Thursday, January 11, 2007

The World Of Electronic Publishing

Many authors and would-be writers essentially shy away from submitting to electronic ezines and publishing venues. They want to write, get an agent and fly off into the wild blue yonder of fame, fortune and wonderful things. This is a given, and none of us can claim exclusion from this dream.

The number of online magazines has skyrocketed in the last fifteen years, from 25 in 1992 to over 4000 by 1999 (according to The Book of Zines). Today, with e-zines appearing and vanishing like fireworks (or pop-caps) the number has become too large and too fluid to accurately measure. Those of us who do use the short story as a means of writing, even though we are involved in writing the next Pulitzer Prize winning novel, face even a worse problem. The number of magazines publishing in print media short stories, has severely dwindled over the past 30 years and thus there is just that much more competition to find a slot in one of these magazines. Of course it is true that every year people do break into this field, they do find their short story published, in the Atlantic Monthly, Paris Review and New Yorker - it is a long shot with the odds clearly not in favor of the "unknown" writer. (Some of this is covered in the post - The Short Story Market here at Cobwebs Of The Mind.)

Recently, I have recieved quite a few email letters pointing out various ezine publishers etc. Today in a perusal of the blog run by CyberCobre over at The Deepening, she put in a blog post simply directing readers to the on-line editorial at "Allegory"which has been publishing SF, Fantasy & Horror short stories for quite a few years now.

Under the title - "E-publishing: The Struggle Continues ..." the editor of Allegory displays some interesting figures. Now I am not a SF or Horror author, and the only Fantasy writing I do, is in regard to the "The Chronicles of the Children of Heaven" however, I find these figures illuminating.

He writes (bold is mine):
The number of online magazines has skyrocketed in the last fifteen years, from 25 in 1992 to over 4000 by 1999 (according to The Book of Zines). Today, with e-zines appearing and vanishing like fireworks (or pop-caps) the number has become too large and too fluid to accurately measure. Regarding book length work, more and more book publishers are appearing, many with unique (sometimes clever, often less so) approaches to the sticky questions of marketing and copyright protection.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that, if I am to be honest with you (and myself) electronic publishing simply isn't there, yet.
He follows this with the normative and quite common list of complaints against ezine publishing. I suggest you read the article if you are indeed considering to an ezine - electronic magazine venue.

All this is very true. Ezines are not there. "Yet" is an operative word which even on the "yet" the jury is out. People simply do not want to read off of screens. (Which by the way is the genius in Bellow's new endeavor where he takes digital media and puts it into print format. See: The New Pamphleteer).

Ezines have a long way to go and their hardest and most difficult battle will be with the "psychological" aspects of getting people like you and me to read on line.

So the question remains for short story writers. How do you get something out there and published under a legitimate credit? How do you begin the career in short story writing? How do you create any type of "buzz" around your writing and name? How do you deal with the need to be published and cannot get an agent to publish you?

The bad news is that, if I am to be honest with you (and myself) electronic publishing simply isn't there, yet. Ezines - and I admit it depends on which ezine - are becoming a legitimate way to go. They will not buy you the prestige of publishing in the New Yorker. Often, they are here today and gone tomorrow. Often they are run by people who cannot read let alone be editors. BUT, the right ezine, the right electronic magazine can buy you some "credits". It can buy you some "prestige". It can legitimately be used to give "credits" to a perspective agent. Miss Snark for instance has said over and over again, if she can Google your name and find you have been published in a legitimate source, even on-line, that is a "legitimate" credit.

I do not think ezines will buy you a career in publishing. They will not make you famous. 100 stories in the best of the best ezines are simply not equal to one story in The Paris Review. But they can give you a platform for starting off. They can give you a way to get your writing "out there". And as your popularity grows, and as Ezines become more and more entrenched and accepted, your work will be up there in the Internet, in the search engines, and on copyright as well.

Is this the magic carpet ride for authors? No way. No how. Is it something to use for your career - most definitely.

The good news today is that there is an unannounced movement going on among ezine owners, where they are attempting to create an organization, which will further legitimize ezine publishing.

If you are a short story writer, and you want to see your work published, and are not willing to hold out for the New Yorker, then perhaps the time has come to consider the good and established ezines out there. But do not think this is your magic ticket into the world of traditional publishing. It is a legitimate way to build credits. It is a viable way. And thus should not be discounted.

Posted On: Cobwebs Of The Mind

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1 comment:

Paula said...

Interestingly I have have been involved with this debate several times over the past several months. As an avid reader, I love the idea of having access to books online. I travel quite a bit and my laptop is always with me. On average, I have three books going at once. After years of this imagine the expanding book collection and the much needed space for bookcases. Ezines and online pubs have many benefits for me. It allows me access to many stories without having to store the books. Usually the cost is a low membership fee and you gain access to many stories. If you are to buy the books, it becomes costly. If I feel I want to add it to my collection, all I do is print it out. As a writer, I understand both sides of the issue. All I can say is in today's world, people are extremely busy and a lot of time is spent online. We shop, trade, communicate and gather information 24 hours a day. I personally believe this too will become popular with readers.