Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Publish or perish. Also update or die.

Since May is whine-free month, I'm trying to figure out how to put a positive spin on this. I don't know that there's anything positive about trying to find a good market that pays a decent amount for reprint rights. Writers are clamoring to all but give away fresh new stories; why would anyone want to bother with reprints?

Specifically, the problem is my story "Snow Magic" that appeared in Fictitious Force #6; note that their website has not been updated since issue #3. As far as I'm concerned, the publisher did a great disservice to all the writers in issue 6. Instead of waffling around saying, "We're on hiatus and we're not sure we'll come back, but we're going to publish these last stories anyway but not bother to advertise the issue," they should have just released all subs.

But I'm being positive here, so I'll tie this back to Aaron Polson's post today about the internet and how writers (and publishers) use/need/relate to it. When I subbed to Fictitious Force back in March of 2008, the magazine was one of the big semi-pros. They'd published writers like Elizabeth Bear, Sarah Monette, Alliete de Bodard, Jay Lake, and lots of other up-and-coming/semi-big-names; they routinely got mentions and reviews in Locus, SF Site, and the other biggies. By the time I received my contributor's copy in February of this year, though, they hadn't put out an issue in about a year (at least, I think so; it's hard to tell because their website hasn't been updated in so long) and the only mentions I find of issue 6 are from contributors blogging that they got their copy.

That's how fast the internet moves. Go on hiatus for a few months and it's like you've dropped off a cliff. For writers, a few months can mean the difference between bragging that you've been published in such-and-such magazine and getting an "oooh, jealous" in response, or getting a blank look. What magazine? Are they still around? I thought they folded in, like, 2008.

The flip side of that isn't just that a magazine needs to release good issues--because issue 6 of Fictitious Force was heartbreakingly good, with excellent, fascinating stories that practically no one will ever read. A magazine has to have a web presence too, and they need to keep it updated. Blog it, add new content, archive old issues online, whatever, but keep the site updated or everyone assumes you are dead.

And going back to Aaron's post again, a lot of publishers--especially the old guard print magazines--just don't get this. Take Locus, for instance. They've got a great website (well, I find it hard to navigate, but at least it's updated), but you can't buy and download an electronic version of the magazine. I ordered the March issue this year, partly for the 2009 book release list and partly because I'd heard they mentioned BCS #5 and I wanted to know if they'd mentioned my story (they hadn't). It cost me $10 with shipping, which was ridiculous to start with, and I had to wait two freaking months to get the issue. Will I ever subscribe? Hell no, dawg, not until it's available as a cheap pdf download.

Fictitious Force is/was print-only as well. I don't think it's a coincidence that they're dead. Sorry, on hiatus.

I like having my stories archived online so people can read them; I think it's good for me as a writer--a great way to attract new readers and hopefully keep them. So I guess I'll head back to Duotrope to see if anyone wants a slightly used "Snow Magic" for their ezine.


Aaron Polson said...

I hear so many authors say they only submit to print mags(Duotrope's stats support that claim), but, like you said, some of those print mags no one will read (bad distribution, etc), and that is sad. Heartbreaking (your word, used a little differently).

Good luck finding a venue with more exposure for "Snow Magic".

K.C. Shaw said...

Until very recently, I wanted that print magazine to hold in my hands. Now it's much less important to me. I like how a lot of ezines also do a print anthology of selected stories now. I've had a few stories appear in that kind of anthology, and even if I don't get any extra payment, it's like the best of both worlds. :)

BT said...

it may be worthwhile querying some markets before submitting this again. Many of them will take on board the very limited exposure your story will probably have had and treat it as unpublished.

The worst they can say is no.

K.C. Shaw said...

I get enough no's without searching extra ones out. Although I did send the story out last night.

Jamie Eyberg said...

That is unfortunate. Good luck with the story. I think a number of publishers will understand, most of them being writers as well (after all, if a tree falls in the woods and it falls on a politician did it really hurt anyone?)

Cate Gardner said...

An excellent post that has left me leaning in favour of the ezine. I do love print, but I love people reading my stories more.

K.C. Shaw said...

Jamie--You're right, I need to remember that most editors (if not all) are also writers. I woke up to two rejections this morning, though, so at the moment I'm thinking of editors as more like bat-winged hellbeasts.

Cate--I didn't realize until a day or two ago that I am more interested in people reading my stories than in how much I got paid or how prestigious the market is supposed to be. Eyes on words, that's the real goal.