A flatplan is an exploded diagram of the issue so everyone knows what's supposed to be on each page. Lord knows why it's called a flatplan. Perhaps it was invented by someone called Flat, or originally they were elaborate 3D models with crenellations and a waving figure on top, or it's because in the diagram the pages aren't stitched together but laid out flat, in a plan view. Actually, that's probably it. Well well.
(You can see AP50's flatplan if you like. It's 74K.)*
The rules to making a flatplan are many and varied and hopelessly confused, rather like that bit with his new directives in Robocop 2. As Ed you have to juggle doing the best by your beloved mag against the demands of advertisers; you have to be ready to rearrange perhaps an entire section of the flatplan to allow for a late-breaking game (or more frequently one that failed to arrive) but without upsetting the work that's already been done; you have to pace the issue well; and you have to guess what's going to be good enough for a cover.
These things, jumblingly unordered like a maniac's vegetable garden, will be flitting through your mind.
Ads Must be Next to Editorial Pages or Advertisers Become Cross
They want your readers to pause by their ad, which of course you won't do unless there's something to read; hence the name readers. Similarly, all advertisers want their ads on right-hand pages in the first third of the mag because they've scientifically proven such ads are more likely to be noticed. We're not making this up.
Don't Have A Feature That Ends On A Right-Hand Page Followed By One That Starts On The Right
Everything would look unpleasantly squashed. Turning a page is a natural full stop. So bung in an ad as a breather.
Balance Is Important
Although you obviously want to start strongly, it's no use piling all the good things at the beginning then having to close with the Subscriptions page or something. Readers will feel empty and dispirited and go out and kick over dustbins and mow lawns badly. As with an exam paper, finish strongly as well. That's why Do the Write Thing was always at the back of the mag.
Consider The Artists
Reviews or features bigger than a page inevitably start on a double-page spread. That way there's a chance for the art bods to be jolly creative over the larger canvas, which is a Good Thing.
The Ad Department Will Be Wrong
The only number of ads you can be sure won't be sold is the one you were told at the beginning of the issue. Hopefully the change will be manageably small - an extra page, say, one way or the other - but occasionally you get monstrosities like a company buying three consecutive half-right-hand pages or two extra spreads, and you have to rearrange a dismayingly large part of the issue. And, of course, don't forget the house ads.
Reviews Must Be Printed In Descending Order Of Merit
A ludicrous notion from the dawn of computer games mags that somehow failed to be slipped onto a doorstep at birth. Even AP could not escape its pernicious influence, for the first 36 issues dividing the reviews increasing irrelevantly into "big" and "small" ones, with The Last Resort in the middle. Even after we came to our senses, there'd be an occasional stab at tapering the reviews off to the lowest scoring ones, even though this staggeringly obviously meant readers would feel empty and dispirited and go out and kick over dustbins and mow lawns badly. Such moments would pass with the application of derisive, slightly taut laughter towards they who suggested it. Let this thought flit on and do not make eye contact.
Where Shall I Go For Lunch?
Scoffs perhaps, or Mr Squiffs, the wholefood shop affectionately named after its wall-eyed proprietor.
Pages Aren't Printed Consecutively
Because magazines are a lot of double-page spreads stuck together in the middle (something you could confirm by pulling apart an old AP with a scalpel, or vigorously shaking a later, stapled issue until the pages drop out by themselves) they are printed in sections. Sections are booklets of eight or sixteen or thirty-two pages that, when laid flat on top of one another, form the mag. This means two things:
1. You have to arrange things so reviews don't straddle sections. Otherwise, if the review copy is late or doesn't turn up, two sections will be held back instead of one. Due to the punitive late-page policy of the lino department, this costs lots of pretend money on deadline. (But goes to extremely real money if you miss your on-sale date, however.)
2. You have to look out when numbering pages. As your flatplan is divided in half vertically (those double-page spreads, you'll remember) you have to number the pages from the top down on the left side, with your centre pages meeting at the bottom, then from the bottom up on the right side, ending with your last page at the top-right. (The covers are printed separately, if you're lucky on considerably thicker paper.) If you're using the same flatplan from one issue to the next, that's fine - but when you change issue size (as AP did about every six minutes in the last year) you have to be extremely careful when recalculating the page numbers. At least one ghastly disaster has struck because the Ed got this wrong and effectively "lost" entire pages.
Do Lots Of Them
Every time there's a change in the reviews or ads or whatever, print another version of the flatplan. You then look excitingly busy and can also see how high a number you can reach.
Printing in sections, incidentally, is why there are multiple deadlines for an issue. For example, on AP the last section was written first, because the contents weren't dependent on outside material as the review section was. And when we went saddle-stitched, or stapled, the whole mag was printed as one section, so multiple deadlines weren't quite as vitally important. Well worth becoming a limp, floppy, tiny mag for then.