Query: Print Subscriptions to Clarkesworld

Ok, burying this question in the Lemons post probably wasn’t the brightest move on my part…

I’ve had several people querying about print subscriptions to Clarkesworld. Up until this month, this wasn’t even a possibility, but now that it is, another problem steps into the picture… shipping costs. The issues themselves have to be sold at $54 a year to make this at all cost-effective. Since we don’t qualify for any shipping discounts, the best rate we can get is $2.50 per unit (US addresses only), which would make the cost of a yearly subscription $84. Maybe some people would pay that, but it just feels absurd to me. Am I being silly?

Another option is to do quarterly shipments. The shipping increases to $3, but the frequency drops making the new total $66.

Bi-annual shipments would increase shipping to $3.75, with a new total of $61.50. (For some perspective, international shipping in flat rate envelopes is cheapest at this level, which is still about $32 a year, making it $86 total.)

The big question is would anyone even want to do this? Even if we don’t do subscriptions, we can still make single issue sales (or bulk packs) available for direct sale through Wyrm Publishing. Or maybe an annual subscription should be one of the perks of the higher-level Clarkesworld citizenship donations?

Please, we’d love to have your feedback before spending too much time on this.

30 comments

  1. Ciro says:

    I have dozens of zines on my Kindle and I never seem to get around to reading them. But those print issues of Tin House and Boulevard on my bedside table? I read those right away.

    It’s possible I have a problem with fiction on an e-reader. I don’t know, but I do know I would love a print sub to Clarkesworld.

    • Neil Clarke says:

      Thanks! Given the above information on pricing, if you were to subscribe what frequency would you go with?

      • Ciro says:

        $84 is high, but not, I think, out of line considering the quality of Clarkesworld and the fact that you don’t get to take advantage of economies of scale (I think people are getting used to the idea that independent print fare costs a little bit more). Given that tag and the amount of reading material I already struggle to keep up with, though, I would probably opt for the quarterly.

  2. I would love print versions. A cost of $84 for 12 issues doesn’t seem outlandish to me. What’s that, like $6.50 an issue? Not unreasonable.

  3. Too expensive… I would prefer to get it on paper, but more than $30 makes it difficult to sell in my opinion. After all, F&SF, Asimov’s and Analog SF are way cheaper (ok, they might not provide the same quality, but they are the “competition”).

    • Neil Clarke says:

      Yeah, that was my thought too. They print on cheaper paper and in quantities over 10k, which gets them significant price breaks. They also pay less for shipping at those quantities. Just no way to be competitive in print.

      • What if you could get in some limited edition autographed copies? I don’t know how many subscribers you guys have, but I think you might try to sell autographed quarterly… I guess you can round up a few people wishing to pay even $100-150/yr for four issues autographed by their favorite authors and yourself. You might try with 4 issues (1 year), limited to 20 copies.

        • Neil Clarke says:

          Actually, it’s in our contracts that the authors will sign copies for us. The logistics are nightmarish. Copies have to be mailed all over the world, which gets fairly expensive. The new plan was to get only a few signed and offer those as special exclusives for donors or auctions.

          • even with only one autograph + yours per issue? In other words, a print subscriber would pay $100 for eight autographs (four authors, four yours… and a nice ego-booster “Copy x of 20″ . just brainstorming, unfortunately I do not know the logistics… so I might just be saying BSs…

          • Neil Clarke says:

            Hmmm… one might be doable, particularly if I cart them to conventions.

  4. What might work is an annual personalized issue using print-on-demand. Each subscriber selects the favorite 10 stories and pays for the printed version on them (similar to what wikipedia does w/ print-on-demand articles). However, it might not be feasible from a business point of view.

    • Neil Clarke says:

      I suspect the margins would be extremely slim on that. We are currently catching up on the annual anthologies so if someone back issue fiction, that would be the way to go. The issues contain all the non-fiction and that’s the only place they’ll see print. (Same with the covers.)

  5. Michael Curry says:

    While I think a print version would be nifty, the fact that the Post Office will likely continue to make the cost of shipping just go up and up makes me wonder if it’s a quagmire that’s best avoided for what’s likely to end up being a small number of subscriptions.

    • Neil Clarke says:

      Eventually, it’s going to do significant damage to the print magazines too. It isn’t a pretty long-term picture for traditional monthly subs and one of the reasons I’ve offered up quarterly and bi-annual pack subscription models. I see this as mostly a collectors thing, but I could be wrong.

      • Ciro says:

        Your probably right about this being an offering aimed at hard-core fans. I know that Arc (extremely design-conscious digital quarterly, fiction offshoot of New Scientist) offers what they call collectible print issues, which are pricier per issue than what you are proposing.

        • Ciro says:

          Ack! your=you’re *shoot head dead*

        • Neil Clarke says:

          Yes and they wouldn’t be the first. Our original plan was much more expensive and exclusive signed copies. Logistics were a nightmare and set the print program back years.

  6. Derek Kunsken says:

    I am a Clarkesworld citizen already and I only consume the audio protion of the magazine – reading is very difficult to fit into a busy schedule, so audio is the only way I can get any literature anymore. So, e or print would make no difference. But I’ll keep supporting the audio with my donations. Derek

  7. Isaac says:

    Call me old fashion, out of fashion or late to the party as I haven’t gone the way of the e-reader. I’d be willing to subscribe for a year and give it whirl. I’d prefer going with the monthly option. It is a stout rate but I’m counting on the issues not being loaded with revenue creating ads for crap I don’t need pitched by celebs I couldn’t care less about. I look forward to getting my hands on the first run.

  8. Joshua Castleman says:

    As a writer and student, I would love a printed version, mostly because I spend so much time staring at a screen already that when I get some free time, the last thing I want to do is stare some more. And there’s just something great about holding it in my hands and sitting on the couch. As mentioned by someone else, I am much more likely to read the physical magazines/books I have than all the bookmarked e-pubs that I truly want to read but don’t.

    That being said, as a writer and a student, I have pretty much no money to spend on such a subscription. A yearly collection would be sweet though, maybe like comic books do it, so the cover art is still included for each section (I’m also an artist and really appreciate the great art[man, a writer/artist/student. does it get any poorer?]). A yearly collection/anthology might actually get me to spend money, although that doesn’t even need to be subscription based, necessarily.

    I also had/liked the idea of a print on demand where the reader could choose which stories to get (since I only read the fiction half), but I understand that would be way more of a headache than it’s worth.

    Hope that helps!

    • Neil Clarke says:

      Thanks! We publish an annual anthology (includes all fiction published in a year), but we’re a bit behind on them at the moment. The first two have been out for a while, the third will be published by the end of the year and the fourth will be available in early 2013. The non-fiction and art is absent from the anthologies. If I can work it out someday, we’d like to an art book featuring some of our favorite cover art.

      • Joshua Castleman says:

        Oh, excellent, I was unaware. And what do ya know, here comes Christmas. Perfect! Another book for the wish list. A collection of the cover art would be great too, as I really like the artwork you guys have.

  9. Lucius says:

    I bought books back when you had the store, I have the Clarksworld anthologies (hardback, of course), and while I would love to see a print magazine, the sticker shock rather took my breath away. I’m not saying that the $6.50 or so per issue is unreasonable, but for my money (and given the vicissitudes of the SF magazine market) I’d stick with the e-subscription and if you continue to publish them, buy the anthologies as they are released.

    Scott Edelman put out a great magazine, SF Age, and that died on the vine. It seems more than a little risky to commit to a print SF magazine especially as electronic media is becoming the dominant paradigm and general readership declines.

    • Neil Clarke says:

      Oh, we absolutely intend to maintain the esubscriptions. I see print issues as more as the collector’s market. I’m not going to allow the print offerings to put the publication at risk. They have to earn money or they cease to exist.

      The anthology series will continue. We’re in the process of catching up on those.

  10. I never find myself reading digital magazines, but print issues are consumed voraciously. While I think $84 for 12 issues is completely fair, I have to be honest and say that I’d probably subscribe to six months at a time. It just feels a lot easier to pay $42 twice a year than $84 all at once.

    Irrational, I know, but I don’t want you to operate on flawed projections.

    I’m very excited about the opportunity to subscribe to a print edition.

  11. Lisa Hertel says:

    As I’ve often said, I’d subscribe to a print version in a minute. But it’s not just me–it’s libraries. The NESFA library, for example, has a pretty complete collection of print magazines–some of it going back to the 40′s, even before. But yet, we don’t have a singe ebook or ezine. (We do have books on tape & DVD.)

    Of course, the MITSFS has the most complete magazine collection in the country. I don’t know how they handle ezines. (NESFA has more books.)

    While I may balk at $84, NESFA wouldn’t, especially for a frequent Hugo nominee.