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 Fiction, or 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 Show. Or 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.