Publishing a magazine containing fiction written solely by unpaid volunteer authors provides some interesting challenges.
In a volunteer organization like the Dargon Project, where people write at their own pace, it’s often difficult to predict from month to month how much material there’ll be to print. Sometimes we have enough stories to fill half a dozen issues, but there have been times when we’ve gone six months or more without anything to print.
Recent history provides a good example of this. In 2004 we printed three issues, then ran out of submissions. Everyone was busily working on their Black Idol stories, but none were ready to print yet. Nine months passed before we were able to send out another issue; that was the longest publishing hiatus we’ve had in our 22-year history.
On the other hand, things changed dramatically once our authors started completing those Black Idol stories. Over the past half year, we produced an issue every month, and there’s another six months’ worth of stories just waiting to be printed!
Of course, sending all those stories out at once would be a problem. In general, people expect a magazine to come out on a fairly regular, predictable schedule, and our readers wouldn’t like it if we didn’t produce an issue for an entire year, then put out three issues in a single month, then waited another nine months for the next.
So that’s my big challenge as editor: to gaze into the future and predict how many stories will be ready to print, then figure out how often we should send out issues. Sometimes, when there’s nothing to print, I have to ask our writers to hurry their stories along. Alternately, when there’s plenty of material, sometimes it makes sense to send issues out gradually, so that we don’t run out of material and have long gaps between issues.
We’re fortunate that our writers have been very productive over the past year or two. Right now, we have enough stories to last through the end of 2006 and into next year, too. However, having too many stories raises another problem for the humble editor: writing interesting editorials!
When submissions trickle in slowly, there’ll be enough time between issues for plenty of events worth discussing to happen. But if several issues come out one right after another, as we’ve had recently, sometimes there’s nothing new to report. And if you’re an astute reader, you may have already figured out that this is one of those times.
It’s ironic that sometimes I have to nag my writers to finish their stories, but when there’s a lot to print, I’m the one who has to hurry my writing. Of course, I could point out that each of our writers only has to produce a story every couple years, whereas DargonZine needs a new editorial nearly every month. And I’ve written nearly 150 editorials, when very few of our writers have printed more than a couple dozen stories …
Still, the magazine’s not about my missives; it’s about the stories, and this month we have two excellent contributions to our ongoing Black Idol story arc. If you’re new to DargonZine, I’d heartily suggest you go back and start reading with DargonZine 18-1, when the first story in the Black Idol series appeared. It’s by far the biggest and most successful collaborative storyline we’ve ever done.
And you can look forward to another new issue next month, which will feature more Black Idol stories, and an editorial that will hopefully will have a little more interesting news to share!