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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.

From the Editor’s Desk: New Things on the Horizon for Plasma Frequency

2013top10fictionzineIt is funny how much time I spend blogging on writing, publishing, marketing, and even just random things going on in my life. Yet somehow I don’t seem to do much blogging with my editor’s cap on.  I have touched on it here and there, but most of the time that I mention Plasma Frequency, it is about how it has kept me from writing.  It would seem that something that is taking up so much of my time deserves a bit more attention. I assume my blog followers, being writers, might enjoy hearing what is going on in the short fiction publishing world.

For those that don’t know, Plasma Frequency, in my bi-monthly speculative fiction magazine. We mostly publish science fiction and fantasy, but some horror too. We publish from just a few hundred words up to 7,000 words. And we have been doing this now for two years.  Issue 13 comes out this Friday and it makes the start of our third publishing year.  That is a big deal for someone like me for several reasons: first we got this far, second we continue to grow, and third we seem to be making a difference in the industry.

In a future blog I intend to provide some tips on how to start your own magazine, but for now I want to talk about Plasma Frequency‘s future.

Our First Issue, with Award winning cover art by Tais Teng

Our First Issue, with Award winning cover art by Tais Teng

This is a magazine that I started in 2012 because I wanted to give authors another place to showcase their work.  And not just showcase it, but receive compensation for it.  Writing is a lot of hard work, and while doing it for money isn’t the best reason to get into writing, there should still be some compensation for it.

I wanted to start Plasma Frequency at 3 cents per word, but the funding for Plasma Frequency comes out of my pocket. So we started, and remain at, 1 cent per word.  The main question for me has always been how do we get this pay rate increased. The first year, I tried in-magazine advertising, and that didn’t work out well.  The second year I tried selling the magazine and some crowd funding.  Neither has worked out well.  Selling the issues covers about 10% of the costs per issue. The other 90% comes from my pocket. When you add in web hosting, submission services, and other operational costs (shipping, printing, postage, and much more), about 98% of the magazine’s funding comes from my own pocket.

Since my pocket book has no more room in it to add to the magazine, I spend a lot of time going over some ideas for our third year. We will still be selling the print copy and the eReader copies. That will not change, because readers have told us they enjoy those issues.  But we will be bringing the stories to our website, allowing those who want to read for free the ability to do so.  Now at first that might seem counter productive to making money, but we are hoping that increased reader exposure will also increase donations.

Asking for donations is always hard. People work hard for their money and they aren’t sure they want to donate it to a magazine. But, we hope that by reading our stories free online you will see this is a magazine worth a few bucks. And this year we are started a Patreon page.

Issue 8. The first issue with the new Masthead and the first issue sold via Amazon. Award winning art by Laura Givens

Issue 8. The first issue with the new Masthead and the first issue sold via Amazon. Award winning art by Laura Givens

What is Patreon?  Well Patreon is a way to donate a small amount monthly to us. It can be as little as one dollar, to as much as you see fit. That is a great way to put just a little bit into the bank and it all helps.  I’ve set some goals on there for us to reach. Reaching those goals will help us to raise the pay rates.  Maybe even get to 7 cents a word for authors in our magazine. That means we can attract more writers and bring in a wide range of story styles.  That is a lofty goal, but the good thing about Patreon is that it doesn’t expire. There is no deadline to reach any of these goals.  It is just the road map to our success.

Tying in to the Patreon page, we are also establishing donor levels. You can reach these through Patreon or through one time donations.  All people who reach one of our donor levels (to be officially announced September 5th) will be listed in all issues of our magazine (print and eReader) for the rest of time.  Onetime donations are always accepted, but Patreon is a good way to reach those donor goals without spending too much.  We have started out with some basic rewards, but as we grow so will the rewards.  The editors and I have even talked about some exclusive special editions that only donors will have access too.  We’re also considering early releases to donors and other such fun perks for becoming a donor.

Do you have a book, magazine, product, or service that would appeal to the audience of my magazine?  Oh, lord that sounds like such a horrible sales pitch. We are bringing back limited space advertising.  Official rates will be announced September 5th. But there are only four spaces for sale each month.  And if you buy a space for October, you get the rest of September free!  Your ad will be on every Plasma Frequency webpage, even the home page, for the entire month.  The ad prices are affordable and you will catch people’s attention.  If we consistently sell out the advertising, we could raise the rate of pay to as much as 4 cents per word.

Now you may be a lot like me and not have a lot of money to spare. I get that.  Money is not the only way to support us. You can also share your favorite stories. You can share the Patreon page. And you can follow Plasma Frequency on Facebook and Twitter.  There are sites to review our magazine too.

But aside from trying to raise money we have some other new and exciting things for our third year.  First off we are publishing Steve Coate’s “The Great Exodus”, a six part serial fiction piece.  The first part releases with Issue 13, and it will run for six issues.  This is a great way for us to publish longer fiction that would otherwise fail to fit within our pages.

We are also setting up a more consistent issue style.  In the past I would accept stories as they came in. And when the word count limit was reached, that was that.  Well sometimes we’d have twelve or thirteen stories in an issue, and other times we’d have just six.  I now am accepting stories for the whole year.  We accept just a few longer fiction pieces (typically two per issues) and the rest will be shorter or flash.  The result will be a consistent 10 stories per issue (11 counting Coate’s serial), while also giving a good mixture of fiction length.  The readers should better know what to expect from us.

I touched on this a little bit, but aside from our six issues, we are looking into publishing special editions. Perhaps even with guest

Issue 13: Out September 5th 2014. Art by Tais Teng

Issue 13: Out September 5th 2014. Art by Tais Teng

editors.  We are still talking this over.  I am also thinking of handing one issue over to one of my other editors and letting them have a go in the driver seat.  I am looking forward to working those out.

Of course the Year Two Anthology is also in the works.  The editors and I are choosing our picks, and just like last year our readers are making their picks too.  Voting ends on September 15th.  Then I have to contact the winners and set up the contracts for the issue.  I hope to have it out by late October so that you can have it on your Christmas list.

We will also be archiving our old issues online.  This will take a long time as there are 12 issues worth of stories to code on to a website. We don’t use a WordPress site for Plasma Frequency.  I code it all myself. And, I am learning coding as I go.

Speaking of the website, on September 5th our new website releases. It won’t be hugely different than our site now.  But I have put the stories as the main feature on the first (home) page.  And there are other tweaks along the way.

So that is just a taste of what we have in store for the next year. If you are already a reader, I hope you enjoy it.  If you are not yet reading us, I hope you will join in.

Guest Post: The Horror of London by Aiden Truss

London figures large in my life. It is where I was born, it is where I have always worked and even though I now live in Kent, I live close enough that I can be back in the heart of the city within twenty minutes. Some of my favourite authors such as Peter Ackroyd, Neil Gaiman and Ben Aaronovitch have all written books that have engaged me primarily because they were set in London. While embracing the present, they have been able to pierce the veil and see into the city beneath the surface with its almost forgotten ghosts, and gods who struggle to maintain a foothold in the modern world.

So when it came to writing my first novel Gape, there was nowhere else that I could really think of setting it. Of course large parts are set in Hell and in other supernatural settings, but my home city had to play the biggest part. Like all major cities, London is magnificent, beautiful and endearing while at the same time managing to be terrifying, ugly and unwelcoming. And with the endless possibilities of its subterranean world, it’s the perfect backdrop for a horror story.

Starting off in the unremarkable suburb of Bromley (the birthplace of HG Wells), the story moves through the metropolis but for the most part avoids the usual tourist landmarks with which many authors love to colour their stories. Other than setting sections of the action on the roof of one of the capital’s most infamously ugly constructions, the specific locations weren’t important. I just needed to impart the feel of the city and the cold distractedness of its denizens. Indeed, the story had to be set in a place where the citizens were so used to the extraordinary that for the most part they are only interested in capturing the strange events that befall them, through the screens of their mobile phones. Walking around London, one does get the impression that if a demon appeared in the middle of the West End, people would fumble for their phones before they even thought about screaming in panic.

The city has been the scene of so many awesome (in the literal sense) events. It has seen several cataclysmic conflagrations, riots on its streets and explosions beneath them, and it has had repeated visits from various forms of pestilence and plague. In fact stories persist to this day that several sections of the Tube system had to be diverted during construction in order not to disturb any of the many ‘plague pits’ or mass graves beneath the city. And, if you are at a loose end in the East End, on most nights you can take part in one of the many walks that follow in the footsteps of Jack the Ripper.

London is the perfect home for a horror story and also a powerful metaphor for the human condition itself, with all of its contradictions and dichotomies, with its lovers and killers, heroes and villains and its angels and demons – any of whom might be sitting next to you on the next commute into town.

Perhaps this is why Londoners are known for their aloofness and lack of eye-contact. They just never know who or what they might be sharing a bus ride with. And, in this regard, perhaps Gape might serve more as a tourist guide than as a pure work of fiction…

 

AidenAuthor Aiden Truss:Gape_Front_Cover_Only_Final

Aiden Truss is a forty one year-old geek who still thinks that he’s twenty-one. Despite never having grown up, he’s now been married for twenty four years and has two sons who have grown up against all odds to be strangely well adjusted.

Aiden spends his time flitting between high and low culture: he holds an MA in Cultural and Critical Studies and can often be seen stalking the galleries and museums of London, but also likes watching WWE, listening to heavy metal music, collecting comic books and playing classic video games.

Aiden lives in Kent, England and Gape is his first novel.