I was recently interviewed about Beneath Ceaseless Skies at Scy-Fy: the blog of S. C. Flynn, on topics such as the behind-the-scenes work that happens at BCS, what I think may be the major future challenges for SFF magazines, pitfalls in SFF zining, tips for writers, and much more.
You can check out the interview here. Thanks very much to S.C. Flynn for the interest and great questions.
SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, has raised their qualifying pay rate for short fiction to 6 cents/word. Beneath Ceaseless Skies has raised our pay rate to meet this standard; it is important to us that writers be paid a pro rate and qualify to join their professional organization.
Yet in this era of difficult financial straits for magazines, with many turning to uncertain revenue sources such as crowd-funding, and with the most successful known revenue stream (Amazon Subscriptions) closed to new vendors, we are mindful that higher pay rates may compound existing financial challenges.
We agree with the current increase to 6 cents/word, as this accounts for inflation since the last increase in 2004.
However, we would be concerned that any further increase in the near future could leave markets struggling to meet such higher rates, and would lead to them either reducing the amount of original fiction they publish, or not raising their rates and thus losing SFWA-qualifying status, or raising their rates and later ceasing publication when unable to secure additional revenues.
All of these outcomes would result in fewer opportunities for writers: for veteran authors to earn their trade; for neo-pros to develop their craft or showcase their work to readers, agents, and novel publishers; for new writers to establish their writing and their membership in the field. Neo-pros and new writers would likely bear the brunt of these effects.
Some advocates of additional or larger increases cite the goal of making short fiction rates produce a livable wage. This is a noble cause but a grossly unrealistic one. The Editorial Freelancers Association estimates pro rates for the writing of fiction at 20–25 cents/word. To meet such a standard, SFWA would have to quadruple their new rate, which would strain markets throughout the field (to our knowledge, only one of the thirty SFWA-qualified short fiction markets currently meets that rate). Lesser raises would be inconsequential in achieving a living wage, and would risk the outcomes above in order to make a purely symbolic gesture.
We urge SFWA and the short fiction field overall–authors, publishers, veteran writers and new ones–to undertake a thorough dialog on these factors before consideration of raising short fiction rates again. This current era of ebooks, free online magazines, and free fiction podcasts has expanded the short fiction audience across the planet, fostered the emergence of diverse markets, and increased opportunities for established and new writers alike.
But meeting the financial challenges of publishing in such a landscape remains a work in progress. Further or larger or unrealistically motivated raises in the SFWA short fiction rate would exacerbate these challenges and could stunt the field’s growth, if not halt or even reverse it.
Scott H. Andrews
The Baltimore Science Fiction Society is hosting a short fiction roundtable panel this weekend: “The State of Short Fiction.”
The panelists are editors and/or publishers of major short fiction venues, either in print or audio podcast or both, including Neil Clarke (Clarkesworld), our own Scott H. Andrews (me; Beneath Ceaseless Skies), Jonathan Landen (Daily Science Fiction), Norm Sherman (Drabblecast), and Bill Campbell (Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond).
The panel will delve into the current state of the short fiction market, including topics such as how do you fund a magazine or anthology, what makes a story work for podcast, and more.
The BSFS-hosted panel last year on a different short fiction topic, “From Slush to Sale,” was well-attended and well-represented, including our own Scott H. Andrews and staff from Strange Horizons, Electric Velocipede, and more.
This panel on the State of Short Fiction is Sat. Mar. 22nd at 8PM at the Baltimore Science Fiction Society meeting house at 3310 East Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21224. You can find BSFS on Facebook, including a Facebook event page for this panel; check out the event page, click if you are attending, and read more details about it.
With all the panelists’ experience in the short fiction field, there is sure to be great experience and discussion about the many facets of the current short fiction field. If you’re anywhere in the Mid-Atlantic area, you should consider attending.
I was interviewed last week for the blog of the Odyssey Writing Workshop (of which I am a graduate).
The questions and answers ended up quite detailed, including about the time and tasks of editing BCS stories and rewrites and audio, about interaction with writers as an editor, about what I mean by “literary adventure fantasy” and some great examples of it, and several detailed elements about writing craft and things I see often in submissions.
Part one of the interview is up now, with part two coming next Sunday. It’s long, but if you’re interested that deeper level of what goes on editorially at BCS, definitely give it a look.
Weightless Books, the online indie ebook store that sells subscriptions to BCS and many other fine genre magazines, recently interviewed Scott.
Check out the interview to see things like how he knows a story is right for BCS or how the fact that he’s a writer as well has influenced the magazine.
And remember that Weightless is the only place where you can get a subscription to BCS, delivered straight to your email or addressable e-reader device. Twenty-six issues, fifty-four stories, for only $13.99 a year. Ebook issues are released early, before the website, and all proceeds go to support BCS.
The February issue of Locus included their annual report of circulation statistics for the major magazines in F/SF short fiction, as provided to Locus by each magazine.
The figure that we at BCS gave Locus was an estimate based on partial data. We’ve now crunched the final numbers, and some additional stats, and would like to report them here.
BCS averaged 25,500 unique web visitors per month in 2012.* This was up from 20,000 in 2011.
The BCS podcast averaged 4000 downloads per episode, up from 2000 in 2011.**
As Locus noted, in 2012 we published 55 stories (40 short stories and 15 novelettes), all originals, and 22 podcast episodes.***
Overall, our best year yet at BCS! Thank you to our readers and fans, and we look forward to what 2013 brings.
(*The 25,500 unique visitors/month puts BCS with the third-highest readership among all the e-zines who provided stats to Locus.)
(**The 4000 podcast listeners was second to the one text-and-podcast e-zine that reported figures and well behind the top podcast-only zines.)
(***The 55 stories was the most original full-length stories among all the e-zines reporting to Locus, and the second-highest total of original fiction including flash and short-shorts.)
The Baltimore Science Fiction Society is hosting a roundtable panel later this month called “From Slush to Sale: Behind the Scenes at Science Fiction Magazines.”
The panelists are all both short fiction editors and writers. They include Rahul Kanakia (fiction in Clarkesworld; former First Reader for Strange Horizons), Leslie Connor (Asst. Editor for Apex Magazine), Damien Walters Grintalis (fiction in BCS; Assoc. Editor for Electric Velocipede), and our own Scott H. Andrews (fiction in Weird Tales and On Spec; Editor-in-Chief and publisher of BCS).
The panel is February 23rd at 8PM at the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, 3310 East Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21224.
With all the panelists’ short fiction writing and reading experience, especially slush reading, there are sure to be some great nuggets of experience and wisdom. If you’re anywhere in the Mid-Atlantic area, you should consider attending.
BCS Editor-in-Chief and Publisher Scott H. Andrews is interviewed in the second episode of Speculate! podcast’s trio of episodes on BCS and our fiction.
We talked about the origins of the magazine, my editorial philosophy, my approach on story rewrites, my production of the BCS podcast, and why literary adventure fantasy is an underserved portion of the speculative fiction market.
Speculate! is produced by authors Gregory A. Wilson and Bradley P. Beaulieu. They focus not only on the readerly side of things, like fiction and editorial philosophy, but also on the writerly side, like facets of the fiction-writing craft.
Check out this second episode, and keep an eye out for the final one in the trio.
BCS on SF Signal PodcastFebruary 27, 2012 - 09:09 amPosted in: About BCS, Magazine Publishing by Scott H. Andrews
02-27-2012, 09:09 AM
Scott H. Andrews, our Editor-in-Chief, is in the latest SF/F podcast from genre news site SF Signal.
The podcast was a roundtable discussion on swords & sorcery, specifically current writers who’re putting new twists on this old classic and new directions that it’s being taken in. The “literary adventure fantasy” direction of which, of course, is exactly what BCS specializes in.
In addition to Scott, the roundtable featured authors Violette Malan, James L. Sutter, author/editor Lou Anders of Pyr Books, and SF Signal moderators Jaym Gates and Patrick Hester.
The first part of this roundtable is out now as SF Signal Podcast #108. Or you can stream it here: