My super belated chime in on the whole death of the SF magazine market thing.
I think that Paolo’s and Erin’s comments are particularly interesting because they actually propose some forward movement in the market. The short SF market has shrunk so much that there’s almost nothing going on there, in terms of market diversity. I like some of the stories in the current magazines, but the return on investment is somewhat low: I don’t really like enough of them to keep buying them, although I continue to do so (at cover price) out of some sense of dogged loyalty to a kind of fiction that I love, at least for F&SF and Asimov’s. At the same time, none of the editors of the big three really speak to me, taste-wise, and their focuses aren’t my own. What I’d like to see are more magazines out there, with differing focuses and representing a wider variety of editorial tastes. For one thing, I’d like to see more ideas out there, more people thinking of various concepts for magazines, so that someone might actually get excited enough to take the plunge (or one of the existing magazines might get interested enough to launch a spin off).
So in that spirit, I present Energy States.
ES would be a mid-length monthly focusing entirely on overlapped serial short novels. The target length would be 30-50k words, too long to get published in most magazines, and too short to land a novel deal these days. The magazine would run these in 10-15kw chunks, aiming to put each novel in 3 – 5 issues. After each month, the first section of every story would be put online as a teaser for the rest of the story, and the entire story could be purchased stand-alone online for two dollars, once its print run was completed. Note that buying the story gives you access to previously purchased installments if the whole thing is not out yet, so the customer could catch up on a story that they’re particularly interested in without buying back issues. Bundles of popular stories could also be sold, and I imagine that you could make a deal with a PoD house for custom anthologies and chapbooks. Subscriptions, as a bonus, would get you access to all of the content, including back issues, online. For all individually sold items, the author would get a cut.
I’m not sure how well it would work out, honestly. I don’t know that there’s a reader’s market for this kind of thing, or if a starting magazine could possibly pay well enough to convince people to sell good work that they could possibly expand into a more profitable novel. This idea is mostly meant to address what I perceive as a gap in the writer’s market for story sales, allowing authors to get works out there that are currently considered unsalable.