Nick Mamatas (nihilistic_kid) wrote,
Nick Mamatas
nihilistic_kid

Realms of the Impossible!

Over at Mishell Baker's blog she describes her rational response to the recent letter sent out by the magazine explaining that subscription renewals were insufficient to support the magazine.

RoF publisher Warren Lapine himself showed up to explain that your [sic] missing the point and that it was either send the letter or close the magazine. He then decides that Baker wants him to close the magazine, but notes that many people have more of a "sense of community" than she so he may not have to.

Leaving aside the endless horror of the notion that not wanting to spend money on a for-profit publication is somehow not community minded, and even leaving aside this exchange as yet another negative example of SF publishing's public relations skills (hint: the world is not a con panel where you get to talk and everyone else mostly just gets to listen), were the alternatives really send the letter or shut the magazine. After all, Baker's decision was rational enough—why resub to a magazine whose owner just announced that it is near death? What are the other alternatives, if any, in this case? I can think of a few:

Send offer letters to people who do not subscribe to the magazine. (Mailing lists are cheap enough. I would have rented the lists of Faerie, and Renaissance and sent flyers to or even rented a table at the conventions and festivals associated with these magazines. And that's just to start. The point is to find people who would potentially be interested but don't already follow the magazine either through occasional purchases or via a general interest in short speculative fiction.)

Reduce the price of resubscriptions and make that price reduction the focus of the mailing.

Hold a subscription drive for gift subscriptions and institutional subscriptions. My local library carries the four Dell fiction titles and F&SF, but no RoF.

Include an informal survey with last issues (with the reward of an extra issue or two for completing it) to find out WHY people aren't re-subbing.

Reduce the price of subscriptions in the blow-in cards, so that the percentage of newsstand buyers going for a sub increases, to offset loses.

Do a drive for re-subs with some numbers attached but without portents of doom. "We're aiming for 15,000 subscribers. Right now we have 11,000. Please consider a subscription." People DO respond to count-downs, thermometers, updates, etc. It's monkeybrain stuff, to want to watch numbers go up (or down for that matter). It's also monkeybrain stuff not to want to spend money on a potentiality when there is a huge market of (seeming) sure things to spend money on.


You all out there in Internetland can probably think of more ways to increase subscriptions without making "you're gonna be gambling with your money!" explicit, as the RoF letter does. Feel free to put your suggestions in the comments.

And sure, many magazines would try some variation on all of the above. Sadly, Lapine essentially insisted that he is not doing any of those when he said "It was close down the magazine now, or send the letter." No, it was do any number of things that may have worked better, or shut down the magazine.
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