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

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2008 Locus Poll… Did we get the REAL results?

Last year, I did an analysis of how online magazines were represented in the results of the Locus Poll and was looking forward to comparing this year’s results to last. The July issue is out and I jumped right to the numbers.

The first thing I see is that online magazines are well-represented in the magazine results: Subterranean (5th), Jim Baen’s Universe (8th), Strange Horizons (9th), Ansible (13th), Clarkesworld (14th), SFSite (15th), Fantasy Magazine (16th), SFRevu (21st), and IROSF (22nd). Locus counts only eight online magazines, where I see nine. My bet is they considered Subterranean a print magazine.

However, the next thing I see really bothers me and completely invalidates any year-to-year analysis I had planned:

“Results were tabulated using the system put together by webmaster Mark Kelly, with Locus staffers entering votes from mail-in ballots. Results were available almost as soon as the voting closed, much sooner than back in the days of hand-counting. Non-subscribers outnumbered subscribers by so much that, in an attempt to better reflect the Locus magazine readership, we decided to change the counting system, so now subscriber votes count double. (Non-subscribers still managed to out-vote subscribers in most cases where there was disagreement.)”

They changed the vote counting system after the polls closed. If they were so concerned about the results reflecting reader opinion, why allow non-subscribers the chance to vote in the first place? Doing something like this makes it seem like they were unhappy with the results and put a fix in. Given their long-standing reputation, I’m sure that wasn’t their plan, but what were they thinking?

I think this action significantly hurts the credibility of the poll and the Locus Awards. By their own admission, changing how they counted the votes took the Best First Novel Award away from Patrick Rothfuss and handed it to Joe Hill. That’s just a horrible way to lose and a horrible way to win.

I’d love to get my hands on the raw data and see how things really shook out.

Psst. Here’s a great story. Pass it on.

When the topic of saving short fiction comes up, it inevitably turns to money. I don’t want to talk about money right now.  Rest assured, I’ll come back to it, but right now, I want to talk about the second best thing you can do for short story or magazine that you enjoy.

Tell someone about it.

I think David de Beer made some pretty good points in his recent post about promoting and sharing. As he mentions, I installed a tool called ShareThis at Clarkesworld Magazine back in December. It’s pretty easy to find. Just look for the little green icon and the words “Share This” at the end of any story, commentary, or interview. When you click on that button, it gives you a nice little menu of places that you can share that page with. It even gives you an option to email the link to a friend. It doesn’t get much more convenient than that.

But does it help?


Our usage stats for ShareThis aren’t fantastic, but since adding it, I’ve seen an increase in incoming traffic from sites like StumbleUpon or Digg. The way those sites work, the more people that recommend a page, the better. A single person, even a completely friendless person,  could end up sending hundreds of people to a magazine. There’s no reason we should think of this as restricted to online magazines either. Many print magazines are placing sample content online. What better way to encourage that behavior?

To wrap this up, I’d like to ask a favor of you. Create a StumbleUpon, Digg or Reddit account today. I seem to have developed a preference for StumbleUpon. Then go recommend one or two stories you’ve read online and enjoyed. Heck, get a friend to do it too.

By order of Congress… move your magazine online

This is priceless and deserved a post of it’s own.  Courtesy of India Ocean on the Asimov’s forum.  Emphasis is mine.

“Dear —–:

Thank you for your comments about the issue on increased postage for periodicals. I appreciate you taking the time to contact me on this important issue.

This issue is particularly important to me because the Los Angeles area is home to many publishing companies that rely on the United States Postal Service for distributing their publications. Recently, the Postal Rates Commission increased the postage for periodicals in order to cover the cost of mail services. Use of the post office has increased over the years, making it inefficient and impractical for mail to be sorted by hand. The new prices will enhance efficiency by relying on machines to get mail out in a timely manner.

Publishers can use to get around the rate increase is to put more of their periodical content online. Many publishers have decided to have their magazines available on the web order to give more people access, and making it cheaper for themselves and readers.

Currently there is no legislation being considered in the House of Representatives on this issue. However, please be rest assured that as your representative in Congress I will be sure to represent your views should this issue come before the House of Representatives for consideration.

Once again, thank you for contacting me. I look forward to hearing from you in the future on this and on other issues of importance to our community, our state, and our nation.


Member of Congress”

“Watch the Skies” doesn’t mean the sky is falling.

On hearing about Tor’s forthcoming online fiction and social site, a friend emailed me to get my reaction and find out how I planned to have Clarkesworld survive this new threat. When I was done laughing, I explained to him that I’m looking forward to Tor’s venture. Despite the progress made in recent years, online fiction is still thought of as the black sheep of the family. Even if it should fail, Tor’s big splash should attract more people to this medium and that can only be good for Clarkesworld. How many people do you know that visit only one website or read only one magazine?

If anything, I’m envious. Tor will be launching this site with resources that I could only dream of having. I’ve been hearing about bits and pieces of this since just before World Fantasy Convention and know several people who’ve been approached for stories or other contributions. If they can pull all this together, it will be amazing. Best of luck to them!

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 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:


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.


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.

RSS Feeds

Aside from Fantasy Magazine and Clarkesworld, what other online genre magazines have RSS feeds for their content?

EDIT: More specifically, feeds with entries that are stories, not an index to or an announcement of a new issue.

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