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  1.  (8720.1)
  2.  (8720.2)
    Warren: given that you've mentioned a couple of times that you've considered starting a magazine, do these circulation figures make you more or less interested in doing so? (or perhaps better phrased, are you more or less convinced of its viability as a business?)

    For the sake of argument, I'm conveniently ignoring the huge amount of work in such an enterprise that is probably the largest obstacle to starting such a venture.
  3.  (8720.3)
    Oh, I think it's viable as a business, on a relative scale. Nothing I could do, because, ultimately, I'm not going to be a publisher, because it'd stop me writing.

    But, between them, the "Big Three" pretty much surround everything you shouldn't do, and INTERZONE continues to make constructive mistakes too. (I feel kinder about INTERZONE because they at least seem to be aware of what and where they need to be.)
  4.  (8720.4)
    Warren, if you ever want to make a magazine I'll be more than happy to lay the whole thing out. For great justice and SCIENCE.
  5.  (8720.5)
    Hah! That's very nice of you. Let me know if you find $50K down the back of the sofa, too?
  6.  (8720.6)
    I have written something longer as a guest blog post for someone saying what I think SF magazines need to do to change their situation.

    The tl;dr version is they need to look much better than they currently do (Wired UK and Coilhouse are good examples), either publish online only or get actual news-stand distribution, and pay people properly so they can attract people willing and able to work full time writing and editing short fiction. This means they'll need to be ran as proper businesses and not publications where making money is incidental.
  7.  (8720.7)
    @Ginja could you post a link to your guest blog post - I'd be interested in reading it
  8.  (8720.8)
    Yes, link please.

    I would point out that ASIMOV'S, ANALOG and FSF certainly do seem to have "actual" newsstand distrib. (I say "seem" because I live in the UK.)
  9.  (8720.9)
    I'm going to go out on a limb here (and probably get ripped apart) and say that I don't think that news-stand distribution is necessary for SF magazines (and in fact pursuing news-stand distribution might not be worth the massive investment required)

    SF mags are niche publications with a global potential. In other words, a publisher needs to find a relatively small number of customers in each town/city in each relevant country. Pre-internet the only way to do this was by getting on news-stands (v. costly), with the ultimate aim of securing (much more valuable) subscriptions.

    I see a lot of parallels with my day job: I work for an academic publishing company, and many years ago the only way to reach new customers was to get our niche books into bookshops (the equivalent of news stands). As well as being more expensive (bookshops take a cut, and the publisher needs to employ an army of sales reps to go round all the bookshop companies, make deals, give further concessions etc), it also wasn't particularly efficient (bookshops increasingly sell more "mainstream" books as they have a wider audience i.e. more chance of selling to an average customer) but it was the only option.

    Now a publisher can find (and be found by) potential customers directly using the web, which makes reaching those customers easier, and is much more cost-effective (no middleman taking a cut, no unsold returns etc).
  10.  (8720.10)
    "I would point out that ASIMOV'S, ANALOG and FSF certainly do seem to have "actual" newsstand distrib. (I say "seem" because I live in the UK.)"

    They're available on the newsstand in the US, as well. I'd venture that what they need to do is really focus on getting people reading them in various ebook formats. I don't believe for a second that there are only 5,000 odd people that would read them.
    •  
      CommentAuthoroddbill
    • CommentTimeAug 10th 2010
     (8720.11)
    The problem is they haven't changed their appearance or structure in 80 years. They look like garbage. They are not functional advertisements for themselves.
    •  
      CommentAuthorcelan
    • CommentTimeAug 10th 2010
     (8720.12)
    ...an additional complicating factor from my narrow perspective is that the brick and mortar newsstand in my town closed down a few months ago...after like 50 years.
    Lack of a (traditional) venue is the bigger magazine problem around these parts.
  11.  (8720.13)
    I'd like to agree with those above who blame the look and feel of the things, not to mention distribution - not that I think newstands are the answer!

    I think they need to get some decent art and design, pay decent pay rates, and look at things like investing in a whole branded rotating rack for strategically located bookstores.
    From the electronic perspective they need to be developing apps for the iphone and ipad (a massive geek audience just waiting for them), as well as pdfs for download by people who are less geeky but have computers.
    As Whitechapel and warrenellis.com show us - build a strong and loyal online community. Give them treats, and get them to pay for extra treats as well (t-shirt of the week etc).
    Give some content away for free online - don't be afraid.
    A decent scifi mag should be small and chunky, and look like a good quality Oni Press manga book from the outside with lots of bright colours and cute stuff, that is what is in right now.
    You would need to get some popular and expensive or sympathetic writers in the first year - say Charlie Stross, or Cory Doctorow. Try and get Joss Whedon to do something, don't be afraid to chuck a comic story or two in.
    Offer unpublished and unknown writers a slot in each issue - how many are there out there who would start buying it just to get published?

    Choose a broad but not too broad niche/subgenre.

    As someone said below the blog post - I love short stories, but I would never buy any of those mags, I've flicked through them before and not seen anything to hold my attention.

    I would seriously be up for investing in a project to develop a quarterly mag, that could sustain itself and move into profit after a couple of years. I don't have 50k but I do have a %...
  12.  (8720.14)
    Presentation. Presentation. Presentation.
  13.  (8720.15)
    Also it would be useful to have a name patron.

    Get someone with a loyal audience, it doesn't have to be massive just committed, and pull beyond that, ask them to be Editor at Large or something, all they would have to do is have their name on the cover somewhere, write an editorial each issue, use their contacts book, and maybe contribute a story once a year at the usual page rate. In return they could get a share in the business.

    How do you fancy being Editor at Large of my mag Warren? ;-)
    • CommentAuthorKradlum
    • CommentTimeAug 11th 2010
     (8720.16)
    How can a glossy magazine survive with only 3,000 readers? I read Interzone for a while, but gave up because there was too much space given over to reviews that were out of date by the time they were published.

    I grew up reading my dad's collection of Analog, and recently read a bunch of 50's and 60's New Worlds and to be honest the format had not really grown between the 50's and the 80's, but I still prefer the format over the Interzone format.
  14.  (8720.17)
    I read Interzone for a while, but gave up because there was too much space given over to reviews that were out of date by the time they were published.

    And not very good reviews at that.
    • CommentAuthorOddcult
    • CommentTimeAug 11th 2010
     (8720.18)
    I've no real dog in this fight, but this situation reminds me of 2000AD. A weird anachronism that's now retro-futurist and in its own bubble rather than genuinely speculative or science based.

    Fifty grand is actually a piece of piss to raise, with a decent business plan (I've just provisionally raised £30k for something completely different and it's only waiting for me to get the nerve to say 'go'). I think there's a workable business model in there somewhere, and I might have a go at a thought exercise to see if could do it. If you're clever with the printing costs and ad revenue, I'm sure it's do-able.

    Actually, before going there, the question really is, do you want to print a magazine, or do you want to deliver content to people? Not to start another wanky 'is print dead?' topic, but that's the key question.
  15.  (8720.19)
    I'm fairly certain that a well-thought-out proposal could get the $50K (or whatever) through a service like http://www.kickstarter.com.

    I think all the suggestions in the thread above should definitely be considered by any start-up.

    I think the only additional suggestion I'd have is to provide cut-and-paste-code "widgets" (or even simpler, short bespoke URLs for use on Twitter/Facebook/etc) for contributing writers to put on their own websites that would allow people to buy/subscribe - making it easy for contributors to shout about their stories being published to their existing networks. You could probably program an affiliate % into it as well.

    Now I think about it, you could extend that scheme to subscribers as well - make it easy for them to post links to subscribe and offer some sort of kickback (a freebie of some sort, a discount on subscription renewal...). The trick is getting the balance right so that all your favourite corners of the web don't get swamped in competing affiliate links.

    I think that the key to the marketing is to spread the word far and wide in order to reach potential subscribers. The publisher is going to have difficulty doing this alone, but if they can make it easy (and/or profitable/enjoyable) for contributors/subscribers to plug it on their own networks then I think there's a possibility of building a wide subscription base that will make it a going concern.
    • CommentAuthorcrwatkins
    • CommentTimeAug 12th 2010
     (8720.20)
    I wanted to raise a point here. People are talking about these magazines being on newstands, but I think that's being grossly over estimated. I live in south-eastern Ohio and I can't find these magazines for sale anywhere in a 70 mile radius. Off hand, the closest place I know that carries any fiction magazines, sci-fi or not, is over an hour drive from where I live. While I'm sure there wouldn't be a huge market it for them in my area, they're not even getting the off hand impulse buy.