Thursday, March 10, 2005

FMAM, We Hardly Knew Ye

Plus ça change, plus la méme chose.

The quote above, recalled from high-school French class, was brought to mind recently by the announcement that Babs Lakey's Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine was no more. Of course we had known that for some months now, but there had been the promise of one last gargantuan issue publishing all the stories they had in their inventory. Late last week Babs announced that even that issue was not to be. Thus one more paying market for short stories is now sleeping under a dirt blanket.

Such things are to be expected. Even during the heyday of magazine publishing (whenever that was) putting out a print zine was an iffy proposition. There is a long list of people who want money: editors, office staff, typesetters, printers, paper suppliers, truckers, ink suppliers, photographers, artists, office rent, office supplies, telephone bills, the United States Post Office. Let’s see, did I forget anyone? Oh, yeah! The writers.

If you’re just starting up, there is a long period of time when you are laying out money without much, if any, coming in. Of course you have the advertisers, but because it is a startup there aren’t many, and they don’t have to pay much.

And then you have to get people to buy the magazine, because that is the fount of the bulk of your income, the readers. But before people can buy the magazine, they have to know about it. That means advertising (PROMOTION), another money pit. You have to attract subscribers because they will provide most of your income. Then you have to get the magazines on the stands, because you can’t make it just on the money you get from subscriptions.

To get the magazines on the stands, you have to deal with distributors. Like every other business, there are some good ones and some not so good ones. The good ones pay you, but often not for 60 or 90 days. The not so good ones take much, much longer to give you your money – if they ever do. And the amount of money you get depends on how good a job they do on getting your magazine on a wide variety of retail racks. In this you are completely at their mercy. A bad distributor could break you.

As I said, none of this is new. Those who brave the stormy waters to put out a print zine are among the bravest of the brave. More magazines fail than see their third year anniversary. So we see them come and go. But whenever one fails, you can usually bet there’s another one in the wings, waiting to make it’s debut. Hope springs eternal.

So, vaya con Dios, Babs. We enjoyed having you with us. May you enjoy your less “interesting” life.

So. Who’s next?