“…Any Club That Would Have Me for a Member…”

The subject came up in another context but it got me thinking about it. New magazines have always popped up fairly frequently in the field. Most don’t last long. This was true back in the mimeograph days and it’s even more true now, when web publishing basically means anyone with a little time and the notion can put up a web page and call it a magazine. This in turn will spawn the writer on the make’s natural prey–the market listing.

I don’t know about you all, but when I’m scanning the list of new markets at Ralan’s or wherever, the number of potential markets I find worth bothering with is very small. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — I’m picky. It’s probably some deep character flaw that makes me think I have the right to be picky. I mean, who the hell do I think I am anyway? But there it is. Actually, it’s even worse than that–I think every writer should be picky. Value what you do, or no one else will. Aim higher, even if you think the target is out of range. Maybe it is, but maybe it isn’t. So all that said, I’ve been thinking about what separates a venue worth considering and one that, well, just isn’t.

Sometimes it’s simply money. One more non-paying webzine doesn’t automatically get my attention as a rule, and before anyone rushes to judgment, I want to state for the record that this isn’t simple greed. Considering the fact that pay rates for most short fiction haven’t gone up in 30+ years, this should go without saying, but I’m saying it anyway. What money does is tell me that that the editor/publisher is serious. They’re making an honest attempt to attract the best material possible and going out on a financial limb to do it. They’ll probably fail since most new magazines do, but I honor their attempt. They’re going for material that, at least in theory, will attract readers. They want readers. As a writer, so do I. Right from the start, I know we have a common goal.

So this rules out non or really low paying markets? Not necessarily. Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, to state the obvious example, pays very little and some darn fine writers are falling all over themselves trying to sell to it. I’ve published three stories there and I’d love to do it again.The difference is the reputation of the editors. When Kelly Link and Gavin Grant are involved in a venture, that commands attention. The same for other smaller zines over the years, like Flytrap or Say…, both from the fairly recent past and now no more, where the editors had at least a little name recognition and people are naturally going to be curious as to what sort of thing they’re going to publish. Buzz counts, and a venue either has it or doesn’t.

What’s left? Obviously, new non-paying magazines started by people hardly anyone in the field has heard of. They’re out of the running, yes? Again, not necessarily, though they have a much tougher row to hoe. Everyone’s unknown at some point and I judge these new markets the same way I judge a paying market or one started by a known quantity–intent. What are they trying to do? What is their mission statement/manifesto? Is this a market with a vision that’s trying to appeal to readers who share that vision, or is this a person who was bored one day and thought it might be fun to have his or her own magazine? The latter I avoid like the proverbial. But any new magazine that is clearly trying to create a quality, professional-looking venue to generate a readership gets my serious attention. I may or may not submit to it based on my assessment of their chances of getting that readership, but that’s a separate thing. At least they’ve got their priorities straight.

So that’s me. If you’re writing short fiction, how do you judge what markets to send to?

3 thoughts on ““…Any Club That Would Have Me for a Member…”

  1. Richard, I pretty much judge by quality of the editors, the intent of the publishers, and whether anyone else whose short fiction I admire has been published in the venue. I applaud you vigorously for being “picky”!

  2. Pay, exposure, whether the editor’s someone I want to work with, and response time are all factors for me. I had a small magazine recently haughtily inform me that the longer the wait time the more professional the magazine was. I don’t agree.

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