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New Year, New Me… in June

New Year, New Me… in June
The New Office

I think we all know by now that 2020 is just all types of fucked up. So I don’t see any reason just to hit the reset button on a number of things both personally and a professionally. It is time to pull out of this deep dive and get back on course. And no better time than now.

The year started off bad for me. Closing Factor Four Magazine was pretty hard on me. I was already in a creative slump with my personal writing, but when I lost the magazine it was kind of an end game for me. And that decision was made at the very end of 2019. Not the best way to close out a year and start another one.

The depression was real, but I made myself a couple of promises entering into 2020. Some plans to keep the depression at bay and to refocus myself and my life. The end goal was to return to my own creative spirit.

The first was that I’d run a 5K by the end of the year. I’d start my None to Run program in April with a hopes to be ready by summer for my first 5k. It is a 12 week program so I planned to be ready by the end of June.

The second was to make an effort to stay connected with my best friend by seeing her at least once per month. We used to work together and I saw her 5 days a week. When I changed jobs in 2017, that stopped and it wasn’t easy for me. I have a phobia of messaging people out of the blue, let alone inviting them out. I worry I seem clingy, needy, overreaching, and maybe even a pest. I never think that people think as high of me as I do of them. And I figured if I committed to one outing a month with her, I’d start to break down some of those walls. My job offers very little social interaction now, and I need the interaction despite my inability to break the ice.

Well, as we all know, COVID is a son-of-a-bitch. Working from home, everything is closed, and the general fear of the unknown all came slamming at us all early in the year. My wife is an essential worker and has to go to work every day. I used to work one day a week at home, and five days a week seemed great. No commute, even though I just bought a new car for a more comfortable commute, seemed like ideal.

Wear a mask, it isn’t that hard.

But as weeks went by it becomes obvious the impact it has on you to be at home all the time. I worked in my home’s “media room” and after awhile, working in there meant I didn’t was to be there after work hours. Which meant I didn’t want to do some of my favorite things like gaming and watching movies.

Of course, there was no way I was able to see my friend once a month and that goal was shot. It was a real bummer for me and kind of made me feel like I had nowhere to turn anymore.

My son’s hockey team was making a playoff run and that was canceled. I lost the interaction with my fellow hockey moms, which was a fun source of social interaction while enjoying my son’s hockey.

I was able to start my None to Run program early, but around week 9 my knee was injured and that put it on pause to heal. And I still really haven’t picked it back up yet. The lost momentum is more to blame than any injury now.

One of my first weeks on the None to Run program

In general life just seemed to be on pause.

I did decided to start a long needed home project. To take one of the really large rooms and create an office. Where once was my son’s really large bedroom and a tiny utility room, would now be a place for me to work that was separate from the other areas of the house. My wife and I decided it was a good use of the time and stimulus money. Plus we needed to fix some unsafe electrical work.

That project was longer, harder, and more costly than I expected. It drained my savings (which is a new source of stress) and took a lot of hard work. We added Ethernet and coax to the entire house and made the electrical safe again. It took two months to complete, though it felt like ages.

But this week I was finally able to work in the new office space and it has me suddenly inspired. It feels like a space to create, build, and relax. And despite working in it all day, I am quick to switch from the work laptop to mine at the end of the day and start creating.

Add that, my middle son, who is quickly becoming a very avid reader, has started to read my books as well. And talking books with him has been enjoyable. This combination has lead to a sort of “ah-ha” moment.

So this week I fired up my personal laptop for the first time in months. It took ages to power on and update. But once it was ready I needed to get the creative juices flowing. And I knew where to start.

I was right here at this website. I needed to bring the old blog over to the website for a more seamless experience. And I needed a website I could update easily. And so I’ve spent my week working on this website and I’ve decided I need to make some other promises to myself.

Ultimately I need to hold myself accountable, but I also hope that by sharing the journey with my friends, family, and supporters you can help me.

Here is what I need to do:

  • Get physical. Run again. Both my job and my hobbies are sedentary, and I need to change that.
    • Starting Monday I will go back to my three day a week regiment working to get myself back up to Week 9 conditioning for None to Run.
    • I will commit two days a week to injury prevention training.
    • I will find a strength training regiment that works for me.
    • I will get at least a Virtual 5k in this year.
    • I will find other group physical activities that I enjoy.
  • Read again. I need to read, I love to read, but somehow I never make time.
    • I’ve set a low goal of 8 books for the rest of the year.
    • My website as a currently reading section on the left, watch it to be sure I am reading like I should.
    • Rather than spending hours scrolling my phone, I’ll set aside a minimum of an hour most days to read before bed.
  • Write again. Oh how this one seems to be obvious, but also the most difficult.
    • I am going to get back into my once a week blog habit. When I blog regularly, I always wanted to write more.
    • I will go into the short stories folder of my remote drive, and get them submitted to places. Sure, I’d love to be paid for them but more importantly I just want to get them out there. Move on from them.
    • Set to work writing the third book in The Serenity Saga. It is overdue and needs to be brought to life.
    • Remain active on Twitter so I can stay connected with my writer audience and they can hold me to my progress on these goals.
  • Work out some ways to be more social despite trying to remain safe and healthy.
    • I have to work out a way to communicate with my friends and push aside the feeling that I am being bothersome.
    • Undoubtedly some of my friends will be reading this. Their support will be helpful in bridging the gap when I am too scared to do so.
    • Maybe a once a month video call with a few of my friends isn’t too much to ask after all. Maybe I can figure that out someway.
  • This one is the least measurable and probably the hardest one to obtain. But I really want to return to publishing in some form.
    • I don’t know what that looks like.
    • I should allow myself to continue to think of ideas.
    • Valid ideas should be fleshed out to see if they are possible. If they aren’t move on, if they are explore it.

So there you have it. It is a new year, new me… in June. I hope you’ll subscribe/follow this blog. Follow along on Twitter. And most of all, I hope you find your own ways to maintain your mental health during this unusual time. Please share you comments, thoughts, experiences, and tips below. I’d love to learn from you!

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From the Editor’s Desk: The Cost of Running a Magazine

money bagsThere is a cost to just about every business. What surprises me is how many people don’t realize the costs of running a magazine. There is also an assumption that running a magazine is a money making venture, and for most of us it is not.

This was something I was surprised to learn. I knew that my magazine had lots of costs. I pay the writers. I pay the cover artist, I pay Submittable to manage our submissions and GoDaddy to host our domain. There are printing costs, shipping costs, and the cost of office supplies (to print and store contracts). There is a lot of little costs in running a magazine. And I haven’t even talked about marketing expenses.

But I thought I was one of the only people trying to run a semi-professional magazine around my day job. And I thought for certain those that own the professional markets didn’t have to work a “real” job just to make ends meet. But I learned different real quick. What’s rare is finding a market that pays for itself and the owner doesn’t have to work a day job. I’m the common one.

I am not trying to discourage anyone from starting a magazine. But what I am saying is to be prepared for the costs. Don’t expect to get rich with an overnight success. Expect to put in a lot of work, and money, if you want to make it. And, in the interest of transparency, I’ll break down my current costs.

Writer Payments:

I currently pay authors 1 cent per word (and I will be getting to how I plan to increase that below). I budget 25,000 words in each issue (over 10 stories) and there are 6 issues in a year. Total $1500

Artist Payments:

I currently pay $150 for cover art for six issues a year. Total $900

Web hosting and Submittable:

Now, I am lucky. Submittable has raised their rates, but I am grandfathered in so I have the old rate. That is until I need to upgrade (which will be very soon). So right now I pay $10 a month for that.   I pay another $9 per month to host Plasma Frequency‘s two domains which cost me $15 a year each (not to mention another fee on that).  Total: $258

Miscellaneous:

There is postage, printing costs, proof copies, and office supplies. Total $400 a year (YTD 2014)

Grand Total: $3048

Now you notice that I have left off marketing. To be honest, other than my trips to the conventions, I don’t do a lot of marketing. I need to do more, and so that will no doubt be in my future budgets.

Now I bet some of you are thinking $3,048 a year isn’t all that much. And for some it may not be. But, lets not forget I have had to come up with that through two job losses and a move from California to Washington. Add that to the fact that, like most Americans, I live paycheck to paycheck. I have no savings account, no retirement account.  I am raising three boys who love to eat (and they haven’t even hit the teen years). So, $3,000 is a lot of money for us.

And, YTD for 2014 when it comes to magazine sales and subscriptions I have made $326. Not even enough to pay for one issue.

So why bother with running a magazine?

I absolutely love doing it. When I say this is a passion of mine, I can not begin to express how short the word “passion” falls in describing how I feel about this magazine. I get such joy out of publishing short fiction. And that is just it.  If you want to run a magazine, you have to understand that it is a labor of love, not a get rich quick plan.

In fact, I don’t care if Plasma Frequency ever makes money. Yes, someday I would like to pay my all volunteer staff for their hard work. And maybe is ten years, I’d like to see enough from it that I don’t have to work anymore. But will I even be swimming in money because of a successful magazine? I doubt it, but I am okay with that. I just want Plasma Frequency to be successful.

Successful Defined

2013top10fictionzineI want Plasma Frequency to gain a loyal fan base, and maybe even publish some award winning fiction. Personally, I think we already have some huge talent that submit to us. With each issue it gets harder and harder for me to pick stories. And I love that. But in order to achieve more success, I need to invest more money into the magazine. The problem is, I am out of money. Sure, I can keep maintaining our one cent per word, and maintain our current level of success, but I feel I owe it to those I publish to push harder and continue to strive to make Plasma Frequency a household name in science fiction and fantasy.

So how do you get more money?

We’ve tried a lot of things. I stopped giving away our issues for free so that people would buy more and we would make more, but we didn’t.  And my main goal has always been to get these authors and their stories to readers. So that is why I’ve gone back to free by making the stories free to read online. And while I won’t make money that way, the web traffic to my website tripled on the first issue we did that (Issue 13).

I have a Patreon Page up. And we have advertising on our website. But those things need time to ramp up. And I am ready to push Plasma Frequency into the professional publication level.

Professional?

There are many definitions for the word professional. I certainly think I have a professional publication, and professional staff. But, I am referring to rates we pay our authors and artists. I mentioned above that I pay one cent per word. That is the absolute bottom of the barrel in the semi-pro pay rate range. Professional pay rates start at 6 cents per word. And that is where I want to take Plasma Frequency.

That takes money, right?

kickstarterExactly. And that is where I am hoping others in the community that I hold close to my heart will come in and help us out. I’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise just over $15,000 by November 15th. With that, I will be able to use $10,000 just to pay authors and artists more money starting in January. If funded, I would pay authors 6 cents per word and artists $200 for cover art.

Does that mean I won’t be spending my own money? Oh, no. I will still be spending my own money. That will free up money for me to spend on marketing Plasma Frequency.

I’m scared.

I am scared to death this won’t reach funding. The moment I launched the project the anxiety hit me. I have big plans for this magazine, and for two and half years I’ve wanted to see it start paying professional rates. I am scared that others don’t have the same passion for Plasma Frequency that I do. I just launched yesterday and (at the time of this blog) four other people also want to see this succeed. That is great. I am hoping for ten by the end of tonight, it is a lofty goal but we need the supporters. The more people get behind this and start sharing it the better we can be.

If you are a member of the writing community, especially the short fiction one, you no doubt no the importance of a new paying market. There is way, way more quality fiction out there than there are places to publish it, even fewer that pay above 6 cents per word. And when Plasma Frequency started, we gave them a place to be paid and published. Now we want to give writers a place to be published and paid a fair, professional wage.

I really hope you take a moment to check out the Kickstarter. We have some great rewards, including a story critique from one of our editors for just $7. But even if you just have three dollars left over after paying your bills, we would be happy to take it. And you can know that we will put that money to excellent use.

And please remember, I publish Plasma Frequency for all of you in the science fiction and fantasy community. I hope you enjoy it.

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