Not signed in (Sign In)
  1.  (1609.1)
    Warren's right -- mags should be building stables of regular writers (and paying them something nearer to a food-buying wage for it), but the first one that tries is going to get crucified for being elitist.

    See, I'd be up for that. Instant way to differentiate yourself from the pack. Like I say, if you're running a professional magazine, your job's to produce the most successful high quality magazine, not (as George Burns said about vaudeville) provide a place for the kids to be lousy.

    As Neil says, it'll always be harder to get those stories. But worth it.
  2.  (1609.2)
    I guess if I we were doing that at Murky Depths I'd agree too. But we're not.

    Well, there's room for all kinds of approaches. It's not a binary thing. So all power to you.

    The trick, of course, is in differentiating yourselves from the pack -- which I imagine your format does quite admirably.

    Forgive me if this has been answered elsewhere and I missed it, but: how transparent do you intend to be about things like sales numbers and payment figures?

    Our choice to make the magazine a quality production (rather than pay professional rates - we pay token amounts) was to give writers a desire to appear in, and a pride to have their work in, Murky Depths.

    See, I think that's a fine thing for new writers -- gives them a good-looking publication to hand to other editors and publishers as an introduction. That may, of course, not exactly be what your intention was...!
  3.  (1609.3)
    Jason Stoddard would argue that the "elitist pickers and choosers" of the magazine world ought to shove off and let "the public" pick the content, ala YouTube. (I think; if I'm putting the wrong words in his mouth, I apologize).

    Remember, Jason's a marketer by trade. It's his business to create methods by which the consumer has a stake in the brand. He has a lot of fascinating ideas, but I don't think the role of curation is going to go away just because crowdsourcing is easier and stickier...
  4.  (1609.4)
    @PaulGrahamRaven

    Your Burst Fiction linkage has been spotted, reblogged and appreciated. Thanks again.
    • CommentAuthorScottS
    • CommentTimeApr 22nd 2008
     (1609.5)
    since I've been reading this thread I went out yesterday and bought Weird Tales at Barnes & Noble. Haven't read much of it yet aside from the 85 Weirdest People article (which I enjoyed), but plan to give it more of a look-over this week on my lunch breaks. I will say that I really like the cover. I thought it was very striking.
    •  
      CommentAuthorLucifal
    • CommentTimeApr 23rd 2008 edited
     (1609.6)
    warrenellis - how transparent do you intend to be about things like sales numbers and payment figures?
    We've only been going a year, well, just over eighteen months if you include the promo issue (we have only six left of those and they are all signed by the cover artists Les Edwards). I''m going to be a little reticent about sales and costs at the moment, at least publicly. After we've published Issue #8 I hope I can publish figures that indicate a healthy readership. I think by then I'll have a good idea if Murky Depths can hold its own and I wouldn't really have an argument for not revealling certain details. By then I'm hoping that Murky Depths will have become more than just a labour of love. I can say that we don't get Murky Depths printed in the UK (their agent is UK based), although there are a couple of printers I'd love to use in the UK because their quality is absolutely scrumptious. That's not to say our current product isn't excellent, just that I have high standards!
    ScottS . . . since I've been reading this thread I went out yesterday and bought Weird Tales
    . . . and there's the China Mieville interview to - though I've not read it yet. I saw him on a panel at Eastercon this year and he's so fucking eloquent and knowledgable I couldn't help admiring the guy - and I thought Iron Council was excellent.
    warrenellis - As Neil says, it'll always be harder to get those stories. But worth it.
    [Clears throat] So what might a penniless mag expect to pay for a WE scoop? I'm open to negotiation.
    warrenellis - See, I think that's a fine thing for new writers -- gives them a good-looking publication to hand to other editors and publishers as an introduction. That may, of course, not exactly be what your intention was...!
    If the story is good enough (in our opnion of course) then I'm not concerned how new the writer is. I have turned down a couple of pro writers - though I may regret that yet! A name doesn't guarantee a Murky Depths' story.
  5.  (1609.7)
    Found on John Scalzi's blog, in a discussion of a story he put online for honour payments:

    How does $436.43 compare with what I could get for the story on the open market? Actually, very well. The story is about 7,400 words long, so in a week of shareware release, I’ve been paid 5.9 cents a word, which is right in line with what the “Big Three” science fiction magazines pay: my Writer’s Market has Analog at 6 cents/word, Asimov at 5 cents/word, and Fantasy & Science Fiction at 5 to 9 cents/word. And consider that the story is still on the market — that is, that people continue to be able to find it, read it and pay for it. It’s not unreasonable to assume more people will read it and pay for it as time goes on — probably not as much or as regularly as in this first week, when I’ve drawn attention to it. But from the point of view of whether or not I’d make what I’m make sending it to the print magazines, everything else from this point is gravy.

    (It’s not as much as I’d make for at least a few online sites, interestingly: Subterranean Online and Baen’s Universe pay substantially more than 6 cents/word, which is a fact I think is occasionally overlooked. But it’s true! Look it up, people.)
    •  
      CommentAuthorLucifal
    • CommentTimeApr 29th 2008
     (1609.8)
    Interesting and useful, particularly if you are a writer.

    John Scalzi's caveats:
    . . . why current payment success may not be an indicator of future performance, or why this experiment might not be repeatable with others:

    1. This site is heavily trafficked and thus is its own good marketing, which is an advantage others might not have;

    2. People who might pitch in for a first story are not guaranteed to pitch in for a second story (or if they do, they not pay as much);

    3. The fact that half of the money netted after service charges will go to charity may have caused people to pay more than they might otherwise.
    Nevertheless a worthwhile consideration. But, possibly, bitten by a few bad stories, readers might shy away.
  6.  (1609.9)
    I found a nice little collection of Fantasy & Science Fiction in an antiques store in Buffalo NY. It's from '53 and has quite an interesting little caveat on the inside cover. Let me share:

    Inside cover, inside cover with table of contents, and the cover.

    I haven't yet dived into it, but this is also my first sci-fi "mag" so to speak. Hopefully I'll be getting a new job soon to start picking up new issues of what everyone's listed around here and return to the shop and pick up the old issues as well.
  7.  (1609.10)
    Seriously, no-one's surprised?

    <em>what the “Big Three” science fiction magazines pay: my Writer’s Market has Analog at 6 cents/word, Asimov at 5 cents/word, and Fantasy & Science Fiction at 5 to 9 cents/word.</em>

    Five cents a fucking word? $50/1000 words? Or, to scale that out for a Brit -- less than 250 quid for a ten-thousand-word story?
  8.  (1609.11)
    @Warren:

    The only reason that I haven't registered surprise is that I was already aware of the numbers. I've been following stories like this for awhile, from Cory Doctorow, Scalzi, and yourself. It's a shame that this is what the market is, and it's self defeating, but I regard it very much the same way that I regard the majority of monthly superhero books: I don't care if they die. That isn't to say that I want to see them gone, but they hold very little interest to me, anymore. I'm ready for the old guard to pass on, so that something new and interesting can come along. In the meantime, I get a new Cory Doctorow short story from time to time, absolutely free, and half the time, I even get it read to me (if I'd like for it to be). To me, it's the people who have already embraced what the internet can do for fiction that are putting out the most important and exciting stuff.

    However, the discussion that's been running through this thread absolutely fascinates me. I would love to see someone do it right. And on the days that I think that I might like to run a quarterly or a magazine, I think that this is where I need to start.
    •  
      CommentAuthorWordWill
    • CommentTimeMay 1st 2008
     (1609.12)
    Coming from freelance writing for roleplaying games (and from salary work developing them), that's about equal. My going minimum for RPG writing is 5 cents/word, with my standard rate being 7 cents/word. In contrast, I get 25 cents/word at The Escapist and have gotten $400 for 500 words in major magazines. I write for RPGs because a) I continue to have things to say there and b) I can get the work. ($200 for 5,000 words, on the thing I'm writing right now, by the way.)

    I'd like to do as Scalzi says and hold out for better money, but I've seen the margins on RPGs and they can't do it. And I'd like to write for more lucrative publications, but it's not like flipping a switch. I've had some "real world" contracts, but the reliability of RPG work is vital to my eating.

    I have little grounds for comparison in other writing markets, outside magazines, though. I don't know what comics are paying, for example, but understand why these things aren't often spoken of (and that the per-word rate probably isn't exactly comparable).

    If the going rate for a genre advance on a novel is generously $15,000, that's 15 cents/word for a 100,000-word book, right? Is the marketability of a novel three times better than short fiction? Is the ability to resell a short story supposed to make up for its low initial pay rate?

    My question is, do we think that sales will follow quality will follow an increase in money? The traditional genre model, in my experience, is that when more people buy the magazine (which one day, maybe, they Just Will), then prices will go up. But even if the magazines pay more and get more event-worthy fiction (if you will), are enough people even paying attention to them to pay off that investment? I honestly don't know.

    To be clear, I am also a cretin when it comes to marketing. But folks like Scalzi, who can make money selling a short story on their website, seem to be to demonstrate that it's possible only if you're already well-known. How do you get to be well-known through short fiction anymore? Chicken and egg? I know I'm not being much help here, but I'm hoping that smarter people will respond to this and revive the discussion in this, my favorite thread.

    Cheers,
    Will
    •  
      CommentAuthorWordWill
    • CommentTimeMay 1st 2008
     (1609.13)
    @jaredrourke

    I'm eager as hell to see the new style of Internet-published fiction expand and flourish, and I love the idea of writers releasing their own work to the world instead of only going through the hoops and circumstances of magazine editors. (I think there's room enough for both models.)

    But I don't understand how wannabes and newcomers are supposed to recoup the time they spend on writing they release for free. Cory Doctorow can do it because he's got money coming elsewhere and because he's popular enough that people will donate for free stories (a la Scalzi) because, I think, it draws them nearer to a recognizable name. There's prestige in being a patron to a name, you know?

    The loop seems to be that a newcomer can release for free for a while and hope to catch on, or he can publish for 5 cents/word and hope that magazine visibility helps him more in the long run. How else is the talented wannabe supposed to monetize. (Stab me for using that word, though.) The thing that gets me is that Scalzi and Doctorow are largely demonstrating that famous writers can earn money through free releases.

    Maybe I'm still a fool, but isn't the benefit of a newcomer releasing free fiction (or music, or art) online still just self-promotion in pursuit of a contract somewhere, whether it's with an advertiser or a publisher?
    •  
      CommentAuthorjaredrourke
    • CommentTimeMay 1st 2008 edited
     (1609.14)
    @WordWill,

    Absolutely, I understand what you're saying. It's the "Radiohead" argument as well: they can do what they're doing because they already have a name. But I stand by Doctorow's (paraphrased from elsewhere) idea that obscurity is the biggest danger to new writers. And I can't think of little that's more obscure than the currently published crop of sci-fi magazines.

    On the other hand, you have people like Scott Sigler, who started off reading his books out loud as free podcasts, and today I can't walk into a bookstore (Borders or my local indie) without seeing his new hardcover book from a major publisher on the front stand. It can be done. (Wired magazine also just highlighted a book called Daemon by Leinad Zeraus (or Daniel Suarez) who went a similarly internet-based route.)

    Yes, it's true that almost everything on-line is self-promotion these days. As much as I love Creative Commons licenses, I can't help but see them as "and please, advertise my stuff for me by passing it around". The things that really excite me are the people who continue to work with free culture even after they've nailed their big book contract.
  9.  (1609.15)
    @WordWill, continued:

    The problem with these kinds of discussions is that they end up sounding (at least on my part) as "one way or another". I think there's a middle ground, and I think that there's a little bit from each philosophy that can work. Everyone finds a different way "into the industry," whatever that industry might be.
  10.  (1609.16)
    My question is, do we think that sales will follow quality will follow an increase in money? The traditional genre model, in my experience, is that when more people buy the magazine (which one day, maybe, they Just Will), then prices will go up. But even if the magazines pay more and get more event-worthy fiction (if you will), are enough people even paying attention to them to pay off that investment? I honestly don't know.

    One of these days, one of these magazines may just decide they want to be successful. And what they'll do is commission the writers that people want to read, at no less than twice what they're paying right now, and then they'll buy, beg, borrow or steal the coverage to make sure that many more people are aware of it than usual. They'll release half of the top story on to the internet with a one-click solution to buy an ebook copy of the magazine at the end of it. Every blogger they know will be posted the code to a webpage widget like the Whitechapel RSS Window. And that would just be the start of a marketing effort. That's just what's occurred to me in the last two minutes.

    Because, you know what? If ASIMOV's entire creative budget per issue really is $7000/month tops (and I suspect less)? Then either someone's holding on to some extra cash, or ASIMOV's just deserves to die.
    •  
      CommentAuthorWordWill
    • CommentTimeMay 1st 2008
     (1609.17)
    You know what part of my problem is? When I get optimistic about the possibilities (new?) magazines could be exploring, I feel stupid, as if I should know better than to dream for innovation.

    @jaredrourke

    Don't worry about sounding binary in your argument. I worry about the same thing.

    I don't think I understood just what kind of obscurity Sigler came out of. Likewise, I follow David Wellington's zombie-derived career, and see he seems to be doing all right. And certainly I agree with you and Doctorow that obscurity is probably the big hurdle.

    @Warren

    At least, and unhappily, I think that ASIMOV deserves to languish. Hoping for a sea change from the old guard seems like folly. (Except, maybe, WEIRD TALES, who seems to be trying to straddle the divide between an 85-year-old reputation and a more modern relevance.)

    Would you write for 10 cents/word?
  11.  (1609.18)
    Would you write for 10 cents/word?

    Ordinarily, I wouldn't get out of bed for 10 cents a word. It's a fraction of my usual rate. It would have to be special circumstances.
  12.  (1609.19)
    For a bit of perspective re: "real world" magazine pay rates --

    10 cents/word (last I checked) was about par for the course for an American city newsweekly -- you know, the free "alternative culture" papers, a la the Village Voice or the L.A. Weekly or the San Francisco Bay Guardian. (Although those three specific papers themselves might pay somewhat more, as they're among the very largest of their type.) The low freelance pay is justified by the fact that most contributors are (a) young and just getting started in their careers, and (b) getting the chance to write pretty much what they want without a stifling corporate agenda.

    30 cents/word was about what we were paying freelancers a few years ago when I edited a glossy city monthly (Pittsburgh Magazine, to be specific). These magazines have the same sort of circulation as the weeklies -- say, 50,000 to 150,000 -- but way more advertising revenue because they serve a more upscale demographic.

    I doubt most glossy national mags of any quality are getting away with paying much less than a dollar a word. Sure, there are pulp/niche/nonprofit mags that pay less, but not slick publications.
  13.  (1609.20)
    I've written articles for Museum and Exhibit Design publications averaging out between 700 -1000 word for no less than 300-400bucks at a throw.

    Theses magazines have pitifully little money and are often propped up by grants. But they pay well to get good, solid pieces. They also sell the pieces on the back-end via subscription databases. They tap into multiple revenue streams, something sci-fi magazines can do in their own way. Imagine having access to a database of Weird Tales going back over it's history, being able to print off scans of actual pages from the older issues. I know designers who would KILL to have access to that kind of material in digital format.