Realities of Short Fiction Economics

The economic reality of short fiction publishing that authors and editors are both afraid to admit is that supply outstrips demand on an astronomical level.  Even token markets get more subs than they can publish. Only editors who insist on fiction having value try to pay reasonable rates, even if in many cases it’s not economical for them. Even Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld has expressed some frustration with the financial realities of running a pro-paying magazine.

Authors want to be paid, of course, but authors also want to be published. Some (many) authors REALLY want to be published–they care more about having their story out there than making money. And the ratio of authors/stories to editors/publications? It makes it so that stories lack value in an economic sense.

There’s no scarcity.

At all.

Even when there is quality, there is not scarcity, so there’s not a lot of economic incentive to pay “pro” rates [especially given the often decent-to-high quality of fiction/authors willing to accept less].

The scarcity of short fiction comes in name recognition, not the fiction itself. There are a gorillion amazing stories, but for instance, there is only one Sky Hernstrom–with only one Sky Hernstrom creating a limited supply of Sky Hernstrom stories, the value on those stories becomes a premium. If I can pay Sky more for a story than another guy because I want to be the pub carrying Sky Hernstrom stories, then that’s where the value comes into fiction, not through the slush pile of great undiscovered and unpublished fiction we see every year.

The addendum to this is that if we’ve published you once, there’s a much higher chance we will publish you in the future, because a) we like your stories, b) your stories become part of our “brand” so to speak and c) if our readers like your stories, they will buy us to read them.

Some have suggested that the only viable option for authors is a sort of donation/patronage system for their writing. And that, I gather, is what Clarke and other SFF pubs are doing to keep themselves afloat–small donors, subscribers, and whales subsidize the many non-paying readers like the ones Clarke is struggling to monetize. For an unknown author, building that level of patronage may be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be the only option.

Truly devoted fictioneers have the tools available so that they can really scrounge for every publication out there they could possibly submit to–Ralan, Duotrope, and Submission Grinder are a few examples of such tools.

Publishing across many outlets is a great way of increasing visibility to the point where releasing periodic anthologies is feasible.

As much as I’d like to publish everything a few of our authors put out, it would be bad for them because it would restrict the visibility of their works to our audience.

If they published 4 stories with us, they would have 4 stories that were seen by the same set of eyes more or less, but if they published 4 stories in 4 magazines, they’d have reached as many as 4 times as many readers, including those who would be interested in catching up on what they missed in a collected anthology.

If you’re interested in submitting to Cirsova Magazine, we pay semi-pro rates at approximately .0125 per word for short fiction up to 10,000 words. We will be opening in Mid-October for submissions. More details are here.

Our latest issue, the Cirsova Summer Special is available now, and our upcoming Fall issue will be out September 16th. If you’re interested in submitting fiction to us, it will be helpful to read at least one issue to get an idea of the kinds of stories that we are looking for!

Cirsova Publishing Doing Reprints?

I’ve had more than a couple of writers ask me if Cirsova would be interested in buying previously published stories to reprint in Cirsova. Up to this point, my answer has been “No” for several reasons.

  • First, one of the selling points of Cirsova is that we are offering new and exclusive content that can’t be found anywhere else.
  • Second, if a story has been published elsewhere, especially if it has been self-published, that puts a new issue of Cirsova in competition with that work in a way that may not be beneficial to either Cirsova or the author.
  • Third, it would not make sense for us to pay the same rates for a non-exclusive story as an exclusive story. I want to keep Cirsova paying semi-pro rates, but I can’t currently justify those rates for reprint stories while paying the same as I would for exclusivity.

Still, I’ve had a lot of inquiries about reprints and have been brainstorming on the matter. I have a couple thoughts:

  • A reprinted story has less “value” to Cirsova than an exclusive story, so it would make sense to pay a lower rate.
  • A reprinted story would require a different agreement between Cirsova and the Authors of the story. (i.e., we would not be purchasing first rights, exclusivity, etc., just whatever necessary mechanical rights to include them in an anthology).
  • It would make the most sense for us to do separate issues/anthologies, keeping Cirsova Magazine a Semi-Pro market featuring original content while creating a new, offshoot title to showcase reprints, a sort of “best of indie” meets “in case you missed it”.

Given that we’re in the midst of an anti-gatekeeper movement, I find it ironic that I’m essentially in a position where I’m asking people “Is my gatekeeping enough of a selling point that I should consider this?”

At least from an author’s perspective, the answer may be yes – the belief that they can reach a wider readership with their work via Cirsova is a real thing (even if I can hardly believe it myself!), and bringing great stories to the masses is something I’m passionate about. And enough authors have approached me about reprints that I’ve begun to seriously consider.

I put our current regular readership at roughly 150. If we get 100 more yeses than nos, I’ll whip up a framework for a new Cirsova annual spin-off.

Note: This title would have no bearing on what would be acquired for Cirsova HF&SF; it would be a wholly new publication under the Cirsova “banner”. Think of it like a “Tops In Science Fiction” vs. Planet Stories proper, only we’d be reprinting other stories rather than those featured in Cirsova HF&SF.

Cirsova Pre-Orders for 2017

Many of you know the routine by now. For those who don’t, here’s the scoop! We are using Kickstarter to take pre-orders and sell subscriptions for our 2017 issues. As usual, all stories have been paid for.   Our cover artists are paid. Layout is more or less done, and Issue 5 is already in the hands of our copy editors.

What do we have in store for 2017?

Our Spring issue (Cirsova #5) primarily features stories from Misha Burnett’s Eldritch Earth Geophysical Society, a writing group devoted to telling Burroughsian adventure stories set on a pre-historic Lovecraftian Earth. Expect unspeakable monsters from the stars, cultists, sorcerers, lizardmen, crabmen, fishmen (and fishwomen) and every manner of daring rogue! Also, Adrian Cole’s Witchfinder Arrul Voruum investigates the lingering evil in Karkesh in an all new Dream Lords story, Michael Tierney cooks up a historical fantasy with Bears of 1812, and Lynn Rushlau tells of daring escape in Through the Star-Thorn Maze.  Plus, the latest installment in James Hutchings’ My Name is John Carter.

Cover art by Benjamin A. Rodriguez.



  • The First American, by Schuyler Hernstrom

Short Stories

  • In the Gloaming O My Darling, by Misha Burnett
  • War of the Ruby/Shapes in the Fog, by Brian K. Lowe
  • Beyond the Great Divide, by S.H. Mansouri
  • Darla of Deodanth, by Louise Sorensen
  • The Queen of Shadows, by Jay Barnson
  • A Killing in Karkesh, by Adrian Cole
  • Through the Star-Thorn Maze, by Lynn Rushlau
  • The Bears of 1812, by Michael Tierney


  • My Name is John Carter (Part 4), by James Hutchings

Our Fall Issue (Cirsova #6) will feature the usual array of exciting SFF goodness, including the return of a few characters introduced to our readers in previous issues; Strongjohn picks up on Triton where At the Feet of Neptune’s Queen left off, Thompson’s adventurer Captain Anchor Brown pursues a mysterious god-beast deep in the wilds, present meets past in the Sacred City as Cole continues his  Dream Lords saga, plus more Othan! We’ve also got some Raygun Romance from Spencer Hart & Tyler Young, and the start of a brand new Sword & Sorcery series by Jim Breyfogle.

Cover art by Ku Kuru Yo.

Issue 6 Cover 1 front only.png


  • The Last Job on Harz, by Tyler Young
  • Magelords of Ruach, by Abraham Strongjohn

Short Stories

  • The Battlefield of Keres, by Jim Breyfogle
  • Tear Down the Stars, by Adrian Cole
  • Temple of the Beast, by Hal Thompson
  • Death on the Moon, by Spencer Hart
  • Othan, Vandal, by Kurt Magnus


  • TBA

We have simplified our offerings a bit, focusing on those previous pledge levels that were most popular. Both 2017 issues will be approximately the same page-count, so there will not be an issue of one item having a substantially different unit cost as was the case with our winter issue.

We will be attempting to sell advertisement again through Kickstarter. To simplify things, anyone pledging for a advertising slot can add to their pledge at whatever level they would like to back to include physical copies. To keep matters simple, advertisers buying ads through Kickstarter do not need to worry about shipping costs if they are outside the US. You want the back cover ad and both softcover copies? Just pledge $120, and we’ll sent them anywhere in the world at no extra charge.

If you want adspace in both issues, pledge for #5 and double your pledged amount.

1/4 Page – 3.5″ w x 4.5″ h 300 DPI

Back Cover – 7-8″ w x 8.75″ h 300 DPI

Please prepare ad images as high res .PNG or .TIF files.

Advertisements for Issue 5 should be sent to no later than one week after the end of the Kickstarter.

Risks and challenges

Like our last pre-order Kickstarter, backers are taking a bigger gamble, as they will be pledging for two issues which will not be sent right away.

However, Cirsova has a proven track record of delivering in a timely manner, adhering to our release schedule.

As in the past, all story content is paid for. Our volunteers have been doing wonderful turn-around work on deep pass copy-edits, and I expect them to continue doing so.

While things are still on an upward track for us, our coffers did hit empty after making 2017 acquisitions. Still, it’s all paid for and we don’t have any expenses that will prevent the issues from being completed. Rest assured that following the success of this Kickstarter we will have funds to cover all expenses related to fulfilling backer rewards. However, we WILL need to go above and beyond our goals for 2017 subscriptions to remain viable as a semi-pro paying market into 2018.

One More Cirsova Review!

This time from Anders Leser:

Jeg er egentlig veldig positivt overrasket. Som oftest er det en miks av gode og dårlige fortellinger i enhver novellesamling, men her syntes jeg at samtlige var veldig bra. De har alle den herlige pulp-følelsen. Historier med spennende eventyr hvor realisme ikke er så nøye så lenge det er gøy lesning. Anbefaler dere å prøve ut dette litteraturbladet. Dere finner det på Amazon, og sikkert andre steder også.


I am really very pleasantly surprised. Normally there is a mix of good and bad stories in any collection of short stories, but here I thought that all was very good. They have all the glorious pulp-feeling. Stories of exciting adventure where realism is not as carefully as long as it’s fun reading. Recommend you to try out this literature magazine. You can find it on Amazon, and probably other places too.

Snapshot of Issue 2 W/Cover & Kickstarter Update

We’re half-way through our Kickstarter period and we’re just $200 shy of our initial goal!

So here’s a photo of what issue #2 will look like with the Jabari Weathers cover:


So shiny they’re blurry!

Our $1000 goal is just the tip of the iceberg in recouping some of our expenses; we want to be able to start buying up for 2017 in September, but to do so, we’ll need start selling ad space and moving bulk orders for retailers.  Each issue of Cirsova has about $1k worth of content (Over $1500 for issue 4!)+ about $100 in costs for proofs and contributor copies, so needless to say, the Kickstarter is a much, if not more, about gauging interest and generating hype as it is actually paying the bills.

As we enter the second half of 2016, we’ll be pushing hard and hoping that the positive press we’ve garnered will turn into sales on the back-end and pre-orders on the front end.  If I can remain solvent over the next 8 weeks (damn car insurance!), I’ll be trying to hit up more of the local conventions to try to move stuff there (and hopefully break even on the cost of the table).  More importantly, however, are the plans we have cooking for issues 3 & 4; rather than run a million Kickstarters and pre-orders for every issue, after this one, we’re going to toy with trying to sell subscriptions.  It’ll be a mini-subscription where you can buy issue 3 and get our double-stuffed issue 4 for a discount (and in time for Christmas!) without me having to worry about when the Kickstarter money hits the bank, etc. etc. – I’ll just send it out when it’s time to send it out to anyone who’s signed up and paid to get one.  If that works, I’ll try out selling a full year’s subscription for 2017, but to do that, I’ll need to have money to buy up content for 2017.  I’m never going to overpromise what I can’t deliver on, but I’d sure like to be able to deliver a quarterly schedule in 2017!

Missed the Kickstarter? Cirsova Issue #1 is on Amazon

Yesterday, all PDFs were sent and physical copies* entered for fulfillment with Lulu and Amazon.

Today, you can order copies of Cirsova #1 from Amazon.

Missed out on bulk rates?  If you’re interested in bulk copies for any reason, I’m keeping the rates open ($30 for 5, $60 for 10 then +$20 for every additional 5 copies; SRP $10) for anyone who’s interested.  Contact me at cirsova at yahoo dot com with subject line “Bulk Order” and I will send you my paypal info.

Cirsova Cover Small

*:unless I didn’t have your address; fill out the survey!

Dunhams Destroys, Cirsova Builds

I will pay triple what Dunhams Manor is offering for the opposite of what they’re asking for.

Take the kind of story that Lovecraft, Merritt, Dunsany, Chambers or your other favorite pre-Derlethian weird writer would’ve told and tell it without any irony, any deconstruction, any tongue-in-cheek, any post-modern moralizing or mockery.

Tell a good classic pulpy science fiction story with a twinge of existentialist horror via alien and isolating elements.  Or take a heroic fantasy approach to the Mythos; tell a story of the naked apes struggling to survive in the world ruled by Elder Gods and Old Ones.

Ironic hipster parodies and Cthululz have been the norm for decades.  Those need to be destroyed, not Lovecraft, and I’m willing to pay good money to authors who’ll do it.

More of this:


Less of this:


Please no dropping nukes on Cthulhu.  Note that modern and contemporary ::fingerquote:: “Lovecraftian” fiction or detective noir pastiches will be rejected unless you really bring something great to the table.

It will be a few months (probably April) before Cirsova officially opens submissions for issue #2, but consider this a heads up.  We pay .01 per word with a bonus .01 for the first 2500 words.

Yes, there will be a 2nd Issue.  More on that soon…


Okay, this is pretty big news!  I’ve got a LOT of really great stories for Zine’s first issue. So now, I’m (with some bittersweet regret) having to announce that submissions are (more or less) closing.

There are a few exceptions:

  1. I’m looking for one more Leigh Brackett or Gardner F. Fox style Sword & Planet/Planet Romance story that is around 7500 or less.
  2. One more essay (2500 words or less) on a work, series or author from the pulp era, their impact on books, film and/or gaming.  Or some other relevant theme: Bradbury’s Mars vs. Brackett’s Mars, Lin Carter/August Derleth Deathmatch, why Forbidden Planet was the best movie ever or something like that.  Just run the subject matter by me before you write/submit so we’re on the same page.
  3. If you’ve asked about submitting and I’ve told you “yeah, send it to me!”, send it to me.  Especially if it fulfills number 1.
  4. If I have personally solicited you for a submission and you’ve told me that you have something you’re going to send, I STILL WANT IT (otherwise, why would I have asked you?), especially if it fulfills any combination of 1-3.

And yeah, I’m looking for cover art!


I knew this was coming, but somehow it still snuck up on me.  I’m looking for cover art for issue one of Cirsova!

I could, but would rather not, find some generic spacey image showing some vista with a ringed planet looming overhead.  I’d like to go for something special.

I’m looking for someone who can do sort of pulpy throw-back stuff along the lines of Allen Anderson.

Hit me up with links to portfolios!

1947 Sci-Fi Fandom Debate Rages on Depiction of Women in Science Fiction!

Is this woman hot enough?

Is this woman hot enough?

What was the Greatest Generation saying about science fiction in mid 1947?  Well, for one thing, they were loving Ray Bradbury and applauding Rocket Summer.  There was a debate going on as to whether the ladies on sci-fi covers were smoking hot or not smoking hot enough, but lots of people seemed pleased that Allen Anderson was drawing them.  Folks voiced their opinions on the ups and downs of the Magazine over the years and gave the editor grief (most of it good natured).

People writing in also had the opportunity to vote for who’d written the best letter that’d been published in the previous issue, the fan with the most votes getting their choice of an original piece of interior art as a prize.  Suddenly I’m starting to see why other folks had these weird ideas about what Best Fan Writer meant: it really is basically “best internet forum commenter”.

Speaking of eye catchingness, the fair damsel wielding the smoke-shooter is assuredly enough to electrify any masculine gaze that chanced to be wandering o’er the news-rack.  Can’t say I care much for the rest of the cover illustrations, but this dame alone is well worth the 20 cents.  – Joe Kennedy

What I would like to know is how did you wean Ray Bradbury away from his naked dames long enough to write Rocket Summer?    – Edwin Sigler

The gal wasn’t sexy enough.  If the powers-that-be blindly insist on wimmin on the cover of STF-mags, let them present us with something worth drooling about.  …Take Chad Oliver’s comments to heart.  Strictly good dope.  “…and the clinging material revealed every curve and contour of her figure…” Every contour?  Try it on the cover sometime unless you decide to reform the thing. – (forgot to source this quote)

Lin Carter is a fan of Gardner F. Fox.

[Gardner F.] Fox really turned out a swell hunk o’ writing this time, Ed!  …By all means keep this guy coming – he’s good.  – Lin Carter

Some guy is not a fan of Lin Carter.

Lin Carter’s letter was a fan letter of the usual (crumby) (look you, you keep your parenthesis shut or else!) fan letter.  – Telis Streiff

Not all was well in the Golden Age.  One nudnik wrote in complaining about stories having romance and lacking hard science facts.  He calls the readership of PS idiots then demands dissertations on Einstein’s theories.

Each fan seems bent on airing his opinion, no matter what!   …I also advocate removal of Vizigraph [the letters section] unless you can get some letters written by responsible people, with the aforesaid debates [on Einstein, relativity, etc.].  – James Meade

Just imagine how awful SF Fandom would be if guys like that had computers!