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The Critique Crypt => General writing chat => Topic started by: Ed on October 16, 2006, 06:39:02 PM

Title: Another one bites the dust
Post by: Ed on October 16, 2006, 06:39:02 PM
Insidious Reflections have just announced they're taking an indefinite hiatus and are refunding people for issues they won't receive.  Seems like a lot of sites and mags in this genre end up closing down.  I wonder why, but I guess the problem lies with most of the magazine sales going to writers, rather than members of the public.  But then highstreet titles in magazines and comics have been in a steady decline for the past ten or fifteen years, too.  Maybe it's just a change in reading habits as a whole.

What do you think the problem is? :scratch:
Title: Re: Another one bites the dust
Post by: SharonBell on October 16, 2006, 09:40:07 PM
Okay, I just had a lovely op-ed piece that I accidentally deleted.

Restart: I think it's that the written word requires the reader to be engaged and to work at creating his half of the story. Movies allow us to be passive and have the story wash over us. There's no work, just the pleasure of lying still and letting the cinema work its magic.

The biggest complaint in my courses is that I make the students read too much. Imagine that! I expect them to know the literature and research in their chosen discipline. The good ones come back and say, "You know that case/article/chapter really made me think/get mad/want to do something." I make them WORK for it.  After 10 years of this, I know that it's right and necessary, and I would be a lazy slug, and unethical if I didn't require them to read.

But, for the general public, reading tends to be a chore, methinks, not a pleasure.

So, I'm stepping down off the soapbox. Who's next??
Title: Re: Another one bites the dust
Post by: Dan on October 17, 2006, 03:19:29 AM
Most disheartening...

Title: Re: Another one bites the dust
Post by: Prabe on October 17, 2006, 01:02:28 PM
I suspect part of it is that most of the fans in this genre are (or think of themselves as) writers.  I must admit that as a writer, it's not uncommon for me to look at an issue of a magazine and compare what I've done to what's gettng published.  It's often disheartening, because even the good mags don't often have anything like an objective standard--nor should they, really.  If I look at a magazine and think that most of the stories in it are average at best, it's difficult to tell if it's because they are, or if it's just that my tastes are that different from that particular editor's.

I'd also be inclined to guess that part of the struggle for mags is the proliferation of free stuff, especially online.  Why pay for a magazine when you can read fiction for free?  That holds especially true if your tastes are enough out of line with an editor's that you find yourself considering most of the fiction in a given issue to be amateurish.

It's also my opinion that most of the magazines started by fans tend to have way too much fan-oriented material in them, such as interviews, reviews, and the like.  I tend to think of those things as filler, even in a magazine such as Cemetery Dance, and their columns and fan-ish bits are usually well written.
Title: Re: Another one bites the dust
Post by: Ed on October 17, 2006, 02:06:06 PM
I think it probably does have something to do with the editorial standard of these mags.  Some stories I've seen published (in mags that will remain nameless) are diabolically bad and should never have made the cut.  There's one in the crit group section that's a prime example, IMO - the second story discussed on this thread, especially -,876.0.html

Contrast those sorts of stories with ones by Joe Lansdale and Chuck Palahniuk, and there's no comparison.

I suspect many of these mags get snowed under with substandard submissions and, because that's all they have to choose from, they pick a few and publish them when they might be better off asking for re-writes from the ones that look promising and offering some guidance on stuff that needs work.

I get what you're saying, Sharon, and you're right :afro:  Reading is nowhere near as popular as it once was.  When I was a kid, I didn't have a TV in my room - hell, we had the one in the lounge, B+W with no remote, and that was the only one in the house.  No video and only three stations to choose from.  Needless to say, I read a lot of books when I was a kid and it was wonderful escapism.  But today my kids only read what they have to - the rest of the time they watch TV, DVDs, satellite, play on the computer or XBox.  It's a different world.
Title: Re: Another one bites the dust
Post by: Prabe on October 17, 2006, 02:40:39 PM
Editors these days don't edit.  Most of them are more like project managers than anything else.  I'm convinced that many of the magazines I read don't go through line edits or anything, because it's not at all uncommon to find typos or grammos.

Also--many of these small mags almost think of it as a favor if somsone with name recognition gives them a story.  If you're an editor of a small-run magazine that's fighting to keep its head above water, are you really going to go to a Brian Keene, say, and ask for a re-write of a story--or reject it entirely? No.  You're probably going to splash his name in big (probably red) letters across the front of your cover in the hopes of enticing readers.

I suspect you have at least some of the right of it, Ed, when it comes to the size of the slush piles and the overall quality of the submissions.  I try to read the mags I sub to, and I'm frequently appalled by the qulity of the fiction in them, and confused in my attempts to discern editorial preferences.  Sometimes I think most genre editors want stories that are clumsily written.
Title: Re: Another one bites the dust
Post by: Ed on October 17, 2006, 05:50:11 PM
Yep - sad but probably true.  Personally, if I had a magazine with a ton of submissions, I'd rather fill it with good stories by unknowns than crap ones by well known authors.  Easier said than done, though.  There's also the issue of how pro authors place their work.  They won't place their best work with a small publication that pays 0-2 cents per word when they can place it elsewhere, in a higher profile mag that pays more money.

I suppose the best way to operate is to have such a high editorial standard that even the famous names want to be in it, no matter what the pay.  That takes talent, contacts and a lot of luck to set up, though.

It's all dog eat dog, like everything else.
Title: Re: Another one bites the dust
Post by: Prabe on October 17, 2006, 08:22:29 PM
An option, though I've seen indications that it's not always the right answer, is to have high standards, yes, but also to somehow find the money to pay something approaching real money.  Zoetrope runs at a loss.  I don't know how the people at Glimmer Train keep it in business (though charging for contests four times a year may go a long way).  Those two supposedly publish good stuff.  Ellen Datlow's webzine--SCIFICTION, I think it was--paid up to twenty cents per word, IIRC.  The standards are, I expect, easier to maintain with decreasing publication frequency.  Some of the best short fiction appears in anthologies, some of them more or less annual; Polyphony comes to mind here, as does the Borderlands series of anthologies.  Even those, I suspect, are at best break-even propositions.
Title: Re: Another one bites the dust
Post by: Geoff_N on October 18, 2006, 03:07:49 AM
A friend used to run a newsagent at Chester railway station. He couldn't stock enough magazines of any kind - he could sell everything twice over. I imagine the same applies in airport newsagents. But if you are marketing small press mags you need to target the independent booksellers, and they're a diminishing breed.

At any Fantasy Con I go to, there are more mags than before, and yes, some have gone to the great archive in the sky. But often they were stepping stones by those writers and editors moving on to other projects.

Title: Re: Another one bites the dust
Post by: GrinReaper on October 22, 2006, 04:19:53 AM
I think part of the problem may be, esp with small press mags, is that they are started by very well-intentioned people who want to do something for the genre, but from all accounts it's a really hard slog, most run at a loss, and they get very little praise or recognition.

Regarding editors, there are some good editors out there who are willing to work with writers to make their stories better. Two who have helped me out are Russell B Farr at TiconderogaOnline ( (, and Angela Challis at Shadowed Realms ( ( Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine ( ( also offers some rudimentary feedback with their rejections (better than nothing).

Given the above challenges, the fact that they do this is, I think, fantastic.

Regarding pay rates, I think SCIFICTION was basically subsidised by a pay tv station. And as for small press mags, you're never going to make a living selling to them. I think it's more about getting publication credits and lifting your profile. But there are definitely less pro markets than, say, when Stephen King was doing the rounds. When I spoke to SCIFICTION editor Ellen Datlow earlier this year, she said it was a real shame, because now writers are really just using short stories to get started -- then they move onto novels because that's the only way they can make a living.

As for the thing about small press markets being sustained by writers. I think it's unfortunate that more of the general public aren't getting into it, but maybe it's beneficial to see what other writers are doing, and what editors are publishing. I've started sending my stories to the biggest paying markets first (eg Fantasy and Science Fiction, Asimovs) and working my way down from there. I've heard anecdotal evidence of Australian small press mags passing on stories, and then US markets which pay more picking up the same story. I don't know if it's true, but it can't hurt to target the big end of town first!!
Title: Re: Another one bites the dust
Post by: SharonBell on October 22, 2006, 08:08:55 AM
I can tell you Asimov's gives zero feedback, just a form letter which includes the top reasons why they reject stories. My submission, "Golf Widow," was finally published in Aoife's Kiss. And the editor, Tyree Campbell, gave me some nice feedback, saying it was quite satirical, rather tongue-in-cheek, which was the intent. So nice when someone GETS your story and your style. Plus, I did get paid $5 USD and got a copy of the mag. It's not a bundle, but it's paid and PRINT, which is my goal now.  Here's where you can see the other mags he publishes under SamsDot Publishing

The funniest thing was when I was Googling myself (yes, it sounds obscene) and saw a sci-fi reader had posted a little review of my story. "Don't take it seriously!" he said. He got it, too!
Title: Re: Another one bites the dust
Post by: Geoff_N on November 12, 2006, 09:48:53 AM
Hi Sharon, thanks for that link to Genre Mall. I've used it to submit a short to Nomadic Delirium's anthology of SF crime.

I eventually received a reject letter from Asimov  :pissed: It was not only a form letter using my expensive international reply paid coupon, but one that didn't give a reason for rejection. Instead it gave a list of possible rejection reasons concluding that since most stories are rejected because they were insufficiently original, then that may be the reason for mine to be rejected! What!!!!???

Oh well. Onwards

Title: Re: Another one bites the dust
Post by: SharonBell on November 12, 2006, 10:26:25 AM
Good luck, Geoff!  :afro: I got the same form letter from Asimov for "Golf Widow." It stung a bit, but the pain does go away, esp. when you have back up markets in mind.
Title: Re: Another one bites the dust
Post by: Ed on November 12, 2006, 11:55:08 AM
It's a shame they can't give you at least a few words of comment.  If they've bothered to take the time to read it, they might as well take a few more seconds to tell you what they thought of it, I think.  It's a bit like blanking somebody in the street, isn't it?  They take the trouble to cross the road and say hi, and your response is to hold up a table tennis bat with the word "Whatever" written on it and waft them away :grin:

It's no way to carry on, is it? :scratch: