Neil Clarke

The Award-Winning Editor of Clarkesworld Magazine, Forever Magazine, The Best Science Fiction of the Year, and More

Month: February 2008 Page 1 of 2

Cover Art for the March Issue of Clarkesworld

The cover art for our March issue is by Canadian artist, Pascal Blanché. You can see more of his work in his deviantArt gallery.

Public speaking induced brain drain

The current Adventures in Scifi Publishing podcast introduces a new feature: Magazine Spotlight. For some unknown reason, Shaun decided that he’d start off this feature with Clarkesworld Magazine and interviewed me for the piece. I’ve never done a recorded or live interview before and found the experience a bit unnerving. It’s so much easier to come up with answers after the microphone is turned off and your brain is once again fully functional. Fortunately, Shaun was able to edit out some of my tongue-tied brainless moments and make it a lot better.

This whole experience has reminded me of how things were about 15 years ago. I was working for a university at the time and had to give regular presentations about our laptop program during admissions events and conferences. Public speaking scared the hell out of me, but after a while, I learned some coping mechanisms and eventually became comfortable with it. Unfortunately, I’m realizing now that these were visual in nature and don’t cross-over.

I don’t know that I’ll ever do something like this again, but it seems to me that I should be better prepared in the event that I do. Anyone have any advice to offer?

I wonder what the neighbors will think

Lisa is attending the National Polymer Clay Guild Synergy Conference in Baltimore, so the boys and I are home alone. There was enough snow last night that none of us had to go to school or work today, so we decided to have a little fun.

Aidan named the monster Zieful.  The snowman will just be Snowman #1.  We don’t expect him to survive.

Back from Boskone

I spent the last few days at Boskone. I didn’t end up with a roommate, so there was an extra bed in the hotel room. Lisa and the boys decided at the last minute to join me. It definitely made the long trip up and back a lot more enjoyable. During the con, they spent most of their time wandering the hotel, getting lost in Boston, eating jellybeans and watching countless episodes of Spongebob Squarepants. Aside from the getting lost part, that was the vacation the boys wanted. At 4 and 7 years old, my boys are still easily entertained.

My time was spent quite differently. One of the upcoming books I’m working on is the limited edition of Toast by Charles Stross. The signature sheets for this project were printed last week, so I brought them with me and made arrangements with Charlie to have some of them signed at the con. A con is hardly the best place for someone to sign over 700 pages, so I was very lucky that he was able to get through about 500 of them. The remaining pages will be mailed to the UK later this week.

Also in the world of Wyrm projects, Tobias Buckell and I met up with Brian Dow, the artist who is working on the cover for Tides from the New Worlds. It’s always nice to be able to put a face to someone I’ve been exchanging email with for a while. The preliminary work he’s shown us so far has been fantastic and I can’t wait to show you what he’s come up with. I find the process he is using very interesting and he said that we may see some of the models he built for this cover at next year’s Boskone.

I managed to attend a whopping total of two panels, a handful of signings and one reading during the course of the entire weekend. It was too easy to be distracted and sucked into conversations with new and old friends in the comfortable lobby bar and evening parties. Of note was  the “Death to Peeps Fun Fest” where countless marshmallow minions were zapped, blended, nuked, and sacrificed to the whims of attendees. There were Peeps served at my wedding, so I have a soft spot for them. I had to take the boys down later that weekend to see the Peep carnage. I also had fun watching Bob Eggleton paint two pictures at the art show.

I bought a copy of Ten Sigmas & Other Unlikelihoods from Paul Melko (which is apparently the first copy he’s signed) and Radio Freefall by Matthew Jarpe.  I tried to get a copy of Paul’s novel, Singularity Rising, but there weren’t any copies left in the dealer’s room within a few hours.  I also picked up a copy of the latest issue of The New York Review of Science Fiction, which contains “The Third Bear”, a non-fiction piece by the same name as the story that appeared in Clarkesworld.

Overall, a great time. I’ll definitely be back again next year.

What not to do when starting an online magazine. (Part 1?)

At the end of Simon Owen’s recent piece on finding a profitable model for genre ezines, he made a point of ending with the number of dead markets listed on Ralan.com. That number of 649 has since moved up to 650.

A bug started buzzing in my head. His article was specifically about online markets, but that number actually combines print and online markets.  A quick bit of research identified 269 print markets and 320 online markets. The remaining 61 didn’t contain enough information to tell.

Ok, 320 dead online markets. It’s a big number, but it in no way demonstrates that the online magazines have cornered the market on failure.  Still, I wanted to get a better understanding of what had gone wrong with these online markets, so I looked at pay rates. A stunning 157 (nearly half) of these markets paid $10 or less per story. That’s just wrong on so many levels.  What were they thinking? Let me spell this out more clearly:

IF YOU ARE GOING TO START ANY KIND OF MAGAZINE, PAY YOUR AUTHORS SOMETHING REASONABLE.

The SFWA defines pro-rate as 5 cents or more. It’s an arbitrary baseline and probably long overdue for a change, but it is still something officially recognized in the field.  A number of magazines pay in the 2-4 cent range.  Not great, but at least they are making an effort.

PAY PER WORD, NOT WITH HOLLOW PROMISES.

I was shocked by the number of markets that stated they wanted to pay on royalties from subscriptions, donations, or shares of the advertising. Let’s be fair here. Tell them exactly how much they’ll be paid (in US dollars, not Monopoly money) before you print the story. If you can’t, think twice before you start your magazine.

Yes, I am aware of a few good zines that fly in the face of what I’m suggesting, but believe me, they are the exception, not the norm. You need to ask yourself, why anyone would sell me a story for that rate when there are other markets that pay better. If you can answer that question with an honest positive for the author, I’d love to hear it.  

When I looked at the “failed” online markets, I found three zines that occasionally paid pro rates and only ten that would qualify as pro-markets. The ten were: Dark Matter, Feral Fiction, Future Orbits, Getting It (erotic), Infinite Edge, Lenox Ave, SciFiction, Suck, Trabuco Road and Would that it Were (historical/ghost). These publications paid their authors well, but couldn’t, or decided not to, make a run of it. It seems to me that they represent a good group of people to ask about the potential pitfalls.

I know… Learning from the mistakes of others is simply crazy talk. But maybe I’ll do it anyway.

The rise of the genre ezine: Will it ever find a profitable model?

That’s the title of a recent post over at Bloggasm.  Simon interviewed several editors and publishers of ezines, including everyone at Clarkesworld Magazine, and makes some good observations. I’m not sure if he plans to continue writing about this topic, but I’m hoping that someone does. 

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