Starting Your Own Magazine (In The Modern Age)

I’ve said this before, and it has become something of a mantra for me lately: The World Has Changed.

Last Summer (2017), driving down to see the eclipse a Joshie’s place, Fabulous Publisher Babe(tm) and I talked about how I had always wanted to start my own “literary” (read: genre SF) magazine, going clear back to high school where I edited the school’s annual literary magazine my senior year.

But the running joke in publishing is the same in sports: How do you make a million dollars in publishing? Start with a billion and lose most of it.

Most of them lose money. Badly. If they ever break even, it can almost be a miracle. And if you look at the distribution figures for the majors, they have been declining significantly for a very long time. Here is one of several I found when looking for “realistic” numbers to see what the world “used to be like” in the age before. This is a more recent snap-shot.

We (Modern Westerners) are not readers of short fiction, like we used to be. I never read those magazines when I was a kid, because I was into comic books first, and then into novels later. Frequently, Fabulous Publisher Babe(tm) will mention some story she read when she was a kid, and what a profound impact it had on her life. And I will look at her and go “Who?” But her mother made sure she read those sorts of things (short fiction in Fantasy and SF, plus others). I grew up in a different headspace.

So magazines are not dead, but do not even have the reach they did ever 40 years ago (which was a drop from 80 years ago):

“In 1980, Analog and Asimov’s each had about 100,000 (emph mine) circulation. That’s a lot for a print fiction magazine of any sort. F&SF ran about 60,000: still enough to make it one of the Big Three–especially since so few other magazines survived for very long (sigh: I do remember Galaxy and [Worlds of] If).

At this point, these three are mostly survivors of the pulp fiction era. By 2004, Analog was down to something like 40,000; Asimov’s to something like 30,000; and F&SF to something like 20,000. By 2009, those numbers were 26,000; 16,000; and 17,000 respectively.”

So why the hell did I want to start my own magazine and go broke?

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m not spending nearly the money they did. Any of them.

I’ve backed a number of kickstart or indegogo publishing projects over the last few years. But those look like a stupid amount of work, if I want to get paper into reader’s hands.

Recently, I’ve started ordering paper copies of some of the new comic books from indie teams that I have found to be fun in pdf form, because I want to have copies of them twenty years from now.

The world has changed.

If you have an idea, there are tools now that let you get it into other people’s hands and minds cheaper than you probably imagined. I’m going to get personal and talk about mine.

It was a combination of things, and I’ve talked about them before. BundleRabbit has bundling tools, but now they have Collaboration. That means an author just has to send me their final version, with edits. No formatting. No cover. No blurb. Nothing. Just the best story they can tell.

I picked up a used Mac Air, flattened it, and reinstalled everything, starting with Vellum. Drag and drop, once you have someone with some experience configure a few settings for you (Like 20 minutes work for them). I am not a complete and utter control freak that has to spend a lot of time, energy, and money using Adobe tools to get the exact print interior perfect. Vellum’s interiors are beautiful, and I don’t sell that much paper anyway, so well-formatted ebooks are critical. I get them.

I married a damned good cover designer, so I cheated there, but she does work cheap, if you wanna bribe her. Lemme know and I’ll pass along your contact info. I can write ad copy for the blurb.

So I could do it. I could assemble a magazine, fill it, make it pretty, and get Chuck to handle distribution and money.

YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW NICE IT IS, NOT TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR PAYING AUTHORS EVERY MONTH!!! (’nuff said about how I feel?) Bundle Rabbit does that, and does it cheap.

So I give you Boundary Shock Quarterly, a speculative fiction magazine I edit and write into. Three issues are out, with the fourth coming on October 10th. (That one, by the way, will be Robots, Androids, Cyborgs, Oh My!) Watch this space for more news, or sign up for the newsletter over there for cover reveals, TOC reveals, and (if I can blackmail enough people) author interviews and shorts.

But there is a more important thing I want to blog about today.

You can do this, too. There is no secret sauce. No magic handshake. Just hard work and vision. And to help everyone, I have recently published a new Business For Breakfast book: How to Launch a Magazine for Professional Publishers.

It walks through all the steps I followed, and believe me, I’m lazy when it comes to stuff like this, so I wanted to do everything just once and never have to deal with it again. And I included the exact pitch document I used (with typos preserved for posterity, so don’t tell me about them). I also included the contract I signed with my Syndicate of writers, spelling out what I expected from them, and what they got out of membership.

I have been in touch with other folks (named redacted to protect the guilty) who are planning to use book this as something of a template to start their own magazine.


Trust me. It requires sweat and vision, but that’s it. And if you want to be successful as an indie or a hybrid, you already know that. We all do this hustle. Mine is a royalty share project, so I make money when they do, rather than me getting paid first and them getting crumbs later. They make money as they pimp it and circulate the news to other readers.

Hopefully, I will continue to see a nice halo from their readers reading my stuff and liking it. I’m willing to trade my readers for yours. Simple as that.

Plus, we look like professionals (yeah, don’t tell my mother), so I recently was invited to include the first issue of Boundary Shock: Captain’s Log into a Story Bundle and make my writers a nice chunk of both cash, and exposure.

So I’m going to pimp my business book. Because I can.

That’s my other mantra, these days. “Because I can.”

The world has changed, yes, but the only limits on my success are my imagination?  Y’all are DOOOOOOMMMED now!

So if you ever wanted to be a publisher, pick up my book cheap, and then go see what awesomeness Chuck has waiting for you.

It will change you life. And you might be able to change the world.

We now return you to your previous revolution, already in progress…