Hi, I'm Bryce, editor and publisher of StoryHack Action and Adventure. As you may have noticed, we (and by "we" I mean "I") have not published a new issue in a long time. A status report on the magazine is long overdue.
As you may have noticed, we (and by "we" I mean "I") have not published a new issue in a long time.
More likely, even if you are a fan, you haven't actually noticed anything and StoryHack the magazine has just quietly begun to slip from your memory.
What has happened? Well, I'll tell you.
First off, hopefully you did notice the couple of anthologies I published, Volumes 1 & 2 of Sidearm & Sorcery.
So why can I do that, but not the magazine? Cost.
It doesn't cost as much to publish an anthology the way I did it. The first Volume was an experiment for me, testing out Draft2Digital's revenue-splitting feature. My financial outlay was for Cover art, and then the physical author copies I sent out.
I almost doubled the amount of copies sent out for the second volume (More stories=more authors), but it's still much cheaper than an issue of the magazine.
For the magazine, I don't pay much ($0.01 / word), but it's something, and then I pay for art. Usually all of that is in the neighborhood of $1,200 - $1,400. Plus cover, and I've paid between $100 to $400 or so for each of those. Plus author copies. 8 total issues so far.
And anthology or issue, there is a big time cost, too. I'm a one man operation that handles the deluge of submissions, followed by a couple of rounds of editing, then layout (much, much easier/quicker for the anthologies) by myself. And then I make some efforts for promotion. To hep get the word out, I usually write several long threads/articles that would be of interest to readers. And some paid advertising. And the occasional ad swap.
And of course I try to find a minute to write & publish most of my own long fiction. 3 novels and a novelette.
And for all of that work, the biggest success so far is… none of the fiction. Overwhelmingly the most popular thing I've published is "Pulp Era Writing Tips" which is a collection of writing articles written a long time ago. I get to put #1 Amazon Bestseller on my resume for that one. So of course the KDP crew stood firmly in my way to stop me publishing the ebook of the sequel to that.
Back to the matter at hand. Fiction sales haven't been super strong. And I don't really expect them to be until I have an even bigger backlist. That's the reality of publishing these days. The best way to make money is to create high quality publications, and then create a ton of them. And then get out and promote like crazy. I'm busy working and raising four kids and getting distracted by shiny new technologies, so I don't get online to say "buy my book" nearly enough.
Still, costs and all, I love short fiction, so I want to keep at it.
Back to where I started, the costs of publishing.
When covid hit, it drastically affected my day job, as the biggest portion of that business is in a normally high demand vacation area (near Yellowstone National Park), and that pretty much died for a little while. This affected my expendable cash. Then we had a pretty good year followed by another crappy one. Flooding in the north end of the park caused folks to change plans and we were still down 40% from the non-covid average. This year has finally been decent, but we had a pretty big hole to dig ourselves out of. And family expenses, don't get me started. I had 3 car engines die in as many years. For all of this, I have a lot to be thankful for. I still have a job, have always had food on the table, but not extra to spend on a magazine that will hopefully someday in the future turn a profit.
This is not actually a complaint. Nor is this a beg for a pity purchase or anything like that. I just want to be upfront about what's gone on and why I haven't been able to fund more issues.
Throughout this whole venture, I have learned a lot about publishing as a business, and about the mechanics of writing fiction. Met some fine folks. I'm not ready to throw the towel in yet.
So where does StoryHack go from here?
I'm not sure exactly, but I've been doing a lot of thinking, asking myself some questions. Do I focus on the podcast, maybe start publishing new fiction there? Maybe do some pulp reprints, just to stay in editing/design shape and raise some cash? Do I ease art costs by using algorithmic art generation? Do I try to rustle up some "unpaid intern" types to do editing? What would you like to see?
One thing is for certain. I will be publishing a third Sidearm & Sorcery volume. So if you are a writer with an interest, start working on that. No hard dates yet, but I like to drop those open submission periods as a surprise.