Online magazines, sometimes referred to ezines, are everywhere. They spring up, last less than a year, then become defunct. It
happens all the time. Some pay contributors ‘something’ for their hard work, and there is nothing worse for a writer or poet than seeing a publication announce its demise. It’s difficult enough to get published without still yet another market folding. So I’m going to editors of online magazines for tips about not only how to survive, but how to be successful.

 

Who am I to tell you what to do? The facts speak for themselves (and actions, as I constantly inform my children, speak louder than
words). Liquid Imagination Online received 66,647 internet hits for the month of August, with a daily average of 2,149 hits. We received 6,520 total visits and 1,708 total unique URLs. We’ve interviewed award winning recipients of the Bram Stoker, Nebula and World
Fantasy awards. We’ve also interviewed nationally and internationally known artists, converging media and art forms.

 

How did we do it?

 

Well, there’s a keyword in that question: WE. But I’ll get to that later. For now let’s examine the fledgling ezine.

 

One person wants to begin an online magazine. Before I tell you what you SHOULD do, let me tell
you what you SHOULDN’T do:

 

Don’t expect readers to peruse a sloppy website; make it as organized and easily navigated as possible. Provide plenty of links; the more links the better.

Don’t publish poorly edited stories or poems. Nothing shouts LOSER or AMATEUR more than typos.

Don’t simply paste text in empty boxes and consider your work done (see No. 3 below).

Don’t do it alone.

Don’t give up.

Don’t use your publication merely to stamp your name and work all over the internet; your publication isn’t a medium to be used solely (or
even mostly) to promote the fiction you’ve written that nobody else wants.

Don’t immediately accept fiction or poetry written by other editors merely to try to get them to accept your own work, unless you want to remain an amateur.

Don’t give up (yes, this is a repeat).

Don’t do it alone (another repeat, but one of the most important DON’Ts because without
help, you won’t be able to copyedit and do some of the other DOs).

 

What you SHOULD do:

Get help. An old masochistic adage says, No man is an island. Another cliché says, You’re only as strong as your weakest link. Too many beginners try to do it all alone. They want to make all the decisions, and they want all the control. The best way to burnout is to do everything yourself.

Stamp this word on your forehead, preferably forward and backwards so that you can read it the mirror: copyediting. Too many small-press publications don’t copyedit. This means you will have to solicit help looking for typos. The best possible scenario is finding three people to look at each story you’ve accepted for publication. These people should be experienced writers and avid readers, and you should impress upon them that the editing has already been done. Did you hear that? THE EDITING IS ALREADY DONE! But most editors aren’t perfect, especially new editors, which is why copyediting separates the wannabes from quality publishers. Your copyeditors should realize that they’re not to
workshop the story, change scenes around or edit out characters; your copyeditors are to find mistakes only and highlight them, sending the
manuscript back to the editor for finalization. Not doing this implies that you’re not serious about publishing a quality product, and probably indicates that you’re in it only to promote your own writing. Also, if you don’t do this but are promoting your own writing (above and beyond the other contributors in your online publication), it’s probably riddled with just as many typos as the other stories and poems, and you’re an amateur.

Converge as many media forms as possible within your online magazine; you should enhance your fiction or poetry with art, photographs,
audio or video. Readers today are spoiled by the eye-candy of video and imagery; you cannot compete without providing the same eye-candy. Remember: art is NOT eye-candy, it is an art form and you must get expressed permission from photographers and/or artists to use their work.

Create an online presence. Exchanging banners with other publications seems to be popular, but we receive few internet hits from such exchanges. That means it’s not very important based on our experience. Instead, you should promote yourself through avenues much more powerful than the simple exchanging of banners with other online publication. Something guaranteed to bring in more internet hits than exchanging banners are active blogs. Remember, you can’t have an “active blog” without reading the blogs of others and leaving comments. An active presence on Facebook with a Facebook Page representing your publication is a good idea. You can hook your online magazine’s blog to
Facebook with Networked Blogs (located at http://w.networkedblogs.com/news). Getting involved at Goodreads.com is good, too. All this takes time, and if you’re an editor with only one person helping, you won’t have time to do all this (get help).

Go to the library and read books about marketing. What are the four types of marketing used today? The old adage (made popular by Field of Dreams) says that if you build it they will come. Judging by the online magazines that never hit their one-year-anniversary, this isn’t true. You have to do more than build superior product; you have to know how to promote it. And knowledge is FREE at your local library. If you sell
POD books, you would be wise to read about publishing. Everything you need is at your library, and if they don’t have it they can order it for you.

Prominence. That’s an important word, too. Seek prominent people to interview, to associate with. If you have a superior product (online magazine), then you won’t be embarrassed asking to interview award-winning authors. Trust me, I truly believe that reputations must be made before financial success happens. Our reputation at Liquid Imagination Online has been made—only time will tell if the rest of our plan falls into place (but it will).

Now that you’ve made it to your one-year-anniversary, step back with your team and create a mission statement. Your mission statement
should direct everything each team member does. Our mission statement is on the homepage at Liquid Imagination Online. Without a mission statement your online publication will go off on tangents. You need to be concrete and have steadfast purpose, hitting the same theme or style over and over. You also need to be unique, but I’ve found that many fledgling ezines (fledgling means less than a year old, but isn’t indicative of
quality) aren’t able to create their mission statement until they’ve hit the one-year mark. The reason is because the original idea of the original editor is enhanced, altered, changed and modified by each and every single team player joining the fray (copyeditors, artists, photographers, editors, web designers and layout, business directors, etc.).

You are not Superman or Superwoman. That means you are not the best person for each and every single job. For example, I’m a good editor
but I’m not GREAT! That’s why Kevin Wallis edits all the literary and speculative fiction at Liquid Imagination Online; that’s why Brandon Rucker edits all the micro-fiction at Liquid Imagination Online; that’s why Chrissy Davis edits all the poetry for us; and that’s why Sue Babcock directs our business, keeping us on a time schedule, while at the same time creating the fabulous layouts. I used to do all the web design, all the formatting and layouts. I’m proud of what I did. I used to edit, too, choosing the fiction. But why should my online magazine suffer because of
personal hubris? If someone is better at a singular task than me, why not turn that job over to that person? We’re not in this to pump up our fragile egos; we’re in this to produce something that will go around the world.

Lastly, (and I’m repeating myself again for emphasis), you cannot do this alone. If you want to leave a lasting legacy, your online magazine must be able to survive without you. If you are doing everything yourself or with too few people, you will burnout and everybody will forget about your online magazine. Contributors will become angry because you let them down, and they won’t be able to post links to their works that you published. You’ve not only let yourself down, you’ve let down the people working for you as well as every single contributor who ever took a chance submitting fiction or poetry to your online magazine. If I die tomorrow, there is no doubt in my mind that Liquid Imagination Online will survive in some form. Our mission statement guides us. We have multiple staff all working toward one goal. We can’t be stopped, and each member of our team is invaluable.

Lastly (this is the 2nd lastly), you must promote those who work for you in some measure. Since we’re producing a free online magazine for the public (usually intended to be a marketing device to entice readers to buy our products), you have to make it worthwhile for your staff. You have to promote them and any books they have, because it’s a two-way street. So, let me show you the best team players in the online community. In my mind, these are the best of the best. I’m not exaggerating. As I’ve said, ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS. I know that the overall presentation, layout, editing and chosen submissions speaks much louder than anything I can say. All of this (from the internet hits to the editing and artwork) is due to these highly qualified individuals:

Editor in Chief Kevin Wallis. He’s over all speculative and
literary fiction at Liquid Imagination
Online,
and his anthology of Beneath the Surface of Things has been endorsed by
heavy hitters in the publishing world.

Sue Babcock. She took over web layout and design from me,
completely transforming the entire online magazine. She’s also the business
director and knows how to use a mean whip to get us going (thanks, Sue). She
also learns whatever she needs to enhance the publication, whether it be
Photoshop or various software programs to enhance the web layout. Sue is an editor at our sister publicaion Silver Blade, too.

She really is
Superwoman.

Chrissy Davis. Like Kevin, she’s been with us from the very
beginning and she accepts and edits our poetry. She has multiple books of her
own poetry for sale at Raven’s Brew.

Brandon Rucker. Not only is he a talented editor over our
micro-fiction, he’s an accomplished editor for Zoetrope-owned products and an awesome musician.
Visit Brandon’s blog at Brandon Rucker Writes.

Robert Eccles. Bob is our voice talent, a professional
anchorman who has revolutionized our fiction with his amazing voice. Beyond
that, Bob is an awesome horror writer who has had some close calls with the
publication of his short stories.

Jack Rogers. Jack is our resident artist. While he’s in
college fulltime now, he’ll be coming back upon graduation to help enhance the
poetry and fiction published at Liquid
Imagination Online.

Jezzy Wolfe. She’s one of our book reviewers, and Jezzy is
an awesome writer in her own right. Publishers are known to seek out her
crowd-pleasing material to include in anthologies and print publications.
Catch up on her blog here, or follow Jezzy on Twitter.

Stephen W. Roberts. Stephen is our second book reviewer, and
has a book out. He’s participated in editing at other publications and has
hosted blog-talk-radio programs. Learn all about Steve here, or check out
the Dark Fiction Spotlight he’s involved in.

 

Note: I have taken great pleasure in NOT editing this blog, in being as unprofessional as editorially possible. It feels… good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments
  1. abqsue says:

    This is great advice, JAM! I especially agree with “Don’t do it alone” and “Don’t give up.” I’d like to add one more – be very clear about why you want to start a magazine (or blog, for that matter). You need a clear purpose and a passion for jumping into this time-consuming, non-paying effort 🙂

  2. JAM says:

    Yeah, which is why the mission statement is so important: spell it out for yourself and everyone on your team. WOO-HOO!!

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