The day after I announced that I would be working with the folks at SciFan Magazine, they announced they were shutting down. It was a shock to me, they didn’t warn me it was coming. It just sort of happened. But, when a magazine shuts down, that seems to be the case. One day they’re there, the next day they can be gone.
Magazine publishing is very much a sink or swim business and, as my headline states, you are swept out to sea. Not only are you trying to swim, you are getting hit by wave after wave. Money problems, competitive market, unexpected expenses, standing out in the crowd, being discovered; wave after wave hits. To get above the waves you need a boat. And building a boat while you are trying to keep your head above water just doesn’t work out often.
Plasma Frequency was very successful as a semi-pro publication. We were on the low end of that “semi-pro” pay rate, but we attracted great authors and put out great stories. We tried to be innovative in the way we communicated with authors, and we attracted good people to our editorial staff. And then a huge wave of financial woes hit us. We’d just patched the raft we’d created when the next one hit. And we sunk.
I spiraled down into a depression and there was no recovery for me until very recently. But even through my worst times, I missed doing it. And now I find myself strongly considering publishing again. But this time, I’m trying to build the boat before shoving off into the sea. I am taking the things I’ve learned from Plasma Frequency, and I am going to apply them to the design.
Plasma Frequency is not returning, I’ll make that clear. That boat sank and it is time to move forward. I also must be clear that I could very well decide this boat isn’t seaworthy and not pursue this any further. But, I can say that I am getting very close to testing the waters and I am eager to see if it is possible to happen again.
I recently had a story accepted by SciFan Magazine and though they have yet to release my story in one of their issues, I did start reading their magazine. One of the things I came across this post of theirs.
It got me thinking about my time publishing Plasma Frequency and the struggle it was to come up with funding from time to time. Magazine publishing is a hard market to stand out in, and I’d like to think that Plasma Frequency stood out in a positive way.
I said it all the time, but I really did have a great team of volunteers behind the magazine and, though I funded it, I was only a small part of the process.
The point of all this: I miss publishing.
I miss reading awesome stories from talented authors. I miss losing sleep over whose story I’d have to reject. I miss the awesome editors I worked with to put out the magazine. I miss the way we tackled author feedback. I miss post shares of the favorites and the author shares of their work. And I miss collecting each issue.
It is hard to publish a magazine. It is not easy.
First, there are a shitload of magazines out there. And for each shitload there is a fuckton of good ones. So many of them already have established reader bases and your only hope to find readers is to advertise to them.
Marketing a magazine isn’t easy at all. First, most magazines don’t make a whole lot of money if any. They rely on either the editor’s income, donations, or in magazine advertising. Selling issues is hard enough as it is because so many good magazine publish their content 100% free online. Then you have to find target an audience and get readers.
Now before anyone gets excited, I am not bringing back Plasma Frequency. Even if I do return to publishing, it will be a different magazine all together. Or maybe anthologies?? I’m not hinting at anything… honestly.
I think the point I am trying to make is to take time for your genre’s magazines too. Read them, share them, donate if you want, but take the time to read magazines too. We need new markets to join and we need them to mature.
It is funny how much time I spend blogging on writing, publishing, marketing, and even just random things going on in my life. Yet somehow I don’t seem to do much blogging with my editor’s cap on. I have touched on it here and there, but most of the time that I mention Plasma Frequency, it is about how it has kept me from writing. It would seem that something that is taking up so much of my time deserves a bit more attention. I assume my blog followers, being writers, might enjoy hearing what is going on in the short fiction publishing world.
For those that don’t know, Plasma Frequency, in my bi-monthly speculative fiction magazine. We mostly publish science fiction and fantasy, but some horror too. We publish from just a few hundred words up to 7,000 words. And we have been doing this now for two years. Issue 13 comes out this Friday and it makes the start of our third publishing year. That is a big deal for someone like me for several reasons: first we got this far, second we continue to grow, and third we seem to be making a difference in the industry.
In a future blog I intend to provide some tips on how to start your own magazine, but for now I want to talk about Plasma Frequency‘s future.
This is a magazine that I started in 2012 because I wanted to give authors another place to showcase their work. And not just showcase it, but receive compensation for it. Writing is a lot of hard work, and while doing it for money isn’t the best reason to get into writing, there should still be some compensation for it.
I wanted to start Plasma Frequency at 3 cents per word, but the funding for Plasma Frequency comes out of my pocket. So we started, and remain at, 1 cent per word. The main question for me has always been how do we get this pay rate increased. The first year, I tried in-magazine advertising, and that didn’t work out well. The second year I tried selling the magazine and some crowd funding. Neither has worked out well. Selling the issues covers about 10% of the costs per issue. The other 90% comes from my pocket. When you add in web hosting, submission services, and other operational costs (shipping, printing, postage, and much more), about 98% of the magazine’s funding comes from my own pocket.
Since my pocket book has no more room in it to add to the magazine, I spend a lot of time going over some ideas for our third year. We will still be selling the print copy and the eReader copies. That will not change, because readers have told us they enjoy those issues. But we will be bringing the stories to our website, allowing those who want to read for free the ability to do so. Now at first that might seem counter productive to making money, but we are hoping that increased reader exposure will also increase donations.
Asking for donations is always hard. People work hard for their money and they aren’t sure they want to donate it to a magazine. But, we hope that by reading our stories free online you will see this is a magazine worth a few bucks. And this year we are started a Patreon page.
What is Patreon? Well Patreon is a way to donate a small amount monthly to us. It can be as little as one dollar, to as much as you see fit. That is a great way to put just a little bit into the bank and it all helps. I’ve set some goals on there for us to reach. Reaching those goals will help us to raise the pay rates. Maybe even get to 7 cents a word for authors in our magazine. That means we can attract more writers and bring in a wide range of story styles. That is a lofty goal, but the good thing about Patreon is that it doesn’t expire. There is no deadline to reach any of these goals. It is just the road map to our success.
Tying in to the Patreon page, we are also establishing donor levels. You can reach these through Patreon or through one time donations. All people who reach one of our donor levels (to be officially announced September 5th) will be listed in all issues of our magazine (print and eReader) for the rest of time. Onetime donations are always accepted, but Patreon is a good way to reach those donor goals without spending too much. We have started out with some basic rewards, but as we grow so will the rewards. The editors and I have even talked about some exclusive special editions that only donors will have access too. We’re also considering early releases to donors and other such fun perks for becoming a donor.
Do you have a book, magazine, product, or service that would appeal to the audience of my magazine? Oh, lord that sounds like such a horrible sales pitch. We are bringing back limited space advertising. Official rates will be announced September 5th. But there are only four spaces for sale each month. And if you buy a space for October, you get the rest of September free! Your ad will be on every Plasma Frequency webpage, even the home page, for the entire month. The ad prices are affordable and you will catch people’s attention. If we consistently sell out the advertising, we could raise the rate of pay to as much as 4 cents per word.
Now you may be a lot like me and not have a lot of money to spare. I get that. Money is not the only way to support us. You can also share your favorite stories. You can share the Patreon page. And you can follow Plasma Frequency on Facebook and Twitter. There are sites to review our magazine too.
But aside from trying to raise money we have some other new and exciting things for our third year. First off we are publishing Steve Coate’s “The Great Exodus”, a six part serial fiction piece. The first part releases with Issue 13, and it will run for six issues. This is a great way for us to publish longer fiction that would otherwise fail to fit within our pages.
We are also setting up a more consistent issue style. In the past I would accept stories as they came in. And when the word count limit was reached, that was that. Well sometimes we’d have twelve or thirteen stories in an issue, and other times we’d have just six. I now am accepting stories for the whole year. We accept just a few longer fiction pieces (typically two per issues) and the rest will be shorter or flash. The result will be a consistent 10 stories per issue (11 counting Coate’s serial), while also giving a good mixture of fiction length. The readers should better know what to expect from us.
I touched on this a little bit, but aside from our six issues, we are looking into publishing special editions. Perhaps even with guest
editors. We are still talking this over. I am also thinking of handing one issue over to one of my other editors and letting them have a go in the driver seat. I am looking forward to working those out.
Of course the Year Two Anthology is also in the works. The editors and I are choosing our picks, and just like last year our readers are making their picks too. Voting ends on September 15th. Then I have to contact the winners and set up the contracts for the issue. I hope to have it out by late October so that you can have it on your Christmas list.
We will also be archiving our old issues online. This will take a long time as there are 12 issues worth of stories to code on to a website. We don’t use a WordPress site for Plasma Frequency. I code it all myself. And, I am learning coding as I go.
Speaking of the website, on September 5th our new website releases. It won’t be hugely different than our site now. But I have put the stories as the main feature on the first (home) page. And there are other tweaks along the way.
So that is just a taste of what we have in store for the next year. If you are already a reader, I hope you enjoy it. If you are not yet reading us, I hope you will join in.