I’ve had my work published in just about every medium in which fiction can be published. I’m very proud of that. My novels are in print, ebook and, very soon to be released, audiobook. I’d love to see them make it into graphic novel and film. Maybe one day. My short fiction has been published in print and electronic magazines, print and ebook anthologies, podcasts and online magazines. And one of my stories is currently being adapted into a short film. There was a time when print was considered the only “real” publishing and everything else was a poor cousin at best, an exercise in vanity at worst. That’s changing dramatically.
To be clear, I love my brag shelf. That’s the part of my bookcase which houses all the magazines and books that feature my work. It’s a thing of beauty. I’m a bibliophile and I love to hold books and feel the pages. I love the scent of ink on a glossy magazine page. But, as a writer, I want to be read by as many people as possible. I want people to enjoy my work, talk about it, get something from it and share it with their friends. And I can’t help thinking that we’ve moved to a place where that isn’t best achieved with print any more.
There are numerous ways to get “published” these days, and that in itself can be a problem. I use quote marks there for a reason. Just because a website will post your story on their garish page, pay you nothing and, probably, don’t really care about quality, doesn’t mean you should be dancing in the aisles. It’s quite likely that nobody is reading that page beyond you and the other contributors. And ask yourself, did you read any of their stories?
Of course, anywhere that an editor of any kind chooses your work over someone else’s is cause for celebration – congratulations, you are a published writer. But we should all aspire to higher things. Personally, I aspire to being paid for my work, ideally being paid well, and being read by as many people as possible.
This is where online magazines are really starting to earn a place of reputation. There are many online zines now which are run just like a “proper” magazine, with editors only choosing the best work and actually editing it. With pay scales that venture well into pro-rates, recompensing authors for their painfully extruded word babies, and with a readership numbering into the many thousands. All these things are great for a writer’s career – recognition, payment and readership.
Many of these magazines are using technology to its best advantage, and making themselves into a kind of hybrid model. For example, they may start with an online edition but also make each issue available as an ebook for people to read at their leisure on their Nook, iPad, Kindle or whatever marvel of reading technology they favour. Some sites also produce limited print runs of each issue, or chapbooks, with added value – signed and numbered, maybe – that readers can collect. Some also produce an annual anthology of their stories, or a Best Of the year anthology. Others use a combination of online text and downloadable podcast. All these things can also help to generate income for said online zine and keep it alive and keep it paying its authors.
All these things are getting the blood, sweat and tears of us crazy writers out to the hungry minds of readers in a variety of ways, of which print is arguably the least important. And they’re doing it with those two most important criteria well in evidence – payment and editing. As a result, hopefully, they garner a wide readership.
The other advantage of the primarily online model is the ubiquitous and permanent nature of the thing. If you read a great story in an online magazine, you can tell a friend pretty much anywhere in the world and that friend can instantly access the story themselves. They don’t have to track down a book or magazine, or pay expensive overseas shipping rates. Bang! One new reader, maybe one new fan. With social media, it’s as simple as tweeting a link to spread the magazine joy out among people well beyond your circle of actual friends and family.
Of course, should the website ever go down or get deleted, the work goes with it. Should that friend I mentioned not have an internet connection, they are excluded. That’s one reason I’m a fan of the secondary print/hybrid option (chapbooks, POD anthology, etc.) as that means the work is preserved, in however a limited way, beyond the inevitable EMP that destroys civilisation. Plus, authors get something for their brag shelf. (We’re petty, vain creatures. Love us and love our work, please!)
On that front, and as a slight – well complete and total – tangent, I’ve recently paid fifty bucks to put all my short fiction to date (around 200,000 words of it) into two Print-On-Demand hardcovers. They’re just for my own shelf, a preserved hard copy of my work. It’s easy today with sites like Lulu automating the process. After all, I back up everything I write on hard drive, memory stick and cloud storage. Now it’s easy to back up in print too.
Online magazines are starting to be recognised industry-wide, pulling in all kinds of awards for themselves and the fiction they publish. More power to them, I say. It’s never been easier for writers to reach more people, though of course, it’s still bloody hard to get work accepted by the really high-echelon, pro-paying online zines. But there’s that aspiration again. I plan to continue submitting to those places and thereby continue to support them by offering my work as well as reading the work of others they already publish. And I’ll tell as many people about them as I can. It’s good for me, my career, the magazine in question, and all its readers and fans. In a future post I intend to list a run-down of my favourite online fiction magazines, which is why I’ve avoided mentioning any specific ones here.
Well, I’ll just mention one. My new novelette, The Darkest Shade Of Grey, will be serialised over four weeks at The Red Penny Papers, starting in a week or two. I’ll be sure to let you know when that’s up. As the publication is so imminent, I couldn’t resist a quick plug.
In the meantime, what are your favourite online fiction magazines? Let me know and I’ll try to include them in the future post I mentioned. Do you read much online fiction? Prefer it over magazines? Buy the ecopy later? Share your habits.