Tag Archives: model

Subscription drives alone will not save the short fiction magazines

OK, first off let me make one thing perfectly clear – I do not want to see science fiction and fantasy short story print magazines die off. It is not a thing that would bring me any sort of joy.

Secondly, let me make it clear that Doug Cohen’s suggestion that everyone make a point of subscribing to a short story publication is well-meaning and good-spirited, and that I think anyone who can afford to do so should do exactly that.

(I recommend Interzone, myself, but then I’m biased!)

But I think that subscription drives are a short-term solution that fails to look at the long-term issues.

Where have the readers gone, and why?

Subscription rates are falling; this is undeniable. And the genre needs the short fiction markets to nurture new talent; this is also undeniable.

What we are missing are the cold hard facts. Why are subscriptions to short fiction magazines dropping? Subscription drives are an admirable thing, but until the source of the problem is located, it’s like adding more water to a leaking bucket. We need to find the hole and patch it.

Now, for all I know, the magazine publishers may well be hunting for the leak. I certainly hope so. I know some of them are looking at methods of patching the leak, too, if not already rolling out potential patches and strengthening. This is a good thing.

But what worries me is this; subscription drives may cause an unfounded short-term sense of security. If publishers look at the next twelve months and breathe a sigh of relief, they may not think ahead to the next five years. Beating the wolf away from the door is great, but it would be better to chase him back into the forest.

What should we do to save the short fiction markets?

I don’t have all the answers, sadly. Alhough I have my opinions on futureproofing the genre short fiction scene, which were not universally popular when I announced them, they are only opinions – and they are the opinions of someone who isn’t a publisher of short fiction magazines. In an absence of facts, all I can do is throw theories into the air.

So here’s what I suggest:

Follow Doug Cohen’s advice, and subscribe to a magazine if you can afford to do so.

But while you’re at it, or if you can’t afford to, or even if you don’t want to, get in touch with the magazine publisher and tell them how you feel.

Tell them why you weren’t subbed before, or why you lapsed, or why you’d like to subscribe but can’t (or won’t). Give these people some feedback, and help them find a solid path to a lasting future.

You can’t fix a problem simply by throwing money at it. We need to think smarter than that.

Stuff to look at

No substantial blogging from me tonight, I’m afraid; deadlines beckon, and I must heed their imperative call.

So, here’s some stuff for you to read in the meantime:


Jeremiah Tolbert has been looking at genre fiction magazine business models, and has come to a conclusion that I’m inclined to agree with:

“I am not sure that the [paid] subscription model is working very well anymore.” [my insertion]


Meanwhile, E. E. Knight takes the highlighter pens to a classic Rudyard Kipling story to examine the use of action verbs in defining character. Great analytical technique, one that I plan to steal.


And finally there’s a feminist science fiction blog-carnival at ‘Words from the Center, Words from the Edge’ – which I haven’t read yet, but will find the time for over the weekend, circumstance willing. Then again, there looks to be over twenty posts on sf literature alone, plus more on comics, TV and film … I may have to cherry-pick. If you pop over and spot any winners, please let me know.

And now, back to reviewing CD singles by obscure bands that neither you or I have ever heard of …

Hub Magazine ditching hardcopy

Look what I found in my inbox as soon as I got home – an email from Hub Magazine:

“The format Hub is changing. As we have not been able to employ a full-time advertising salesperson we have not had the ability to attract a sufficient amount of revenue to keep the magazine going in its existing format. Even though we almost sell out each issue, sales revenue is never enough to cover costs. You may be aware that the cover price of a magazine (for a magazine of our size, at least) is usually a loss-leader. The aim is to attract advertising, and though the subscribers were with us we simply did not have the business acumen sufficient to sell the quantities of advertising needed. Hub was put together by a couple of people with an interest in genre fiction – not by an experienced publishing empire.

Hub will therefore move to an electronic-only format from issue 3.”

I’m kinda chuffed; it adds weight to my earlier assertions about electronic publication as a better potential business model. I’m kinda gutted, because that’s one less dead-tree mag I’ll be receiving (and I do like them, you know).

Furthermore, it’s distracted me from dwelling overlong on the fact that I just got dumped by text-message on the last leg of my journey home. Happy Easter!

NetBoox? Online book trading, P.O.D. and the death of libraries

I’m constantly trumpeting about the death of libraries, but the way I see it, I’m allowed. I work in one, I have always used them regularly and I only speak doom of them to try to encourage people to ‘use them or lose them’. In a lot of cases, I think rumours of the death of libraries are greatly exaggerated. I certainly hope so. Continue reading NetBoox? Online book trading, P.O.D. and the death of libraries