Friday, August 1, 2008

Enthusiasm Can Only Carry You So Far

If you are a writer you want as many venues to submit your stories to. Literary writers seem to have plenty of them. Genre writers, however . . . well our publications are folding by the handfuls.

Before anyone gets all angry with me for saying that, read on and understand my words. There seems to be a wealth of literary magazines out there, both in print and online. Sometimes I feel like there are more literary print magazines than there are total genre magazines both in print and online. That is probably just perception from a guy who likes to write horror stories.

And here is the thing with this perception: it could be accurate. I've noticed that for every literary magazine that pops up it seems a genre magazine shuts down. This is frustrating for me, a horror writer.

Over the last few months several genre publications have folded. I'm not mentioning names right now because I don't think it is fair to those publications. I've heard quite a few writers complaining about it and even bashing some of these publications. I'm not so sure that is fair.

Do you want to know my take on this? No? Tough. This is my blog and if you are reading it, well, you're going to get my take on it.

The way I see it is this: It doesn't take much to fail at something, but it takes a LOT of work to succeed.

Go ahead, read it again.

It doesn't take much to fail at something, but it takes a LOT of work to succeed.

For these publications the work that goes into it to make them successful is unbelievable—especially when you are talking about a print publication. For the moment let's stick with online pubs.

I have a friend that just recently formed an e-zine. His enthusiasm is unbelievable. He got together with a young woman who is pretty good with artistic things and they began hashing it out. The name came to him in a dream. Yeah, that's right. The name came to the founder in a dream. It's a cool name. He sought out an editor with the same enthusiasm as he has. Next came a poetry editor. Again, enthusiasm.

After he had most of his staff onboard they began working on big issues, and little ones, as well. They developed a website, sought out art and stories. They created a forum to discuss things over with other folks who may be able to help them in pursuing the dream of seeing the publication come to life.

Enthusiasm abounded.

Now, it's time for them to get to work, really start doing the hard stuff. They have a base idea, they have a website where they can post the stories and artwork, they are developing submissions guidelines, art guidelines, they have contacted people for advice on how often they should publish, print or online and all the other good stuff that goes with it.

They've done some marketing and research.

None of these folks live in the same area. They are spread out all over the place, so they rely on e-mails, phone conversations, and the forum they have to get things done. I don't know how many publications are done this way, but I venture a guess that many of them do.

But, wait, there's more. All of the people involved with this publication have full time jobs, children to look after, lives to live. Time is of the essence when putting together a publication of any sort. It becomes even more precious when LIFE gets in the way.

They are still very enthusiastic. I think enthusiasm is a huge key to being successful. If you aren't stoked about something, you aren't going to work to make it successful.

Now, say it is a print magazine instead of an online venue. For that you have to have money. Money to pay the printers, money to pay shipping costs, money to pay artist and writers (if you weren't doing that with the online magazine). Deadlines become stricter—you miss a deadline by even a day and it could set you back upwards to a month. The marketing takes on a different meaning. It becomes a necessary evil in order to get subscriptions which help with the costs of the publication. There are ads that must be sought out.

The print magazine is a beast, to say the least. Even when you are full of enthusiasm.

The work is a huge aspect of putting together a publication.

When you do things mostly online you are taking a huge risk, either with submissions being electronic or contact info being all through e-mails or even the magazine on a server that is very reliable. Things can go wrong at any point. Your server could crash. Your e-mail could go kaput. You could get a virus that wipes out your hard drive. Then you are out a LOT of work, your contacts and your submissions. This can be fatal if not addressed immediately. Even then, it can still kill a publication.

Enthusiasm can be drained quickly with such an event.

I don't know why good magazines go under or why other magazines fail to get off the ground. I do know, however, that there is a ton of work that goes into it. Coordinating a magazine of any kind is not easy work, and most of the time the people working on them are not getting paid. They do it because they want to, not because of the money.

If you don't want our markets to go under, support them, read them, pass the word that the publications are worth your time and money. Word of mouth can go along way in the survival of a magazine. With MySpace, Blogger, Linkedin, Facebook and who knows what else out there, we can all help these publications get off the ground and stay up and running.

But, AJ, what if they are not a paying market? I can't answer that question for you. I believe that is an individual decision on whether to support or submit to nonpaying venues. But, just remember what it was like when you were an unpublished writer and you wanted a publishing credit under your belt. Many of us sent stories to these nonpaying venues just so we could get published.

Those folks work just as hard at putting out a publication as the ones who pay you. They can't get anywhere if no one subs to them. Enthusiasm can only carry a publication and those working on it but so far. You never know, maybe one of those nonpaying places could get a Stoker nomination. We can all dream, right?

Now, I mentioned earlier that literary writers have a larger selection of places to submit to. I stand by that, though I have no research to back it up. However, I feel this way because you don't hear of a lot of literary magazines folding, especially before their first issue. Some of these literary magazines get 'token' stories from some of the more established writers in the field just to help them get off the ground. No rewards for the writer in that, except to know they helped someone out.

A lot of our genre magazines are folding, even as you read this right now. Many more will follow. But, please, for the respect of those who have put their love into the product, don't bash them, don't criticize them. If you think it doesn't bother them that they had to shut down or are pondering doing so, well, you're wrong. They are people after all, and a failed venture hurts regardless of what it is.

I'm AJ and I'm out.

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