|Thanks to modern medicine, I had the energy to pull together the last bits of the December issue of Clarkesworld Magazine. It’s up a couple of hours early, since I’m not likely to be awake at the right time. Damn pneumonia.
The story lengths this month allowed us to be a little flexible with this month’s budget and, as luck would have it, Lisa Mantchev had a companion piece to “A Dance Across Embers” available. Enjoy the extra story, but don’t get too used to having it. Next month we’re back two, but I do hope to do this again in the future. Consider this one a holiday gift. 🙂
Now, I’m beginning to get a bit dizzy (thank you cough medicine), so I’ll wander off to bed while you read…
Month: November 2007 Page 1 of 2
The word for today is Pneumonia. You should see the pile of medication he’s put me on.
As I stated in the previous post, Clarkesworld Magazine has been accepting donations from readers since our first issue. In that time, we’ve received some, but not many, donations. I had simply inserted this box at the bottom of each story:
Much to my surprise, people weren’t noticing it. I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s plain. It’s boring. Why would you read that box? If you look at our donations page, you’ll see that I made another mistake. I preset the donation buttons to $1, $2, and $5. Basically, I told people not to give more than $5. Even if no one would have given more, it’s a silly restriction to put in place. The amount should be open-ended and will be in the next update.
If there is one organization that knows how to raise money, it’s PBS. A few weeks ago, I realized that we should be taking a page from their book. It fits right in with the FREE STUFF concept. PBS gives you gifts for various levels of giving. $50 gets you a book, $100 gets you the DVD, etc…
In my other career, I’ve written grants for schools and pulled in nearly $2 million dollars for my employers. One of the primary rules that I’ve learned from the people who do this for a living is that you NEVER get something unless you ask for it. You can’t be timid. Politely make your case, ask and you may get want you need. When they do give you money, make sure they find out how you spent it and thank them. You’re trying to cultivate a culture of giving.
Back to PBS. They’re smart. You donate $50 and a few months later you have that book. Each time you see that book, you are reminded that you gave PBS money. You have a sign of their appreciation and FREE STUFF to make you feel warm and fuzzy… and that’s how you want your donors to feel.
Clarkesworld will embark on building a PBS model donation page. The big question is what to give away. Obviously, I have the stuff we’re doing through Wyrm Publishing, but I can take this a lot further. I need to talk to our authors and arrange to have some books signed or inscribed. I think Baen’s Universe had a program where authors tuckerized (had characters/places/things in stories named after them) major supporters. I’m not sure I could convince someone to do that, but if they offered, I certainly wouldn’t turn them away. I can also talk to my artists and see about having mousepads, t-shirts, or mugs featuring their covers. There are many possibilities and I’ve only touched on a handful of them.
I’m hoping that some of you can add to this list.
I’ve been trying to come up with a good starting point for talking about how Clarkesword Magazine could incorporate some of the wonderful ideas coming out of all the recent talk about magazines and online publishing. I’ve mentioned that we’re pretty happy with the business model, so I thought perhaps explaining some of that would be a good foundation for what comes next.
That usually gets some attention. With an online magazine, one of the earliest decisions you have to make centers around this word. Many online magazines, Clarkesworld included, give away all their content for free. Some, like Baen’s Universe, have a free issue online, but you pay for the rest. Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show gives you free non-fiction, but makes you pay for the fiction. If you run down the list of online magazines at Ralan or Duotrope, you’ll find many more magazines and models. There is no right way.
We went the completely free route because we thought it was the best way to get the most eyes on our stories, articles, interviews, and art. With that decision made, our sources of income became limited to:
- affiliate programs
- spinoff projects
Everyone hears about how Google and Boing Boing make nice sums of money from online advertising. They are the very rare exception. Advertisers care about the number of pageviews your site gets and it isn’t likely that you’ll get the quantity that will interest them enough to pay you. The numbers I’ve heard from various online magazines just don’t warrant it. Sure, Google will let you put their ads on your site, but the payoff is small and the aesthetic quality is almost non-existant. I decided the trade-off wasn’t worth it. Fourteen issues of Clarkesworld have been published without a single paid ad. However, I do fill the ad space with ads for my businesses and that has contributed to some of our operating costs. (see sponsorship below) Another good use of your ad space is in trade with other magazines for space in theirs.
We’re linking book titles in our author bios and non-fiction to affiliate programs. I don’t expect to see much revenue from these. I consider it more a promotional tool for the authors in our magazine and value-added for the reader. If it makes some money in the process, that’s just great.
Some magazines make this their primary source of income. Strange Horizons, for example, holds an annual drive for donations. Helix uses its donations like a pooled tip jar for their contributors. Based on editorials and comments from staff members, it seems that the level of giving at both has recently failed to meet their expectations. We take donations and I can tell you that giving levels are quite low.
This was the model employed by the granddaddy of online genre magazines, SciFiction. SciFi.com paid for everything and then one day they decided to stop. The rest is history. Subterranean Magazine and Fantasy Online are also sponsored sites run respectively by Subterranean Press and Prime Books. It’s very easy to consider these marketing projects for these publishers, just as Clarkesworld has been for Clarkesworld Books and will be for Wyrm Publishing. When the magazine was associated with the bookstore, I saw an significant increase in sales of short fiction (magazines and collections) there and that helped pay for a small portion of the magazine costs.
This is where you can get creative. Through Wyrm Publishing, we’re doing chapbooks and an annual anthology of all the fiction we publish in a year. The thinking here is something for collectors (signed chapbooks) and something for people who prefer paper or just don’t read online fiction (books). Let’s face it, online readers are a subset of readers. Just as the print magazines should reach out to the online community, the online magazine should reach out to print people in some way. Intergalactic Medicine Show is also taking this approach with a Tor collection of their stories (anchored by Card’s Ender stories).
Did I miss anything?
All this is nice and fine, but you need to build a community (just like a print magazine needs subscribers) for any of this to work. But that’s for a later post…