Our interview for Timone, the newsletter of Rivista Inutile
Some time ago those good guys from Rivista Inutile interviewed us for their newsletter, Helm, curated by Lavinia Michela Caradonna, Chiara Muzzicato and Matteo Scandolin.
It turned out a good chat that we bring back here for those who have missed it.
Tell us in a tweet (but 140 characters) who he is and what he does Frab's.
Frab's is the remedy for those who have lost the senses of things. Selects and sells the paper publishing of the future online.
Ok, now you can give a longer answer.
Frab's exclusively selects high quality or collectible periodicals, usually difficult to find in Italy, and makes it available to the public. It is a project that wants to break clearly with the old way of doing and selling publishing precisely because it is focused on products that do not have a market with us because they are little known and being little known do not enter the mesh of classic distribution, in a sort of a vicious circle where the final reader is the loser, but also the small publisher. Thanks to the internet we have the opportunity to enhance and convey products where paper acquires a new meaning and to the really high contents, an experiential component is added made up of touch, sight and, why not, smell. Much of my selection has to do with the senses and with the possibilities that only a physical object can give, for everything else there is the internet.
The magazines I select must always have three characteristics: a well-structured content that embraces slow journalism, a refined design that is not left to chance, a research into the materials and types of paper that compose it, images with a strong visual impact. In short, we are talking about collectible and timeless items.
Frab's mission is to find and select real gems of periodical publishing, tell them, explain the story behind them and make them known to the general public. This is why we invented the Secret Mag Club, a closed-box monthly subscription: every month we select a different magazine and send it to our subscribers. It is a way to make as many products known as possible by bringing readers closer to magazines that they probably would not have chosen on their own. So far no one has ever complained as proof of the high value of the magazines we select.
Who is doing Frab's Magazines?
Frab's Magazines is me, Anna Frabotta, a thirty-year-old from Molise transplanted to Romagna who has always been passionate about magazines and publishing with a particular weakness for the sensory, aesthetic and design part of magazines or books. I am a journalist and, outside of Frab's, I work in the world of territorial marketing and food and wine, but in my private life I have been a serial collector of paper, papers and magazines for years. My instagram profile is full of brutalist architecture that I have a soft spot for. I think that surrounding yourself with culture and beautiful things must be the essence of human life.
When and why did you decide to found an online shop completely dedicated to independent magazines?
The real problem of many periodical publishing lovers like me is that it is difficult to find new things that are truly worthy of value (today's newsstands are full of publishing that can easily be replaced by an internet page) and not to pay tens of euros for the costs of shipment. When, talking to some other enthusiast like me of independent magazines, I realized that my need was definitely shared, the idea came to me. So, among the thousand ups and downs of bureaucracy and numerous business plans miserably rejected by the very best of accountants, I found the courage and the way to embark on this challenge. The Internet was the right tool that allowed me to find the courage and put my passion and skills at the service of others, creating a tool that would respond to my need: to select independent magazines of high value making them available with free shipping or very limited cost.
The idea was born in 2017, it took another year to refine it. At the end of 2018 I started working on the site, on January 1st 2019 I opened the social channels and finally on May 15th 2019 Frab's Magazines & More (www.frabsmagazines.com) was online!
Now the challenge is to demonstrate to those who did not believe in this project that the value we transmit is shared by hundreds (for the moment) of customers, who give us incredible strength with their passion. we have become a beautiful community of paper "fetishists".
How does the scouting part of the magazines happen?
Lots of online research, but above all participation in fairs and events for small publishers. This is where projects with the greatest potential are found, but often with fewer resources to get noticed, even online. And then an apparent contradiction: selecting magazines also means saying no. With the old publishing market now completely jammed, some witty paper businessman tried to reinvent himself as a small publisher, with absolutely false results and of little value. To do a good scouting you also need to know how to say no to those who sell something that has nothing to do with quality publishing as an "independent magazine".
How do you organize yourself, however, as regards the sales part (both the contact with the magazines and the more logistical part of "warehouse" and shipments)?
We have chosen to cut ties with distributors as much as possible and pick up the magazines individually. Apart from a small slice of magazines, we manage contacts directly with most publishers. Despite the work behind it is a lot, only in this way, in fact, there is a possibility of gain, albeit minimal, both for us, but above all for them who are not forced to give the largest share of the price of cover to the distributor. Obviously, we also manage logistics and warehouses "in house". In recent months I have replaced the post-dinner Netflix for the packaging of packages (always accompanied by a letter that I write by hand for each customer!) And for the preparation of shipments that depart every day by courier. It is a moment that I share with my partner, Dario.
Do you have a budget available? If so, at what expense do you give priority?
Let's say ours is a crazy venture for anyone who wants to see Frab's from the business side. We made an initial investment of a few thousand euros and now we reinvest everything we earn. Obviously, the priority is the purchase of magazines, most of which in absolute terms with a strong inventory risk on us. We also invest to seek direct contact with our customers by participating in numerous physical events, only in the last seven months we have been twice in Rome, two in Rimini, five in Ravenna, one in Florence and we even flew to Hamburg bringing with us a some quality Italian periodical publishing.
Since December we have started to invest even a very small (some would say ridiculous!) Budget in online advertising, but at the moment we focus on what is our real strength: a selection of magazines that boasts titles that cannot be found in Italy and the possibility of receiving them at home with very low shipping costs: 3 euros by courier because the other three we put them there and free for orders over 60 euros.
The Secret Mag Club is also a great investment, as the magazines we send often exceed the subscription value and in that case the shipping by courier is entirely at our expense. In short, you just have to try!