|Posted on Wednesday, April 20, 2005 - 08:28 pm: |
So here's a topic about our mag, TALEBONES. Currently we run two issues a year, around 100 pages, full color cover. We pay a cent a word, two cents a word for the lead story. We have artwork with every story. We run an interview, and book reviews.
If we were to make any change (for the better we would assume!), what would most people prefer to see? We've been batting around some ideas over the last few months. At one point we even toyed with the idea of closing. Then we've thought about going the anthology route. We would like to get back to a regular quarterly schedule. But that would mean some sacrifices, like maybe going back to a two-color cover, or even B&W or Grayscale, having fewer stories each issue (but more overall during the course of the year). Less interior artwork. We thought about upping the pay rate to something a bit more enticing, like 3 cents a word (and then we'd HAVE to do one of those other cutbacks...).
What would have the greatest impact, the greatest chance for drawing in more subscribers, selling more copies? Does it even matter in this decade of declining sales of genre magazines across the board (if you go by the LOCUS Year in Review statistics...)? What are some of the other publishers out there on this board thinking about the futures of their own magazines?
Scott William Carter
|Posted on Thursday, April 21, 2005 - 09:39 am: |
Well, as one of your subscribers, and as someone who has rotated through a lot of different magazines over the years, I can give you my two cents . . .
First, for me color has never been a big deal. You can do a lot with black and white and a good desktop design. I also don't think you need artwork with every story -- maybe just one or two. The biggest draws for me are content and a regular publishing schedule. When I start to feel that content is skimpy, or that the hit rate is pretty low, then I feel less inclined to subscribe. Since fiction is always going to be dicey as far as appealing to everyone, it's important to have some great regular columnists. Also, anything less than a quarterly publishing schedule is just too easy to forget about, and if your subscribers forget about you, it's over.
To be honest, what I'd do is take your three cents a word and go after a "name" columnist, somebody who will draw people in issue after issue. Paying more for fiction would help move your magazine higher up the submission list for writers, of course, but let's be honest: Talebones is a *great* small press magazine, but you still can't compete with the biggies in circulation and presitige, which are the main criteria name writers use when deciding where to send their stuff. A few cents a word is not going to make a difference for them--all it will do is reward the writers already submitting to you. What I would do, however, is have a sliding scale for fiction of 1-3 cents, and then pay the three cents to writers whose name alone would help sell the magazine. It won't make much of a difference, but it will make some. That said, as a writer myself, I'm always for more pay. <g>
A smaller circulation magazine that really nailed it for me was PULPHOUSE, which had a couple year run about a decade ago. I'm sure you know about it. They had glossy covers, but they were seldom in color, and they even had newsprint pages, but man, it always felt chocked full of good stuff. They had lots of components that I could look forward to -- a great editorial, movie reviews, book reviews, interviews, a "back lot" one page story, cartoons. Even when when the fiction (which, incidentally, was also usually pretty good) didn't grab me, I still left satisfied. The key, especially when you're small, is to make your readers feel like they're part of an exclusive club. Pulphouse always felt fun and pulpy rather than literary and pretentious, the latter being a surefire way to kill your readership in a hurry. You can be literary. Just don't let anyone figure it out. <g>
You're already doing a lot of this with Talebones, which is one of the reasons I subscribe, but if I could sumarize my recommendations it would be this: cut the money spent on color and paper, run it on newsprint, get some great columnists, and try to get it out four times a year. Otherwise, keep doing what you're doing! We need more magazines like Talebones.
|Posted on Thursday, April 21, 2005 - 12:07 pm: |
I'm a lot more likely to give my stories away than settle for one cent a word. 3 cents a word is the low end of what I would consider as a market for me. Anything less, I just give it away when I'm feeling charitable. Still, I wouldn't necessarily recommend you raise your rate. I must admit that my attitude does appear a little arrogant even to me but I just can't emotionally let my babies go for 1 cent even though I can feel good about giving them away as an act of charity -- as if the publishers weren't being the charitable ones in publishing my drivel! But hey, that's how I feel and I haven't figured out how to stop feeling that way.
|Posted on Friday, April 22, 2005 - 08:15 pm: |
Thanks for the comments Scott & Byron. These are the kinds of things I'd like to hear from everyone...feel it out a little bit. So I'm taking all this in and mulling it over.
We *do* have what I feel is a "name" columnist in Ed Bryant, except he's been absent for a few issues. But maybe you're thinking even bigger name?
PULPHOUSE was good -- I have all those hardback issues. It was that move to glossy covers and a more frequent publishing schedule (well, plus spreading themselves thin with many other publishing projects) that did them in.
I understand some writers won't consider a 1-2 cent a word market such as Talebones. Then again, some pro writers DO send us stuff, and we've published quite a few name authors. I think we've been fortunate. They feel TB is a decent venue to be in even at the lower rate.
Anyway, hope to hear more thoughts on this from others...
|Posted on Saturday, April 23, 2005 - 09:03 am: |
One reader's perspective.
It's all about the fiction. I don't care much about the art, the book reviews, the columns - or even the poetry to be honest.
As long as you're attracting the likes of Nina Kiriki Hoffman, James Van Pelt, David Levine, and others, the pay rate doesn't seem to be holding you back.
If you've got the resources (primarily time!) to invest, going quarterly might be the one big change that can make a big difference. That's a tall order, I know.
|Posted on Saturday, April 23, 2005 - 01:58 pm: |
I'm a lot more likely to give my stories away than settle for one cent a word.
Let's see, a 4,000 word story at 1 cent a word is $40.
You could buy a lot of coffee for $40, Byron.
|Posted on Sunday, April 24, 2005 - 01:20 pm: |
Even I advise writers to market top-down. If you can sell it to SciFi.com for the biggest bucks, or to pro mags like F&SF or Asimovs, why not? But if it hasn't sold, and it's still a salable story, why not send it to a smaller, reputable market?
90% of what we get is the same 90% everyone else gets. It's just that other 10% that varies from market to market (and it's usually pay-scale dependent). When you're small, however, the addition of a bigger name doesn't always make a big impact on sales. At least I haven't seen it. We had a Jack Cady story last year--one of his last he sold before he passed away--and he's no slouch as far as name writers go, but we hardly saw any spike in sales of that issue.
|Posted on Sunday, April 24, 2005 - 09:39 pm: |
Here's my very-humble take:
Twice a year feels too sparse for me to subscribe, so I keep buying issues as they come out. Feels more immediate to me. What keeps me coming back is reading great stories. If I am impressed more often than disappointed (which is not always a given) then I'll come back. Talebones did this for me.
I wouldn't worry about "name" authors. I recently read a magazine in which the "name" authors were responsible for my least favorite stories. I've actually come to the point where I'm leery of reading a story of "name" authors because I suspect the bar is often lowered for them just for the advantage of plastering their name across the cover. Perhaps that's just a cynical paranoia ;)
|Posted on Monday, April 25, 2005 - 01:09 am: |
Good points, Oliver. Going to quarterly would mean twice as many stories in a year to cull out of the submission pile. We'd hope we could get that many. Often we turn stories away that could've easily been winners for us at different times, but since we don't stockpile stories for more than an issue in advance, we just have to make some tough decisions sometimes.
|Posted on Tuesday, April 26, 2005 - 09:32 pm: |
And, at 2 cents a word for the lead story, that's 80$ for coffee!
Jim Van Pelt
|Posted on Wednesday, April 27, 2005 - 08:57 pm: |
I think pay rate is somewhat a non-issue. Except for SCIFI.COM, none of the magazines pay very much, certainly not enough to change your lifestyle. Even SCIFI.COM won't move you into a better house or a newer car (.20 cents a word for the 5,000 word short story is $1,000.00. Not chump change, but that hardly makes a dent in my VISA bill).
I'm probably doing better than 95% of SFWA as far as income from short stories goes, somewhere in the $2,000 to $3,000 a year for the last half dozen years, but that's not enough to make me get huffy about what a single story earns.
So, the real issue is the readership for the magazine and the company you keep. I don't want my fiction to appear in a magazine whose fiction I don't respect (that seems like a really basic statement, but you'd be surprised at the number of newbie writers I've heard say things like, "I was rejected at ______ magazine, and the fiction there sucks! The editor must have no taste at all." Evidently the newbies miss the multiple ironies in their own words).
What I look at is the quality of the stories and whether other folks are paying attention to the magazine critically. Talebones, of course, is very well respected critically. The number of authors the magazine has published that make the Honorable Mention lists in the Year's Best anthos, for example, tells you that the magazine is read and the quality of the work is respected. This year a Talebones story was reprinted in the Dozois anthology (Patrick can tell you which one--I can't find it right now).
There are other small magazines that don't pay a lot but are well worth a writer's time to submit to, like Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet. If you want a quick look at magazines and pay rates, check out Bluejack's market database at http://www.quintamid.com/q/mdb/list/TA------/ or Ralan's Market list at http://www.ralan.com
Another key issue for me is that all the magazines seem to be businesses on the margin (even the big ones, like Analog and Realms of Fantasy). None of them can continue to exist without a paying readership, so I encourage everyone to subscribe to your favorites, and what better way to give a gift that keeps giving than to buy subscriptions for your SF/fantasy/horror-loving friends? If the magazines' incomes go up, then there is a better chance they won't fold, and maybe, just maybe, they'll be able to pay their authors more too.
|Posted on Wednesday, April 27, 2005 - 09:26 pm: |
The story Gardner's reprinting in the Year's Best is Paul Melko's "Ten Sigmas." A great story indeed! It also made the LOCUS Recommended List of short stories.
Thanks for the kind words, Jim. That's very much how I feel. I certainly FEEL we have that kind of following--people do tell us they enjoy the magazine and the fiction. The biggie has been trying to get that to equate to sales. Alas, it just doesn't. Not on our small level. Every subscription and extra magazine we sell we do with what little extra time and effort we have. Honna and I both have day jobs, and a 3-year-old! It can be exhausting keeping this puppy going, but it sure is rewarding.
Color or not color. I'm looking at our next two covers, artwork having been submitted for these already, and I just can't even IMAGINE them in anything but color. My guess is, we'll try and figure a way to cut some costs here and there. We've already done so in some respects. For example, we save several hundred dollars by not imprinting the inside covers. Of course if we had more advertisers, that would help. (A tough task, considering our size and scope, but we did get some good ads last issue, including one from DELL.) Maybe we should shoot for getting produced more often. Maybe, since we went from 4 issues a year to 3 issues for a few years, before going down to 2, we should start back with 3, and see if we can then someday get back to 4. Eh. We'll see. It really depends on people renewing, more folks subscribing...
|Posted on Thursday, April 28, 2005 - 03:02 pm: |
I have only heard good things about Talebones from readers. I subscribe to both Asimov's and F & SF, and despite the fact that there are many other magazines out there, Talebones is next down on my wishlist because of all the positive things I have heard about it. The writers I recognize who have published there have all been top-notch writers, in my experience. I wasn't aware that Talebones was only publishing two issues a year, though. I think for me, stories are more important than interior artwork, so if I was going to subscribe I would prefer cutting back on interior illustrations if it would allow for more issues. I do like nice cover art, though, with at least some color.
From a reader perspective, I think publishing more issues would be better than moving your payscale for authors up. Now that I find you are only publishing two issues a year, I'm feeling more hesistant about becoming a subscriber. As someone else said, great authors appear to send stuff to you because they respect your publication. Certainly if you had the luxury to raise your pay rates to reward them for their respect of your magazine, it would make sense, but on the budget you're at right now, trying to publish more issues seems like a better idea.
|Posted on Friday, April 29, 2005 - 09:22 am: |
Maybe, since we went from 4 issues a year to 3 issues for a few years, before going down to 2, we should start back with 3, and see if we can then someday get back to 4. Eh. We'll see. It really depends on people renewing, more folks subscribing...
If you build it, they will come.
|Posted on Monday, May 02, 2005 - 09:46 pm: |
An all baseball issue? <g>
|Posted on Tuesday, May 03, 2005 - 08:37 am: |
First off, don't mess with the cover art. Keep it in color. I notice a significant difference in sales for magazines that have color covers.
I've been watching our customers. When they buy their first copy of a particular magazine they tend to ask about it. What caught their attention in the first place was a particular author or a comment from someone they respect. (I always recommend Talebones.)
It seems that marketing is the real issue here.
|Posted on Tuesday, May 03, 2005 - 10:09 am: |
I'm just reiterating what others have said, but repitition is good sometimes. I would leave the front cover as it is. Looks nice, and definitely attracts new readers. I would drop interior illustrations, poetry and columns. I buy sf/f mags for the stories, and nothing else. Upping pay rate *might* move your mag higher up on people's submission list, but I wouldn't guarantee it. Generally, the writers I know submit based on exposure to the market. Things that get attention mentions in Locus or honorable mentions in the YBSF get submissions.
Just the cents I gots.
|Posted on Tuesday, May 03, 2005 - 01:33 pm: |
Does full-bleed matter for the cover? It's always good to hear from a bookseller on the front lines!
|Posted on Tuesday, May 03, 2005 - 02:20 pm: |
That's a hard one to answer since so most of them are full-bleed. The few that aren't look like they design with the whitespace in mind. Done properly, the average person won't even notice.
|Posted on Tuesday, May 03, 2005 - 07:08 pm: |
Thanks for the answer. Talebones is always an attractive cover.
|Posted on Tuesday, May 03, 2005 - 10:50 pm: |
Appreciate the kind words Jonathan, and the suggestions, Neil! We really are leaning toward keeping the color covers as they are.
|Posted on Wednesday, May 04, 2005 - 10:30 am: |
Not an all-baseball issue! Are you trying to goad me?
Seriously: I don't like the idea of going black and white, but I wonder sometimes: do those who buy our magazine toss it once they've read it? I've never considered it "disposable" because of how gorgeous it is, but am I kidding myself? We went to a friend's house once and saw a few issues on his coffee table but a friend of his was using one for a coaster! We put a stop to that, of course, and our friend made sure we knew that wasn't commonplace at his house, but I wonder if our painstaking effort at creating such a nice product doesn't matter because it's headed for the garbage once people are done with it.
|Posted on Wednesday, May 04, 2005 - 10:52 am: |
I still have every SF/F magazine I ever bought. No one is allowed to use them as coasters, crease them, fold the corners of pages... I'm a bit of a freak and keep them in excellent condition.
My friends just toss them out.
|Posted on Wednesday, May 04, 2005 - 06:03 pm: |
But, Ms. Swenson, baseball has a great history in fantastic literature. I'm sure many potential contributors have baseball stories they couldn't sell, (uh ahem) they would write from scratch (yeah from scratch) just for an all-baseball issue of Talebones. (VBG)
|Posted on Thursday, May 05, 2005 - 06:52 am: |
Terry, Honna's a soccer player, and she's always dissing baseball. <g> BUT! We did publish an excellent baseball story in TALEBONES a few years back. Amazing feat considering both of us have to like a story in order to buy it for the magazine! So while we may not ever have an all-baseball issue, there's certainly room for a well-told baseball tale from time to time...
Jim Van Pelt
|Posted on Thursday, May 05, 2005 - 11:56 am: |
Terry, try this link to fix that baseball-SF interest: http://www.sfsite.com/~silverag/baseball.html
Jim Van Pelt
|Posted on Thursday, May 05, 2005 - 12:03 pm: |
Oh, and it looks like the July '94 F&SF was a baseball themed issue. Also, there's a W.P. Kinsella edited antho called BASEBALL FANTASTIC. Amazon.com has a pretty good description of it, along with some reviews. There's a transcript of a SCIFI.COM chat about science fiction and baseball at http://www.scifi.com/transcripts/2000/sfbaseball.html
|Posted on Thursday, May 05, 2005 - 03:28 pm: |
Also, there's a great baseball story in Jim Van Pelt's first collection, STRANGERS AND BEGGARS!
|Posted on Thursday, May 05, 2005 - 06:51 pm: |
Soccer is great. I even played in high school. I own a couple of my high school soccer records that will never be broken, most goals in a season and most goals in a career -- 2.
Jackson Central High School only had soccer for one year and then the school closed, so I scored the first and last goal on a team of players who saw their first soccer match in the first match they played. As a matter of fact I scored the only goals and one of them was an accident.
|Posted on Thursday, May 05, 2005 - 07:02 pm: |
STRANGERS AND BEGGARS is on my "to be bought" list.
Thanks, Jim. I loved the links, especially the SCIFI chat. Gardner asked a question that I really liked. "So, if you could pick any team from any historical period to play for the Fate Of Earth, who would you pick?"
Of course, the '27 Yankees, 75 Red Sox and the like were mentioned. I think the better story would be if Earth had to send the 1962 Mets.
Sorry, Honna. I'll stop with the baseball stuff. (Yes I've written a baseball story. It's in the June Sports theme issue of Oceans of the Mind.)
|Posted on Friday, May 06, 2005 - 09:36 am: |
It's okay, Terry...guys...about the baseball stuff. I've mellowed out over the years regarding my dislike for the sport, but it came out of soccer being so discriminated against in its early years. (and I never understood what was so great about a sport where the players spent most of their time sitting or standing). I really liked the story we published in Talebones. I'm not a fan of boxing, either, but we've published a great boxing story, too.
Terry--loved the soccer story! We didn't have girls soccer in high school or at the JC college I attended. But I did play with the guy's college team in a class they all participated in. I was the only girl and it was fun throwing some moves on them, now and again, and dodging their slide-tackles.
Neil--maybe that is a touch freakish, but it's a good freakish and my hubby has a touch of that, too. I recently came into contact with an old friend of my dad's (he just turned 90) who's admitted she's kept every SF magazine she's owned. Wonder what her collection is like, eh?
Patrick--I didn't tell you that Bobbie (my sister) got to chat awhile yesterday with Edgar Martinez (retired Mariner)at her work.
And now for a baseball dis: If I were to write a story about baseball, I'd have a game where the players were restricted from spitting. Near the end of the 9th inning, they'd be these fat, red-faced little hedgehogs trying to round the bases, near to erupting like overfilled water balloons.
All in fun, gentlemen. All in fun.
|Posted on Friday, May 06, 2005 - 12:05 pm: |
Another plug for soccer... I played from ages 9 to 16, occasionally on three teams at a time (school, rec, and competitive traveling -- obviouslly I reaped the benefits of Title IX).
Skip ahead many years (won't say how many!), and I took a self-defense course for women called R.A.D. (rape agression defense). We learned punches, jabs, kicks, etc.
One of the male instructors warned the other to watch out for me, so when the second one came around holding a pad for me to kick, he said "Why am I supposed to watch out for you?" I said "Soccer." He said "Oh" and stepped way back.
I can kick really hard. ;-)
|Posted on Friday, May 06, 2005 - 01:52 pm: |
Hmmmm....no soccer stories in TALEBONES yet. Anyone know of any good SF/fantasy soccer stories out there?
|Posted on Friday, May 06, 2005 - 07:28 pm: |
Sorry to disturb such an American point of view...
But football--and I don't care about why this should be American (which is a misnomer)--is the most popular sport in the world.
The amount of people--worldwide--watching a Champions League Final (let alone a real World Championship Final) exceeds the number of people (worldwide) watching the Super Bowl (or any other American Sport) by a factor of four or five.
Even sports fanatic Lucius Shephard must admit that "soccer"--or Football as it is called in every other country in the world--is easily the most popular sport in Latin America.
Sorry to disturb your America-centric view of the world, but I have travelled widely, *very* widely.
And in Africa, Asia, South America, and--of course--Europe the names of Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, and Frank Rijkaard (to name some of my country's football stars) easily give a wider recognition than any American football (what's in name?), basketball (even Jordan), or baseball (what's that?) sports star.
So an all baseball issue might make sense from a purely American point of view. But (Honna: help me!) in a worldwide point of view an all football (I really hate the "soccer" name: real football existed way before that American abomination!) issue.
Of course, no (North!) American would understand the passion.
But one example from real life.
In 1988, Holland won the European Championship Football, for the very first time. That same night, an American band called Death Angel played a gig in Tilburg, a town very close to where I live. The show was an absolute madhouse. After the gig, Andy Galeon--the drummer--asked me what all this madness was about. I told him that this was similar to his favorite team winning the Super Bowl. He thought a bit, then looked me in the eyes and said: "No way: we're not nearly as crazy as you guys."
|Posted on Saturday, May 07, 2005 - 08:49 am: |
I recently bought a baseball story by Louise Marley for SCI FICTION. It'll be out in a few weeks.
I usually hate sports stories, but occasionally they work for me. I think the last one I ran was Scott Westerfeld's "Unsportsmanlike Conduct."
|Posted on Saturday, May 07, 2005 - 08:24 pm: |
Right on! Yay for Louise. She of course lives in our neck of the woods and is a most wonderful and talented lady. And I had no idea she had written a baseball story.
Jetse, Honna will be on a little later I'm sure, to say more about soccer (er futbol!). I myself didn't know a lot about it until I met Honna and watched her play two or three times a week on three different teams! When younger, she played soccer in California and ended up going to places like Holland and Brazil to play. She played against the likes of US Women's team players Brandi Chastain and Michelle Akers, to name a few. I definitely understand the passion, and I've embraced it.
But I still like a game of baseball from time to time. Except right now the Mariners are on a 6-game losing streak. <g>
Like I said...I bet someone could interest us in a really well-written, inventive SF soccer story. You know our address. Guidelines on the website. http://www.talebones.com
|Posted on Sunday, May 08, 2005 - 11:34 am: |
Yes--happy for Louise. Such a sweet, gorgeous lady!
Amy--you go, girl! I probably wouldn't have wanted to get in the way of one of your kicks! I never liked playing the game with shin guards (now, made mandatory in some leagues), so I've got some permanent soccer-kick notches in my shin.
Jetse--I grew up knowing that soccer (futbol, football) was the world's number one sport. My father told me often! But of course, everyone argued with me. My dad (who just turned 90)grew up having played the usual sports: football, wrestling, etc. When he was in his forties, a Mexican co-worker (this was in So Cal) invited him along to an exhibition game. (not sure, but it may have been Germany VS ??). My dad wasn't expecting to be impressed, but the moment he watched the game, he was stunned and in love. Not every one of us can catch that fever. Just thrilled it happened to me. It's fairly spiritual. As for calling it soccer, I understand why it would irk non-Americans. I just knew what to call it when I was playing out of the country.
Anyone know how it came to be called SOCCER?
I also heard that American football was created after an incident during a "soccer" scrimmage. One guy picked up the ball and rushed toward the goal, leaving the opposition no choice but to tackle him. Is this true?
As for a soccer/futbol story, I've been "kicking" one around in my head for a while. If anyone beats me to it, be sure to send it our way!
|Posted on Thursday, August 18, 2005 - 06:24 am: |
Not sure where to post this, so maybe here will do. I'm curious to know about the readership figures for Talebones because I, like probably everyone else who visits this board, would love to see the magazine released much more frequently.
I know there's a lot of time and investment involved, that family comes first and maybe work does too (ugh!), but we Talebones readers just aren't getting enough.
I'll tell you flat out that Talebones beats the hell out of rival mags, particularly F&SF. So is there any chance of an increase in publication frequency in the nearish future?
|Posted on Thursday, August 18, 2005 - 11:51 am: |
Adam, thanks for the kind comments. We wished we could have a larger readership, but the problem is that without major retail distribution, we exist mainly on subscriptions and indepenendent and specialty stores. Well under a thousand copies per issue.
I made a push this summer to get busy with the next issue so that we can have it out in November instead of December, the thought being that we work out a publication schedule that is more condusive to my other duties. As Jim Van Pelt knows, once the school year starts, and I'm in teaching mode, things get really hectic. With luck, we'll sneak up to 3 issues next year.
But, if we don't get enough renewals, don't get enough new subscribers, then it makes it tough to pay for the issues and pay contributors (we pay before publication).
|Posted on Wednesday, February 15, 2006 - 01:29 pm: |
We're "on pace" for 3 issues this year. We'll see how it goes. Our production format will change a little to help facilitate a higher publication frequency. We'll have as much if not more fiction than ever in every issue, although we're considering some other changes, including dropping reviews (transfering them to the website instead).
Beyond that, it's up to all of you to help us out and keep us moving forward...Pony up for a subscription!
|Posted on Thursday, February 16, 2006 - 06:47 pm: |
Hmm, if dropping reviews meant publishing more stories or--maybe even better--*longer* stories, I'd be okay with that. Not that I don't like the reviews, mind you...