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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.

I’m Not Attractive

I usually stick to the more “professional” topics on this blog and write a lot about writing, authors, and publishing, but this week I feel compelled to get a bit more personal.  There is a tie in to writing and being an author, I think.  And if I get to that, I’ll talk about it.  But, before I go any further, I have a feeling this post may come across as a “poor me” post.  I might sound a bit like Eeyore.  But I assure you that I write from inspiration, even in my blog posts, and I felt inspired to write this down so I am going for it.

The inspiration for this came from Facebook.  I get a little too much inspiration, and distraction, from that site.  But the truth is I am on there a lot (I just wish I got the social experience I crave from it).  It wasn’t someone’s post that inspired me today.  It was that greyed out text in the update status box that reads “What’s on your mind?”  On my personal Facebook page I comment on that phrase a lot.  But over the last few days it has been taunting me. Every time I’ve read it for the past few days, I’ve wanted to post a real response to that.  But, I chickened out.  Today I told myself I would really post what has been on my mind, it is simple enough.  One sentence really.  But, just a little bit ago I chickened out again and posted, “Facebook always asks “What’s on your mind?” but I don’t think it really cares.”

I did what I always do when I am faced with something I think might be going a bit too deep, I resort to an attempt at humor. You see, what I had wanted to post was much more of an insight to my own personal demons. I wanted to post in that status box, “I wish I was attractive.” Wow… something tells me that when Facebook designers sat down and decided to put “What’s on your mind?” in the status box they didn’t really mean that.  They probably were hoping for something more along the lines of “My cat just chased a laser light and ran into the screen door.”  See… there is that attempt at humor jumping in again.

It is interesting that I couldn’t post that real part of me on Facebook to a group of friends and family, but I can post it here for the entire world to see.  Probably because I know none of my friends will read this.

I know I am not an attractive man.  My wife might argue with me on that, but the fact remains the same: I’ve spent my whole life being overlooked by the opposite sex.  First I was skinny, lanky, and awkward socially.  Then I got a bit more social, but I was still lanky.  Now, I love to be social.  But, I’m fat. Once again I find myself the perfect description of unattractive.  I compensate for that with humor.  When I make a woman laugh, for just a moment I feel good about myself.  Not just women either, anytime I can make someone’s day a bit better I feel good. (Perhaps that is why I want to be a respected author with a fan base.)

I am very happy with my wife.  Despite all my awkwardness, I found someone I can be with for the rest of my life.  I know many of you are thinking that if I’m happy with my wife, why does it matter what others think.  But let’s be honest, we all care what others think.  My wife doesn’t get jealous.  She says it is because she trusts me.  And I know deep down that is why.  But to me it is because she knows she has nothing to worry about. I’m just not the kind of man that has women chasing after him.  Of course, many would argue that woman won’t say anything to me or compliment me because they don’t want my wife to get the wrong idea. Perhaps that is true. But where were they before?

I told you this would sound a lot like Eeyore.

So if I am happily married, why does it matter so much to me that I am attractive? I just want to be someone my wife can brag about.  She has nothing about me to brag about, and she doesn’t bother to try.  She can’t say I am attractive, she can’t say I’m rich, she can’t even say I’m successful.  The few times she has bragged has come after talking to her about this very topic.

Ah, there it really is.  I just want to be successful in something.  I’ve spent my whole life trying to be someone that made an impact on the world, or even my community, or even my friends. If I died tomorrow who anyone outside my family morn my loss? …That sounded a little emo of me. (Attempt at humor).

I volunteer in my community.  But my attempt to be a city council member failed.  I tried to be a business owner, and failed.  I tried to go for my dream job, and failed.  Financially, any amount of good luck with money has been followed by a haunting from my previous money mistakes. Now I am trying to realize me dream of being a writer, but the jury is still out on that one.  As for a career, I’ve settled into security and accepted that is the path for me.

Back to the topic.

As much as I crave social interaction, and lack it, it would figure that I would pick the very solitary lifestyle of a writer.  But I think I like the company of writers because I discovered that for the most part, writers are a group of people with Self-Esteem issues.  I’ve found some very attractive writers out there, but that isn’t the only esteem issue out there.  For some they are terrified of social situations.  Others, lack confidence in their writing. The list goes on.  I think that is why you find so many authors out there with pen names.

There are so many reasons to have a pen name, but one of the most common I hear is because of some variety of the statement: “I don’t want people to know I write.” or “I don’t want people to know I write this.”

It seems that to be a writer you must have some personal demons.  Mine is that I am ugly and lack success.

Next week, I’ll try to come back with a little bit more upbeat post.  Something to do more with writing.