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Night Shade Message Boards » Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction » General Magazines Discussion » Seeking ways to lift SF magazine circulations « Previous Next »

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Rob Darnell
Posted on Sunday, March 28, 2004 - 07:36 pm:   

While it's awesome that the Asia SF Magazines have great big circulations that some of us here are dreaming about. I would like us to put our heads together to find ways to lift the circulations of magazines like F&SF, Analog and Asimov's - etc - so they can rival those in Asia. At the moment, I'm thinking of writing an article for my local newspaper to inform people about these magazines that seem to be going through rough times in this day. I've had an article published in my local newspaper before, maybe I can get another article in there.

Think this could work? How about starting the WFTSTSFM :P (Writers Fighting To Save The Science Fiction Magazines).
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Thomas R
Posted on Sunday, March 28, 2004 - 08:07 pm:   

Mentioning in papers might help. Authors mentioning in it the introductions of their books I think could do a little. Getting into a science popularization or biography could even help. I think some of the big guns in the space program read Astounding and FSF. If you could get some actor or show mention one on TV that would be awesome. As long as it's some place respectable, and not say the Sci-Fi Channel. Although if worse comes to worse being on a reality show could help.

Also a thing about those high circulation figures for SF World is that China has like 4 times our population. Granted that still means per capita "SF world" does better than any US SF zine. (One subscriber for every 3200 Chinese people, as opposed to one for every 7000 Americans in the case of the biggest US SF zine) However I think they have fewer big magazines then we do so the overall SF magazine reading populace maybe roughly the same in per capita terms.

In any case time for me to split, Adios!
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A.R. Yngve
Posted on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 02:14 am:   

Another thing to consider is that every *copy* of that Chinese mag is shared by up to 10 poor students... so its REAL readership is several MILLIONS. O_o

(The "sharing" factor probably doesn't apply to the U.S. market: "Hey dude, can I borrow your copy of Asimov's? Blew my cash on a new iPod.")
;-P

I'm not sure what can be done. Can you name, for instance, an SF author with enough charisma and wit to successfully peddle his/her books on Oprah? (I could imagine David Brin, or maybe Harlan Ellison, both of whom I've seen perform well to an audience.)

I'll drop a note to Brin today.

-A.R. Yngve
http:/yngve.bravehost.com




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Thomas R
Posted on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 02:21 am:   

Uhh no, and Oprah only does classics anymore anyway.

I used to think Octavia E. Butler, Nalo Hopkinson, Karen Joy Fowler, Kate Wilhelm, and maybe the less science involved works of Nancy Kress could have an off chance. Some of them seem to fit her interests and Kress I think praised one of her book selections once. (Kress also started in Fantasy, not SF let alone Hard SF)
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Marguerite
Posted on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 03:34 am:   

One thing to consider: what kind of advertising budget do these publications have? I keep seeing lots and lots of magazines devoted or at least dealing with to "science fiction" tv and films on the stands--you know, Fangoria, StarBurst, Cinefantastique--do any of *our* mags advertise in *those* mags? And what about the popular science magazines? Such as, well, Popular Science, Discovery, etc. Seems like there's a ripe advertising market in those two categories of publication.
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A.R. Yngve
Posted on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 04:27 am:   

How about advertising on the Web? (SF should, after all, be "hip" to cutting-edge technology.) Perhaps the magazines could start an ad-banner program where they encourage readers to post ad-banners on their homepages.

I would put an ad-banner for F&SF on my homepage and not charge anything for it... if there WAS such a banner. And I think many others would too. Just a suggestion, Mr. Van Gelder. :-)

-A.R. Yngve
http://yngve.bravehost.com


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ET
Posted on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 07:48 am:   

Thomas and A.R., as Alan's link in the circulation subject (http://www.adage.com/news.cms?newsId=40005) shows, there's a general problem with magazine circulations. It's not a spec-fic specific problem, and just having authors talk about their books won't help.

As for the comment about advertising, I agree. Question is how much money the mags have for that. However, A.R.'s suggestion of banners is a good one, IMO, as that'd cost nothing for the magazines. I remember that someone posted Asimov's banners on that forum, but that's the kind of thing that few people will know about if there magazines themselves don't push it.

I'll add affiliation programs to that. A lot of stores have those, and while I don't know how effective they are, I'm sure they have some effect. People would be more willing to link to the magazines if they knew that they're getting something for referring others.

As I once suggested on the Asimov's forum, one way to make computer geeks aware of a magazine is to have competitions that have to do with the magazine with desirable hardware for the prize. Competitions tend to propagate through hardware sites.
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Rob Darnell
Posted on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 10:53 am:   

I'm down with that. The ad suggestion sounds about right. I noticed that Asimov's and Analog have them, but I haven't yet seen such an ad for F&SF. I think my brother has made ads very much like those that Asimov's and Analog have. If Gordon okays it, I could talk to my brother about it. I think such an ad should have a picture of an F&SF issue and mention that the magazine has been around since 1949, and have a little more information too.
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Matt Hughes
Posted on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 11:24 am:   

A few words in print from a prominent sf critic, like Gerald Jonas of the New York Times, might help. Does anyone have an e-mail address for him?

Matt Hughes
http://mars.ark.com/~mhughes/
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Alan T. Sippola
Posted on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 04:16 pm:   


Matt --

That's a brilliant idea!

I contacted "The New York Times" and requested the "staff members e-mail address list" (those who make their e-mail address public) that's readily available and sent out automatically, but unfortunately Gerald Jonas' address is not listed among them. Drat! :-(

It is stated in the e-mail message that I received, that if the person you want to reach is not listed, he or she either does not have e-mail or does not make the address public. You can reach most Times employees by writing to The New York Times, 229 West 43rd Street, New York, New York 10036. For departmental e-mail addresses and general information, please send a message to info@nytimes.com.

If you don't get an immediate response, please keep in mind that reporters and editors devote most of their working hours to producing the newspaper, and the time they have to answer e-mail is limited.

~ Alan ~
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Alan T. Sippola
Posted on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 05:16 pm:   


Actually the idea that I proposed (jokingly) in the other thread above with the "Lucky Scratcher" business, was based on a technique that is similar to it that is used by the publisher of another magazine that I read, which believe it or not, works quite successfully in increasing its circulation among readers.

It involves entering a sweepstakes with lucky numbers printed out on their "subscription card/entry form" that's inserted monthly in the pages of their magazine (a "no-need-to-subscribe-to-enter-and-win" type of deal). Every few months a number is drawn electronically by the publishing company from all entries received, and the contestant who had that lucky number, wins a very nice high-dollar prize. They also do something similar to this on their website, with a prize awarded to someone every month.

I would like to think that with an incentive like this being offered with F&SF, it would most likely attract more readers to its pages, especially if the person who enters thinks they have as good a chance as anyone else at winning maybe a new book signed by the author, a free one-year subscription, or something of this nature.

I dunno, it's just a suggestion.

~ Alan ~
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Matt Hughes
Posted on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 06:30 pm:   

I'm going to send Gerald Jonas a letter. How could it hurt?


Matt Hughes
http://mars.ark.com/~mhughes/
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 06:55 pm:   

Matt---

I wouldn't bother with the letter. I'm pretty sure the NY TIMES has a policy against its reviewers giving out blurbs. Also, I've met Gerry Jonas and while we got along very well, I'm doubtful that he'd give a promotional quote.
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Matt Hughes
Posted on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 09:07 pm:   

Too bad. Oh well, back to the drawing board. Left a back issue at the barber's shop the other day.
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Alan T. Sippola
Posted on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 10:45 pm:   


Shave and a haircut, shampoo shine, kick in the butt, all for a dime.

Next, please... ;-)


~ Alan ~
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A.R. Yngve
Posted on Tuesday, March 30, 2004 - 01:09 am:   

Perhaps the "Gray Old Crone" of newspapers isn't the way to go...
Marguerite suggested one should put ads in Fangoria, StarBurst, Cinefantastique, Popular Science, Discovery, etc.

The science mags might be interested in doing at least a small feature on scientists who read SF, like: "What SF Magazines Mean to Me".

I know that the British NEW SCIENTIST published an article about how "Star Trek" encouraged people to become scientists. If NEW SCIENTIST can, then certainly other science publications can. Mr. Van Gelder?

-A.R. Yngve
http://yngve.bravehost.com
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Marguerite
Posted on Tuesday, March 30, 2004 - 03:40 pm:   

I'm walking to the bookstore in a few minutes. I'll see if I can come up with any other ideas. ;)

I certain hope Mr. Van Gelder is _amused_ by all of this pseudo-ownership rather than irritated.
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A.R. Yngve
Posted on Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - 01:44 am:   

Sorry... didn't mean to come off as possessive. Just trying to help, during what must be difficult times for ALL magazines. (Except "SF World".)

-A.R.
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Marguerite
Posted on Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - 03:49 am:   

No, no, I'm not saying you're coming off as possessive. Or, at least, if you are, we _all_ are. I don't think that's a bad thing. It just suddenly struck me as kind of amusing--and kind of endearing--us brainstorming together in a _positive and constructive_ way. On the other hand, the people at F&SF may look at this and shake their heads at us for a bunch of naifs. (Certainly it's happened to me that I was chided for not knowing how economy works.)
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A.R. Yngve
Posted on Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - 05:00 am:   

Naive? Yes, and proudly so. To quote that renowned philosopher, Arnold Schwarzenegger: "It is good when they think you are dumb."

Certainly we are on the "outside" of the publishing economy, looking in. Our advantage is that we can see the forest, not just the trees. And what I see is a decline that's become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Scientists have just found methane gas on Mars, a telltale sign of either volcanic activity -- which no space probe has spotted on that planet before -- or... (hushed voice) life. Scientific progress has always encouraged the interest in SF literature. So why not now?

This ought to be a golden age of SF publishing, and guess what? It is... in China, where people are still ecstatic about their first astronaut. They are going to the Moon, I'm sure.

Meanwhile, Americans are saying that President Bush's space program is meaningless election-year spin. I detect a serious *cojone* shrinkage in American culture... is this really the same nation that put the first man on the Moon?

Science and SF work both ways. SF literature is more than just entertaiment, it inspires progress and science. This is a FACT. Ask any scientist or astronaut who grew up watching "Star Trek" in the Sixties. USE this. Promote SF mags among science professionals and students. Use the power of the Internet. Bring back stampsheets, I don't know. DO something.

This is a time of great opportunity for SF magazines. Seize that opportunity -- or perish. Call me naive after Analog, Asimovs and F & SF have folded. Then ask me why no one saw it coming.

-A.R. Yngve
http://yngve.bravehost.com
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Matthew
Posted on Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - 07:22 am:   

Meanwhile, Americans are saying that President Bush's space program is meaningless election-year spin. I detect a serious *cojone* shrinkage in American culture... is this really the same nation that put the first man on the Moon? ---

Sometimes I feel the sameway.
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Rob Darnell
Posted on Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - 09:01 pm:   

Actually, I don't think this is the same country anymore. The Patriot Act pretty much shredded everything, in my opinion. George Bush seriously interested in Mars? Heh, only if he expects to find oil there.
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A.R. Yngve
Posted on Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - 11:36 pm:   

OK, so the political climate has (temporarily?)ruined Americans' faith in space exploration, and that in turn has a negative effect on the interest in reading SF stories. Of course. That's why SF mags don't sell in America anymore. Politicians are to blame! We're all victims in the United States of Second-Guessing.

Makes kind of sense. Funny, though, I never hear Chinese, Russian or European people complain that their leaders are only using those astronauts for political purposes and to divert attention from infringements on civil liberties.

It is time to ask Bill Shatner to re-do the Star Trek Speech:

"Space... the final frontier. These are the journeys we won't do. Because it costs too much, we've got problems of our own, it was just a political ploy anyway, science fiction is only so much brouhaha, NASA is in the hands of the oil barons... why can't I have my own space suit?... I'll boldly go sit where I sat yesterday."
(*Heavy Sarcasm Mode off*)

-A.R. Yngve
http://yngve.bravehost.com
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Rob Darnell
Posted on Thursday, April 01, 2004 - 01:50 am:   

Well, naturally I don't share my ideas, but what the heck. I think my next story will be about George Bush sending men to Mars. They get there thinking they're merely the first men on Mars, but now George expects them to find oil... or they cannot come home. :-P
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A.R. Yngve
Posted on Thursday, April 01, 2004 - 02:19 am:   

Go ahead, why not? Or replace "oil" with methane deposits, or uranium, or some other energy resource. Start writing.

-A.R. Yngve
http://yngve.bravehost.com
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A.R. Yngve
Posted on Thursday, April 01, 2004 - 02:23 am:   

For your inspiration, if you want to "spin" space exploration, I wrote this little story called...

The Day We Met the Astronaut

"It was me, Washington and O'Grady. We were just shuffling out of the Salvation Army soup kitchen during the Recession of '04, when we spotted the Astronaut.

"He was just stepping out of the limousine with the "I*LUV*ENRON" license plate, holding his space-helmet like some medieval knight in shining white armor. We were awed by his presence, and O'Grady took off his cap.

"'Y'reckon we could shake his hand?' asked Washington. 'I've never seen a real astronaut.' O'Grady hushed him down. But then I had this strange impulse: Maybe he was one of us. A regular Joe, a working-class hero. The others saw the crazed gleam in my eye and tried to hold me back, but I just HAD to talk to the Astronaut.

"I ran across the street, narrowly dodging the onslaught of roaring Humvees, their front bumpers smeared with the blood of single mothers. I made it across, caught my breath and offered the astronaut a trembling handshake. The astronaut didn't seem to notice me, though: he was busy talking to the cigar-smoking man in the top-hat, who looked out through the open door-window. From the open window wafted the decadent odors of Cuban cigars and cheap Iraqi oil.

"But I bucked up; he had to be one of us. I had faith in NASA. So I cleared my throat and said: 'Good morning, sir. Say, are you an astronaut?'

"The man in the shining white spacesuit turned slowly from the oil baron, muttering an excuse to him, and gazed at me from the corner of his eye. The sneer on his square-jawed, blue-eyed face told me that I was considered unworthy of his attention.

"I tried again, and kept my voice steady: 'Good morning, sir. It's an honor to meet a real astronaut.' He raised his eyebrows, dug in his pocket, and produced a small piece of rust-colored rock. He dropped it in my palm, as if touching my skin might transmit disease, and said: 'Genuine Martian rock. Swear to God. Now get lost.'

"Then, having dismissed me, he planted a big, sloppy wet kiss on the oil baron's pink hand, and walked off toward the courthouse... whistling the national anthem to himself. Above the columns of the courthouse hung a big banner with the words, 'EVERYTHING MUST GO! CIVIL RIGHTS 50% OFF.' The limo drove off in a cloud of polluting exhaust fumes, spiced with the burnt fat of dead Alaskan baby seals.

"I walked back to my friends with my head hung low. They were all over me, asking what he'd said, what he'd given me... And I showed them the piece of rock in my hand. They froze as if they'd received a slap in the face.

"'Genuine... Martian... rock,' I said bitterly. We all stared resentfully at the white-clad figure who was heading off to the courthouse. My callused fist closed around the rock, the symbol of our dashed hopes and corrupted dreams, and I threw it with all my righteous anger. The stone hit the astronaut in the back of the head, with the sound like a golfball hitting a wall, and he almost tripped and fell.

"Then we ran, of course. The coppers had seen us. But we were laughing all the same. Cos' it was the first blow for freedom, that dark election year in the Recession of '04."

;-P

-A.R. Yngve
http://yngve.bravehost.com
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Rob Darnell
Posted on Thursday, April 01, 2004 - 03:00 am:   

I'm in the middle of writing some other story, and I won't be working on anything else until I finish this one. I may write something about travel to Mars, but I doubt it'll have anything to do with Bush or oil. :-)

Did you just write that story, just now? Seems to fit right into today's America. Or a few years after today.
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A.R. Yngve
Posted on Thursday, April 01, 2004 - 03:23 am:   

Yes, I wrote "The Day We Met the Astronaut." You may interpret it any way you like.
:-)

-A.R. Yngve
http://yngve.bravehost.com

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Rob Darnell
Posted on Thursday, April 01, 2004 - 03:31 am:   

If you just wrote that story out of the blue after my message before it, man... I think you should've just sent that in for publication.
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A.R. Yngve
Posted on Thursday, April 01, 2004 - 04:37 am:   

Nah, that was just scribbling away for fun. Got much better stuff on my site, and coming up in other places. (Not in F&SF, though; they just refused a story I sent in, and with astonishing speed too.)

Check out the ASIMOV'S message board for my limericks about the "Asimov's Banned" thing.

-A.R. Yngve
http://yngve.bravehost.com

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Rob Darnell
Posted on Thursday, April 01, 2004 - 07:26 am:   

In the last month, I made two attempts to land something F&SF. How they reply so fast is beyond me. The last rejection slip from Mr. Adams contained a word or two that told me he spent a fair amount of time with my story to at least know what it was about. So I know they're not just chucking out rejection slips. The first time I sent a story to them was a few years ago, and Gordon replied telling me that by calling my main character "the troll ugly boy" I really did not help him to get into the story. (And thanks, Gordon, since that rejection, I learned that it's not smart to name characters by their descriptions) I'd really like to know how F&SF replies so fast, when it takes other publications three to six weeks.
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Patrick Samphire
Posted on Thursday, April 01, 2004 - 07:50 am:   

Thing is, every editor takes about the same amount of time to actually read a story. A magazine that takes six weeks doesn't read your story for six weeks. The story just lies on the desk for six weeks before getting read. On average, each magazine is still going to have to read the same number of stories in the same number of days. It's just that F&SF keep their desks clear, and others work with a backlog.
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Iron James
Posted on Thursday, April 01, 2004 - 10:02 am:   

I'm hardly an expert on the subject, but I do remember some basic rules from business classes for selling any product.
To sell well:

1. It must be something a large segment of the population wants.

2. It must be readily available.

3. Those who want it must know it's readily available.

4. It must be priced so those who want it are more than willing to pay for it.

How many, if any, of these factors are missing from the SF magazine market?

How is science fiction doing overall? Is there a type of story in novels the public does buy in large numbers? Are the stories in the big SF mags wrong for what would be the largest market share? Maybe very few readers out there want the type of stories being published?

Maybe the main market is really the 13-18 age group? Or the blue collar guy who just wants to read some rousing yarns set in the future, and who doesn't care at all about the fine details of science?

Are there any other magazines of similar size and with the same distributors that are selling well? Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, and Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine come to mind here. How do their sales figures compare with those of Asimov's, Analog, F&SF, etc.

Before you can increase sales, you first have to know why sales are down. It isn't so much why those who buy the magazine want it as it is why those who don't buy don't want it.
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A.R. Yngve
Posted on Thursday, April 01, 2004 - 11:55 am:   

Iron James is asking all the right questions.

Who ARE the large untapped target groups for SF mags? (The fact that sales are down implies that the right target groups are not being reached.)

Those of us who write may -- unconsciously -- assume we are the target group for our favorite magazines, but actually we're the minority. Most people who read, do not want to write. They want to be entertained, intellectually as well as emotionally.

If the three U.S. SF magazines are aiming to please writers and publishing "professionals", they are doomed.

If they focus their content and image at the "cultural estblishment," they are equally doomed.

There is also the factor of an aging, established reader base, which will deplete through natural causes. Aging readers are likely to gradually turn away from science fiction (except the classics). Old folks don't like change, and SF is all about change. So it is also a doomed strategy to try and please the older readers you already have.

Therefore, magazines should try to build a younger reader base -- yes, teenagers -- and do it now, before the boomer generation goes into retirement. In that perspective, perhaps the recent "negative" WOODTV8 coverage of ASIMOV'S may have been a good thing? Wouldn't teenage readers automatically take interest in a magazine their parents say is harmful to them?

Cynical reasoning? Maybe. But compare the present-day covers of F&SF, Asimov's and Analog with the classic pulp-magazine covers. The pulp editors were not dumb. They knew that nothing sells like Promises of Sex.

The typical Serious SF Magazine Cover today is about as sexy as a cover of Good Housekeeping.

Then compare them with these recent magazine covers from the Chinese "SF World", with a circulation of half a million:

http://www.sfw-cd.com/test_book/bookimages/qxwdgs.jpg

http--www.sfw-cd.com-test_book-bookimages-lmfwgs.jpg

http://www.sfw-cd.com/newbooks/index.htm#book3

http--www.sfw-cd.com-newbooks-1.jpg

Now, THESE covers are striking, enticing, strange, full of unsubtle erotic symbolism (watch that phallic raygun!). They are meant to attract teenage readers. Tell me the last time you saw such a cover on our "serious" Western SF mags.

Ask me, after Asimov's, Analog and F&SF have folded, what they did wrong with their covers.
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Matt Hughes
Posted on Thursday, April 01, 2004 - 04:27 pm:   

How about finding a freelancer to write an article for a magazine that's read by F&SF's target demographic? What other mags do current F&SF readers read that might run such a piece?

Or perhaps a write-up on SCIFI.COM?

Just spitballing.
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ET
Posted on Thursday, April 01, 2004 - 04:31 pm:   

A.R., SF Age had the kind of covers that Realms of Fantasy has now. That didn't help it survive, nor does it seem to make RoF hugely successful. IMO promised of sex don't do much if they're not backed by something more significant. Teenages these days can get enough promises of sex outside the magazine covers.

Anyway, I do think that Iron James raises good points. However, I think the interpretation of "missing factors" is wrong. The definitions of "large segment of the population" and "are more than willing to pay" is not factors that need improvement. If F&SF turned into a photography magazine, it'd have much more success, I'm sure, but it won't be the same. Even if it just turned to juvenile fiction, it won't be the same.

Pricing is of course something that can be tested, but it's not that easy to get it right, and changing it too often is a bad message to readers, as it suggests that the magazine isn't healthy.

I think that the things to concentrate on are making the magazine better known, and making the best effort to keep current subscibers, in terms of quality of service.
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Alan T. Sippola
Posted on Thursday, April 01, 2004 - 10:30 pm:   


I totally agree with you, ET.

For all of the claims one hears of the many superb benefits of being a paid subscriber to F&SF, their excellent quality of service which one receives, is a guaranteed promise that can be written in stone, in my book.

~ Alan ~
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A.R. Yngve
Posted on Friday, April 02, 2004 - 12:06 am:   

ET wrote: "I think that the things to concentrate on are making the magazine better known, and making the best effort to keep current subscribers, in terms of quality of service."

I honestly wish the editors best of luck. I DO want them to succeed.

But bear in mind: the current (and SMALL) subscriber base isn't getting any younger. If the editors' focus is to keep an aging readerbase, stagnation in sales inevitably follows (as it has), and potential new readers aren't drawn in.

If a non-American SF magazine like "SF World" is doing spectacularly well (circulation 500,000, actual shared readership in the millions) and American SF mags are edging closer to folding with each year... then it's simply not enough to say, "Let's keep doing what we've been doing for the past 10 years."

That's a recipe for defeat, not a vision.

Don't be timid. Call for bold visions and new initiatives. "Demand the impossible." Isn't that what science fiction is supposed to be about? Where's the risk-taking, the youthful cockiness? (Yes, I'm baiting here... baiting you to try harder.)

If the current magazine covers fail to boost circulation and readership, and the "excellent quality of service" won't do the trick, then what does?

You know what? I give up. I've been trying to encourage new thinking about how to save the magazines I love, but this is hopeless. If the downward trend goes on, one or two of the "Big Three" are going to fold in the near future. And the really sad thing is, no one wants it to happen but it's coming anyway.
:-(

-A.R. Yngve
http://yngve.bravehost.com
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Iron James
Posted on Friday, April 02, 2004 - 01:33 am:   

It's all a quandry. Wh reads SF World, and why. Is that readership primary one that has far fewer disctractions, such as video games and TV?

I looked up the circulation figures for Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery queen, and they're pretty impressive. They stand at 615,000 and 500,000 respectively. What are they doing right that the SF mags are doing wrong? Anything?

Is it as simple as there is a large readership group for what they publish, and only a tiny readership group for what the SF mags publish?

Such things as flashy covers can make someone read a magazine once, but my guess is that only content can make them come back for more.

I have no marketing stats, no marketing research, but I do have three sons, and while all three are avid readers, not one reads the SF mags. They don;t find the stories "interesting" or "exciting." "Boring," is actually the word two of them used. Probably another way of saying "Not enough entertainment value for the time I have to put in reading them."

All three enjoy scoence fiction when it comes in the form or movies and a number of books, but only seldom books by the hard science writers.

Three boys is hardly a market group large enough to base anything on, but I do think it's the teen and young adult market that is missing.

I do know keeping the exisiting base happy isn't the answer. What existing base? In the end, I think you attract the teens and the young adults, or you die.

After the Asimov debacle, I'm not at all sure it would work, but shouldn't every school library that wants it have a gift subscription to the big SF mags?

Are samples of the mags available at teen conventions and SF conventions? Not that it would matter if most teens react as my sons. Content again. They don;t think the mags are written with them in mind, and they're probably right.

I know money is tight, but there is such a thing as being penny wise and pound foolish. Or wrapped around another old cliche, you have to spend money to make money. If you want a product to sell, that product has to be out there where people can try it. You need samples, and you need giveaways.

I really don't know. My guess is there are many factors in the diminishing numbers, but I do suspect content that doesn't match the biggest target audience is one of the more serious problems. But in truth, I really don't know, and I don't think it's possible to find out without spending some money and doing some serious marketing research.


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A.R. Yngve
Posted on Friday, April 02, 2004 - 02:54 am:   

Wisely spoken, James. I do hope editors will take your advice.

-A.R. Yngve
http://yngve.bravehost.com

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Rob Darnell
Posted on Friday, April 02, 2004 - 03:07 am:   

I don't think having the magazine made for YA is going to make a big difference. I think it's a genre thing. SF is probably not the most preferred genre nowadays. Hitchcock is probably so successful because it's a whole different genre.
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Rob Darnell
Posted on Friday, April 02, 2004 - 04:01 am:   

Is it possible that the magazine could be printed in Chinese so copies can end up on the news stands in China?
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Matt Hughes
Posted on Friday, April 02, 2004 - 09:35 am:   

A lot of this ground was covered on the Asimov board a month or so ago. I thought school libraries were a good seeding ground until that controversy popped up over some US heartland tv station calling one of the mag's stories pornography. It will be interesting to see if all the publicity creates a spike in Asimov's circulation numbers.

Gift subscriptions might be the best option. Here's an idea: how about gift subs for overseas military personnel? There have to be long stretches of boredom, at least when they're not being shot at. Perfect time to be reading sf.

Is F&SF sold in military PXs?
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A.R. Yngve
Posted on Friday, April 02, 2004 - 01:36 pm:   

A good suggestion! :-)

-A.R. Yngve
http://yngve.bravehost.com
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Alan T. Sippola
Posted on Friday, April 02, 2004 - 06:17 pm:   


Back in the early 1970's, the Editor/Publisher of an adventure-type magazine which I subscribed to at the time, published a letter in the "Letters" column of the magazine from an inmate who had been incarcerated at a prison. The letter went on to say that this person had heard by "word-of-mouth" about this magazine, was very much interested in obtaining and reading it, but had no way to purchase it. Well, with the next issue of the magazine, in his "Editor's" column, the Ed/Pub wrote that shortly after that letter from the inmate had been published, the letters with checks enclosed for gift subscriptions came into his office and were dumped by the tuckloads from those readers expressing concern and wished to help out this poor inmate. The inmate's wish had been fulfilled, and he sent a letter back to the Editor/Publisher which was then published once again in the magazine, that he had been overjoyed with tears, that there were so many kind people out there who actually cared, and he thanked them all.

A few issues later, the magazine published more letters from other inmates from all across the country, telling practically the same story. So, rather than have to send tons of mail with checks for gift subscriptions back to those who were concerned, the Editor/Publisher set up a special fund just for those who wished to purchase gift subs for those inmates who had no way to get the magazine on their own. The program was a huge success, making lots of folks behind bars very happy with something exciting to read.

The following link is for those of you out there who might be interested in helping some of these unfortunate souls too.

"Sending Magazines to Inmates"
http://4lbb.com/sf/magazines.htm


~ Alan ~
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Matt Hughes
Posted on Friday, April 02, 2004 - 06:37 pm:   

That's interesting. I see Asimov's and Analog are available. Why not F&SF?

And do you think Amazon would be interested in sending mags to troops? Maybe they already are; if not, how to raise the idea with them?

Gosh, this is not like me -- I'm getting all enthusiastic.

Matt Hughes
http://mars.ark.com/~mhughes/
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Rob Darnell
Posted on Friday, April 02, 2004 - 10:52 pm:   

I heard of a certain book publisher (Can't remember which) who had donated a truck load of books to the Navy (Or maybe it was just one ship). I think it was an admiral who sent the postcard which appeared on the publisher's website, expressing gratitude. Yeah, I think such donations to the Military is quite helpful.

Let's do it. Let's buy gift subsciptions for those serving overseas. Of course, I still gotta get a subcription for myself, but I think I can afford to this month and maybe buy one gift subscription for someone oversea.
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Alan T. Sippola
Posted on Saturday, April 03, 2004 - 12:45 am:   


Matt --

While I didn't want to be the one to disappoint you for your highly admirable and most thoughtful idea by anyone thus far on this topic of our discussion, because I figured someone else would step forward with the bad news. But, seeing that no one has, I suppose it's my sad duty to inform you that a magazine gift subscription from a source that is not of a family member or personal friend to military personnel stationed in a combat zone, is a no go. It is considered unsolicited mail from an unknown source, and cannot be done anymore. Yeah, ain't that the sheeets?! :-(

The following link will pretty much explain everything to you.

"How You Can Show Your Support for Our Military Heroes" http://usmilitary.about.com/cs/terrorism/a/militarysupport.htm


~ Alan ~
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Rob Darnell
Posted on Saturday, April 03, 2004 - 01:26 am:   

I have a family member in the war. But that's just one. However, are you sure, Alan? I mean, not too long ago there was a story in my local newspaper about school kids who sent christmas cards and gifts to the soldiers overseas just to brighten their days.

I wouldn't suggest making gift subscriptions for certain soldiers, but to make the magazine available for the soldiers. Maybe just a thousand gift subscriptions to be handed out to whoever wants them... for starters.
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Rob Darnell
Posted on Saturday, April 03, 2004 - 01:45 am:   

Ah, yeah. After following the link, interesting. Sheesh, we live in an age where we dread everything. But is there still a chance we can make the magazine available over there?
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Alan T. Sippola
Posted on Saturday, April 03, 2004 - 12:01 pm:   

Rob --

Most likely the Christmas cards, letters, and care packages that you speak of, had to have gone through the proper channels, perhaps USO, or another such service organization, opened for inspection or passed through a metal detector for security reasons, and then sent off to its destination. Rather than simply dropped off at the local Post Office and then forwarded directly from an APO or FPO Post Office to the troops stationed overseas.

From what I've seen and read in the news, the rate of morale among our brave, fighting military heroes stationed overseas, is extremely low. And I won't get into the many other depressing details here. I pretty much know how most of them feel about now. I remember all too well, when I was in the US Navy stationed overseas during the Vietnam War, "mail call" was everyone's favorite and most exciting moment of the day.

As far as a means of making F&SF, or another magazine available to them, perhaps those of you out there who have a family member, loved one, or personal friend in need of a most pleasurable moment in their life right now, purchase a gift subscription. Do it. You will never know the joy that they will feel.

~ Alan ~
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Rob Darnell
Posted on Saturday, April 03, 2004 - 12:21 pm:   

I suppose I'll have to see about getting my cousin's address, then.
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Thomas R
Posted on Saturday, April 03, 2004 - 06:15 pm:   

I liked the military idea, but I don't think my brother would be interested. Ahh well.

Universities would be a possibility. Most colleges have racier things then Asimov's in the libraries. I did a presentation on SF mags and am trying to do a "historical political movements and science fiction" thing as my Masters thesis. As well as drop issues off places. I'm not sure what else I can do there. There are animei & gaming clubs I know of through my sister, but I'm unsure they'd be interested.
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Rob Darnell
Posted on Sunday, April 04, 2004 - 12:53 am:   

(Lets out a sigh of relief) I finally was able to buy a subscription. Been wanting to for awhile, but because my gas bills were so high these past few months, money has been tight. :-)
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Matt Hughes
Posted on Wednesday, April 07, 2004 - 12:52 pm:   

Back to the military. I see from the Baen Books website -- http://www.baen.com/ -- that Baen has donated "several thousand" books to the US Navy.

Matt Hughes
http://mars.ark.com/~mhughes/
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David Kawalec
Posted on Wednesday, April 07, 2004 - 02:34 pm:   

A smart move may be for FSF to first push to increase their ad sales, then funnel that money back into marketing to increase readership. That in turn drives up ad rates, etc. etc.

The marketing push should be a rebranding effort (i.e., "FSF") with a new look, an expanded web presence (including fee-based access to web-only content) and the active fostering of an FSF "community".

I think the key is to increase awareness in a way that doesn't mandate watering down the content to make it more mainstream. In fact, I think FSF can go the other way.

SF started as a fringe genre. However, it seems the focus has been to make SF considered a "legitimate" literary form. I say forget that. Appeal to the outsiders. Make the magazine a bit more dangerous, and thus more appealing to the _new_ fringe. I think the old audience, rather than being put off by a change like this, would actually welcome it.
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Rob Darnell
Posted on Thursday, April 08, 2004 - 03:21 am:   

Matt said, "Back to the military. I see from the Baen Books website -- http://www.baen.com/ -- that Baen has donated "several thousand" books to the US Navy."


Ah, it was Baen that made that donation I was talking about. (Smacks forehead)
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A.R. Yngve
Posted on Thursday, April 08, 2004 - 09:15 am:   

I kind of like David Kawalec's idea of rebranding the magazine's identity, and embrace the "outsider" status of SF...

...but hasn't the genre already lost that outsider status? With the real world becoming eerily similar to a science-fiction scenario (or several), I doubt that SF can recapture its former status as "apart" from the larger culture.

Of course this can be disputed endlessly...
:-)

Happy Easter!

-A.R. Yngve
http://yngve.bravehost.com
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David Kawalec
Posted on Thursday, April 08, 2004 - 11:59 am:   

Hi, A.R.

The thing about SF is that it can never be too new. I think that with the level of tech we have reached, there should be more ideas now, not fewer.

FSF has been around for a long time. That is a curse and a blessing. How many young people can get excited about reading the same magazine as their grandparents? This isn't to say that FSF hasn't changed over the years. To illustrate what I'm getting at, I'll take another example -- MTV.

MTV is radically different now than it was in 1983 when my parents first subscribed to cable. They used to show music videos way back then. :p Point is, I think MTV still MEANS the same thing to the same demographics now as it did then, but it order to do that, it has to get constantly re-invented. Otherwise, it would be VH1. I hope you get my meaning.

SF, I think more than any other genre, is perfect for this model. In fact, it demands it. I'm sitting here looking at my cell phone, and your point hits home. This device WAS science fiction just a short time ago. So, you can't write an interesting story about a spaceman with crazy gadgets like a portable phone that fits in his shirt pocket. You have to do better than that.

And FSF does WAY better than that every month. It's just from the outside, you can't tell, because it looks the that same venerable old mag that grandpa used to read.
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nofluer
Posted on Thursday, April 15, 2004 - 11:02 am:   

In a discussion with Larry Niven I commented that one fault I see with current SF & F is that the world is moving on to quantum while SF is mired in Einsteinian science.

One of the most attractive elements of SF that is MIA these days is the sense of awe, the sense of wonder at what those darned scientists can do NOW! Actual science has overtaken and passed SF!!!

At the same time we see stories in SF & F like "reclining woman" or whatever the title was, that was a straight-up literary piece... NOT SF or F.

Until the editors of these magazines go back to their distinctives, they will continue to lose the readers, like me, who subscribed to read SCIENCE FICTION... not "Lit'ra chure".

As to redefining the genre, if you do that, it won't be what is was, true, but can you get new readers faster than you lose all the old readers?

Oh... and a clue... anime' gamers are not generally readers in the traditional sense.
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Matthew
Posted on Thursday, April 15, 2004 - 12:24 pm:   

Until the editors of these magazines go back to their distinctives, they will continue to lose the readers, like me, who subscribed to read SCIENCE FICTION... not "Lit'ra chure". ---

Uh-huh, so what do you mean by that?

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A.R. Yngve
Posted on Thursday, April 15, 2004 - 12:50 pm:   

"nofluer" made a very interesting comment:

"And FSF does WAY better than that every month. It's just from the outside, you can't tell, because it looks the that same venerable old mag that grandpa used to read."

If SF literature has to work hard to keep up with real-world progress, shouldn't this ALSO apply to magazine covers? Now, there's a real challenge to illustrators: re-invent themselves every month.

"The editor asked me to illustrate the feature story about nanomachines... how the heck do I paint a nanomachine? How do I convey to the beholder how small it is? How does it work? Should it look scary? Does it have legs?"

Has anyone yet *seen* a cover image of nanotechnology in action..?
:-S

-A.R. Yngve
http://yngve.bravehost.com
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A.R. Yngve
Posted on Thursday, April 15, 2004 - 12:51 pm:   

Oops! Sorry... the above quote was from David Kawalec, not "nofluer". :-)

-A.R. Yngve
http://yngve.bravehost.com
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Thomas R
Posted on Thursday, April 15, 2004 - 03:01 pm:   

Nofluer the advances in science become increasingly hard for people to understand. Relativity was well accepted in the 1950s, but except for talking about Einstein little science fiction followed his ideas. Now enough people understand Einstein it's not an issue. Likewise SF, like Legions of Time talked about Quantum Physics in the 1930s but it wasn't until maybe the 1980s that it became popular enough to really affect most SF.

On the other hand, no real life has not surpassed visions in SF. Have you visited your cousins living on the Moon lately? Are computers so small that they can record the whole of human knowledge into a glass hand? Have we discovered alien intelligences yet? Have we even sent people to Mars? Are all dangerous jobs done by robots? Do even the elderly and disabled have robots to care for them? Has cancer been cured. Are malaria and tuberculosis no longer major worldwide killers? Has polio even been eradicated? These are all visions in SF before LBJ's Presidency, most about what was expected for this year or before.

Where SF was really way behind was society, not science. The radical changes in attitudes on women, sexuality, and even cigarette smoking were not expected. In the early 1960s studies on tobacco were even widely available, but the acceptance of smoking in the future US was still widely assumed.
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Byron Bailey
Posted on Thursday, April 15, 2004 - 04:32 pm:   

I have a possible plan to increase magazine sales. Unfortunately, I don't have the background to implement it. Basically, what we have to do is turn the reading of SF into a health issue.

I frequently have a great dose of satire in my writing but I am being very serious about this. I remember a professor of rhetoric and an expert in English pedegogy citing a study I don't remember saying how ceo's read SF by a much greater percentage than the general population. There may very well be other studies that support SF being of benefit. Furthermore, a great deal of research indicates that the active use of the mind can decrease the risk of things like Alzheimer's. If someone could bring together the research that's out there and perhaps do some more targetted research specififically geared towards SF, the SF magazines could end up being the next oat bran.
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nofluer
Posted on Saturday, April 17, 2004 - 11:46 am:   

http://www.nightshadebooks.com/cgi-bin/discus/show.cgi?tpc=378&post=37588#POST37 588

What I mean by that is that I subscribe to Lit' ra chur magazines, and even write it sometimes, When I want to read that, I pick up one of those magazines. When I want to read SF, I pick up one of those and get something else.

As a Hard SF writer myself, I try to make at least one NEW thing or process or something in everything I do. The recently reported "new" method of finding planets orbiting a star? I included that in a story called "Wish Upon A Star" almost three years ago. (unpublished)

In one of my published short stories I included something I called a "GEMS" unit (Geomagnetic Shield) for space ships and space factories to use to protect themselves from CMEs that is theoretically possible.

In my current WIP novel, I invented a NEW propulsion method based on something Steven Hawking said in his latest book, "The Universe In A Nutshell"

Although it was edited out, my published non-fiction science book made reference to the recently discovered and verified fact that the speed of light is NOT a constant, and does NOT travel in "a straight line" and that "all directions in space" are NOT the same, there being a recently discovered North-South orientation to the universe.

These are NEW (within the past 5 years) and RADICAL DEPARTURES from the science of the '50s... but in story after story today I see the same old Einstein-limited to the speed of light space travel... or people traveling at near the speed of light and going half way across the Milky Way galaxy in a couple of weeks or months. NOT!!! Can't these people ADD and SUBTRACT??? Don't they know that our galaxy is between 100,000 and 110,000 light years across?

DO YOUR HOMEWORK PEOPLE!!!

Maybe then the people will have reason to once again look at SF as the genre that points the way to the future, and paid subscriptions will go up.
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A.R. Yngve
Posted on Saturday, April 17, 2004 - 12:07 pm:   

It does get harder to keep up with the cutting edge of science -- not just physics, but also biology and applied technology.

That's why I read NEW SCIENTIST, the magazine which always keeps me updated on the very latest cutting edge of science and technology. All SF writers ought to read it!
*shameless plug ends*

-A.R. Yngve
http://www.newscientist.com
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nofluer
Posted on Saturday, April 17, 2004 - 12:12 pm:   

http://www.nightshadebooks.com/cgi-bin/discus/show.cgi?tpc=378&post=37600#POST37 600

As to the science you wave around like it's something fantastic, every one of those "feats" of SF are mere quesions of magnitude with off-the-shelf technology. Flash Gordon was going to the Moon and Mars over 50 years ago... you're going to have to do better than have them go to the next planet or star out. The IDEAS of space travel and scientific marvels are not new. People have gotten used to them, so there is no wonder any more.

We are discovering intelligences right here on Earth, Chimps and simians with organized cultures, whales with language who can TALK TO EACH OTHER HALF WAY AROUND THE WORLD.

SF hasn't kept up with the real world because many of the writers of what is called SF today haven't kept up. Judging from your list of unaccomplished stuff, you may an excellent example.

Yes. Old people have robots for companions in Japan (and they even remind them to take their meds!) Yes, robots are doing a LOT of dangerous jobs (check out the Naval Institute's articles on UAVs, litoral combat ships, and robots in combat in Iraq right now). IIRC, nano transistors are approximately 1/7th the width of a human hair, and there are new materials being tested for data storage, including a new way to store more than 8 times the data on that CD you have in your music machine.

Some cancers can be cured. Are you aware of the gold-coated poly/plastic nanoballs that tend to congregate at the site of a tumor... that they can then zap with infrared and heat to the point that they destroy ONLY the tumor cells? (think "inoperable brain tumor") Thought not.

If you hope to become a writer of SF today, you need to become a reader of science. Yes... it's beyond the ken of most people, but that didn't stop people like HG Wells and ER Boroughs, and the people were amazed and striken with wonder at the worlds they built.

THAT is how to increase the readership and subscription rates of SF magazines... not with gimicks.

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nofluer
Posted on Saturday, April 17, 2004 - 12:16 pm:   

http://www.nightshadebooks.com/cgi-bin/discus/show.cgi?tpc=378&post=37762#POST37 762

"Science News" is another really good source. It's a weekly, only 8 or 10 pages, written in mostly non-technical language but it covers a LOT of different scientific fields... and it's only about $50 US a year.

(Also shameless plug for a Darned Good Resource)
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Thomas R
Posted on Saturday, April 17, 2004 - 01:04 pm:   

People certainly do feel that science has not caught up to past visions of the future. You can sneer at that all you want, but it's in many ways true. Even you're examples have been in SF for many decades. Larry Niven wrote about discovering the intelligence of dolphins in the 1960s.

I do read newscientist, I subscribed to Science News, and I own several books of popular science. True science has shown things people then could not even imagine. It's also shown many of the old visions of SF can't be surpassed because they can't even happen.

So I stand by what I said, but if need be I'll explain a bit more. We are not living in a world that surpasses old visions in SF, largely because we can't. Many of the old visions were based on impossibilities. However many of the old visions could have been accomplished by now, but political and economic realities made them impossibilities. So instead modern science and teachnology have created a world very different than SF, with different kinds of awe and marvels different than imagined. Still ask almost any average "are we living in a world more amazing than in visions of science fiction" and they'll say no. Because no is the obviously right answer as poulp SF was about future which were amazing, not real.


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Matthew
Posted on Saturday, April 17, 2004 - 06:19 pm:   

nofluer, Okay, I think I get it. Not sure I agree. I was just a bit confused.
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Matt Hughes
Posted on Tuesday, April 27, 2004 - 01:19 pm:   

Just received my two contributor's copies of the June ish and, since I was taking my son to see the doctor, I left one in the waiting room.

I noticed at Norwescon that Baen Books was giving away stacks of a Ringo/Webber hardcover. Would it be worth it to give away current or recent back issues of F&SF at major cons? Or leave a stack of them in the hospitality suite?


Matt Hughes
http://mars.ark.com/~mhughes/
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Tuesday, April 27, 2004 - 01:46 pm:   

Matt---

We gave away 300 copies at the Nebula Awards. We donate copies to a lot of conventions; I don't know offhand if we gave any to Norwescon this year.
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nofluer
Posted on Thursday, April 29, 2004 - 11:38 am:   

Although I saw a large stack of F & SF at ConQuesT 34 last year, (KC, MO - over Memorial Day weekend!), F & SF was the only major mag I saw that did that.
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TCO
Posted on Saturday, May 01, 2004 - 05:55 pm:   

You need to examine it as a business problem. Don't look for a single-point answer. Instead go through a porcess of creating a framework of hypotheses and tests and then study the problem and develop insights and final solutions. This may not work. but nothing else is. and it is the methodical way to do things. you'd be surprised how much more you can discover when you go through a proper study of a problem.
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Jer
Posted on Sunday, May 02, 2004 - 05:53 am:   

Does anyone have any experience with marketing firms? Maybe siphoning a certain (larger than at present?) percentage of the profits off into marketing over the next few years could increase profits in the long run.

And what about publishers? Maybe getting an advertisement in the back of a few popular author's sci-fi or fantasy paperbacks could reel in genre readers that aren't really aware that the short story mag's still exist. Assuming this sort of thing isn't allready in place.

Other mags? Have you thought about advertizing in magazines centered on fringe activities like Magic the Gathering playing, Warhammer, D&D, and so forth?

And as far as bringing in people from the outside, I know this is out of the blue, but what about trying selling a thousand prescriptions on QVC or something? Bored housewives probably need this stuff more than anyone else! (I just got this idea two seconds ago, so... it very well may be... crap)

And, btw, I second donating truckloads of back issues to the army. They need it, it's good pubilcity, and it's definitely doable (Baen did it, and Borders just finished a program where customers could buy magazines and donate them to soldiers on active duty). I'm sure all it would take is a few calls and the army would be eager to take them.

Somewhere I'm almost certain there are more readers waiting for FSF.

BTW, could somone put up a link to a news story on the "Asimov Debacle?" I kind of pieced together what happened reading you guys, but I hadn't heard of it before now. Had that not happened, donating to schools and school libraries would have been wonderful, I think.

Maybe send out a sample copy to every library in the US, hoping they'll add it to their magazine prescription list?

Anyway, good luck Gordon.
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Byron Bailey
Posted on Wednesday, May 12, 2004 - 05:20 pm:   

Just a thought. I've recently purchased an e-bay course. I'm not completely sure it's for me. However, I can see a great deal of potential in selling magazine subscriptions (perhaps with a little extra thrown in) through it. E-bay has about 8 million people visit it a day! If someone was savvy enough to put the subscription offer in an auction category (Stephen King from when he wrote a story for F&SF, for example), and create an engaging pitch, it might be able to raise subscriptions considerably with far less cost than other forms of marketing.
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Byron Bailey
Posted on Wednesday, May 12, 2004 - 05:44 pm:   

I mean put the auction in an appropriate category and use keywords that are likely to receive a lot of hits when the search engine is used. For example ****SPECULATIVE FICTION FROM THE LIKES OF STEPHEN KING****(I still need to work on my hook some but you should get the idea). You could find keywords that get F&SF information in front of potentially large groups likely to be sympathetic to SF, for example Star Trek or Star Wars fans. It seems like it may be an easy way to make a lot of people aware that the magazines are out there which seems to be a big part of the problem.
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Byron Bailey
Posted on Wednesday, May 12, 2004 - 06:11 pm:   

****Lightsabers and Blasters are Neat. Now Experience the Real Thing****

(Alas, I'm not sure how close that one comes to copyright infringement).
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Byron Bailey
Posted on Wednesday, May 12, 2004 - 07:25 pm:   

And it doesn't need to be an actual "auction." You can offer it for a set price or require a certain level of minimum bid. There's also something called a "dutch" auction that costs a lot more but you're potentially selling a vast quantity of subscriptions from one link. You can also perhaps find sellers who are auctioning books by writers from F&SF and have them offer a special deal for each book by author X. It helps you and it helps them by making the costumer more likely to buy their product if they think they may be getting a particularly good extra out of it.
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Byron Bailey
Posted on Wednesday, May 12, 2004 - 07:30 pm:   

And if you don't have time to do it, I think there are people who do e-bay auctioning for others for a 15% or so commission.
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Byron Bailey
Posted on Wednesday, May 12, 2004 - 07:53 pm:   

****Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oats, Kim Stanly Robinson: Experience the Universe****

Sorry for posting so much. I got to stop and find my own products to sell. Knives and swords? I'm not sure I like the thought of becoming an arm's merchant, though, and the regulations for their sale might be too prohibitive to be viable. Candles?

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John Klima
Posted on Thursday, May 13, 2004 - 06:51 am:   

Cemetery Dance sells subscriptions on EBay, so it's not like it isn't done. I think it's a novel idea.

JK
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Byron Bailey
Posted on Thursday, May 13, 2004 - 07:13 am:   

Yes! Ans even if it has been done and hasn't worked, that doesn't necessarily mean that it can't work. A lot of success on e-bay seems to be based around finding a creative angle to get potential customers to view your auction and then get them interested enough to then buy your product. It's kind of like submitting a story where you first have to stand out from the slush by grabbing the readers attention and then reward catching the reader's attention (only with e-bay, you don't have to be in the top .3% to make a sell).
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Nancy Fulda
Posted on Wednesday, October 06, 2004 - 06:49 am:   

Sorry to jump into this thread so late, but I’ve been mulling over the whole teenaged readership/Asia Sci-fi magazine issue discussed above ever since I read it last week.

I think everyone agrees that having a large teenaged or young adult readership would be a great thing. They have time and money for reading, they’re open to unconventional ideas and—most important—if you hook ‘em young, they’re likely to stay with you for the next sixty years.

There’s only one problem: it seems that in order to hook young readers you’d have to change the content of the mags so much that they’d lose everything they once stood for. So in order to save them you must destroy them…

I’m about to propose a solution to this dilemma, but let me start with a (relevant) digression into modern art.

I’m no art buff, but I’ve talked with people who are and I gather that the whole point of modern art is to find something that’s vibrant, fresh, and different. Art has been around for so long that nearly everything’s already been done, all the old forms are trite, everything feels rehashed and used. The modern artist stretches and strains his brain to create something innovative and surprising, and his fellow artists applaud his genius.

And then someone like me comes along, looks at the black splotches on the canvas and says “huh?”

I assert that a much milder version of this phenomenon is happening with science fiction. Established science fiction readers—those who have been reading the pulps for years, those who share all the same back history and have seen all the same rehashed story ideas recycled a billion times—thrive on the current sci-fi magazines because they are the modern art of the genre. That’s where you find something new and innovative. That’s where you find the subtle, clever twists on the old themes. That’s where you re-experience the stretching of the mind you felt when you read your first hard science fiction novel.

Could it be that the uninitiated or casual sci-fi reader, when he stumbles upon the magazines at the newsstand or in the library, flips through them and mumbles “huh?” Could it be that the magazines are not appealing to throngs of people who are really hungering for them simply because they start at too high a level, assume too much background knowledge, don’t allow a slow and easy entry into the swirling waters?

Ok, now we’re back where we started. Here’s my proposal:

Why not create a new magazine (or better yet, capitalize on an existing one) that’s closely associated with the old ones, but whose primary objective is to catch the interest of uninitiated readers and bring them up to speed on the sci-fi history? The magazine could run reprints of famous classics, incorporate some of that promise-of-sex stuff that’s distasteful to the old giants, and then act as a funnel to guide these new readers towards the more established literature.

Sure, it might not work. My whole premise might be off. But I do think it’s worth consideration…
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Jill Elaine Hughes
Posted on Wednesday, October 06, 2004 - 08:58 am:   

Something else that needs to happen at some of the mags (and this plays into another thread that I started further down) is that the editors have to take customer service seriously and treat their subscribers like the essential customer base that they are, and not nuisances. And even though publishing these mags may be a "hobby" to some, the subscribers paying for them don't regard their money as being directed at a "hobby". Magazines that are poorly administered financially and don't give their subscribers appropriate customer service are, of course, doomed to fail, regardless of what they print.

I think those who followed my earlier thread on DNA will know what I'm referring to.

Gordon's mag FSF is a good example of a mag that has excellent customer service and sound business management. There are also some small-press amateur zines that are very well run by "hobby" editors, so it's possible to do it well on both a big and small scale.

Where I think Gordon can improve FSF is to buy a wider variety of fiction, and more work from younger, fresher voices. More women writers, too---FSF has traditionally had a more male audience but I think that is changing. I've been a subscriber for about a year and I have already seen a few too many rehashes---although there are always at least two or three stories per issue that I love.
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TCO
Posted on Wednesday, October 06, 2004 - 10:25 am:   

I think they might do better going after the base. The people who buy SF paperbacks.
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Luke
Posted on Wednesday, October 06, 2004 - 11:48 am:   

An archive of stories on the web to lure in readers, (maybe a new one each month?) At the very least, a page on the website that lists all of the authors and their stories. (So that if I am, say, a Zoran Živković fan, F&SF will show up in a search engine when I enter his name. I think an archive of actual stories would be even better though; If there were a SciFiction Magazine, I would subscribe to that. In fact, maybe a cross advertising deal with Scifiction, might be an answer on a similar tangent.

Advertising in video games. Even better, some sort of in-game product placement. Again, soft dollars are your friend - you might be able to get some sort of placement in exchange for a few complimentary subscriptions. I would avoid getting involved in a less than stellar game, though. There is a big difference between a mention in Driver 3 and a mention in GTA San Andreas. But wouldn’t it be cool to have a few copies of F&SF scattered about in the Black Mesa labs in the Half Life?

Same for other kinds of games - MTG – DND, or perhaps with White Wolf? Again, perhaps this can be worked out in trade or trade + cash.

What about comic stores? I can't recall seeing F&SF in any comic shop. Even if they are there, I don't see them. Maybe a cardboard display, something large enough to catch the eye, would help. Of course, and I know this is an old stickling point, but the magazine really needs to be larger to take advantage of retail opportunities. Perhaps another format for the newsstands?

What is your presence like in libraries? School libraries? I first got into science fiction in high school, poring over Dune books during study hall.

A final thought - a year’s best anthology of F&SF material might help garner interest in the magazine. It would get the name of the magazine onto the shelves of the bookstores, even if you never sold a copy of the anthology.

Or what about sending out millions of e-mail solicitations to every possible e-mail address? Maybe include a little program that makes a subscription screen pop up every time the computer is reset? Or . . .

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Byron Bailey
Posted on Wednesday, October 06, 2004 - 05:03 pm:   

If you want to see an explosion in subscriptions, this is all you have to do. In the front cover in bold type below the name of the magazine print these words. "0 Carbs in Every Issue."

Or not.
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Jer
Posted on Wednesday, October 06, 2004 - 05:08 pm:   

Seriously, send out free issues to high school libraries

every library

tons of issues

military too.

Right? Right!
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Jeffrey J. Lyons
Posted on Wednesday, October 06, 2004 - 06:32 pm:   

Jer's posting just before mine was one of the better suggestions that I read in this whole thread.

I work in the PR & marketing field. Some things that won't work is getting a lot a free publicity in the NY Times or any major mainstream publication. And to buy an ad in one of those is going to set you back thousands of dollars just for one ad.

I think most of the mags are doing the best they can with their product. They advertise in Sci-Fi trades and show up at conventions. There's a whole satellite TV station devoted to it. WFLA in Florida has a Science Fiction Hour every Saturday night. But most everyone visiting this board already knows all that. "Preaching to the choir" rings true in my message.

The solution to getting wider circulation is getting more readers in the first place. How do you do that? That's the million dollar question and one that I'm sure Gordon grapples with for at least part of every work day. It is tough in a society that is so visual oriented. The Sci-Fi movies do great in the box office and I think a majority of them are non-thought provoking violent epics full of special effects. Unfortunately that's what appeals to the masses. And ever since Campbell, Sci-Fi has been trying to be accepted as real literature. But the general public still thinks of it as wild stories with aliens. Everything is image...image...image.

Ironically, the most popular best-sellers really are sci-fi under the moniker of "novel" but somehow they're not marketed as Sci-Fi, which they really are. Look at Clancy, Crichton, Deaver, Koontz...or whomever. Their books often have science-based themes but are not about aliens and other worlds.

And then there's Harry Potter. It appeals to the kids because of its escapism and not necessarily because of its writing style. Kids can relate to the young characters because they want to BE them.

Science Fiction has to adapt an attitude that these are people we want to be. It's interesting that sci-fi had such success in the 50's with its square-jawed action packed pulp heroes. Believe me, I'm not saying we need to return to that. I'm just saying that that's the sort of thing that appeals to the masses.

When I worked as a broadcast journalist in the 80's & 90's, we had consultants that said "Look at USA Today. That's what America really wants! That's what should be our guideline for covering the news." What's that? Short, concise stories that focus on lifestyle and things people can relate to (intellectually or not).

I'm rambling and I think I have to stop.
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TCO
Posted on Wednesday, October 06, 2004 - 06:43 pm:   

Doesn't surprise me that you got nowhere in marketing. Comment was devoid of structure or of sophistication. Let me give you a hint. Segment first. Figure the rest out from there, homeslice.
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Thomas R
Posted on Wednesday, October 06, 2004 - 10:08 pm:   

I do think there's an almost purposeful effort to alienate the masses at times. When I first subscribed to Asimov's many of the book reviewers basically said "If you ever bought a media tie-in novel, or liked Star Wars, you're a moron and we don't want you." Many of the stories were also about appeal to the core of fandom, which always represented a very small portion of SF readers but especially does now, and literary readers.

I'm not sure what to do to change that now. Most SF writers are not Sci-Fi people. They'd stink at writing for that demographic if they tried, or do judging by some examples I've tried. Also most Sci-Fi people don't like short fiction much. They'll go buy an Adams, Bradbury, Bujold, Card, Clarke, Dick, Gibson, Herbert, McCaffrey, Stephenson, Zelazny, etc novel but short fiction isn't their interest. Hence several SF writers have novels reach the bestseller list, but it doesn't change short SF.

Judging from magazines in general it might be best to have a magazine that's mostly nonfiction, but with some science fiction in it. Like a magazine on biology, physics, computing, gaming, etc that contains a few short SF stories per issue. Or possibly an anthropology magazine with "Soft" science fiction and tasteful photos of nearly naked Third World men or women on the covers. Not too long ago that would've been a repulsive idea to me, but it seems sex does sell in the magazine world.
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Sheri Stanley
Posted on Thursday, October 07, 2004 - 02:52 am:   

Well, it would be helpful to get them in bookstores, so people would actually know they exist. :/

I've seen one copy of Cemetery Dance in a non-specialty bookstore. I've never seen Flesh & Blood. I've never seen The Third Alternative. Occasionally Barnes & Noble will stock Weird Tales, but not on any kind of regular basis. Ditto for a lot of other really fine magazines. I know about these mags because I write - but josephine average who just likes to read a spooky story every now and again might never have even heard of them.

Maybe the marketing needs to be aimed at distributors and bookstores instead of potential readers?
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Nuke
Posted on Thursday, October 07, 2004 - 04:48 am:   

A lot of SF readers never even see the magazines. Even if you're looking for them, they're often hard to find on the magazine racks. One of the best things that could be done to increase the magazines' visibility would be to shelve them with the books, since that's where most SF readers are looking. A lot of bookstores are starting to stock comics alongside the SF books now, so why not the SF magazines?

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ET
Posted on Thursday, October 07, 2004 - 06:23 am:   

It's really a matter of the stores, not the magazine publishers. One problem with magazines is that they have a date, so they need to be pulled from the shelves after a while -- which is standard for the magazine racks, but not for the bookshelves.

A year end collection (Best of Weird Tales #3, ...) might help people learn about the mags.
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Nancy Fulda
Posted on Friday, October 08, 2004 - 02:50 am:   

I like the approach Asimov's and Analog are taking with the new anthology "A Woman's Liberation"(http://www.asimovs.com/buy/anthologies.shtml). They've taken SF stories relevant to a special interest group and presented them in a way that will appeal to that group.

I suspect many women who do not normally read SF will pick up that anthology and some of them may end up subscribing to the magazines.
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ET
Posted on Friday, October 08, 2004 - 03:22 am:   

I like Gordon's approach of putting "from The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction" on the cover of an anthology. This way people immediately know about the magazine, just browsing covers. Although the horrid colours of the One Lamp cover might prevent them from paying any attention to this text. :-)

"A Woman's Liberation" might suffer a bit from having Asimov's and Analog mentioned, but hopefully the magazines are mentioned inside (such as "first appeared in Asimov's <issue>). Otherwise this doesn't really tell anyone that the magazines exist or that they may be publishing similarly good stories.
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Luke
Posted on Friday, October 08, 2004 - 05:47 am:   

Actually, I see that there ARE pages with all the stories and authors, so I retract that suggestion.

I am surprised that the pages do not show up more often in Google searches, but I am not an advocate of doctoring the code to make that happen. Still, it would be nice if, while seraching for, say Joe Haldeman for instance, someone might get directed to F&SF.
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ET
Posted on Friday, October 08, 2004 - 06:25 am:   

It's possible to pay for the listings at the right hand side of a google search. I think it's a "pay by click" arrangement (too lazy to check) which can make it a reasonable investment. But there'd have to be some extra work in arranging the website to meet expectations of searchers, because if there's one thing I hate it's a google search that brings up irrelevant results, and going to a magazine that doesn't really have a Joe Haldeman story in it (at least, not that I can find) will fall under this category.
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Patrick M.
Posted on Sunday, February 27, 2005 - 06:26 am:   

Gordon - Concord Newfree claims he mentioned this over here but Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. ( http://vendor.diamondcomics.com/getting_started.asp ) is where comic stores get their wares. Have you looked into this? I think this is a huge market where you can not only pick up walk by sales but also potentially increase subscription rates by hooking new readers.
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Sean Wallace
Posted on Sunday, February 27, 2005 - 07:35 am:   

I imagine that F&SF has an exclusive distribution contract with Curtis News (the largest magazine distributor in the country, I believe), which means that you can't go with Diamond Comic Distributors. There may be ways around it, but it's not really worth it.

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