Tuesday, February 7, 2012

How I Landed My First Cover: 'Men's Fitness' Magazine April 2004 Issue

     My very fist cover-try resulted in landing the cover of the April 2004 domestic issue of Men’s Fitness magazine.  I guess I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was kind of unique & remarkable, especially now that Men’s Fitness typically only puts celebrities on their covers.  More commonly, fitness models tend to work their way up to landing a national fitness-magazine cover by appearing on several e-magazine or catalog covers first before they’re even considered for a national magazine cover-try.  Yet there I was, inexperienced and na├»ve somehow landing Men’s Fitness as my first cover!  Was it because I was a genetic Adonis?  Was I simply lucky?  Was it because I was persistent & a proactive self-promoter?  The answer to all these questions was NO!  Obviously I had the ‘look’ necessary to appear on a fit-mag cover, but so did several thousand other guys.  So what set me apart from all of them?
'Men's Fitness' Magazine (Domestic) April 2004 Issue with Max on the cover shot in a studio in mid-town Manhattan
     Early 2004 was a time before the mainstream acceptance of social media tools such as Facebook for digital media, e-networking & promoting, before I had my own website and even before the i-phone!  It was during a time, when you actually maintained a hard copy portfolio that you had to carry to castings along with a solid comp-card, and a time, at least from my experience, when having good agency representation meant EVERYTHING.

     In fact, when I was sent for sent for my cover-casting at the Men’s Fitness mag headquarters in uptown Manhattan back in January of 2004, arranged solely by my agent, not only was I a new-hire pilot at JetBlue Airways, but my wife had just given birth to our first child 2 weeks earlier.  So the last thing I had time to do, was to promote my self by submitting any media or networking in any capacity.  Heck I didn’t even know how too!  This goes against the proactive, do-it-yourself strategy that is taught in Clark Bartram’s book, ‘You Too Can be a Fitness Model’ (which I did not own until 2007) and that most Fitness Models employ today.  Just look on Facebook on any given day, and everybody is marketing & self-promoting, posting their latest self-snapshot flexing in the mirror, while simultaneously twittering, blogging & vlogging! 

     To be clear social media is effective, FREE and here to stay, and I’ve personally booked many gigs via Facebook & YouTube.  I am fan of exploiting social media!  But if you truly view yourself as an elite, professional model & talent who is worthy of the BEST gigs, then NOTHING beats having solid agency representation even to this day.  In fact in hindsight I can clearly state that without the reputable agent I had back in 2004 (and still work with to this day), not only would I NOT have landed my initial covers with Men’s Fitness & subsequent Men’s Health magazines, but I would not have even gotten inside their front doors to meet them!  Why do I say this?  Because this agent had already built up a 10 year relationship of trust with these magazines before I even came on the scene.  And when my agent believed in me, thereby endorsing me, consequently all his clients were willing to meet me.  And while my agent was doing all this networking and promoting on my behalf I was able to focus on my new family & new airline career while still making inroads into premier magazine circles.  Even now, while social networking is fun and can be lucrative too, knowing that I still have a reputable, credible agent always looking out for my best interest working for me, allows me to focus my priorities on other areas, whether it be family, flying, coaching or training.

     So back to my first cover-try with Men’s Fitness magazine; it was surprisingly low-key and anti-climatic.  After the cover-casting interview at their headquarters I received a call from my agent in NY saying congratulations on booking my first coverJ  The cover-shoot was set for 2 weeks later but I was sort of in disbelief about a how quick & easy it all seemed to be falling into place.  I flew to NY (on JetBlue) where they put me up in a very nice hotel in mid-town Manhattan near the studio.  At that point reality started to set in and I started to feel very VIP – almost rock star!  The next morning I arrived at my call time to an amazing studio to find out some unexpected, grounding news: There was another model there too also shooting for the cover and the shoot technically became a ‘cover-TRY’ instead of a definite cover.  The plan was to shoot both of us and see what image worked best and that there was a chance they might run both covers.  I wouldn’t find out until 2 months later that I had indeed got my first cover until when walking through the airport terminal on my way to the jet, I saw my cheesy mug on the magazine stand.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t super stoked!  I went and immediately bought 2 copies and departed on my airline trip, not sharing the news with my copilot or any of the passengers.  I didn’t want to feel weird bragging.  There was no Facebook yet to post it on either.  However for the next month every magazine stand I passed, there was my mug staring back at me, and I could feel proud about that.  I didn’t need social media because the mag was avail everywhere!  I still find it ironic that not only was I unaware of that cover until I saw it on display, but I only ever owned 2 issues which I had to buy them myself at full retail price!  That cover paid me $500, and since it was my first I thought that was absurdly low and demanded to know why it didn’t pay more from my agent.  Little did I know, it was actually a GOOD rate for a fitness mag cover, and how many other models actually get paid zero to be on a magazine cover, or some will even pay the photographer out of their own pocket they’re so desperate!

     That Men’s Fitness cover and my worthy agent went on to open up many doors for me, including my amazing relationship with Men’s Health magazine that still continues to this day.  In fact I’m still on stands right now, appearing in at least 4 books published by either Men’s Health or Rodale.  Because of this and in hindsight after over ten years of modeling I think it is only fitting to share with you the name of the agent who first ‘discovered’ me and first truly believed in me.  Many of you already know his name:  Mike Lyons, originally with The Lyons’ Group, and now on board with Silver Models, still based in NYC.  Thank you for everything Mike!

     Mike & I still work together occasionally via Silver Models NY but my main agency is Sports Unlimited based out here in Los Angeles.  And no matter how much posting I do on Facebook or how many videos I produce on YouTube, Karen of Sports Unlimited still gets me the biggest & best jobs & negotiates the highest rate of pay, and then makes sure I get paid!  Sure there are many models out there who have not only independently arranged their own covers, but whom have even shot their own cover!  But I have a full-time airline career and a family, so it serves me better to have a diligent, reputable agent making things happen on my behalf.  I’ve come full circle and I no longer take my agent or agency for granted!  And nobody is paying me to say this – I’m simply trying to pass along some honest advice to you after 10 years in this business.

     So…who is looking out for your best interest?  Who’s negotiating your rate of pay, and making sure you get paid?  Or are you still paying scamming photographers?  How are all those Facebook posts working out for you?  Consider building a relationship with a reputable, credible agent!

PS: Just had to mention that over 25 covers later, my latest one was published in DEC of 2011...over 7 years later!  Still having fun with it too!

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