Q&A: Behind the scenes of Jane Austen's Regency World magazine
Six times a year, Jane Austen's Regency World magazine offers readers a peek back in time -- and keeps them up to date on current happenings in the world of Jane Austen. In each issue you can find features on historical topics such as the yo-yo fad in the Regency era, romance in Austen's time and fashion trends of the period, as well as news about Austen sites, books and events.
We chatted with publisher Tim Bullamore about how he got into the magazine business, what it takes to get Regency World magazine to the presses and what the publication has in store for future issues.
Bullamore is a journalist, editor and publisher who worked as an agent for classical musicians before settling in Bath in the mid-1990s and reinventing himself as a writer on the local newspaper. As his former musician clients started dying off, he found a niche writing occasional obituaries for national newspapers, notably The Times of London, where for several years he also worked shifts as a copy editor. Gradually his freelance obituary writing expanded to cover subjects from almost any walk of life, and for both of the two main British newspapers, The Times and the Daily Telegraph. He now lives in Edinburgh, commuting frequently to London (covid-19 permitting). In his free time he publishes Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine.
What led you to run Regency World magazine?
From the mid-1990s to the mid-2010s I lived in Bath, a town well known to Janeites, where I knew David Baldock, owner of the Jane Austen Centre and a man about my own age. We were having lunch one day in early 2007 and I asked how business was doing. He explained that the center, the gift shop, the tearoom and the online shop were all doing well, but he was finding the bimonthly subscription magazine too much and had decided to close it. My ears pricked up: As a freelance journalist I could not bear the idea of yet another publication closing. By the end of the lunch I had effectively bought the title from him, little knowing what was involved in the nuts and bolts of producing a magazine. I started on issue No. 36; we have just published No. 107.
Tell me a little bit about the process of putting together the magazine?
People imagine a big office, a full-time staff and a generous expense account. If only! I often receive letters asking if there are internships available, but alas a magazine this size is what in the U.K. we call a “kitchen table” operation. Most mornings I spend about half an hour processing subscriptions, both new and renewals, and answering queries.
We publish six times a year, which allows for flexibility in the production process. Everyone involved is freelance, and we provide a small, part-time income to about 20 people, most of whom I rarely meet in person. I have a regular core of writers who I can call upon and who offer ideas. I’m also glad to receive offers and suggestions from people who have read the magazine and appreciate the type of features we publish. I usually have three issues roughly mapped out at any one time. In the background, the amazing Alison is contacting potential advertisers. This is an important relationship: We need them to make the magazine viable, and they need us to deliver their message to Jane Austen fans around the world.
About a month before publication date I spend a day or two editing copy, buying (or begging for) images and working out an approximate running order. I also collate and chase the regular features: Regency Rogue, Letters, What Made the News, book reviews, etc. All this is packaged and sent electronically to Anna, our wonderful designer, who works her magic. A week later she and I spend half a day on Facetime talking through each page, identifying any gaps, duplication, problems, all of which I have a week to fix. At that point a PDF goes to Dawn, our fantastic proof-reader, who will spend her weekend spotting typos, improving headlines and asking awkward but important questions.
When we are all happy, Anna sends files are sent to Blackmore, our high-quality printer in Dorset. They in turn send most of the printed copies to the mailing house, which I will have provided with the latest address list. A handful of copies are delivered to me for new subscribers and back issues, etc.
Finally, the bills must be paid – and the whole cycle starts again. There is no profit as such and for me it is a hobby with the added benefit of getting to meet many wonderful people, but if each issue can pay its way then I am happy.
What part of publishing a magazine do you relish?
My favourite moment of the day is holding a freshly printed newspaper containing words that I wrote only the previous evening. Likewise, with the magazine: There is a great feeling of satisfaction when the courier arrives with my box of copies and I open it up. I try not to be too harsh on myself, but I invariably find things that I should have done better.
I also relish attending gatherings of Janeites. For 13 years I have made an annual visit to the U.S. for [the Jane Austen Society of North America annual general meeting] and twice I have been to Australia to talk about the magazine. Meeting your customers, readers and advertisers is always an invigorating experience -- and they are invariably so warm and welcoming.
What have been some of your favorite stories you've published?
Everyone has their own favourite stories, which is why we try to cover a variety of topics in each issue. I once published a themed issue, on music from Austen’s time, but a kindly JASNA member gently pointed out that if music was not of interest, there was nothing for the reader in that issue. It was an important lesson.
I have a soft spot for interviews with people who are part of the Austen world. Two of my favourites have been Diana Shervington and Deirdre Le Faye, very different ladies but both with a great story to tell about life in Jane Austen’s world. I also like newsy ... stories and features, about new discoveries and revelations.
What upcoming stories are you looking forward to?
Films and plays are always great for a magazine because they come with high-quality images. Jane Austen and her siblings have not been sighted much recently, which makes stories about them harder (though not impossible) to illustrate in an original way. We have recently had an update feature from Chawton House; next is Jane Austen’s House Museum. We have a good relationship with both organizations, and we try to give them as much publicity as possible. I also enjoy getting writers from other countries, especially non-English speaking nations, to tell us about Austen in their land. We have covered Brazil and Russia. Jane Austen in Turkey is coming up soon.
What are some historical/cultural aspects of the Regency era that fascinate you?
Where to begin?! I’m not a great one for dressing up, although pictures do exist of me in period costume. Usually I am so exhausted and jetlagged by the end of a JASNA AGM that I can barely stand up at the Regency ball. As a journalist I am drawn to newspapers, magazines and periodicals of the era: I have in my office a framed original front page of The Times of London from one day in 1820, and I adore seeing how news values have changed since 200 years ago.
What do you like to read outside of the magazine?
Newspapers, magazines (The New Yorker and The Economist, to which my wife and I have subscriptions) and biographies: Not only do I find they interesting, they also inform my obituary writing. I know that a lot of people enjoying writing and reading Jane Austen sequels, etc, and I try to dip into some of those that we get sent, but I’m glad that we have a book reviewer, the wonderful Joc, who “gets” them in a way that sadly I don’t. If I were ever to have a long vacation with no obituaries to write I would love to re-read the Austen canon, but I can’t see that happening anytime soon. Perhaps once covid is over I will use a long flight to do just that.
Is there anything else you'd like to add about the magazine?Don’t take magazines for granted. They really are worth subscribing to. So many people want to share a print copy or find content free online, but we all have a responsibility to support those things that make society a civilised place. One of the great things about a specialist magazine such as Jane Austen’s Regency World is the sense of community it can instill, bringing Janeites together no matter where they are in the world.