#13 has been out since January 21st, and at this point, everyone that was a contributor or is a subscriber should have it in their hands. The 21st of the month an issue is due is later than I prefer. January is tough because of the holidays, and we prepared accordingly. Still, there were more delays than normal, especially from the printer and I'm not happy to be so late.
I have friends that think I'm being too hard on myself, because most small press magazines are habitually late, assuming they don't fold before the issue is created. I understand this, but if I didn't hold myself to a high standard, I will slip. I push hard to get the issues out the door on time because I believe it means something. I believe I made a commitment when I took money from subscribers and I intend to do my best to honor that. Fortunately, I haven't yet failed to deliver an issue in the month it was promised, but this is the closest I've come and it bothered me.
Okay, enough about that, let's talk about the issue. The first thing you may notice is that IT IS HUGE! I didn't plan to make it this big when we opened up to submission for January's issue back in July. What happened, was that the volume of quality stories increased to the point where we all of the editors had full short lists. When we ranked them, a huge number received a rating from all four editors at or above our minimum level to be considered publishable.
I spent some time thinking about it. Most magazines are folding, shrinking, postponing or putting out reprints. I understand that. Times are tough and a lot of people are out of work. Worse, people are continuing to get laid off despite the nightly news trying to convince us that recovery is right around the corner. So money is tight and that means fewer people are subscribing and that means all publishers are hurting for cash. NT is no different. We've felt the pinch like everyone else and I have to tell you, it pisses me off.
I'm not saying I'm pissed off at people for not renewing subscriptions. Please, don't think I'm griping, because I appreciate any and all support you all have given. No, what I mean is that the situation pisses me off. All the people without jobs and all the companies that have closed pissed me off. I think we're all pissed, but it's became yesterday's news. The smart thing to do in these situations is to hunker down and play it safe. Spend as little as you can and above all things save the company.
Here's a little inside scoop. On demand printers have price break points for printing. That's common sense, but what most writers don’t know or think about, are the details. The break point for a small book, or in this case magazine, is 106 pages. There is a smaller break at 46 pages, but that's really small. For a magazine, anything less than 106 pages is a waste of money too, because you are paying the same price. Go over, and it changes from a flat rate to a formula that rises fast. The optimum number then is 106 pages. If you pick up a magazine from an on demand printer that is longer than this, the publisher is knowingly incurring more cost, not to mention paying for more stories to fill those pages.
I don’t begrudge magazines that have made this decision to go smaller or even scale back. I applaud them for continuing to exist in these tough times. I've said it before and I mean it, writers need viable markets. I salute all of the small press magazine and book publishers who are sticking it out. Most are losing money and continue because they believe in it, so thank you. My point is that I have strongly considered going down to 106 pages. It's an option that I have to consider and it may happen at some point in the future. Like I said though, the situation pisses me off. I've been adding content and striving to publish more writers, not less. Since we went to print with issue #7, here are the NT page counts:
#7=110, #8=118, #9=136, #10=130, #11=128 and #12=152.
At no time did we lower our standards and pick more stories just to make the book bigger. We used the same measuring stick each time and while not ever issue is an increase over the last, there has been a consistent increase in the number of great stories we have received. So when I looked at the huge pool of stories that were deemed publishable for January, I did the math and it came up to 65,000 words. 60,000 is the minimum number to be considered an anthology. I considered accepting a few for issue #14, just so I could take them all. Issue #12 had already got silly big, with 52,000 words of fiction and weighing in at 152 pages and I had to do the smart thing right? People loved issue #7 and it had 110 pages. They were a solid 110 and there is nothing wrong with that. As I said, we may need to tighten the reigns and move closer to the magic 106 pages in the future.
That's the future. As I have repeated several times, it pisses me off. We had a lot great stories and I wanted them all together, so I said screw it and put out issue #13 with 188 pages. Was it smart? No. Did it feel good? Hell yes.
I hope you all enjoy the issue and feel it is worth the money. I also hope you understand if future issues weigh in closer to 130 pages. It seems to be the sweet spot.