The Hard, Cold Publishing Numbers

I’m not sure why I got sucked into this today. Maybe so it would stop looping through my head driving me crazy.

This is the second model I came up with, and I’ve been playing with portions of it since Friday. I wrote it all out today, and ran the numbers. It’s pretty scary.

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THE NEVER-ENDING MAGAZINE NO MORE
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The biggest change in my model, and the one that could actually make this idea work, would be to create it on the SEASON model, based on TV series and their DVD aftermarket sales.

Here’s how the season model would work. You would buy a season of the Serialzine: Either a six-issue, three-month short season (you’d get your next sub every two weeks), or a 12-issue, six-month long season. All stories started in the season would end in that same season, so they would be, for the most part, started in Episode One, and finished by Episode Six. Writers would certainly want to leave more for their main characters to do after the conclusion of the season, but within the season, you would received somewhere between four and eight complete novels/novellas and a handful or double handful of short stories, depending on the length of the season.

Along with your sub, you would receive a season membership in the private sections of the serialzine community, with overlap until the next season came out. Lifetime subscribers would receive permanent residency rights in the community.

There would be a small public board for Q&As from folks who hadn’t subscribed, and any member could post there as well, but the meat of the community—voting, discussing stories, badgering writers for more stuff, figuring out how to sell your own stuff—would take place in private.

Whenever you bought—the day the season opened, the day the first subscribers got their final issues, two years later—YOUR subscription would start with Episode One, and every two weeks, you’d be mailed the link to the next issue, so no one would ever come in partway through a story. No spoilers (unless you went to the SPOILERS board).

For writers and affiliates, continuing sales of each season would create a wonderful little recurring stream of income. (It does create some issues with publication duration, and it might be necessary to have a hard limit on how long any given season would continue to be available. Or maybe not. This is just me, but long as I owned everything but first serial rights to a magazine series, if the magazine wanted to keep paying me forever for the right to keep the serial version in print, I’d be okay with that. Don’t know about you.)

When their stories were accepted, writers would receive a permanent Green Room membership. I think we might need to have a non-disclosure agreement in place in the Green Room so that writers could use the Green Room to openly discuss the next stories they were working on there with each other, post snippets, brainstorm, create mastermind groups to help each other with their careers, and so on.

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STORIES
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One story per issue would be complete in that issue, and would be a sort of “how this character became a hero” story, with the idea that you were creating a character designed for a series, and that if you got good reader feedback, you would write longer things for future seasons.

We would have a vested interest in continuing to work with writers who stuck with their series characters through more than one season. Each season’s work would have to stand on its own, but continuing characters, including the hero, would encourage readers who joined with season two to go back to season one to pick up the earlier story about a continuing character that they loved.

Top vote-getting authors would be eligible to appear in sequential seasons if they had something ready to go. We would, however, want to continue bringing in new writers, so each complete-in-one-issue story would be reserved for new faces.

Authors would ONLY sell the serial rights to your story. You would retain all other rights—ebook, print pub, foreign, licensing, and on and on and on.

Ditto this on art rights: The artwork would be single episode use only, will all other rights retained by the artist.

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ARTWORK
====================

Each episode of a series would use a cover by a different artist, but each cover would contain that artist’s interpretation of each of the story heroes IN THAT EPISODE. For example, (I’m going to use all my stories as one cover because I know my own protagonists’ names), Episode One would have a cover of Cadence Drake, Talyn, Hawkspar, solo episode character Medwind Song, and Dayne Kuttner in some sort of “Sopranos looking at the Camera” pose by Artist #1.

Episode Two would have a cover of Cadence Drake, Talyn, Hawkspar, solo episode character Earwax, and Dayne Kuttner, as interpreted by Artist #2.

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THE EDITOR
====================
The editor would read slush, select the ones he or she loved and thought were ready to go, and the ones that were promising with some work. The ones he (for the sake of convenience) thought were ready to go would come to me and I’d either give them a go, a no-go, or suggestions on what I thought they needed in order to be publishable. The ones that were “promising with some work” would go back to the author from the editor with a request for revisions. The editor could say “no thanks” at any time. Final approval on all stories, though, would come from me. My name on the magazine, you know.

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THE PUBLISHER
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I would pay people—authors, editor, affiliates, artists, website, tech folks, and everyone else. Would deal with advertisers. Would select the final stories that would go into each issue. Would deal with website issues, sign-up and subscription issues, and customer service. Approve final cover art.

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THE BIG BAD UGLY NUMBERS
=========================

Here’s where my stomach churns just a little bit. SFWA requirements for a pro market are here. A market has to meet pro-market standards for a year before your writers can be considered a pro by SFWA (not important to some folks, I know, but important enough to others that it becomes important to me), so if you’re trying to be a place where writers can break into pro writing, there’s not a lot of sense in doing this if it doesn’t start out professional in attitude, payment, and quality.

My objective is to create a market you can use to start your pro writing career.

Here, then, is:

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WHAT A SEASON COSTS
=====================

These are all short-season figures (three months, six issues).

50,000 words per serial x 4 stories x $.05/word = $2500/ author x 4 authors = $10,000

One 8333 word short x $.05/word per issue = $417 x 6 authors= $2500

(These story lengths are estimated for my convenience. Stories would be figured by actual word length, and we’d fit them in as they fit. In essence, though, you’d get five authors and about 40,000 words of fiction per issue.)

65% of short season minimum for authors to meet SFWA $.05/ word guidelines = $12,500

20% of short season minimum for publisher = $3846
All overhead comes out of publisher’s percentage, so for the publisher, (me) from the number above, subtract:
*art budget
*web design and maintenance
*website and bandwidth fees
(significant if we host mp3 versions + community)
*budget to pay audiobook reader(s)–no clue what this would cost
*budget to pay for conversion to formats other than PDF
*consultation with a lawyer on serial-rights-only contracts
*community moderators (maybe a free season sub plus perks for
moderating in lieu of pay)
*other terrifying stuff I haven’t thought of yet (please point out anything you
can think of

Divvy up what’s left over the three months for a short season, and this becomes a pure labor of love for me—or a big tax loss leader, because I would make a lot more money working on my own stuff. And frankly, I’m not in the tax bracket where I need big write-offs just yet. So how much it costs me to do this (in terms of time lost to more profitable projects) becomes a factor, too.

15% of short season minimum for editor = $2885
(Pretty much a labor of love for the editor, too, at the minimum rate)

Total minimum costs per short season = $19,231
(Three months, six issues)

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Double that for a long season.
===============================

Total costs per long season = $38,462
(Six months, twelve issues)

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THE BIG “DROP DEAD” WE HAVE TO MAKE THIS
MUCH PER ISSUE OR WE DIE NUMBER
=======================================

Total cost per issue = $3206

This is a lot of money (and compared to paper publishing, I know it’s not much at all, but for a start-up ezine, it’s a LOT.)

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TO COVER COSTS
===============
Advertisers come after subscribers. If you have no subscribers, you’ll have no advertisers. SO we have to get subscribers first.

To cover costs by simple subscription, the formula is MINIMUM of X PEOPLE times Y PRICE.

The minimums below are our “drop dead” subscription numbers—the number of subscribers below which the season would drop dead (if we didn’t have enough alternative income to make up the difference.) For affiliate sales, because affiliates would get 50% of each sale they made as recurring income, (minus paypal fees) two subs would be required to equal one straight sub. So these are REALLY minimum numbers, which assume no sales would come in through affiliates. Realistically, if we have affiliates, add 30%-45% of subscribers to this number.

The presence of community membership might make the higher-priced subs viable. I don’t know.

Anyway, here are the “drop dead” numbers.

535 people at $6/per issue, which is, I think, WAY more than the market will bear.
$36/ per short season $72/ per long season

642 people at $5/per issue. Ditto above.
$30/per short season $60/ per long season

802 people at $4/per issue. Probably ditto above.
$24 per short season $48/ per long season

1069 people at $3/per issue. Which we MIGHT be able to get.
$18/ per short season $36/ per long season

1283 people at $2.50 per issue.
$15/ per short season $30/ per long season

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There could be a couple of split sub prices:
=================================

A sub that included all media EXCEPT audio could be $2.50 per issue, while a sub that included all media PLUS audio could be $5 per issue, for example. That might help defray the big bandwidth costs associate with hosting audio.

Maybe if you didn’t want to be part of the community, that would be .25 off each issue. (Community being one of those big bandwidth eaters, she says from experience.)

======================
There could be lifetime subs.
======================

If you bought a lifetime sub with the first issue, it would be, say, $200. And there would only be a limited number, but the people who bought them would not just get a lifetime sub. They would also get some kind of cool perk. Their own private Hero Members bulletin board in the community? Votes on upcoming cover art? A private teleseminar chat with the authors who wrote that season? I don’t know. Suggest stuff. Prices for lifetimes subs for people who bought later would be higher—the folks who take a chance on a new market would receive a break.

How many lifetime subs would be available? Maybe ten or twenty per season? Not enough to fund the thing, but certainly enough to help.

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Advertising
======================

Some possibilities:
1/16 page= $0.15 per subscriber
1/8 page= $0.20 per subscriber
1/4 page= $0.30 per subscriber
1/2 page= $0.50 per subscriber

Subscriber numbers update live and are posted in the advertising area. No ads available until there are a minimum number of subscribers for the season, and ads available for a season until the week before the season goes live. What’s the minimum number of subscribers before I’d sell ads? Don’t know yet. Probably 33% to 50% of our season “drop dead” number (the number where, if we don’t have that many subs or alternate funding equal to that number of subs, we drop dead). Remember, this is all just roughing things out.

If there were 600 subscribers the day you bought, you’d pay, per issue, NOT per season:
* $90 for a 1/16 page ad.
* $120 for a 1/8 page ad.
* $180 for a quarter-page ad.
* $300 for a half-page ad.

This might seem steep, but remember that each season is complete unto itself, would remain evergreen (it would stay on sale) and has a community plus affiliates selling subs to back it up. The numbers on the day you buy will be the lowest numbers that season ever has. And new subscribers to that season, because they will start with Episode One, will see all ads. They might not read them, but they will see them.

Opinions? Suggestions? Comments?

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

34 comments… add one
  • Douglas Welch Nov 1, 2010 @ 3:08

    Serialized Science Fiction and Fantasy magazines have existed since before the golden days of Si Fi. I own some that are more than eighty years old. They emerged and submerged like a porpoising submarine. All of the classic writers ,Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, Bradbury, etc. published first in serial pubs, and then novels.
    The major reason all the Sci Fi ‘zines died is because the cost of killing trees, and turning them into pages, outstripped the revenue that could be pried out of the subscriber’s and advertiser’s hands. The internet has changed that.
    This might be the time and place to create a serialized magazine, but it may be that we should look at the models that the online publishers are using, and possibly adapt some aspects of those models to the implementation of this concept. Perhaps the author should become a partner, and share in the revenues, rather than being paid up front.
    One hook that might succeed is if the sci-fi or fantasy theme was cutting edge. Something like Gibson did with Nuromancer. Break into a new ground rather than the same old boy (girl) meets alien, or sword and sorcery. You almost did it with your Devil and… series of books. (Neat concept by the way, write more of them.)
    Use innovative concepts like starting a story thread and then inviting contributions that carry the thread into a full-blown serial with multiple contributors. Make it a contest. Another idea. Use a public domain classic sci-fi story, invite subscribers to jazz the story up to modern standards, and submit it. Just a few ideas.
    I have an idea for a Sci Fi theme. How about a future society in which the only people who know how to read are the Pod Cast announcers. Need I say more?

  • judyrosella Nov 3, 2008 @ 8:28

    Intriguing idea, Holly. The podcast is dead on. A good podcast requires nothing more than a good announcer. Skip the sound-effects. And podcasts are not just for kids. My husband is in his 60’s and just bought his second or third iPod and loads it up for listening to at the health club. He would LOVE this, I’m sure.

    Plus, the idea of the serial is very current. We are no longer captives of “scheduled” tv. Between hulu.com, netflix “watch instantly” and the network episodes on line, we often go back and watch an entire season of episodes of shows we never saw before. We often watch episodes when we want — and as many as we want, at one time.

    I do the same with lists I subscribe to. It’s a new world. Take advantage of how people live. It’s great to have serials — and to determine when you want to “view” them.

    Plus, I like the green aspect.

    I was intrigued by the numbers. I have been toying with the idea of doing something similar in the non-fiction realm.

    You have the edge of being so well-known. If you were an unpublished author without an audience or any real credentials, I’d be worried. But you’ll get a draw.

    I’m not willing to say “yeah” nor “nay” — but I’ll be watching with great anticipation to see what pans out.

    As always, I’m impressed with the vigor you bring to any project!

    Best of luck,
    Judy Rosella

  • Geekomancer Feb 17, 2008 @ 19:20

    Regardless of whether or not theres an accompanying podcast, I think you’d get strong support in the podcast fiction community. Just a thought.

  • manverinyel Feb 17, 2008 @ 17:43

    This is my first post on your site, so first of all, thanks for all the work you do with new writers! It’s been a lot of help.

    I would probably subscribe, at least to give it a try. There’s enough potential reading material out there that any reader can afford to be picky, and honestly, I’ve found myself getting drawn _away_ from fantasy lately, even though fantasy is still my favorite genre, because “the good adventure story” standard tends to supercede the “good writing” standard. That means that in order to get me to renew my subscription, I don’t want to see _just_ good adventures, but good adventures with three-dimensional, psychologically compelling characters, and beautiful prose. (And that doesn’t mean it has to be high-level, only-someone-with-a-phd-in-English-could-appreciate “prose,” but I do like to see strong imagery, creative word choice, etc.) Sure, you’ll have submissions coming out the ears, but the trick will be finding _good_ writers.

    Also, while some people may find big-name writers a compelling reason to buy a magazine, I tend to steer away from those magazines just because I know any big-name writer will have their stuff published in some book or other later on, and I can read it then. (The plain old book is still my favorite reading format.) I go for magazines that have quality, worthwhile material I’m _not_ likely to find elsewhere. However, if you were to include material besides stories–“extras” like (short, relevant) articles, poems, interviews with big-name authors or spoilers on their upcoming works, etc. I realize every extra page costs money to design but not nearly as much as it would in a printed magazine, so I think it would pay off in the extra readers you’d attract. Also, I actually enjoy a few ads in my magazines but it’s important that they be _relevant_ ads. Ads become annoying when they’re for something I’m definitely _not_ interested in. An ad for a medication in a gardening magazine is a put-off. An ad for Celtic jewelry in a renaissance reenactment magazine is attractive.

    I miss the idea of being able to “tip” part of the magazine’s subscription to price to your favorite writers, but I understand you’re already concerned with the money involved and not being able to attract enough readers. Perhaps it’s an idea worth filing, though, to bring out if the magazine becomes a success?

    I would not buy the magazine in an audio format, but I do think a short (10-minute,) free podcast that includes read excerpts and maybe an interview or two would be a very useful advertising gimmick. That is definitely one would I would get hooked into a subscribing to a project like this. The other way were if I saw the banner/endorsement on the website of a big-name author I knew and liked.

    In general, even with television serials and multi-volume novels by big-name writers, I like to wait until the entire season/story is finished and then buy and read it all in one fell swoop. I know a lot of people who do that now. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t subscribe to a serial; it just means I would wait until I’d already received several editions, enough to complete a story, then read that story and wait until another one were completed to read it. Just something to keep in mind, perhaps, as you continue to tweak your plans.

    I agree with everyone else that the trick is to hit the ground running. The main thing would be a heck of an advertising campaign. You’d have to be exploiting every possible option out there, and probably be willing to invest in advertising the zine in printed magazines, even paperback books, and most important of all, like I already said, getting as many other well-established authors as you can to endorse the project and mention it on their sites/in their newsletters.

  • Katze Feb 9, 2008 @ 16:15

    I do like the idea and I would buy a season or two any time. What I was wondering is if the e-zine will only do Fantasy and SciFi? I think it would be nice to have one short story each issue that overlaps into another genre (e.g. love story, history, mystery, crime). It could be a one out, that is a story that doesn’t get followed up by a serial … Just an idea.

  • Jack E. McCarty Feb 8, 2008 @ 23:39

    The sample issues idea is in line with what I have been thinking. However, I would suggest that the sample issues be special issues offered only a few times a year, that are shorter and without every feature. There would be adds for the missing features.

  • Geekomancer Feb 8, 2008 @ 14:45

    IanT – I completely agree… being an avid comics reader myself, I see about the community aspect. The way around that would be to layer the community discussions. You could have a discussion area per season, and inside each main Season, you could have staggered sub-forums for each installment.

    I really don’t think it’s much of an obstacle. As any comic reader know, Spoiler Warnings abound 🙂

  • IanT Feb 8, 2008 @ 11:26

    As I’ve said elsewhere before, I love the serialisation idea; the seasonal approach springs naturally from that and I think it’ll work well. (Might be worth a look at the comics industry, because I believe there’s a similar model going on there for some publications – there’re certainly lengthy plot arcs and the like going on).

    I do think your first problem is hitting the ground running. Is grabbing the reader, with a minimum of effort on the part of the reader. Does it make sense to give away a ‘teaser’ issue? (I think I do mean one issue entirely free; grab the readers with the first parts of each story, and then they come back hungry for more.) I realise that’s a big hole in your numbers.

    If you think of taking a televisual approach to it (because that’s sort of the idea, here, I think) – how do you trail upcoming stories/books?

    The staggered publication for individuals – i.e. having seasons published at different times for different readers is interesting. The only immediate downside I can see is that if you take a TV or comics audience, they are used to all being able to get together to discuss the latest developments to their favourite stories. If people are reading at staggered times, you may lose out on community buzz. On the flip side, the books/novel audience is used to their friends getting around to reading books at different times…

    I’m sure I’ll have other thoughts, but those are the first that occur!

  • Jack E. McCarty Feb 7, 2008 @ 2:21

    Things you may want to keep in mind when designing and promoting the magazine.

    I am not a sales person; however, I have learned a few things about life and people. I thought I might share some of it here.

    Selling a product comes under the category of influencing a human to do something. In the race for human influence, emotion leads, judgment is on its heals, and logic is a distant third. Therefore, people act upon what moves them one way or the other. They may believe it is good or bad. It may make sense, or it may not.

    Here is how this applies to sales. It has been said that in advertising, you must first get the customer’s attention, then they must remember your add. With the possible exception of startling someone, emotion gets people’s attention the best. Emotion and attention is also, what gets people to remember things. Most people have trouble quoting Mr. Spock.

    Many things sponsor emotional responses. In writing, love, sex, money, anger, fear, action, violence, controversy, and their wildest dreams are big attention getters. In advertising, color, artistic expression, natural beauty, living longer, and hummer also work well. I hope this is not too much information, and, of some help.

  • Cosmic_lightning Feb 6, 2008 @ 13:31

    hmm….
    the more I think about this idea, the more I think that, honestly, it would just be a sink-hole for time and money.
    Even though I love the idea of providing a good way to help new writers, publishing serials, etc, etc. I still just love the IDEA. I can’t see myself actually buying the finished product. It seems like a lot to buy the whole series and wait for a month or two between each ‘episode’ when I can just go to chapters or something and buy a new book for 10-15 $$$.
    The exposure and introduction to new authors would be nice, but there are lots of good authors in traditional book stores that I haven’t read, either. And in a book store, I get the whole thing, right now, in a nice, physical copy that I can read wherever, pass on to friends, and keep for a long time.

    I don’t want to rain on the parade… but it looks like this idea is a long, long way from becoming feasible, and if a product was made right now based on this model, I probably wouldn’t buy it.

    However, I still think there are possiblities here. We’ve got the ideas. Based on the number of responses, we’ve got interest, and passion for the ideas.
    I think we just need a different angle to explore them from.

  • Oswallt Feb 5, 2008 @ 14:02

    Gee thanks Holly, now I can’t spend time with my family. They’ve banished me because I keep talking about this idea. I don’t know why, but the thought of saying, “Yeah, it’s great. I read it in season 3.” really tickles me.

    If I could change one thing about the model it would be to not have to wait to catch up on a season. If, for some reason, I come into it in the middle, I wouldn’t want to be behind everyone else and left out of the community discussion. I’m also a tad impatient. (Come on! What kind of stupid microwave takes 30 seconds to warm up pizza!) I seem to remember a podcast website that encouraged weekly distribution, but let you choose how often you received the chapters. I think that would be interesting.

    Speaking of podcasts, I don’t like ’em. Hey, they started it! I’ve tried supposedly “professional quality” podcasts, but they’re always so cheesy. Even my mother and grandmother, who have seen every cheesy Sci-Fi channel original movie ever released won’t listen to podcasts. So, my vote is to either let them float away on an iceberg (they’re a monster I tell you!) or to have an option to not have to pay for them.

  • Zoe Feb 5, 2008 @ 6:47

    I think it sounds like an excellent idea. I personally would rather buy a whole season together, though, rather than a subscription (that’s how I tend to watch/read most serialized things… with a TV show, for instance, I prefer to watch the whole thing on DVD after it’s done rather than watching an episode a week). Would this be an option?

    I don’t know whether the podcast aspect would be in addition to the typed version or replacing it, but if it was audio-only I wouldn’t be interested. I much prefer reading a story to listening to it.

  • Jack E. McCarty Feb 5, 2008 @ 1:32

    Could this model be re-stated in a simpler form for the new-bes?

  • klcthebookworm Feb 4, 2008 @ 21:44

    I like the idea of podcasts, but I think I agree that it might need to wait until the second year if production costs are too high. But then it might be a way to involve the community, call for volunteers maybe? I don’t know much about podcasts unfortunately.

    Otherwise, I think this model has worked out a lot of the distribution problems for the readers.

  • Sue L Feb 4, 2008 @ 21:28

    I think this is an exciting project and I’d definitely support it.

    I don’t personally care for serials, but I know a lot of people do.

    I don’t have anything to add to the business plan. I think the forums are a good idea. I’d say that if the audio is expensive, maybe save that for the second year, but I know a lot of people listen while they commute so they may be a key selling point. I spend a lot of money every year on subscriptions to stuff that I only read a few stories per issue. I know I like your work and if you’re the final say, I have a lot of confidence this would be the kind of thing I could devour from start to finish.

    Sue L

  • tkeller Feb 4, 2008 @ 21:27

    Oh, yeah. I don’t know if anyone else has suggested this, but you, Lazette Gifford, or another writer who likes to help other writers, could contribute an article to each for people who are writers as well as readers (as many of us here are). Maybe alternate each issue. As you find good writers, perhaps even they could add their writing advice. Add this onto some great stories, and sign me up for life.

  • tkeller Feb 4, 2008 @ 20:31

    Personally, I love the idea of serial stories. Much of our beloved classical authors were published that way-chunks at a time (for example, Charles Dickens). I would definitely be up for this, as a reader and a writer.

    I agree that a better known author will help to drive the zine initially, but I don’t see a big problem with getting writers in general. Most writers who aren’t experiencing bestselling books regularly submit their work well in advance of payment. Those of us who are amateurs, we’d love the exposure even more than the promise of actually getting paid for our fine work. So, I really don’t see a problem there.

  • laoreilly Feb 4, 2008 @ 18:25

    Mine was the email response to version 1.0, in which I meandered on about television and DVDs.

    Now, this version? This is crack I will buy sight unseen, and I’m impatient that I can’t get it RIGHT NOW. I’m already wrestling with my conscience over the conflict between the affiliate model and fandom’s culture of gift economy.

    As a first-time reader, yeah, I’d pay in the range of $20-$25 for a short season, which amounts to $5-$6/novel plus ready-made initial fan community pool. (The short stories don’t interest me much.) As an international customer, the cost of the US dollar affects what I’ll pay. I’d pay a little more for ad-free. Ads for upcoming seasons wouldn’t scan as ads at all for me.

    Once a series is continued in a later season, though, if the characters and their stories have captured my imagination, then the value of the zine might increase for me, because I’m hooked on the crack and I want more of my favourites now now now.

    As a fangirl, the role of the subscription community in my experience will shift over time, as my fan activities spill out into other places on the ‘Net. But because there are always potentially fresh series to catch my attention, I’m gonna continue to spend at least a little time in the member area, provided it’s a fun place to be.

    The value of audio files to me is a lot more variable. If they contain ads, I’m not interested, because while I can scroll past or read around a visual/text ad, I’d have to hear and WAIT through an audio one. Blech. The quality of a reader’s voice is also a big deal for me.

    Lifetime subscriptions: I don’t know about that one. As a subscriber, even if I never say a peep in the community, never cast a vote, I still have a voice of a sort. By continuing or cancelling my subscription, I’m saying this product is/isn’t of sufficient quality for the price. I can choose to suspend my subscription until I see enough squeeing about a season to convince me it might be worth it. If I’m disappointed by most of the content, but really into one series, I can wait until the author publishes it solo. I have choices, I have a voice as a consumer, and the editor and publisher are (if facelessly) responsible to me as a customer. With a lifetime membership, I lose that commercial voice, and I don’t know what sort of perk would be sufficient to replace it, for me.

    On the subject of member voice, a caution. Paying (and, often, non-paying) audiences already come to the table with a sense of entitlement. You’ll want to clearly differentiate between the right to state a preference for a series/character, and the right to tell an author where to go with a series/character.

    As a potential contributing author, I’m intrigued by the idea that I’d have, among many others, the option to publish a later book continuing a series, and have a line like: The earlier adventures of Character X are available exclusively in serialised form in Seasons 5 and 6 of (affiliate link to zine). Would a corresponding link from the zine be possible? (As a reader I’d expect such a link to an author’s new product to take me to a story that at least meets the same standards as the fiction in the zine, of course.)

    Wow. I’m so excited about this idea that I’m having trouble concentrating on anything else. I really hope you get enough interest and a sufficiently workable model to give it a shot.

  • lilliputianfists Feb 4, 2008 @ 17:52

    You can count me in as a lifetime subscriber. I love serials, I love cliffhangers, and I believe in the integrity of anything you attach your name to.

    I know I’m not alone in loving serials. I also love the idea of a short introductory piece by a new author every issue. My favorite part of reading is falling in love with a character, someone I want to read about again and again.

  • Geekomancer Feb 4, 2008 @ 17:30

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think you *have* to buy in blocks of six to twelve.

  • ulfgeir Feb 4, 2008 @ 16:54

    As a writer, the model certainly sounds appealing. It’s something I’d be interested in submitting material for. But purely from a subscriber’s point of view, the proposed model feels a bit daunting. Especially when you start talking about purchasing a block of 6 to 12 issues at a time.

    There’s so much garbage floating around on the Internet that I’ve become extremely wary when making any kind of e-purchase. If any kind of low-cost, trial subscription is available for a service, I’m the kind of customer who makes use of it. If for no other reason than to simply test the waters, so to speak.

    And even then, I never commit to any kind of service for more than a standard monthly subscription which can be cancelled at any time.

    I think most customers are extremely familiar with the “Monthly-recurring-subscription” model. Perhaps to the extent that anything too terribly different from that might confuse them at best, and simply push them towards a competing product at worst.

    However it needs to work, I would definately prefer a simple monthly subscription plan as a customer. Anything more complex and convuluted than that would simply make me look elsewhere.

    In any event, good luck with the endeavor.

  • anders Feb 4, 2008 @ 16:36

    At $2.50 especially it’s not hard to convince people to take a chance on at least one issue; especially readers of science fiction and fantasy, who are likely to be more open-minded than average individuals. Even at $4 or $5 an issue I wouldn’t balk at picking up at least one season to take a chance.

    Major improvement over the previous business model!

  • Chrysoula Feb 4, 2008 @ 16:21

    Every N-book-long series (like, say, Wheel of Time) is a serial. Manga and comics are serials (and manga, at least, seems to be doing quite well, judging by bookstore segment).

    I think you should take advantage of online advertising possibilities to at the very least raise starting capital. You don’t need subscribers to use google ads. I’m not enthralled by print-style-ads, myself, but I suppose if some effort is made to keep them topical, (and not ‘targeted at writers’) that would be okay.

    I’ll pop back in if I think of anything else.

  • Geekomancer Feb 4, 2008 @ 16:10

    ladyrane: I see one issue with that: getting readers for the stories. As Holly pointed out in the other post, even if they are good writers, that doesn’t guarantee good READERS. Heck, even the best readers can be inconsistent. I’m a big fan of Scott Sigler for example, but he’s the first to admit when he’s inconsistent…

  • Geekomancer Feb 4, 2008 @ 16:07

    I don’t know, Katherine. Honestly, I think that there’s an untapped market for serial fiction. Especially if you consider the popularity of podcast novels. I don’t see why you couldn’t have a written equivalent out there.

  • ladyrane Feb 4, 2008 @ 15:59

    You know…it almost seems to me that your greater market is in the podcast market. If you’re going to have people to read the audio anyway, perhaps you can skip a lot of the publishing costs by simply turning it into a podcast subscription for serialized entertainment. That might sell better. Podcasts do sell and people do subscribe to them, it takes advantage of the new media and it’s something that people could buy by the author, by the episode. Or they could buy a full subscription.

    • Claudette Jul 5, 2010 @ 18:37

      Many of us don’t do podcasts. I for one don’t have time to bother. I will take the time to read the old-fashioned way, though. Sometimes, all new isn’t all wise.

      Claudette

  • Katherine Feb 4, 2008 @ 15:24

    The model is interesting, but I see two problems.

    The first is startup capital. Authors are unlikely to sign up unless you can pay them. You can’t pay them without subscribers, but no one will subscribe until they see the magazine. Which you can’t show them until you have authors. You’re likely to need seed money to get at least the first few issues out there. Personally, I’d want *at least* enough in the bank–or in expected discretionary income from other sources–to cover the first full season. (As a side note, undercapitalization is a huge part of the reason why most small businesses fail.)

    Second, I also wonder about the serial model. Has anyone here actually read a serialization? Does anyone still publish them? The lack of an existing serial market doesn’t mean serialization can’t succeed, but it does mean that I’d want to think long and hard about what the lack of other examples might imply for the market potential of the idea.

    • S. Megan Payne Sep 28, 2009 @ 11:10

      Analog Science Fiction and Fact publishes some wonderful serials, and I enjoy reading them.

    • Claudette Jul 5, 2010 @ 18:36

      I’ll play devil’s advocate here. Authors are continually encouraged to read the competition, the market, the mags to see where trends are headed, how certain styles are comparing to others, etc. If the author realizes that within his grasp is the perfect tool to do this type of research–especially a new writer–he/she may well open that wallet and dispence with the necessary cash to buy a season.

      I like this idea. Even before writing I read serials because I could follow a developing story without having to suck it down in one sitting.

      I, also, would like to avoid PayPal is at all possible. Just saying…

      Claudette

  • lynd Feb 4, 2008 @ 14:28

    Sorry, I just realized that I hadn’t read the second model yet. My comments may make more sense when you know they’re based on the first model.
    (ahem) ::briefly scans new model::

    I’ll have to read the new model more carefully before I comment, but it still interests me, both as reader and writer.

    Lyn

  • Geekomancer Feb 4, 2008 @ 14:22

    Things do seem to be shaping up. I like the author feedback model, which I think is a tremendously important part.

    And while I do think audio etc. is a way to go, I wonder if you’d have to do it right away, unless that was going to be part of the marketing plan?

    I think, and I could be wrong, that it might be a good idea to build up subscribers before jumping into audio. As I’m sure a lot of people here listen to podcasts, several of the ones I listen to have gone “behind the curtain” of podcasting and related to their listeners just what goes into it. It might be fragmenting your attention, I guess is what I’m trying to say.

    Again, I could be wrong 🙂

  • lynd Feb 4, 2008 @ 14:21

    As a reader, there are several free swiffy fiction journals online: Clarksworld, Subterranean, Nocturnus, and Strange Horizons, off the top of my head. All of them, I think, have a paper background to back them up.

    Caitlin Kiernan publishes Sirenia Digest for $10 month, and delivers a PDF formatted for user printout. She has an occasional contributor/collaborator, and an artist does illustrations, but SD is mostly her stories.

    Will fulfillment be via PDF? Have you budgeted for layout/production, or are you eating it in your percentage?

    You may want to expand the publication rights to include collections. Illustrated collections? Oooh, the shiny.

    As a reader, I think success will depend on launching with some relative Big Name (or at least Known) authors, following the anthology model. Reader buys issue to read Author X’s story, becomes intrigued by Author B’s story, etc.

    And, of course, ongoing quality will aid success…I’m stating the obvious, but I don’t recall specifics except that the stories shouldn’t suck. Maybe a review board? La, you’ll work that out in the mix…

    Idealistically, as an author, the model is intriguing on several levels: the buck-per-vote (“bonus!”), the cross-promotional support for the e-book, access to back issues, and being published amongst one’s peers and mentors.

    As a reader, I’ll sign up. At that price, it’s easy enough to swing the cash to see where the venture goes.

    As a user, is there an alternative to PayPal? About 65% of my spam comes from PayPal or someone pretending to be PayPal. For example, Amazon has a tool that allows transactions, and it’s easy for me, because they’ve already got my billing info and they don’t spam me. Just a thought.

    Good luck, and keep us informed of your progress.
    Lyn

  • kilishan Feb 4, 2008 @ 13:49

    Holly – while the numbers are scary, I think you have a winner in this type of a model. The Seasons format is what would make me willing to buy. You could provide teasers on the site for the stories to encourage buying and to let me, as a reader, know that I’ll be enjoying. Maybe even a “Season Synopsis” for each story, written in a way to make me want to buy.

    I know you’ve mentioned audio, and I must have missed that earlier, because this is the first I remember hearing about it. I think that you should consider the podcast route with this… maybe creating a “first chapter” free through the podcast? Or even just getting an audio ad into the hands of some of the big name fiction podcasters out there – like JC Hutchins, Scott Sigler, Escape Pod, etc. Whether you’re using this for advertising the podcast or for advertising the magazine, I’m sure you can find a lot of places that will be willing to play the ad for free/cheap.

    This is thrilling to watch as you doggedly pursue your dreams here. I’m rooting for you!

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