Online Didn’t Kill the Print Star

October 25th, 2010

In the aftermath of Realms of Fantasy folding last week, publisher Warren Lapine is associating the failure of print magazines like Realms with the existence of free online magazines.

I’ve heard this same grumble trotted out by old-school publishers and writers before. I am biased, as the publisher of a SFWA-pro qualifying online magazine, but I have yet to see any argument that makes a solid case, with numbers, showing that there’s any truth to it.

Economic factors are stacked against all short fiction magazines these days, not just print ones.  The readership for short fiction was declining for decades before this.  On top of all that, it’s a time of great flux in all facets of publishing–readers are fundamentally changing the ways and places that they read.

It’s short fiction publishers’ responsibility to adapt to this changing landscape, not only in weathering the economic factors as much as possible but also in reaching the readership in the ways they want.

Online magazines are less economically risky because they’re cheaper to operate.  True, there is no ideal business model yet, but a bunch of free pro-rate mags are subsisting fine, some using for-profit models (Clarkesworld, Fantasy, Lightspeed) and others as non-profits taking tax-deductible donations (Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies).

Online magazines better provide fiction in the new ways readers have shown they want it:  as web pages to read at home or at work or anywhere there’s wifi; as audio podcasts to listen to during a commute or workout; and as e-books, available for instant purchase and read on dozens of different devices already owned by millions of readers.

The low or free price of online fiction also attract readers. The only hope of slowing or reversing the decline in the short fiction readership is making it as easy as possible for them.  Escape Pod reportedly has 20,000 subscribers, which shows that the audio short fiction ‘readership’ rivals that of the “Big Three.”  Asimov’s in 2009 had an increase in subscribers, the first year that’s happened in decades, and it was because of Kindle subscriptions.

Not that print magazines can’t adapt to these new challenges too–Asimov’s is getting new subscribers via Kindle, and Realms did offer PDF and Kindle versions, although at a higher price than Clarkesworld or Asimov’s or Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

But to blame the failure of traditional-format magazines on the existence of a new type of magazine that better handles the economic uncertainty, that better provides the fiction in the ways the readers want, and that is better retaining if not growing the readership, ignores the clear advantages of online magazines and the flaws in traditional-format ones.

The free online format isn’t a magic answer to all the problems, but it’s the best answer anyone has right now, until forward-thinking publishers develop something better.

Tags: , ,
Posted in writing | Comments Off on Online Didn’t Kill the Print Star

Cheers, Capclave

October 24th, 2010

I had a great time at Capclave this past weekend! Some highlights:

-the panel on Short Fiction in 2010, with Neil Clarke and Guests of Honor Jeff and Ann VanderMeer.  Neil asked me to recommend some new writers.  I mentioned Yoon Ha Lee, one of whose stories from BCS was up for an award at the con.  Also Margaret Ronald, one of whose steampunk stories from BCS, “A Serpent in the Gears,” is in the VanderMeer’s new steampunk anthology Steampunk Reloaded, and Genevieve Valentine, who has a story forthcoming in BCS in November.

-the panel on e-publishing, with Neil Clarke and Odyssey alum novelist James Maxey.  James has recently begun selling his back-list novels on Amazon Kindle US and UK, with good sales and generating good buzz for his current and upcoming novels.

-a quick chat with Guest of Honor Connie Willis, who was one of my instructors at Taos Toolbox.  She was witty and delightful, as always.

-taping a radio interview with Jim Freund, host of the New York City SF/F radio show Hour of the Wolf.  Jim and I have talked often about audio podcasting and audio in general–I was a college radio DJ many years ago. :)  The interview, which will probably air early next year, touched on my own fiction but mostly talked about BCS, including my editorial vision for the magazine and things I do in the BCS podcasts.

-my reading.  I read from a new unpublished story, “Letters on an Enlightened Discovery,” an epistolary set in colonial India about an archeologist who finds an ancient design for a metal elephant.  Attendees included Larry Hodges and Oz Drummond.

-dinner with the VanderMeers, Neil Clarke, and Genevieve Valentine.  Lots of great chat about steampunk stuff and editor things.  Ann remembered my story “Excision” that she published in her first issue of Weird Tales, and I learned that Jeff enjoys micro-brews almost as much as I do. :)

-Genevieve Valentine’s reading, from her forthcoming novel Mechanique, which is set in the same world as her forthcoming BCS story.

-the awards ceremony.  Capclave hosts the WSFA Small Press Award, and Yoon Ha Lee’s BCS story “The Pirate Captain’s Daughter” was a Finalist.  The winner was an author from Australia, Tansy Rayner Roberts, whose Australian editor, Alisa Krasnostein, was on-hand to accept.  It was an honor to be nominated, and I’m grateful to WSFA for having an award to acknowledge small presses and their authors.

Capclave 2011 Guests of Honor will include Carrie Vaughn, a bestselling Odyssey alum who I haven’t yet met in person, and they will have the WSFA Small Press Award again.  I’m there!

Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in my magazine, SF/F, writing | 1 Comment »

At Capclave This Weekend

October 19th, 2010

I will be at Capclave, the D.C.-area SF/F convention, this weekend Oct. 23.

At noon on Saturday I will be on a panel about e-publishing, in my role as editor and publisher of Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Neil Clarke IIRC is also on that panel, and I always learn a lot from him.

At 3:30 on Saturday, I have a reading, in my role as neo-pro writer.  I’m not sure yet what I’ll read from–I have a short humorous piece called “The Very Strange Weird of Endart Sscowth” forthcoming in Space and Time, so I could read from that,or I could read from one of a couple newer pieces that are quite cool but haven’t yet found homes.

The GOH is Connie Willis, who was one of my instructors at the Taos Toolbox workshop back in 2007.  I hope to have a moment to speak with her.

And Saturday evening is the ceremony for the WSFA Small Press Award, given to a small press-published story every year.  One of the best-reviewed stories from BCS last year–“The Pirate Captain’s Daughter” by Yoon Ha Lee–is a Finalist. Best of luck to Yoon!

If you see me in the halls, please do say hello, and grab a shiny BCS flyer!

Tags: , , , ,
Posted in writing | Comments Off on At Capclave This Weekend

It Takes a Foulburg

July 28th, 2010

I’m back from the annual Odyssey workshop alumni week, where we lecture and critique and live in steamy dorms again. Highlights included reading my story from the Homeless Moon 3 chapbook, “NEW! The ‘Gearwork Rose'(TM) Automated Gratification Engine,” aloud at the Barnes & Noble reading, learning more about writerly promotion and how to read aloud, and (as always) drinking fine and eclectic beers with Mike DeLuca.

Another big highlight for me was a couple long conversations with several people about a point I’ve reached in my writing. For several years now, I’ve been consistently getting my stories passed up by slush readers but not bought by the head editors. These stories are as good as I know how to make them, but I still haven’t been able to crack through.

So I’ve arrived at a crossroads. And unlike in the fine Southern mythical tradition, the devil was not waiting there to cut a deal with me. But hashing out some possible new projects and tweaks to my approach, with several supremely supportive and insightful writers, showed me a few really neat new paths to explore.

Although the drinking of fine beers is one of the main reasons I go, the writerly insight and discussion is right up there too. It’s a lot like hashing over scientific problems with a research group–arriving at insight by both talking and listening, an individual insight that’s a product of the group whole. Of course, the process is only as good as those other people you’re hashing with, and these were some of the best I know. It truly does take a whole foulburg.

.

(“Foulburg” is supposed to be a term that means the shanty-town outside the walls of a medieval city, but from googling I fear that it originated with 80s epic fantasy author Raymond E. Feist and isn’t an actual recognized term. But why let the truth get in the way of a cool line? :) )

Tags: ,
Posted in writing | 2 Comments »