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Hernstrom stories, then that’s where the value comes into fiction, not through the slush pile of great undiscovered and unpublished fiction we see every year.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!

What Stories are We Looking For for 2020?

Cirsova Publishing will be opening Submissions for our flagship magazine in October. Details can be found here. Everything in the descriptions there hold true in terms of what it is we’re looking for, but I’d like to highlight a few things in this post:

Raygun noir – Dark detective stories that had exotic space locals as their setting were a staple in the pulps, particularly Planet Stories. We’d love to see more of these.

Monster Girl – We got a couple of these last go-round, but none were quite what we were looking for. Seriously, go read C.L. Moore’s The Bright Illusion and get back with us. You got something along those lines? We’d definitely be interested.

South Seas Adventure and Chinoiserie – There’s a lot of interesting territory to be explored here, and we’ve dipped our toes in a bit [see The Last Fortune of Ali al’Ahmar and The Bookhunter’s Apprentice as more fantastical examples]. That’s not to say we’re looking for Yellow Peril; we’re looking for exotic settings outside the normal fare of a lot of contemporary fantasy and adventure.

Afrofuturism – We’re genuinely interested to see what can be done in this field. We haven’t gotten any in our submissions before [though we’ve received and published fantasy stories with both northern and sub-Saharan African settings].

Mystery – If we get some genuinely good mystery stories, we don’t even necessarily need there to be fantastical elements, though strange and exotic settings would certainly be a plus.

Men’s/Boy’s Adventure – While we aren’t looking for Weasels Ripped My Flesh, classic early-to-mid 20th century Men’s adventure or, even further back, RL Stevenson Boy’s adventure would be of interest. See also Frank G. Slaughter and C.S. Forester.

Antiquity Romance and Medieval Mythology – You guys know how I rave about Swann. Also, remember that Medieval fantasy isn’t just dragons, elves and fairies; it’s also Blemyae, Skiapods, and Prester John.

Gothic Horror/Romance – We’ve actually received and published some of this sort of stuff in the past two years. Our Lords, The Swine and Pale Moon’s Bride are two solid examples. Remember that Gothic doesn’t just mean Vampires and Werewolves. In fact, we’re really not looking for either of those unless you can put a really damn good spin on it. Gothic means ghosts, crumbling dungeons, disused manses, courtly love, mysterious knights, and heretics and clergymen too damn zealous for their own good.

Wild Stars Mega Round Up Post

We’ve been talking about the Wild Stars and plugging it all over the place, so we thought it would be a good idea to do a round-up post!

We’ve only got two weeks left in the Wild Stars IndieGoGo, and we REALLY NEED TO HIT THAT $8K goal! Especially if you guys want more Cirsova Magazine in 2020. This project’s will give us the funds we need to make it happen!

The Wild Stars Twitter Megathread

B/X D&D Stats for Griefs

Michael Tierney and P. Alexander on Shane Plays:

P. Alexander on Geek Gab:

P. Alexander on Superversive SF:

 

Cirsova Presents: Wild Star Rising!

The IndieGoGo is live!

Cirsova Publishing is teaming up once again with Michael Tierney to publish his all new SFF time-travel adventure set in his Wild Stars universe, Wild Star Rising!

Plus, to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of Wild Stars, Cirsova will be releasing all-new premium magazine-style editions of the Wild Stars graphic novel, Book of Circles, and the hybrid comic/novel, Force Majeure. We’ll also be reprinting a new 2019 edition of last year’s Kickstarter-exclusive illustrated novella, Time Warmageddon.

Wild Stars transparent 2

Cirsova Publishing is creating an all new standard edition of all previous Wild Stars books that will match the new release, Wild Star Rising.

Wild Stars: Book of Circles collects the early comics, Erlik (WS Vo1 1 #1) and First Marker (WS Vol 2 #1), placed chronologically within the 2001-2002 run of Wild Stars comics (WS Vol 3 #1-7)

Book of Circles tells the story of conflicting timelines and parallel worlds that culminate an alliance between a wolf-like alien race called the Brothan and alternate time-line fascists, the Artomiques, that aims to attack and destroy the earth by launching a comet at Jupiter to ignite it as a second sun.

These comics feature artwork by Frank Brunner (Doctor Strange, Howard the Duck), David Brewer (Cable, Deadpool), Dave Simons (Ghost Rider), and Michael Tierney, plus the collected editions feature additional painted works by Mary Tierney.

This new edition of the almost 300 page graphic novel will be printed in Cirsova Magazine’s standard 8.5″ x 11″ format, and will fit nicely on the shelf between your collection of Cirsovas and the rest of the 35th Anniversary Wild Stars books.

Wild Stars II: Force Majeure wraps an 83,000 word novel around 38 pages of comics penciled by Armando Gil (Conan the King, Ka-Zar the Savage), along with 50 ‘flashback’ illustrations by Dave Simons.

Seeking revenge for his defeat, Carthage kidnaps the First Marker’s infant daughter and absconds with her through time! Erlik and Daestar aid Mark Mackavicka and Akara in their search through time for their missing daughter. Except to preserve the future and prevent a resurgence of the Brothan empire, they can’t rescue Mark and Akara’s daughter until she’s already a grown woman!

This new edition of the novel / comic hybrid will be printed in Cirsova Magazine’s standard 8.5″ x 11″ format.

Wild Stars III: Time Warmageddon continues the saga of the Wild Stars as former-President Bully Bravo seeks to solve the mysteries of distant suns going missing, only to be replaced by white dwarfs, and newly discovered planets showing the apparent signs of previous human colonization, all while pursued by an evil pirate queen and a rogue time-traveler trying to create a god.

This novella featured cover art by Timothy Lim (My Hero Magademia, Black Hops: USA GI, Street Fighter), and interior illustrations  and two variant covers by Mark Wheatley (Song of Giants: the Poetry of Pulp, The Flash, Blood of the Innocent).

This new edition will reprint this one-time Kickstarter-exclusive edition with new bonus content, including an additional epilogue on the whereabouts of Akara and the First Marker, two stories by Michael Tierney originally published in Cirsova Magazine, and the previously unpublished Wild Stars story, The Grimgrip.

Wild Stars IV: Wild Star Rising is both a prequel and sequel to the previous Wild Stars adventures. Looking back 75,000 years into the past to the last days of Atlantis and the final exodus to the Wild Stars led by the Ancient Warrior, Wild Star Rising unfolds the aeons-long plan to rescue the Ancient Warrior’s long-lost beloved, Phaedra, from the heart of a black hole where she was imprisoned by another powerful immortal… A sailor from earth’s distant past must join with the Ancient Warrior’s Wild Stars companions to help them navigate the great gulfs of space, free Phaedra from her black-hole prison, and stop the extra-dimensional squids that could destroy the universe if they can meet up and mate!

This illustrated novel will be printed in Cirsova Magazine’s 8.5″ x 11″ format, matching the previously released Time Warmageddon, the new 35th Anniversary Editions of Book of Circles and Force Majeure, and your collection of Cirsovas!

This edition will also contain the first-ever extensive bio-glossary of Wild Stars universe, making it a must-have for old and new fans alike!

Wild Stars Launches Tomorrow + Wild Stars RPG

Tomorrow, we begin taking pre-orders for the Wild Stars IV: Wild Star Rising and the rest of the 35th Anniversary goodies, but I wanted to bring everyone’s attention to this other crowdfund from Chenault & Grey / Troll Lord Games.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/676918054/amazing-adventures-5e-rpg?ref=nav_search&result=project&term=amazing%20adventures

C&G / Troll Lord is a local Little Rock-based publisher, best known for Castles & Crusades. Last year, they also published Michael Tierney’s Edgar Rice Burroughs 100 Year Art Chronology.

The Amazing Adventures RPG crowdfund on Kickstarter includes a $50,000 stretch goal for a Wild Stars RPG supplement.

While admittedly, 5e does not feel very D&D-like to me, I’ve noted frequently in the past that it would be a good system for super-hero teams. And Wild Stars features all sorts of crazy aliens and monsters and immortal space warriors, so a system like Amazing Adventures could be perfect for it! If you want to see a Wild Stars RPG setting, you have 5 days to back and put them over that $50k stretch-goal.

Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that our upcoming edition of Wild Stars IV: Wild Star Rising contains an extensive bio-glossary appendix, Wild Stars Navigational Chart: The Multiversal Guide, effectively making this fall release one of the first supplements, valuable to old fans and new.

We’ll be launching our own crowdfund tomorrow morning around 9-10 CST.

Finally, on top of everything else, tomorrow our illustrated edition of Leigh Brackett’s Black Amazon of Mars drops! So if you haven’t pre-ordered it, be sure to do so!

Black Amazon of Mars Front Only

Summer Advertisements Due Friday!

We’re trying to get everything in for our Summer Special, which will be out June 3rd!

We need all Advertisements in by 5PM EST on May 10th!

250 Character Text Advertisement $25
1/4 page Advertisement $35
1/2 page Advertisement $50

1/2 Page – 7.5″ w x 4.5″ h or 3.5″ w x 9″ h
1/4 Page – 3.5″ w x 4.5″ h

Send images at 300 dpi and payment via paypal to cirsova at yahoo dot com!

front cover only

 

Competing With “Dead Guys”

Earlier this month, SFF author Fonda Lee took to twitter to point out what she and many other contemporary SFF authors were “up against” at brick and mortars like Barnes & Noble.

This is what modern fantasy writers are up against. In my local B&N, most authors are lucky to find a copy of their book, super lucky if it’s face out. There are 3.5 shelves for Tolkien. 1.5 for Jordan. Here’s who we compete against for shelf space: not each other, but dead guys.

Before you @ me about the importance of classics, I love LOTR too, okay? But 3.5 shelves?? So much great modern SFF work out there. I found one copy of my WFA-winning book. One of most of the other Nebula and Hugo nominees. One copy of The Fifth Season. 18 copies of LOTR.

If you think a bookstore should be a place of discovery, who goes into B&N and “discovers” Tolkien? Do they figure people want another 5 copies of LOTR and aren’t interested in all the other work out there? I dunno guys. Sometimes, it’s hard for me to go into bookstores, tbh.

(And reminder that this is another reason why I love my local indie bookstores and why we must, must, MUST for the love of God keep supporting them.)

This got picked up by Bounding Into Comics, so needless to say, it kind of blew up and people, myself included, decided to share their takes on the matter.

My own take ignores the specter of “SJWs in science fiction” and “Look at them wanting to erase dead white guys”, because even if those are the case, there’s a lot more going on here that maybe I’m more aware of than some of my twitter mutuals because I’m in publishing.

The fact of the matter is, old works have a much wider audience than the current SFF niche. Even award winning and award nominated works sell far fewer copies than a handful of big-named older works. But remember: these chain book stores are where people go to pick up quick gifts for birthdays and holidays. Nearly everyone will buy new copy of LotR for whatever kids they have whenever that birthday rolls around that they think the kid is old enough to read it themself.  Anyone looking for B&N shelfspace is competing against a market that’s principally driven by easy access to nice editions of classic works to be given as gifts, not one that’s able to sustain itself on new content. 30+ years on, they might get that spot.

A bunch of the “New Authors just need to git gud” takes I saw kind of missed the real point that new authors can’t actually look at B&N the way that many of them, Fonda Lee, too apparently, are looking at it.

It has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of books, the quality of writing, or the quality of the authors. It has EVERYTHING to do with who or what is moving whale numbers, and the rest is being propped up by those sales.

Around 15k sales per year (two copies per month per location–B&N has 633 stores) is pretty good by most publishing standards today, and really only justifies one or two copies of a book kept on the shelf.

Even for successful new SFF titles, it’s still apples to oranges. Fifth Season may be great–it’s sure popular and a big seller for a new SFF book, and Jemisen has a lot to be proud of. But it’s not a book that every parent buys a copy for their children going on 4 generations

B&N’s bread & butter are gift editions of extremely popular and timeless works and novelties.

Being on the shelves of these stores should not be the end goal. Growing your audience is more important than sitting unsold on a shelf next to Tolkien.

Bookstores are no longer “places of discover” and have not really been so for a long time. This is unfortunate, but the realities of the market have changed. It’s why B&N is turning into a toy-store for millennials and carrying less media.

There are some authors out there that genuinely believe that people use B&N as something besides a place to pick up a nice edition of a classic or currently boom-popular work to give as a gift for Xmas or Birthday, and the more authors dissuaded from this the better.

I’d also note that if Barnes & Noble decided to carry Cirsova titles in their stores, we’d probably be bankrupt (I’d be bankrupt–Cirsova’s non-incorporated) within a year when they ship backed the returnable copies. Now, that said, you CAN purchase Cirsova products through Barnes & Noble’s online store! In fact, you should do that now. (Plus Duel Visions, which shows up separate from the search term “Cirsova”.)

Note: this post was originally comprised as a disparate series of tweets across a couple threads. It’s been edited [cobbled together] for cogency and saved for posterity.]

Note 2: Cirsova Magazine of Heroic Fantasy & Science Fiction was a Hugo-Nominated publication with literally 88 nominating votes.

Free D.M. Ritzlin Story – The Infernal Bargain

With all of the excitement about the new Tarzan story in our upcoming issue, it might seem easy to overlook some of the other cool stuff we’ve got coming out next month.

Well, it would be a mistake to do so, for sure!

One of the other stories our spring issue will be featuring is by D.M. Ritzlin of DMR Books. Dave publishes some of the best Sword & Sorcery out there today, and we’re thrilled to have one of his stories, Born to Storm the Citadel of Mettathok,  in our upcoming issue.

And if you sign up for DMR Books’ mailing list, you’ll get another of his stories free: The Infernal Bargain!

Don’t forget to sign up for Cirsova’s mailing list, either! We’ll be sending out discount codes for hardcover copies to our mailing list subscribers when the hardcovers become available.

Why the Name Change?

A few folks have wondered why we’ve changed the name of our flagship magazine from Cirsova Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine to Cirsova Magazine of Thrilling Adventuring and Daring Suspense. The obvious reason is that this is volume 2 of the magazine and it made sense to change the subtitle to denote this. But are we abandoning Science Fiction and Fantasy?

2-1 front cover only jpgThe short answer is “no”, but we’re moving away from the genre terms and the ghetto those tales get placed in.

In talking to people and trying to promote the magazine in person at cons, one thing I found was that “pulp” and “sci-fi” and “fantasy” didn’t really resonate with people the way that “romance” and “adventure” did. And ultimately, good sci-fi and fantasy are typically subsets of the “romance” genre. A Kline or Burroughs story is not all that different from an Ann Radcliffe yarn, only set on Mars or Venus rather than Italy.

Frankly, Romance covers all the best aspects of the genres, encapsulating love, adventure, and mystery, but if I re-positioned Cirsova as a “Romance” magazine, I think that modern expectations from both readers and would-be contributors would be a bit mixed up and I would’ve created even more problems for myself than I already had.

What problems did I have? Well, as much as I enjoy Sword & Sorcery, stories where a guy/gal with a sword fights a monster or there’s some big war in a made-up country with wizards or dragons are a dime a dozen; I’m not interested in the latter, and I see too many of the former without enough spark to really differentiate them from the others I see.

It won’t really affect the sort of submissions I get until next year, but the changes in editorial direction which began in the final issues of volume 1 are fully in place now in Volume 2. Cirsova will continue to feature romantic adventures with science fiction and fantasy trappings as well as weird tales, be they weird tales of super science or occult mystery.

It’s fitting that we officially inaugurate this new direction and shift away from being merely “sci-fi” or “fantasy” with a brand new, never before published, until recently lost Tarzan story by the master himself, Edgar Rice Burroughs. While Burroughs wrote what could be called Sci-fi or Fantasy, what he wrote were essentially Romances. Yes, there were weird elements and the fantastic, but his tradition was not the sci-fi poindexters of Campbellianism or the fantasy of the Tolkien-grotesque, as the genres have fallen into today, but romances of Dumas, Cooper, and Haggard.

Even Verne and Wells, considered the fathers of modern science fiction, wrote in the tradition of the Romance.

What we hope that people will come to realize when they read Cirsova that they will find in its pages not stories of space ships shooting each other or men and elves fighting each other with swords and spells but tales of the thrilling and the macabre in a tradition spanning centuries and many generations of writers.

Speaking of thrilling and macabre, Duel Visions by Misha Burnett and Louise Sorensen is out this week!