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  1.  (3142.1)
    Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that I’m interested in starting a magazine for genre fiction. Not a physical magazine, but an electronic one. When I first conceived the idea, I automatically pictured a pdf book, nice and fat with lots of stories, perhaps distributed quarterly.

    Then Warren started talking about the future again. Now, my nice, simple pdf has transformed, in my mind, to a desktop app that delivers a new story and corresponding cover and art on a weekly basis, right to your desktop. With a variant edition that delivers the same story (text only) to rss feeds for mobile readers. And a website that keeps a running archive of back issues. With, perhaps, a way to access those back issue from both the desktop app and the feed.

    Now, I know what I want it to do. I just don’t know how to do it.

    Any suggestions, places to start, volunteers to help?????
    •  
      CommentAuthorLucifal
    • CommentTimeJul 30th 2008
     (3142.2)
    First off . . . ask youself why you want to do this.

    If it's for love, great, carry on.

    Is it to compete with all the other aspiring electronic magazines? Yes? Great go for it, but you will need to be very different and appeal to a wide audience. Mmm, being different often means alienation . . . ah well.

    Is it for fame? Forget that one, everyone else will.

    However fancy your presentation is it's the content that counts. It needs to be as groundbreaking as the delivery.

    What's your staying power like? Are you going to manage the idea and farm out the work, paying the going rate of course? Or are you going to give up your day job and try to do everything yourself?

    What's your budget?

    Having said all that, the idea sounds interesting . . .
  2.  (3142.3)
    Platform:
    I highly recommend Adobe AIR. The easiest way to make multi-platform desktop widgets that I know of. If you can do basic Flash, you should be able to figure out AIR. Of course, I haven't started using it yet, so I'm just going on what I've heard.

    By the sounds of it, you only want weekly updates - and desktop widgets are best used for something that gets a constant stream (ie: Twitter, sports scores, news readers, etc). If it's not constantly giving me information, I won't keep it on my desktop. With that in mind - a simple Wordpress powered site might be a better option.

    Revenue:
    Advertising - Banner ads can be added into AIR apps and should be enough to cover hosting costs and send a bit of money back to the creators. There's no money in short genre fiction anyways.

    For gathering materials:
    Baen's Bar has an interesting system that I think could translate into a crowdsourcing model for critics/ratings very easy

    I wish you luck!
  3.  (3142.4)
    Why? Because what I want isn't out there. It's that simple. I think their should be a place, easily accessible, for new voices to be heard. And yes, It's a labor of love.

    I'm going to skip over the discussion on content for the moment, I think that belongs in another thread. I will get to it soon.

    My budget? We'll see. I'm intending to run this thing, essentially, free. No cost to the consumer at all, no advertising. Unfortunately, that also means no pay for the writers and artists involved. This is not an unusual situation for web based magazines, and hopefully the exposure mitigates that somewhat. Cost for the software, distribution, hosting space, etc, are coming out of my pocket (possibly offset by donations if it gets out of control). If, at some point, an acceptable way to make a profit turns up, it will be distributed amongst the contributors, in some manner.
  4.  (3142.5)
    By the sounds of it, you only want weekly updates - and desktop widgets are best used for something that gets a constant stream (ie: Twitter, sports scores, news readers, etc). If it's not constantly giving me information, I won't keep it on my desktop.

    That's a thought that hadn't occurred to me. Would lack of daily content cause most readers to not keep the widget on their desks? It wouldn't be too difficult to arrange daily content, the stories could be written to be serialized over seven days, with other content parsed out.

    As a reader, I'd prefer a weekly output, but that's just me. What do the rest of you think?

    ** And thanks for the Adobe Air suggestion, I'll look into that tonight.
    •  
      CommentAuthorSteve
    • CommentTimeJul 30th 2008
     (3142.6)
    I like that it's weekly content, but I wouldn't put a widget on my desktop for something that's weekly. I would visit a website once a week and read the current articles as long as I got some sort of reminder in my twitter/rss reader/email.

    Oh hey, I just described the delivery method for Freak Angles. Huh.
  5.  (3142.7)
    The easiest way I would think would be using a single site browser solution, something like Fluid

    Personally I agree that a weekly update is best done through my normal routine of RSS feed readers. I like a clean desktop and something that I only use for one day a week wouldn't interest me.

    *However*

    A widget that can be embedded in a website/iGoogle would perhaps be of more use, especially as other readers of that website might be interested in why that widget keeps changing every week or so.
  6.  (3142.8)
    A widget that can be embedded in a website/iGoogle would perhaps be of more use, especially as other readers of that website might be interested in why that widget keeps changing every week or so.

    Would that be a widget that each reader could embed in their homepage or social networking page? Something like that sounds interesting, a widget with content instead of advertising.
  7.  (3142.9)
    Indeed. Viral marketing via people's launchpoint into their daily web-antics.
  8.  (3142.10)
    On Content: I was originally thinking of old pulp magazines, but all rolled into one. A giant fucker with a science fiction / fantasy section, a crime section, an adventure section and a horror section. Maybe with color tabbed pages to let you know what section you're looking in. All with an elaborate color cover and line drawings to go with each story. But that would have been a quarterly beast.

    On a weekly basis, I'd probably choose to alternate those sections, horror one week, crime the next, etc. And with four normal rotating sections, that would leave me four months a year that have five weeks instead of four, for different content. (Maybe a romance week or an all poetry week, each with some sort of morbid twist.)
  9.  (3142.11)
    Don't see why you couldn't do that on a Wordpress site. It does pages as well as blog posts, categories that could function as sections, is very customisable, and has an rss feed that can notify readers of updates. Abandon the concept of a periodical magazine - that's a concept that belongs on newsstands, not the internet - and maybe have periodical contents: you could have a new crime story every Wednesday, a new horror story every Thursday, a serial on Fridays... or whatever way you want to work it. Then when you have enough content you could print themed anthologies or collected serials using one of the POD services, and maybe make a bit of money back that way.
  10.  (3142.12)
    Don't see why you couldn't do that on a Wordpress site.

    Because I want the format to be something new and exciting enough to interest me. I want something that can spread virally, not sit stagnant on a page. I want to bring the stories to the reader, and not just text, I want to bring them covers and little line drawings, too. I don't want them to have to come to me, I want to drop down in their laps and say, "Hey, let me tell you a story!"
  11.  (3142.13)
    everyone wants their new thing to be exciting, which is hard unless you invent your own platform for getting content to people... good design on older methods works well enough to look fresh and exciting though...
  12.  (3142.14)
    Understood. I'm not trying to break any revolutionary ground here (although that's something that I think should NEVER be discouraged), I simply want something other than a web page. I want a content delivery system.

    I also understand I may not get everything I want, but I see no reason to lower my expectations until I exhaust every possible alternative, and then I'll do so kicking and screaming. It's too easy to just give in and say, "This is good enough...."
    • CommentAuthorWakefield
    • CommentTimeJul 30th 2008
     (3142.15)
    When we did our online magazine, we put out calls for submissions on list servs and message boards. CRWOPPS has traditionally been a good one, but the sign-up process is convoluted. They're mostly for contests. Another good place to solicit is the Poets & Writers speakeasy.

    We also hit up various creative writing mfa programs. Many have listservs or bulletin boards that you can access if you send a query to the program coordinator.

    Also, we emailed writers we liked and solicited them directly. Many have pretty decent online presences or teach at universities, which made them easy to track. For those that didn't, we queried through their agent with decidedly mixed success. Many aren't interested in submitting work if they're not going to get paid. On the other hand, you might be able to set up an interview (we came very, very close to getting David Foster Wallace).

    As far as revenue, we have none. We don't plan on every having any. We wanted initially to pay our writers, but that would require declaring as a non-profit. In that case, we'd have to file a shitload of paperwork for the government to go over, and it'd take them like six months to get back to us. We'd also have to find an attorney--who'd work pro bono of course. And THEN we'd be eligible for grant money, which we'd still have to apply for.

    Another possibility is to try to get affiliated with a university, but we decided against that, so we didn't look into it. Probably a long shot, anyway.

    Intrigued by the widget idea. Would people be willing to install shit onto their desktop in order to get content that comes out weekly?

    Also, are you worried that a weekly schedule is a bit ambitious? If you have that much good stuff, why don't you consolidate it all into a quarterly (in which case, you probably shouldn't bother with the widget) release?

    Seriously, we've had trouble filling a quarterly with quality material. I'd burn down an orphanage if I had to do it weekly.

    Anyway, good luck!
  13.  (3142.16)
    Because I want the format to be something new and exciting enough to interest me. I want something that can spread virally, not sit stagnant on a page. I want to bring the stories to the reader, and not just text, I want to bring them covers and little line drawings, too. I don't want them to have to come to me, I want to drop down in their laps and say, "Hey, let me tell you a story!"


    With proper design, some smooth plugz and a bit of custom PHP, I don't see why Wordpress couldn't do all of those things as far as a website goes. It's a terribly flexible platform.

    Back to the fiction widget (fidget?). Widgets are best for tracking a constant stream of information. Above daily, above hourly. Think: following 500 people on twitter. Think: CNN news feed at the bottom of the screen.

    If there's going to be a fiction widget on my desktop all day, I want it fiction updates all day.

    What if it were a user submitted, user rated, user tagged fiction platform - where the widget feeds you the flow of fiction as it comes in?

    IE:
    - When a new story is submitted, you get the first paragraph and any associated image.
    - When a story is bumped up to a higher rating - you see it's updated on the widget.
    - When somebody edits their own story, you access the finished version, or the delta via the widget.
    - When a story hits a milestone (ie: 500 favs), you get the update.
    - When you could subscribe to a creator and be updated when they update their blog.

    Now - of course this is less 'polished, edited, complete work with dialed presentation dominating your senses on your desktop' and more 'Deviantart.com for fiction, on your desktop'

    (and yes, if this widget was made for deviantart, I would be a very happy camper and it would be on my desktop all day - along with whatever ads deviantart wants to show me, or ad free since I'm a paying member)

    The final thing I want to throw out there is using AIR/Flash as a fiction launcher.

    Let's say Freak Angels used a fiction launcher.

    When Warren posts the update, on Friday morning, all of us go to Freakangels.com and see that there is something new (or we go there through our reader feed).

    Instead of reading the comic - we download the application (ie: Fiction Launcher)

    When it's done downloading - we launch it by double clicking.

    We are then bombarded with the full-media genre fiction that I think you want to create. It's all there for you to play with:
    - Images, sound, text, font, motion, interactivity, connectivity.

    The down side is that when you ask people to download an application on the Internet, you immediately lose around 80% of your audience, since people think it's too risky or simply too much effort.

    We get around this by embedding it into a website by using Flash - but then we are back to square one, since you want to have something on the desktop and not a web page.

    Lots of cool ideas here - best of luck!
  14.  (3142.17)
    @KPatrickGlover

    Take a look at a site called issuu.com. It features magazines that have been converted to PDFs and then loaded into a special Flash player that can be embedded into almost any kind of website.

    I was thinking recently about publishing a webcomic using Issuu. Basically, I'd upload each volume to Issuu, embed each one into a website that I had created, and possibly use RSS to send out a message like, "Hey guys, I just uploaded Volume 17."

    Maybe it'll work for you. I like Issuu because the Flash player is pretty cool and can be embedded all over the place. That's one of the reasons YouTube got so damn popular.

    Side note: I believe the key to any web content like this, whether it's a webcomic or genre magazine or whatever else, is for the content to be uploaded on a VERY strict schedule. This is part of the reason Yahtzee's Zero Punctuation reviews are so popular...they always come out on Wednesdays right around 10 or 11 in the morning. People won't constantly check up on the site if it isn't updated regularly. Therefore, if you're going to do something like this you should probably have quite a few volumes in the can before you go announcing it to everyone. That way slight delays won't matter.

    Side note 2: I would be intrigued to hear more about this. I'm an aspiring writer, and it seems every time I get an artist lined up to work on a comic something catastrophic happens. Nonetheless, I'd be interested to contribute to your magazine even if there isn't money involved. I'd just need help finding an artist, from the look of things.

    Please keep me in the loop: tcatsninfan@gmail.com OR myspace.com/tcatsninfan if that's more convenient for you.
    •  
      CommentAuthorkaolin
    • CommentTimeJul 31st 2008
     (3142.18)
    I love the idea of bypassing the slush process by making it user-moderated, but having tiers so that it's not "all hanging out".

    I have one major quibble:

    Why? Because what I want isn't out there. It's that simple. I think their should be a place, easily accessible, for new voices to be heard. And yes, It's a labor of love.


    It's awesome that it's a labor of love, but there are dozens if not hundreds of places for new voices to be heard--many that pay. I'm fairly plugged into all these things because of the people I hang out with, and _I_ still hear of a new magazine/ezine/whatnot every week or two. And most of them are looking for quality content irrespective of Who created it.

    As for where to publicize--I'd say the only two places you really need to hit are Ralan's and Duotrope. GUD gets 90% of our traffic from those two spots. The rest will most likely find _you_.


    Because I want the format to be something new and exciting enough to interest me. I want something that can spread virally, not sit stagnant on a page. I want to bring the stories to the reader, and not just text, I want to bring them covers and little line drawings, too. I don't want them to have to come to me, I want to drop down in their laps and say, "Hey, let me tell you a story!"


    Don't make it weekly. Don't make it quarterly. Don't make it daily. Make it _NOW_. Make it erratic, but constant. Make it so folks know that when they "check in" after they've forgotten about it, there'll be something new. Or many somethings new, such that they really should be plugged in via widget (or at least RSS).

    I think EDF does a really good job of this (except for the erratic bit--but they're daily and they've picked up a huge following quickly by having quality content and putting it up very regularly).

    Just an idea. ;)

    If I weren't slushing 500 submissions a month (okay, we're just shy of hitting that mark, and it'll be a record), I'd be sorely tempted to try the publish-by-the-populous method as hinted at by shaneville... first para free... read it and like it and vote it up... for voting you get another para. enough votes from various people and you get another para, and so on... and at some point it's counted as published, put on the main page, and the author is paid (%age revenues from site ads or whatever). I think that's a great idea for getting people to come back without having the worries of submitters losing rights to the piece if it's not "selected". Maybe some sort of time frame that a given piece has until it's considered "forgotten"/"rejected". Sorely tempted. Maybe allow people to micro-donate to buy more votes per story.

    Fuck, what am I saying. Anyone want to do that? I'd be game for implementing. If someone chipped in for a "fiction launcher" implementation connected to this, I'd be game to help with that, too.

    Might try it for a contest idea, anyway, just to see how it flies.
  15.  (3142.19)
    As far as the proposed desktop app is concerned, I don't think the content is a good match for the delivery system. To justify keeping an application constantly on the desktop it would need to update all the time - otherwise, why's that better for the reader than checking in to a website once a day or subscribing to an rss feed and checking it once a day? If it does update all the time, you're going to need to target people who sit at their computers a substantial part of the day, i.e. people at work, and I don't know where you work, but I work in the UK public sector, not exactly a galley slave, and I'd never get away with it if every time my boss looked over I was reading another new short story. Even if I could get away with it, I prefer to read fiction at my leisure, on my schedule.

    The other question is one of technology. To take advantage of this system, especially if it uses Flash and/or pdfs, you're going to need really good broadband and plenty of memory. I've got a computer at home that's about three years out of date and a faster broadband connection than anybody I know, and pdfs of any length take a fair time to download and use up a lot of memory to read. Broadband at work is slow as hell, the computers are old and don't have that much memory, and an embedded YouTube video slows everything down to nothing. Go the way you're proposing and you're restricting your readership to people with top-end technology. I wouldn't even look at it. Sorry.
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeJul 31st 2008
     (3142.20)
    A similar point to Patrcik's - desktop widgets are usually used for quite short material. (I'm thinking IM, Twitter, RSS here. I'm a bit of a computer trog so please don't hit me if I'm talkling bollocks here.)

    I think that's partially because they tend to be intrusive. I don't mind a newsticker while I'm workign or pssing about on the computer but I also don't want 500-1000 news stories popping up as I'm working.

    So unless you're publishing ultra-ultra-short fic, is there a mismatch between prose fiction and the proposed delivery system.

    Why not just use a Vanilla or beehive forum with an RSS feed to notify updates?