One Other Thing —
Posted on January 5, 2006 Posted by John Scalzi 17 Comments
While I’m talking about other people’s stories that I’ve bought, allow me to note an upcoming experiment I’ll be doing here on the Whatever. While I was going through the submissions to Subterranean for the cliche issue, I came across the story “Who Put the Bomp?” by Nick Mamatas and Eliani Torres. It made it past the first couple of cuts for the magazine but when it came time to make final cuts, I cut it because it didn’t quite mesh with the other pieces I was planning to buy. The problem was that I really liked the piece — I kept coming back to it, and to be entirely honest, it was just so unclassifiably weird that it grew on me each time I read it.
So I bought it. Not for Subterranean Magazine, but for myself — paid the going rate I was offering the writers for Subterranean but paid for it out of my own pocket. And in return I get the right to post it here on the Whatever, which I plan to do in a couple of weeks: January 20, in fact.
I’m doing this because aside from liking the story enough to pay for it myself, I’m curious to see how something like this is received, and how effective the Whatever is in getting exposure for fiction (which is to say, someone else’s fiction — I’m pretty confident it’s been good for my own). This site’s daily readership is larger than the circulation of every science fiction magazine out there, save the big three of Asimov’s, Analog and F&SF, so potentially there’s a good chance of Nick and Eliani’s piece getting seen widely inside the usual SF circles — and being seen outside them to, since not everyone who visits the site is a hardcore SF reader.
Running someone else’s professional-grade fiction on a personal site isn’t the usual thing, but who’s to say it can’t be an effective way to show off the work, particularly when the site has a healthy and diverse readership? It’s an interesting enough question that it was worth me investing some of my own cash to check it out and see what happens, and I’m grateful that Nick and Eliani gave me permission to personally buy the piece and use it for this experiment.
As for all of you, I hope you’ll swing by on the 20th and check out the piece — I’ll post it in the morning and then keep it as the top post over the weekend (that’s the weekend I’ll be at the Synthetic Confusion convention) so there will be lots of time to read the piece and let me (and the authors) know what you think.
And thus we come to the end of a day of writing announcements and schedules. Thank you all for your indulgence.
I’m a little vague on how this experiment is supposed to work, all things considered. I mean, I guess it would make sense if you had some advertising on your site. But since there isn’t an obvious revenue-stream in this for you, I don’t see why you paid for the piece.
I mean, seriously speaking, I imagine that there are some writers, fledgelings or otherwise, who would pay you to showcase their work here if you would let them.
Just when I think you’ve run out of cutting-edge coolness, you open a whole new can of ‘cool whuppass’ on all of us. COnsider this notification of your Supremely Cool Commander of the Universe nomination.
This looks less like an investment (at least one expecting monetary returns), and more like a nod towards the patronage system that used to dominate the arts. I think, if there was an interest, that it would provide a nice counter-balance to the traditional publishing model.
Kind of like the Academic vs Professional discussion we were seeing earlier, but with a twist.
Some quick thoughts:
1) The idea itself seems wicked cool; very interesting…
2) my first reaction to the idea was that were I the author, I’d feel kind of cheated. It took me a bit to figure out why; it almost feels like vanity printing. But then again the author is getting paid more, and has a much higher potential readership. So who is to say?
3) Perhaps the weekend of a major SF con isn’t the best time? I mean, that’s a large part of your potential audience right there. Perhaps the weekend after wouldbe a bit better…
Well, the hotel Confusion is at has free internet access in the lobby and many folks have their computers with them (I will) and I’ll be talking up the piece while I’m there. So I could actually drive traffic from there. Also, the number of people attending the con is a small percentage of the people who visit the site daily, and I don’t expect everyone who comes to the con actually reads the site. I think it’ll be fine.
re: Vanity Printing — it would be, except, of course, that I paid pro rates for the piece and I am (as it happens) an actual editor. It’s just in an unconventional space; that’s part of why it’s an experiment.
The experiment is purely about how much exposure and interest the piece can generate by being here. I suppose I could try to see if I could find a sponsor for the piece, but that’s another (and possibly future experiment).
I do suppose that I could get writers to send stories to me for free simply with the promise of exposure, but since I don’t write fiction for free, I don’t see how I can reasonably argue that people should do something I wouldn’t. And anyway, I’m proud to have paid Nick and Eliani a pro rate. It’s pro work, and worth (to me) what I paid for it.
I’m hesitant to call it patronage, if only because unlike the doges and dukes of old, I’m not made out of money. On the other hand, if it turns out to be an effective platform for stories, I’d be willing to do it again, for the benefits that would accrue to me, which would be new readers for the site and good karma. We’ll have to see.
Thanks. I try.
A bunch of crime writers (Not me, though I’m planning on it next time) will get together and do The Great Blog Experiment, wherein each participant will post a short story set around a theme chosen by the brains behind the idea, Dave White and Bryon Quertormous. The project does get some notice, and there was a dispute with a zine editor over whether the story was “published” or not, as he had a policy of no reprints. (Ironically, this same editor participated in the event.)
However, that’s more of a dare. “Hey, here’s a theme. Come up with something.” What you’re proposing is closer to places like the old Plots With Guns site, which is it goes through a selection, then an editing process (and later, they started paying to get away from that pathetic lit zine stigma. And after they ran both my stories, dammit!)
I don’t know if paying the going rate for an online SF zine would make be worth it, but SF over the last 20 years has been more profitable than crime in short form. Crime shorts are more to advertise a writer than a source of income as there are exactly 5 paying print markets for crime now, and two of them have not changed much since 1955.
Hey, John, if you could start an online SF zine, maybe we could do some of that “gateway SF” you’ve been talking about.
Yeh that is a pretty curious idea! I actually just got the first issue of Fantasy Magazine this morning, which has one of Nick’s stories in it, and after reading a couple of blog rants of his I’m curious to see what it’s like.
If you ever take Jim above’s idea about an online SF-zine on, you got a very interested web and graphic designer right here!
“Hey, John, if you could start an online SF zine, maybe we could do some of that ‘gateway SF’ you’ve been talking about.”
That would take more time than I have, because I wouldn’t do something like that without building out some sort of revenue infrastructure, and all that business crap takes time. Editing Subterranean was fun because all I had to do was pick stories and send people money; building a site from scratch would require actual work. In any event there are a number of online SF magazines already, Strange Horizons being the one that pops to mind most immediately.
I imagine it’s in the spirit of “money flows towards the writer(s).” If this is a payment for first serial rights (which is what I’m assuming, not a purchase outright), then it’s the same as being paid and having your work appear on “Strange Horizons,” except you’ll be the only “feature” of that day or week. It’s a pretty neat gesture.
I don’t know what kind of precedent it sets, because a lot of sites *do* have things the other way–they charge for the exposure. But it’s nice to hear that someone thinks differently.
Yup, I’m buying first rights from Nick and Eliani, and after the piece is displayed here all right revert back to them (save my ability to keep a non-exclusive archival copy). It’s not work for hire.
I am indeed a believer in Yog’s Law — If I’m a writer and not getting paid, I damn well better be writing for myself or for a good personal friend.
Having read some of Nick’s other work, I’m quite looking forward to this one.
This is an intriguing idea, John, and it illustrates one of the many (many) reasons that Whatever is a daily read for me: you think out of the box.
It has been noted over on Jerry Pournelle’s Chaos Manor site that the future of publishing in the e-world may just make editors the most important part of the whole operation. Other than writers, of course. [-)
my first reaction to the idea was that were I the author, I’d feel kind of cheated.
We were both rather instantly pleased. When one writes unclassifiably weird stories, one often receives rejection letters along the lines of “Gee, this was a very ambitious and well-written piece. It haunted me. We don’t publish this kind of thing.” You know, “Come back when you’re not the wayward nail who must be hammered down.”
To be compel an editor to pull money from his own pocket and essentially start a one-time-only market just for one’s story is big medicine. That this platform has ten times the readership of Subterranean is helpful too.
Finally, our gas company was rather thrilled with the money, which was, in a very unpublisherly way, remitted instantly instead of via invoice+30, on publication, or via any other cruelly typical schedule.
Btw, people should buy my book.
The experiment is purely about how much exposure and interest the piece can generate by being here.
Well, I for one am dying to see any story that you were willing to pay to display on the Whatever. I anticipate glorious success! Prepare the dancing girls and champagne fountains!
To compel, that is.
Never post before walking the dog.
John Scalzi’s Blog to Showcase an ‘Unclassifiably Weird” Story …
on January 20th, 2006, Nick Mamatas and Eliani Torres wrote it; Scalzi like it enough to pay the going rate for it out of pocket. For the full story on how that happens go to this post: Whatever: One Other
I’m really excited and charmed by the idea of hanging in your gallery for a while. Let’s hope it doesn’t subtract readers from your population. Cheers!