Saturday, January 24, 2009


I am feeling somewhat normal again, fairly well recovered from the bout of illness the other day. That, and having to spend the last two days at my so-called real job, have put me somewhat behind on my M-Brane schedule for the week. Things work out though: writers have blessedly laid off a bit on filling my in-box with tons of new story submissions for me to consider as I catch things up. As it stands now, the in-box is fairly well caught up, issue #2 is in pre-production, print edition of #1 is supposedly closer to launch, and the shape of things to come with a couple of the issues past #2 is becoming apparent.

Anyway (as a couple of people have already noticed), I have added to this page a second "Buy Now" button, offering the subscription to the PDF edition of the zine, for a limited time, for the crazily low price of $6.00.  As those of you who have seen the first issue can attest, this is a super deal.  It was already dirt cheap at $12.00 (a buck an issue), so this is hella good. How limited is the time on this offer?  Who can say? If it goes well, it may last longer. My goals are to 1) be able to pay writers something and 2) have a wide readership for those writers. If those goals are achievable at a lower price, then fine. It's all sort of an experiment: no really good standard model for monetizing fiction periodicals that are distributed in part or in whole by the internet seems to have caught hold yet. There exist plenty of totally free webzines, but a lot of them don't offer even token payment for contributors or they do pay but put up a very small amount of content (like one or two stories per issue or very infrequent issues).  That's one way to do it, but it's not for me.  Some others offer, like I do with M-Brane, a PDF edition, and some charge in different ways (such as two or three bucks via Pay Pal for a download of a current or back issue). And there's even one pro-level webzine, Jim Baen's Universe, which pays its writers very handsomely and also charges a subscription fee comparable to a print magazine (Card's Medicine Show uses a similar model but is not quite as pricy last I checked). I have no data on how well or how poorly any of these concepts work, though I will report as we go on how M-Brane fares.  It seems like the medium itself creates a conundrum: when we want to read an sf magazine, is it more the content that we're after or is the medium? In the case of Baen's Universe, it appears that they have cast their lot one hundred percent with content and decided that this will induce people to pay a premium price for their web-only mag.  Of course, that's an in-house operation of a major book publisher and they probably can afford to have it not work for awhile until people get comfortable with the format. At the other extreme, a lot of the totally free webzines don't seem to have bet enough on content and are hanging on the free nature of their medium (and there's a few, like Clarkesworld, which are both free to the reader and decent-paying markets for writers, but I don't know how they manage to be financed unless it's purely on the largesse of their publishers). I guess with the web, there is an issue of cost--even when the cost is very low--because it can give internet users pause when a thing goes from costing nothing to costing something.  We'll see how this goes, but I have reason for confidence since at least some people have decided that this is worth paying something for.

And yeah, I'll have some news soon on the blessed, bloody print edition: I keep getting sabotaged just when I think I'm ready to go on that.  #1 will make it out on time one way or another.

I wanted to spend some time tonight writing about writer Greg Egan, who was somewhat familiar to me before but whom I have read more short stories by recently and become quite taken with, but I will have to leave it for next time. While I am mostly well again, fatigue sets in too early!

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Anonymous said...

Hey, about to hit the hay after all day of training session but I thought I'd steal a moment online first.
some disjointed thoughts:

--I noticed Arkham Tales is selling adspace in their PDF mag. I think this is fine and maybe even a good thing so long as the ads are genre-related.

--discount pricing may not be the answer since the base price of anything online is 'free'. Maybe better to raise the price. $15 dollars for six months, $25 for a year. Make donations $20 a pop. There is a perception that something that costs more is probably worth more.

--Distribution: get on Amazon (I know there are other pdf versions of major mags on there, specifically for the Kindle at least) and B& Also check out Audible and any other similar sites.

--find out how to get reviews from Locus, IRoSF, and other high profile sites. At the very least, even if no review, get Locus to include in their sidebar a notice of each new issue.

--consider running a periodic raffle of something genre related on the site. Look into SEO for the web site and make the site POP, even if it is a simply blogspot site. (Brandon! stop it already: you're repeating yourself!) I know, I know... check out this template I put up on my test site. I imagine doing some graphical tweaks to the heading and other elements to differentiate it from any other site that uses the same template, but this is an example of something that might be cool. Let me know if it is too dark for what you envision.

--Make sure to update Ralan, Storypilot, and Duotrope for any status updates.

--Court a well known writer and see if you can get a story or two from them.

--Contact other editors of similar magazines to see if they can suggest specific resources or methodologies for success. I would define success as a magazine that was self-supporting.

--Have a feature story each issue that gets paid semi or pro rates,thereby allowing you to be listed in those categories on Ralan's.

--Solicit original artwork for the cover and interior. Even if you can't pay or the payment is token at first, I bet you can get some good stuff.

--Host quarterly themed writing contests, the winner or top three getting published.. (see Byzarium for an interesting take on this).

Anyway, I am stopping now since i need to go to bed:: one more day of training. I think I just spent my load in regards to the blog post I've been wanting to write about the market right now, but either way, just some thoughts... :)


Christopher Fletcher said...

Brandon, you read my mind on some of these things and I've been trying to respond for a couple nights but I have had two successive incidents where my comment post (to my own godsdamned blog) was not accepted...Anyway, in a hurry now, but I got some thoughts I'll share shortly.


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