magazines do it. Here’s a brief explanation. Commercial publications such as Vanity Fair or Marie Claire get the vast majority of their revenue from advertising. We solicit ads, but businesses will not pay equivalent amounts to advertise in a relatively small-circulation magazine. Some independent magazines are funded in part by grants. But the few grants that exist for independent media are dedicated to cause-based periodicals. Ironically, and unfortunately, there are few foundations that fund a magazine with broad appeal.

** Following is a list of all that we have accomplished in three years. Some things are easier to write in list form than in paragraphs.

* Utne Reader Alternative Press Award, Reader’s Choice for Best New Magazine, 2000
* Six reprints from three issues in Regeneration: Telling Stories from Twentysomethings (Penguin/Putnam), Best American Nonrequired Reading (Houghton-Mifflin), CourseWise Writer’s Textbook, San Francisco Chronicle, Utne Reader (two pieces)
* National recognition on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” and in a BBC documentary, Foxnews.com, San Francisco Bay Guardian, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, Chicago Tribune, Writer’s Digest, BAY-TV, SFStation.com, and more
* Seven distributors: Last Gasp, Small Changes, Tower, Armadillo, Desert Moon, Kent News, Ubiquity, putting us at over 500 bookstores
* Print run: 2,500 for issue one; 3,000 for issue two; 3,100 for issue three
* 700 subscribers (and growing)
* Nonprofit status as a fiscally-sponsored project of Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco-based 501(c)3
* All-donated computer equipment (MacG3 and laser printer) from UCSF and office equipment from dead dot-coms
* Established shared office space with Watchword Press
* Publisher saved proofreading paychecks to finance first issue; revenue from advertising, subscribers, newsstand and donation financed costs of second and third
* Launched quirkyalone movement: online communities and other discussions on singledom
* All of this has been accomplished through volunteer labor.


To-Do List in the News
The following stories offer an objective perspective on To-Do List.

"Loving Self-Loathing" About our recent release party. See photos from the party!

"Do-It-Yourself Literature" To-Do List and Watchword Press move in together.

"What's A Quirky Writer to Do? Start Own Magazine" An interview with the publisher in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Examiner Story "Essay on the Joys of Flying Solo Launches New Zine"

To-Do List's publisher talks about the challenges of independent publishing.

A To-Do List staffer announces the release of the second issue of her zine

Before the Mortgage began after Rachel and Christina quit their jobs in New York and returned to their hometowns in an effort to figure out the post-college, school-to-work transition, and continues as they think about how they might fit into the "real world." BTM's anecdotal opinions fit into three categories: Part of the Problem, Part of the Solution, and On the Fence. Send two dollars to: Christina Amini, PO Box 68, Ross, CA 94957 for a good read.