For those of you who haven’t checked our Web site’s “What’s New” page recently, DargonZine was recently reviewed by Todd Kuipers’ “Open Road” newsletter. I mention this not to promote ourselves, but because his review contained a point I’d like to address. Todd wrote: “The organization and consistent level of publication (sic) needed to drive a publication like this is amazing, especially given that it is, I assume, volunteer based.”
To address the question, DargonZine is in fact completely volunteer based. Our writers receive no financial reward for contributing their works, nor do any of the production staff receive any payment for their time and effort. We have never charged our readers any fees, nor do we have any plans to do so in the future.
With that as a premise, a commercial-minded person might ask how and why we do what we do. The ‘why’ is easy: we love doing it. We are passionate about writing. The question of ‘how’ is a little more difficult.
At the present time, producing and distributing DargonZine costs a couple thousand dollars each year. That money goes primarily toward the fees incurred in maintaining our Web site. Until recently, I paid these fees out of my own pocket, because DargonZine is very important to me; I consider it my life’s work.
However, about a year ago our writers decided that they wanted to help bear some of the financial burden for running the zine, and have since begun contributing funds to offset our production costs. DargonZine is, after all, vanity publishing, and as Alan Lauderdale once put it, our writers thought it wrong to expect me to underwrite their vanity!
There are, of course, other ways of bringing in money. However, because DargonZine was founded in the early days of the Internet, we retain some of the old values which characterized life in those pioneer times. One of the strongest themes of the early Internet was that it was aggressively noncommercial, and its evolution into an exclusively commercial venue is both outrageous and insulting to those of us who freely volunteered our time, skills, and labor to grow the Internet from its prosaic beginnings.
However, the strength of this conviction has the potential to become our undoing. When DargonZine was founded, there was very little interesting content to be found anywhere on the Internet, and it wasn’t difficult for readers to find us. Today the Internet is the world’s biggest entertainment venue, and the currency of the Internet is people’s attention. Not only are we competing with hundreds of other fantasy fiction Webzines, but we are also competing for your attention with online versions of traditional magazines like the New Yorker, online broadcasts of professional sports like the NBA, online gaming from Yahoo Games to Quake, online pornography, and every other site on the planet that wants to capture your attention and turn it into a profit.
DargonZine isn’t after a profit, but we do need readers to survive. Part of our mission as aspiring writers is to write for a broad, representative audience and receive feedback from our readers. But because of the increased competition for your attention, there is no question that unless we begin to more aggressively promote ourselves, our readership will dwindle and fall off. For that reason, we are looking into things like purchasing advertising space, putting out press releases, and so forth.
However, we will pursue this course without participating in commercial ventures, charging fees, or displaying banner ads on our site. You can rest assured that DargonZine will always remain a volunteer-based organization that is wholly noncommercial and will never be motivated by profit. Our goal is to get the word out about the great things we have accomplished and build our readership, while remaining a self-supporting organization that publishes great fiction not because it brings us profit, but because we enjoy writing and publishing great fiction and making an unselfconscious contribution to the richness of the Internet.