An indie magazine publication by Subsail

Today we'll look at a range of ways to make your subscriptions a good deal.

There are three things to think about when pricing your subscriptions. First, try to figure out the lowest price you can sell a single issue for before it's not financially viable. Second, look at how your subscription prices will compare to your individual issue prices. And third, how many issues are you bundling together; this affects how your subscription offers appear to customers.

Perhaps the main thing to think about here is the comparison between a single issue and a subscription. Customers will have two buying options: the single issue (which is OK for you, but only sells one copy) or a subscription (which instantly buys multiple issues or even ongoing automatic purchases; much better!).

Subscriptions are great because they increase your sales and revenue, but on the other hand, are a larger purchase for the customer. You need to incentivise subscriptions over single issue to prompt the larger purchase.

Plus, if there is an offer, you can use this when promoting your subscriptions: "Get £5 off when buying a subscription" sounds a lot more appealing than "buy a subscription".

The following are four different incentives you can use to price your subscriptionsso that they seem better value than your single issues.

(I should mention at this point that some publishers like Monocle and Kinfolk actually charge more for subscriptions per issue than if you bought each issue separately.)

Cover discount

Offer the customer a simple discount baked into the subscription price (rather than via a discount code). An example would be to offer a two-issue subscription for £20 when your issues cost £12 each, or a four-issue subscription for £40. The customer saves £2 per issue by buying up front.

An alternative to a cover discount is to offer free shipping for subscriptions and keep the cover price the same. Either way, they are saving money.


This method gives your subscribers extras alongside the magazines, typically free gifts (think prints, postcards, tote bags) or access to extra content (a digital version or online content, for example). Usually subscriptions with bonuses are priced similarly to single issues, with the bonuses acting as the incentive to buy.

You can use the gifts as a way of extra marketing (ie: your magazine's logo on a tote bag) but you're dealing with more physical stock, which may end up being more of a headache.

Buy in bulk

Something more common among smaller publications is to leveraging buying in bulk as the only incentive. This method relies on a customer simply wanting the magazine enough to buy multiple issues up front or to set up recurring payments. This pricing may not convert as well as others, but should work if you have an engaged readership base or your issues are usually highly anticipated.

Free issues

This method has been used famously by larger publications, with offers like "12 issues for the price of 6". Economically these drastic offers only work well at a large scale and with higher-frequency publishing, but you could utilise something similar: "buy four issues, pay for three", or "buy a three-issue subscription and get a free issue".

This covers the main ways publishers price their subscriptions, and hopefully give you some ideas about how you can offer subscriptions to your readers.

In the end, you need to figure out what kind of offer works for your magazine, based on your frequency, cover price and current financials. I suggest to give an incentive—even if you can only give a $1 discount—so you can leverage it in your subscription marketing message.

Otherwise, why would someone spend money on issues you haven't even made yet?