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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Markets for Our Writing » Creating a new pro flash-fiction market?

   
Author Topic: Creating a new pro flash-fiction market?
oliverhouse
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A week ago I registered the domain flashfictiononline.com. (I'm not linking to it because there's nothing there yet.) Maybe it was stupid, but hear me out.

I hate most of the flash-only venues. They publish too frequently, and what they publish is rarely interesting to me.

I don't know of a single flash-only venue that pays pro rates (.05/word, according to SFWA.org).

Pro rates for a 1000 word story is $50. That's the lovely thing about flash -- you can pay a relatively high rate while keeping the total outlay modest. One story per month maxes out at $600 / year, which I could (barely) handle myself. More people involved or defrayed costs (through advertising, tip jar, etc.) could increase the number of stories we could buy.

I know something about design, text processing, and Web development. I'm sure other people know more, and I'd love to get help wherever I could, but the worst case scenario is that I could publish everything myself. I could even create PDF versions of all of the stories with minimal additional effort.

If things took off, we could go to print with a magazine-ish anthology. But there's no need to, if things don't take off.

There's setup work to be done before I even get things off the ground. (That's assuming that it's something that should get off the ground.) There's ongoing effort -- marketing, slush, development, design, bill paying -- and it promises to be a labor of love than something profitable.

I don't want to start something that lasts (say) a year and dies; I want something that has legs. I'd rather take some time, think it over, get advice, and so on, than to launch too quickly and do it wrong. So if anyone is interested in talking about what to do here, I'd love a conversation around it.

Any thoughts? Private conversation can go to me at oliverhouse@gmail.com; otherwise, I'm happy to talk openly here.

Thanks,
Oliver


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InarticulateBabbler
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Interesting idea.

I'd be happy to be part of it, but how?

It would take more than one story a month -- especially with a 1000 word limit -- to make it enticing for enough readers to subscribe. Who'd read through the slush? Who would decide what's in or out? What would the genres be limited to?

Email me with further thoughts, elaborations, ideas. If nothing else, I'd be willing to be a sounding board, and offer some artwork.


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BoredCrow
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I like the idea too, and I'd be interested in participating in some way. I'm a grad student, so I'm completely lacking in money, but I'd volunteer to go through the slush pile. I admit, I don't know how good of an editor I am, but I've discovered during my time here that I love editing.

I'd vote for a general sci-fi/fantasy/horror slant. Especially if you end up in printed markets, there seem to be so few of them for those genres. And if you end up pulling a lot of people from this forum to help, then that's our speciality, so it would make sense to focus on it.

Other ways I could possibly help (though they are far off in the future):

Advertising - being at a university, there are probably a good group of budding writers here. They even have a radio show about creative writing.

I have a friend who occasionally does web design - and she's awesome about it. I don't know how much she charges, but if you want a great looking site, I could talk to her about it.

If you do a print version, have you considered offering a few pages for advertisments? Talebones (one of my favorite magazines) does it. If you can get people interested, that could help make it a little less costly.

Anyway, as you can tell, I'm definitely interested in being a part of this. Please do email me with further details, questions, etc.


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walt.xeppuk
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Oooh it does sound intriguing. If you wanted to cut down the slush pile, you could only open up to submissions a few times a year.

You could also ask for Hatrackers to read through the slush pile, or donate. Just my ideas. The question I see is...what would we need to do to be taken seriously? or is that even the goal. I take it that is the goal, because of the idea of pro rates.

walt

edited to say - email me with future stuff too

[This message has been edited by walt.xeppuk (edited September 22, 2007).]


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BoredCrow
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I think it's going to take a lot of time - even years, to be honest - to be recognized as pro. If we put out a few issues with compelling stories, and advertise in the right places (like Writer's Market), that's a start.
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oliverhouse
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I think I have to start by assuming I won't make any money: income = approximately zero, outflow = words * .05 + web hosting costs + marketing costs (if any). If I get to the point where I say it's too expensive -- if, say, a $1000 / year hobby won't fly -- then I probably have to write the idea off.

Since I don't think I'll make sufficient money from subscriptions to cover the costs, it makes sense for me to let users subscribe for free. I'm better off getting a larger audience that pays nothing than I would be if I got twelve people who paid $5 each.

I think there could be a readership (note I don't say "market") for a free, completely unprofitable ezine that published one or two really good flashes (around 1000 words total) per month.

I agree that doesn't sound like much. I could publish quarterly to make it seem like each issue was bigger, but I'm not convinced that that would help; from a marketing perspective, I'd rather always have something fresh up than to have less frequent bursts of more activity.

I'd love to expand, but it depends on finances. And I don't see a lot of ways to make the zine profitable, even in the long run.

If I handle the bulk of the financial burden and effort, then I should be the ultimate judge of what's in. I'd essentially have the editor-in-chief job.

Slush is an issue, though; I've been toying with the idea of (a) having clear guidelines that segment out the kind of thing we're looking for, and (b) having a few other collaborators nominate items from the slush.

Tentative guidelines: I think I'd prefer genre fiction, specifically SF, Fantasy, Horror, Thriller, etc. No romance, kid's stuff, or slice-of-life. Ideal length would be 500-1000 words, although <500 would be acceptable; however, the story should have a setting, characterization, and a plot (including conflict), no matter how skeletal, which limits how compact it can be. "Literary" or "mainstream" could fit if it has those elements, but I wouldn't expect it to very often, and I'd probably prefer genre fiction.

I don't know who the slush readers might be. Worst case is that I open for submissions intermittently, like Baen's Universe does. Best case is that others join me in working through it. I don't know how to incorporate a business such that "investors" (scare quotes because they might not be legally recognized as such) of time or money can get any return that there might be on their investments.

I have thought a little bit about art. I don't know whether I can afford real artwork by real artists, but I might, or I might have to pay for that only in publicity. (At least, maybe that's how it is right out of the chute.) I know I can afford some stock photography, which can be very cool -- as long as it fits the story.

Yes, I'd like it to be a pro market. Here's what SFWA says:

quote:
To qualify a new Qualifying Professional Market, it must be found acceptable to the Membership Committee. In particular, it must satisfy the following criteria for a given date range to qualify for membership purposes:
  • Payment for all works of fiction (other than reprints or serializations), either in advance of publication or on publication, at the rate of either (a) at least $2000 for a single work or (b) at least 5c/word (3c/word before 1/1/2004); and
  • Must have published consistently for a period of at least one year before the market will be considered qualifying; and
  • Must have a print run or circulation of at least 1000 copies, or the equivalent in other media (e.g., demonstrated downloads in electronic media); and
  • Is not self-publication, vanity press, or other type of author-paid or fee-charging press, as demonstrated such as (1) by having published at least ten distinct works by different natural persons during the date range; and (2) by authors not having paid or been requested to pay fees or give consideration of any kind.


Source: http://www.sfwa.org/org/qualify.htm#Q7

These are just thoughts. I'm not married to any of it.


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walt.xeppuk
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I'd say that most of that list could be achieved with time. About the only problem at first is...

"Must have a print run or circulation of at least 1000 copies, or the equivalent in other media (e.g., demonstrated downloads in electronic media)"

Does that mean that 1000 other people have to pay for the 1000 downloads, or if they just download and read the stories.

All the other parts of the list would be accomplished at the end of the first year.

walt


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oliverhouse
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quote:
Does that mean that 1000 other people have to pay for the 1000 downloads, or if they just download and read the stories.
I took it to mean that 1000 people have to read it. The definition of pro market says nothing about a requirement to have paying customers, just that we are paying customers of the writers we publish. It would be relatively easy to show that 1000 people had downloaded the stories, which would be fine for the right definition of "circulation"; just as you don't have to know who buys a copy of Asimov's at a Borders to have that copy count as part of your circulation, you might not need to know who downloads a copy of the magazine. But having some special magic invoked -- say, a "subscriber" cookie, or some special tracking in an RSS feed, or something -- might make the case more convincing.

Good question, though. It's that kind of thing that's most likely to bite me/us in the behind if we don't think it through.


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KayTi
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Slush reader - right here! I will be ruthless. You can have 3 hrs/month min from me. 1000 word stories go quick, particularly if they're just going through a "pass/no pass" gate.

What about starting at 1/2 the pro rate, just until you at least reach the 1000/month readership required? That would create a curve to the financial outlay. Also, what about ad-supported stuff? Not annoying pop-ups, but the left pane/right pane/lower pane google stuff. Typically it's done with targeting advertising. I am sure it could take the edge off the cost outlay, though not sure at what point it becomes profitable.

Anyway - I think it's a neat idea. I like the genre limitation, though personal preference - get that horror stuff out of there. This may inhibit my effectiveness as a slush reader, I really don't do horror/gore or anything that will give me nightmares.

Got a private BBS somewhere you want to chat more? Holler if so. I've used invision, ezboard (annoying unless you pay) and infopop, I think. There are a lot of them out there.


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BoredCrow
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I could take care of the horror submissions if you don't want them, KayTi. I'm not easily impressed in that genre, so I think it'd be the best fit if I were to be 'hired' me as a slush reader.

Of course, oliver has to agree to add me to the crew...
::looks hopeful::


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WouldBe
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To have more content than the once-per-month paid "featured" story,
you could:

--have links to editorially selected stories on other sites with (possibly reciprocal) permission.

--have a Reader Slush Pile section, somewhat like Baen's Universe Slush, that is only minimally moderated. Allowing a place for people to participate (including showing their hindquarters) through comments will produce hits. It becomes a "good" problem to have if this is successful, but it will affect your Internet hosting costs.

As a side note: Evil Editor lately does writing exercises wherein he gives a scenario and the minions write a scene/story limited to 200 words. The latest set should show up later in the afternoon today (Saturday). This stuff is filled with EE lore, but it is usually pretty good for 200 words.

Good luck. This sounds like fun.

[This message has been edited by WouldBe (edited September 22, 2007).]


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InarticulateBabbler
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oliverhouse, I might be willing to invest for a couple of stories -- maybe another $600 a year. And invest artwork.

Eventually, online advertisers would probably support the e-zine.


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debhoag
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i could probably pony up a couple hundred. And would be glad to join BoredCrow at the slush pile. That would be a hoot!
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baduizt
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I'd also happily contribute and/or help in any way needed.

Regards


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theworldinthewords
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Hey,

I'm only an undergrad, but I have a strong interest in writing in general and also am curious about the publishing world and/or how to get involved in it. If you need someone to go through a slush pile, or even take a closer look at some stories for editing, I might be up for it. Also, if you ever need anyone for brainstorming ideas, just like advertising, publicity, how to get readership, etc. I would be interested in just helping out wherever I could. I had thought about what it might take to start up a professional E-Zine, so I think it would be cool to be involved.


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oliverhouse
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Okay, I (my alter ego, jdfreivald, really) just created a Yahoo! group for managing communications about the project (setup) and long-term maintenance. Everyone here who has expressed an interest has been invited. No need to accept, of course.

If you want an invitation, send me an email.

I have a bit of thinking to do to set everything up right, but the fact that others are considering actual financial involvement means that the possibilities are better than I thought they might be.

Oh, and I designed a logo tonight, and started developing a layout. It's a little thing, but it makes me feel like I'm actually doing something.


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WouldBe
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I hope your private list doesn't suffer the same fate as a public one. I peeked at http://dir.groups.yahoo.com/group/zinepublishers/ and the latest 80 msgs but perhaps one were spam.

Are you using the "advanced" features such as photos for group members, or will just the mail list do?

Orson! Orson! Orson! Orson! Orson! Orson! Orson!
---Wouldn't a F-F story from OSC make a nice
---inaugural edition?
Orson! Orson! Orson! Orson! Orson! Orson! Orson!

Would the SFWA consider a lot of donated stories from staff a "self-eating watermelon" and reject the professional status?


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oliverhouse
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I already host a bunch of lists, some public, some private, most of which are for other people -- I don't even participate in them. It's easy to keep them spam-free if you know how. This one, being private, is essentially impossible to spam.

I have the advanced features available, though I don't know what we'll use them for.

I would love to have an OSC original flash for the inaugural issue -- which is all the more reason to make sure everything's right before soliciting him or other great writers. To become professional, behave professionally; to be taken seriously, be serious. So we'll want to pay pro rates from the get-go, and have a real Web site where people can see what's happening and get excited about it before it ever goes fully public.

It's going to be very exciting -- slowly at first.

[This message has been edited by oliverhouse (edited September 24, 2007).]


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oliverhouse
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For those of you on the discussion group, I've just posted my first comments. I wouldn't clutter up Hatrack to announce that, except to ensure that you all have your spam filters set to accept stuff from that group. Please advise me by email (oliverhouse@gmail.com) or IM (oliverhouse on Google, jdfreivald on AIM and Yahoo) if you have any issues.

Thanks,
Oliver


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oliverhouse
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We are live! Check us out: Flash Fiction Online (www.flashfictiononline.com). One of the stories is from Our own DJVDakota. Artwork is by InarticulateBabbler -- and I had no idea that we had such a serious artistic talent in our midst here on Hatrack.

It's not all perfect, but I think we're off to a good start. Now that we've begun, I may even be able to hang out on Hatrack a little bit more...for better or for worse.

[This message has been edited by oliverhouse (edited December 01, 2007).]


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Wolfe_boy
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I'm stoked about this, and shall have a new addition to my RSS feed, as well as somewhere new to submit my stuff to.

Thanks for the work, oliverhouse. Kudos to you, and IB for the stunning artwork.

Jayson Merryfield

PS: Expect a submission from me eventually....

[This message has been edited by Wolfe_boy (edited December 05, 2007).]


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Pyre Dynasty
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This is cool, I really like the PDF ability. I'll have to look to see if I've written anything short enough for you.
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