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Subscription Drive

  • Aug. 8th, 2007 at 6:44 PM

This is not a subscription drive for Realms of Fantasy.  I repeat: THIS IS NOT A SUBSCRIPTION DRIVE FOR REALMS OF FANTASY.

This is what I'm calling a general subscription drive, specifically for the short story market in speculative literature. 

Every year in Gardner Dozois' Year's Best Science Fiction collection, he does a market breakdown in the introduction.  In this breakdown, he gives the details about the performances for the bigger magazines in the industry.  Yesterday Mercurio D. Rivera was nice enough to email me what Gardner wrote for Realms of Fantasy:

Circulation figures for ROF lag a year behind the other magazines, but their 2005 figures show them registering a 13% loss in overall circulation from 2004, with subscriptions dropping from 17,191 to 16,547, and newstand sales dropping from 9,398 to 6,584 after two previous years in a row of newstand gains, sell-through increased from 20% to 29%.  They published good stuff this year by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold, James Van Pelt, Richard Parks, Greg Van Eekhout, and others.  Shawna McCarthy is the longtime editor.
Afterward Mercurio told me the other big mags did as bad or worse in their performance summaries.

Well.  First, as always, congrats to the ROF authors who garnered these honorable mentions.  But this aside, I got to thinking just how depressing the numbers for the short story market have become.  It's been on a steady decline for some years, and it's only growing worse.  Going by these numbers Realms of Fantasy took a nasty hit, and we're in better shape than most.  I'm hopeful our upgraded website will draw more subscriptions when summary for 2006 comes out.  That remains to be seen.

Either way, the short story market is dying
.  We always talk about it,  but very few people seem to do anything about it.  So it got me to thinking about what I could do.  I'm a novel boy at heart, but since coming to Realms of Fantasy I've grown to love the short fiction market.  I want to see it go on.  But if we keep going as we are, if people keep treating this market like America treats oil, it will dry up.  Permanently.  Yes, there are online venues and I'm all for them.  Anything that promotes the genre is great.  But at the moment these venues are fighting to create viable business models.  Their ultimate success remains to be seen.

So again.  What could I do?  Well, it occurred to me how in recent years there have been subscription drives for Talebones and also The Apex Science Fiction & Horror Digest.  I think there was also a drive of sorts to save Ralan.com.  All three of these drives were successful.  Mostly word spread the blogosphere.  And people did something.

So I thought to myself, "Hey, what if we did a general subscription drive, to boost the magazines for general purposes?  Every subscriber counts."   The difference here is that I'm not talking about any specific magazine in danger of dying.  There is no immediate urgency.  Nothing right now.  But like with oil, one day we'll wake up and the magazines could very well be gone.  We need to do something now, before that happens.

So I'm asking people to do two things.  First, spread this post throughout the blogosphere.  Get the message out.  Second, if you haven't subscribed to a magazine recently, unless you don't have the $$$ pick one and subscribe!  At least one.  Saying you don't have the time to read the magazine is a lame excuse.  How many of us have books we bought years ago that we haven't read?  I do.  Add a few magazines to the pile.  What's the harm?  And if you just read novels, try short stories.  Why have you only been reading novels, especially if you want to be a writer?  Do you honestly think there is nothing to be learned from reading shorter works?  And don't tell me you've tried all the magazines.  New ones are always starting.  And when a new editor takes over the helm, in many ways that magazine becomes new.  (You can't very well tell me you've tried the new Weird Tales.  Ann Vandermeer has been the editor a couple of months, sure, but the magazine has an inventory to get through.  Her selections haven't been published yet, but they soon will be).  Or you can ask for suggestions.  I'll answer them.  So will other people reading this post, here or elsewhere.  The speculative community is cool like that. 

Excuses are nothing but that.  So pick a magazine.  Again, it doesn't have to be Realms of Fantasy (although it can be).  Make it  Fantasy Magazine, or The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fictionor Weird Tales.  Get your fantasy someplace else.  I don't care.  Just get it.  Or get some science fiction from Asimov's or Analog.  Or if you think online mags are the next wave, then go to Baen's Universe or Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine ShowOr maybe there is smaller magazine you're been kind of curious about.  Subscribe.  Help them take the next step in their publishing timetable, or help keep them alive.  And if you're not sure which magazine to subscribe to, another option is to go to Ralan.com and see which one looks interesting.

Don't be that schmuck who litters because you figure someone else will clean up your mess.  Everyone who reads this genre and isn't subscribing is making that mess, causing this market to wither and die.  And don't tell me why this won't help.  Just spread the word and subscribe.  Now.  If you don't, that's why this won't help.  Because every subscription does help.  Negativity and the word "but" are not welcome here. 

And yes, I am putting my $$$ where my mouth is.  Interzone is publishing my premiere story, very likely next month.  Far be it from me not to support them for recognizing my brilliance.   I just charged a one-year subscription to my credit card before posting this rant.

This genre has given us all so much.  Isn't it time we give something back?  Books are fine for the moment, at least compared to the magazines.  The magazines need help.  Badly.  So get to work or be a schmuck.


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stevenagy wrote:
Aug. 9th, 2007 12:04 am (UTC)
Hear hear. I put up for a 6 issue subscription to Black Static yesterday.
douglascohen wrote:
Aug. 9th, 2007 12:51 am (UTC)
That's great, but that only half your homework. Spread the word about the drive! As much as I'd like to believe my blog is super-popular (it does okay, I guess), only so many people tune in ...
(no subject) - stevenagy - Aug. 9th, 2007 01:31 am (UTC) Expand
(no subject) - douglascohen - Aug. 9th, 2007 01:36 am (UTC) Expand
temporus wrote:
Aug. 9th, 2007 12:24 am (UTC)
Oddly, RoF is a magazine I haven't subscribed to, because I can always find it in either Borders or B&N, and since I'm in those stores like weekly or so, it's nice to have something to purchase, even if there isn't a new book I want. Does shifting a purchase from a newstand, therefore sellthrough rate to a subscription help? (Yes, I'm aware it's cheaper by subscription, but I don't always do the fiscally smart thing.) I kind of assume its a good thing so long as I buy the magazines routinely, whethere by subscription or newstand.

Oh, and as to the website, I like it except for the fact that on a widescreen monitor, the menus don't line up right, and therefore do not work.

I will say one thing, short fiction ROCKS when you have a baby, and might not get much time to sit and enjoy a whole novel.
douglascohen wrote:
Aug. 9th, 2007 12:54 am (UTC)
As long as you're buying it's good, but "Buying Drive" just doesn't carry the same ring to it as "Subscription Drive." ;)

As to the website issues, sorry to hear that. I know we have more upgrades planned. I'll pass along your comment, so hopefully this gets addressed in the future (if it's not on the to-do list already) ...
(no subject) - temporus - Aug. 9th, 2007 01:02 am (UTC) Expand
(no subject) - douglascohen - Aug. 9th, 2007 01:09 am (UTC) Expand
jcdrainville wrote:
Aug. 9th, 2007 12:36 am (UTC)
Aye aye, capitan!
douglascohen wrote:
Aug. 9th, 2007 12:54 am (UTC)
(no subject) - jcdrainville - Aug. 9th, 2007 03:00 am (UTC) Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Aug. 9th, 2007 12:37 am (UTC)
douglascohen wrote:
Aug. 9th, 2007 12:56 am (UTC)
Wow. Of the first four people to comment here, two of you paid for subscriptions yesterday. You're making me look like a liar! :) Glad to hear you took out a subscription to ROF. IGMS can't hurt, especially if it's just for research purposes. They're actually pay-per-issue, so if you decide you don't like their content, it only costs you $2.50.
melissajm wrote:
Aug. 9th, 2007 12:41 am (UTC)
Got my subscription already, but I can get to work by adding my 2 cents worth of cheers for the website:

Please, do stop by! There's a thriving online community of wonderful people, and places to chat about the magazine, writing, Fantasy in other media or whatever strikes your fancy.

(And if hanging out there inspires you to subscribe to ROF, or any of the other great magazines out there, so much the better! ;))
douglascohen wrote:
Aug. 9th, 2007 12:58 am (UTC)
Glad to hear you subscribed. And don't be shy about saying where you're subscribing guys. I'm curious!
(no subject) - melissajm - Aug. 9th, 2007 01:19 am (UTC) Expand
(no subject) - douglascohen - Aug. 9th, 2007 01:23 am (UTC) Expand
(no subject) - melissajm - Aug. 9th, 2007 01:27 am (UTC) Expand
(no subject) - douglascohen - Aug. 9th, 2007 01:35 am (UTC) Expand
(no subject) - melissajm - Aug. 9th, 2007 01:42 am (UTC) Expand
catsparx wrote:
Aug. 9th, 2007 01:04 am (UTC)
And small press anthologies! Don't forget to support small press anthologies!

I pick a new mag to subscribe to each year. I'm often rewarded by discovering the mag publishes a wider range of stories than I thought it did.
douglascohen wrote:
Aug. 9th, 2007 01:08 am (UTC)
Sounds like you know the small presses fairly well. Throw out some suggestions for people. The ones I always hear people talking about are Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, Electric Velocipede, Sybil's Garage, and Shimmer.

(no subject) - catsparx - Aug. 9th, 2007 01:22 am (UTC) Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Aug. 9th, 2007 01:22 am (UTC)
douglascohen wrote:
Aug. 9th, 2007 01:25 am (UTC)
Great! Thanks! And folks, Clarkesworld Magazine is another great option!
(no subject) - catsparx - Aug. 9th, 2007 01:36 am (UTC) Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Aug. 9th, 2007 02:21 am (UTC)
douglascohen wrote:
Aug. 9th, 2007 02:24 am (UTC)
girliejones wrote:
Aug. 9th, 2007 02:30 am (UTC)
Spreading the word on my blog - where you can see I have subscribed to all sorts of mags this year to try something new. Am *trying* to subscibe to RoF but it's been unbelievably difficult.

This year have subscribed to Jim Baens, IGMS, Weird Tales. And bought all sorts of individual issues.

Check out why at our lastshortstory challenge.
douglascohen wrote:
Aug. 9th, 2007 07:36 pm (UTC)
Well you're certainly doing your share!
mabfan wrote:
Aug. 9th, 2007 12:14 pm (UTC)
I said something similar about the need to support short fiction venues when Sci Fiction shut down:

douglascohen wrote:
Aug. 9th, 2007 07:46 pm (UTC)
Just read it. Sounds like we're of a like mind. Thanks for posting on your site. So are you subscribed anywhere? :)
(no subject) - mabfan - Aug. 9th, 2007 07:54 pm (UTC) Expand
(no subject) - douglascohen - Aug. 9th, 2007 08:01 pm (UTC) Expand
kara_gnome wrote:
Aug. 9th, 2007 12:57 pm (UTC)
Wow, I'd thought the short fiction market was healthy and thriving, actually.

I'm a long-time subscriber to Realms of Fantasy and Asimov's, and I also subscribe to The Magazine of Fantasy and SF, Shimmer, Fantasy, Baen's, and I recently bought Flytrap and Velocipede. And I've bought a few anthologies.

I usually read a short story during my lunch half hour at work, and prefer short stories over novels.
douglascohen wrote:
Aug. 9th, 2007 07:46 pm (UTC)
Well if the short fiction market dies it won't be because of you!
iamrazorwing wrote:
Aug. 9th, 2007 01:23 pm (UTC)
I've been reading RoF for over two years now, and still haven't subscribed. (Like temporus, I don't always do the financially smart thing, either.) You bring up a good point: what's a few more mags on my ever-growing To Read pile? I'll be sending along my subscription shortly. I've been reading it regularly so far, and I don't see that changing any time soon.

As far as the website goes, it could definitely use work. The Current Issue is August 2006--a full year ago. That saddens me. The Internet has to be cutting-edge, up-to-the-minute, and all that good stuff. (I did, however, just get on the forum, and I'm looking forward to being active there.)

I'll pass the word along, in the hopes it does some good.

douglascohen wrote:
Aug. 9th, 2007 07:50 pm (UTC)
Hey, Matt. Glad you're on board.

As to the website, I admit I'm one of the website editors, but my duties have mostly been on hiatus while ROF does a major behind-the-scenes upgrade to the site. I know it's taking a while, but the managing company is juggling some other projects right now I probably shouldn't discuss. But from what I understand, when the upgrades happen the site will be absolutely fantastic!

Hopefully it proves worth the wait. Enjoy the forums.
sclerotic_rings wrote:
Aug. 9th, 2007 02:33 pm (UTC)
Very seriously, and this contains no snark, good luck on your quest. I say "good luck" because I was arguing the same exact thing a decade ago when I was still writing, and not only did I back up the magazines for which I wrote by buying subscriptions (including RoF), but I bought stacks of copies and gave them out to try to spread the word. Unfortunately, I might as well have thrown my money in a tree mulcher for all it did: I was mugged regularly at conventions for free copies from rat bastards who didn't want to buy individual copies, and I heard nothing but complaints from wannabes who figured that the magazines should be paying them and not the other way around. (Now, I figure that subscription drives with genre magazines would do much better if the magazines jettisoned the Cat Piss Men who put them together, such as the idiot who writes the subscription card copy for Asimov's, but that's a different dangerous vision.)
douglascohen wrote:
Aug. 9th, 2007 07:55 pm (UTC)
Well, I'd already call the drive a success. People have taken out subscriptions and are spreading the word. Now it's just a question of how successful the drive will be. Time will tell. I don't expect to save the industry overnight. I know that I won't. But as I've already said, every subscription does count.

The only way to fight this thing is a little bit at a time. I'm sorry you've been burned in the past, but I'd still encourage you to take part in this drive. There are many established venues that won't steal your $$$. Don't let a few bad apples ruin the whole short fiction market for you.
(no subject) - the_flea_king - Aug. 9th, 2007 09:32 pm (UTC) Expand
(no subject) - douglascohen - Aug. 9th, 2007 10:02 pm (UTC) Expand
(no subject) - the_flea_king - Aug. 9th, 2007 10:06 pm (UTC) Expand
(no subject) - douglascohen - Aug. 9th, 2007 10:32 pm (UTC) Expand
(no subject) - david_de_beer - Aug. 12th, 2007 10:13 am (UTC) Expand
(no subject) - douglascohen - Aug. 12th, 2007 06:18 pm (UTC) Expand
carolf wrote:
Aug. 9th, 2007 05:26 pm (UTC)
Timely reminder. Thank you.

Will order an on-line subscription of some kind when my spouse is home and I can pick something we'll both like. He particularly likes to download things to his PDA for reading -- lighter than a book in bed, in his pocket any time he's in a line.

We're in the process of building a house, then we'll move. Once we're settled, I'll take out some print subscriptions, as well.

Will link this to my LJ as well.

Again, thanks!
douglascohen wrote:
Aug. 9th, 2007 07:55 pm (UTC)
Great! And thank YOU!
sarcasmlass wrote:
Aug. 9th, 2007 05:35 pm (UTC)
It's probably true that aspiring writers alone could keep the magazines in business...but do we really want to end up like the poetry markets, where the only people buying the books and magazines are the ones hoping to be printed in them? A vibrant, healthy magazine draws most of it's subscribers from non-writing readers.

The real problem is a lack of awareness among SF readers in general. I didn't even realize that these magazines were available until I set out to write.

I tried buying a subscription for a friend, but she was less than enthusiastic about the gift and I don't think she ever read it. I think it would work better if we recommend short fiction to our friends the same way we recommend novels. When you're finished with a magazine, put a post-it on your favorite story and hand it to someone, saying, "You have gotta read this!" The enthusiasm really makes a difference and it's hard to be enthusiastic about a whole magazine the way you can about a single story.
douglascohen wrote:
Aug. 9th, 2007 08:00 pm (UTC)
With all due respect, as I said in my post, I'm not too interested in "but." But ...

More than just speculative writers read the blogosphere, which means more than just writers can end up subscribing during this drive. But we that are the writers and the editors should be the first ones in line to subscribe, to set the example. After all, aren't we the ones that love this genre most of all? We're making our livelihood from it, or trying to.

We can buy or we can complain about what the problems are. I chose "buy." I hope you do too. For all I know you already did or have done so recently?
(no subject) - sarcasmlass - Aug. 9th, 2007 11:20 pm (UTC) Expand
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