“#PitDark is the first and only Twitter pitch event to highlight literature of a “darker” nature. Importantly, this is not limited to horror works; however, any pitched manuscript must contain an element of horror or darker writing. Examples of such categories include pure horror novels, dark fantasy, murder mysteries, psychological horror stories, non-fiction works about darker subjects, etc. MG, YA, NA, and adult age categories are welcome.”
Interview with Space Squid – How to Start a Fiction Magazine
About ten years ago, there were six big publishers for books. Now there are five. And soon there may only be four. Combined with the competition introduced by self-publishing, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for authors to get traditionally published. This is on top of the supply problems introduced by Covid, and the fact that there was a massive exodus from the publishing industry back in March of 2022. About 1% of people in the publishing industry quit.
With all of these factors in play, some people are now more interested in creating their own independent platforms, or at least are interested in learning how they work.
I decided to interview some of the staff on various speculative fiction magazines along with indie publishers to see how that works. The first people I interviewed were the staff of the humor sci-fi magazine, Space Squid.
JBJ: Thank you so much for your help. Let’s say I started a free online blog—which I could hopefully to turn into a literary magazine or publisher later. Would I need to make a contract with the people submitting to the blog?
SS: I wouldn’t bother for blog entries. You might want to keep the email thread in which they agree to write for you; we’re a little more formal since we’re publishing stories.
JBJ: What inspired you to create an online magazine?
SS: We’re frustrated writers. Also there’s not a lot of spaces for funny scifi/speculative.
JBJ: For other people who are interested in doing the same thing, what were the steps you took starting out?
SS: Hmm… well we published on paper first, using some old photocopiers. That was more work than it was worth. Today we’d either go digital right away or send it to a printer for better quality and less hassle. We do publish one paper issue per year for Armadillocon.org.
As frustrated writers, we know a lot of other frustrated or semi-successful writers, and some of them were willing to send us material for our first issues. We reached out to some local bookstores and got some shelf space that way. But really, we’re marginally successful and we just kept doing it and publishing stuff we liked.
JBJ: What kind of services do you have to pay for to run a literary magazine?
SS: When publishing digitally, not much. We run our own WordPress site on a shared server. So the main costs are 1) the server and domain, 2) payments to writers, 3) the annual paper issue, and 4) time. 3 and 4 are the most expensive.
JBJ: Do you mind giving me a figure for a starting budget?
SS: Hmmm… maybe $200/yr for a digital-only publication?
JBJ: Would you especially recommend anyone or any website for the following services: legal, production, editing.
SS: I think we wrote our own writer contract. It’s clear enough to stand up in court, and that’s all we care about. Editing is our responsibility and kind of the core competency we bring to the table. For webhosting, we like hawkhost.com; shared hosting is less than $3/month. Use our referral code, https://my.hawkhost.com/aff.php?aff=1430!
JBJ: What was your greatest challenge?
SS: Just keeping it going. It’s a tough time for writers and publishers. There’s a lot of apathy and we don’t get the kind of readership we’d like. Reading submissions and editing stories takes a lot of time and love.
JBJ: What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do?
SS: We do have a few dedicated fans who love our stories and style, and some writers like yourself who understand what we like. Occasionally we get a bit of acclaim or press. And of course we get energy from great stories and publishing first-time or enthusiastic writers.
JBJ: Is there anything else you would recommend for those who are just starting out?
SS: It’s good to have a clear niche picked out — some angle that you can cover better than anyone else because of your skills or POV or because it’s under served. It also helps a ton to have at least one other person onboard who’s as motivated as you are.
JBJ: What are your plans for the future?
SS: We’ve got plans for a premium membership plan that will deliver a lot of fun, useful services to our dedicated readers and writers. It’s called Squid Plus and we’ve got high hopes for it.
JBJ: Great. Thanks for the interview. Have a great day.
STORIES ON SPACE SQUID:
Historical Fiction on Argentina’s Dirty War
One of the things I love about historical fiction is the genre’s capacity to teleport you back to a particular era of history. Mark Whittle’s The Jacarandas does precisely that with Argentina’s Dirty War, which took place between 1976-1983. This was a time when the country was ruled by a military dictatorship and right-wing death squads hunted down political dissidents believed to be associated with socialist, communist or anti government thought. 9,000-30,000 People were killed or “disappeared.”
Mark Whittle does a great job of depicting the confusion and moral ambiguity of this time. The story follows Daniel, a university student who joined the federal police force in order to serve his country and stop left-wing terrorism in Buenos Aires. Yet Daniel soon discovers that the moral boundaries of this conflict are much murkier than he originally thought. And that besides fitness and hate, the military regime requires loyalty, batons, and electric prods.
The novel is also based off a true story!
Below I have included an interview with Mark Whittle about his process for writing this book. I also have asked him about the self publishing process, for anyone who may be interested in pursuing that road.
JBJ: I see that The Jacarandas is a true story. How did you learn of this story?
MW: I met the real “Daniel” over 10 years ago when he was a guest speaker at a charity event focused on marginalized and underserved communities. Daniel works with prisoners and their families in Argentina. He told his story of joining the federal police as a young man during the Dirty War, and how he became extremely violent and just this whole awful experience he went through. His story haunted me for years. We became friends and have been so ever since. I had once lived in Argentina and knew quite well all about Argentina’s tragic history in the 1970s.
JBJ: Did the real Daniel get to read the book? What did he think?
MW: Great question! Well, the real Daniel speaks very poor English, but I wanted him to read a draft. So I knew it would be way too much work to translate the draft myself so I tried various automated translators and, in the end, selected Google Translate. I painfully entered page by page, copied it out and formatted it to send to him. He did read it. Even today, almost 50 years later, there are still some sensitive issues so he was looking out for that. But he enjoyed it a lot. It’s worth noting that The Jacarandas is not a biography but rather historical fiction where the real Daniel is the protagonist, but I wanted to include some other historical events and themes that were not part of his experience, but absolutely part of the Dirty War.
JBJ: Do you think Argentina today is still affected by the events of the Dirty War?
MW: Yes, it is. It’s a black stain on their past that they just never seem able to get away from. Argentina has had difficulty recovering and seems almost condemned to lurch from crisis to crisis. It’s the political class has failed Argentina. It’s such a rich nation in culture, intellect, education, and natural resources but politics have been ruinous. They just can’t find a good healthy balance.
JBJ: Tell me about your experience in Self-Publishing:
MW: Well, I don’t know any other kind, so I don’t know if it’s good or bad. The Jacarandas is the first novel I’ve written. I thought I would try to traditional route but after querying about 100 agents and getting little traction, I started exploring other options. I read about writers like Andy Weir (The Martian) who published on Amazon KDP. My writers’ critique group had a guest speaker who has made a living publishing on Amazon KDP. And then hearing the experience of some writers who have had less-than-optimal experiences with agents, I decided to give it a try. I found Amazon KDP extremely easy to use. I’ve been super happy with the process and the control I have.
JBJ: What have been your greatest challenges?
MW: Probably the whole marketing of my book. I don’t do a good job of social media presence. My advertising has been limited to trying KDP’s advertising, which I am still trying to learn and perfect. There’s been good word-of-mouth spreading of The Jacarandas, for sure, but getting it to the next level is a challenge with self-publishing. I’ve been told that the best marketing of your book is to write another book. Get that read-through rate. I would say a second challenge is getting those initial reviews on Amazon. Don’t underestimate the work involved with getting a core group of readers to read your book and post a review.
JBJ: What was the most rewarding about this experience?
MW: Definitely it’s having people tell you they loved your book – either through an email or social media or in person, or simply seeing a new review pop up on Amazon. Having people say how they’ve been impacted by what you wrote, and how they liked this scene or character or how I handled x or y. Very satisfying, to be honest.
JBJ: What would you tell other people who are looking to self publish?
MW: Read everything you can about it before deciding. And if you are going to do it, do it the best you possibly can. For example hire an editor. Hire a professional cover design artist. Polish and polish and polish your manuscript so it’s perfect.
Thank you, Mark Whittle!
For those interested in checking out his novel, buy it on Amazon at the link below.
Science Fiction Story About Cancer And Universal Basic Income
How far will an influencer go to get likes?
In a post scarcity future when anything and everything is available on the net, people are literally killing themselves out of boredom.
Chemotherapy treatment might be the next edgy new thing.
READ STORY HERE AT TELEPORT MAGAZINE
Citizen Standing – Short Fiction on Citizen Scores
What would it be like if a society had “citizen scores” in addition to “credit scores?” The government develops a number to evaluate their judgement of your character as a person. This number governs every aspect of your life.
I decided to write a short cyberpunk story about a fictional society that is run by citizen scores and apps. It got published in The Weird and Whatnot Magazine.
Downloading Brunch – Future Problems of 3D Printers, Flash Fiction, Humor
(Image Artist:RyanMcGuire is a Pixabay user and shutterbug from Ithaca, New York.)
What happens in the future when more people start using 3D printers and need tech support? Especially when people start using their printers to make food? Will you have people downloading brunch from malicious websites? Will the bacon in your BLT turn to tentacles?
In a short story of less than 1,500 words, you can check it out here: Space Squid – Downloading Brunch