Friday, November 21, 2014

Whiney Pages

This may be old news, but not too long ago, Pithy Pages for Erudite Readers (my, what a title!) closed their publication, after only being in business for about 4 months. This is pretty common for the short story publishing world; in fact, I'd say close to 80% (hell, it's probably higher) of new short story markets fold within their first year.

But why is this particular market worth mentioning?

If you had submitted to this market, you would've received a free subscription, like I did. In their final issue, there was a publisher's letter explaining why they were closing. But, it didn't stop there. It went on to something a bit more passive-aggressive. Fourth paragraph in the letter reads:

Publishers too, would like to be paid for their time and effort. To do this each publisher must decide to work as a profit or non-profit company. Pithy Pages chose the former because our publishers believe that the literary public, rather than government or some wealthy foundation, should support the publication of the short fiction they read or write. That being said, there are two ways to generate revenue from a publication: subscription fees and/or advertising. We tried both with dismal results. It turns out that there is more interest in writing short fiction than in reading it. It seems that the only people left to support the publication of short fiction are the authors working in the genre. Unfortunately, short fiction authors are under the incorrect assumption that people are lining up to read their work … They should be (it is really, really good) but they’re not, preferring the latest full-length novel (now showing as a movie).

There's quite a few problems with this, not to mention the gross assumptions made about the short story marketplace. So your publication wasn't making the $$$ that you expected, therefore, it must be the fault of writers and the literary public for not supporting your publication. Nothing to do with the fact that you were in existence for a very short time, or that your first issue was none too great.

Hard fact to admit, but people only tune in if you've got something worth while to read, or if you've stuffed your first issue with a bunch of well-known writers, as Uncanny has done. I understand Pithy Pages gave submitting writers free subscriptions in the hope they'd spread the word, but again, you need somewhat decent stuff. First issue of Pithy Pages only contained a public domain reprint and two originals stories; one flash, one longish short story--and the short story was pretty much what I made fun of in Twisty; it puts a twist on a twist, like you would wear a hat on a hat. The flash piece was just forgettable.

Given some time, this publication could've bounced back from a poor first issue; it's certainly happened before. But I suspect these guys were never prepared to support Pithy Pages on their own dollar; another misguided assumption on their part.

A cautionary tale, but one that leads to some unnecessary blaming. Oh, but wait! Pithy Pages has a solution!

Without the direct and active intervention of the writers of short fiction the genre will continue to be a quaint, underpaid, and unappreciated art form. We, therefore, offer the following solution. Every author and aspiring author of short fiction should set aside ten dollars a week to support the publications of short fiction. When this is done, publishers will be able to sell enough subscriptions to stay in business and to continue to offer a decent payday for those authors selected. When those same authors encourage their friends and family to subscribe or advertise in short fiction publications, pay to authors will increase … as will the number of publications. Eventually, short fiction will rebound as a genre to everyone’s benefit.

Fuck you.

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