Replacing Irreantum: Starting Up

12.3.13 | | 6 comments

This is a continuation of my analysis of the barriers involved in replacing Irreantum, the now defunct literary journal of the Association for Mormon Letters.

Other installments: Scope/Positioning | Staffing/Production | Generating Submissions | Financial Models | Starting Up

STARTING UP

There’s such a wide range of factors involved in starting up a successor to Irreantum that I almost didn’t do this section, but there are a few items to think about in relation to starting up a Mormon literary magazine/journal that I decided I had something to say about.

Irreantum Assets: I’m not sure what all these would be, but at the very least there’s the Irreantum name itself and associated domain name [irreantum.org, which was never utilized for much]. But there may also be electronic files for previous content and those archives (and I don’t how extensive they are–it’d be awesome if there are electronic files that go all the way back to the beginning) could be leveraged for some value. Of course, anyone who wanted to put together a successor to Irreantum would need to put together a proposal for the board of the Association for Mormon Letters. I don’t know enough about the situation to say whether or not building on the bones of Irreantum is a good idea, but it may be worth exploring.

Minimal Start Up Costs: A domain name and a year of web hosting will cost about $100. Depending on the web development skills of the start up team, you may need to add on a premium WordPress (or other free CMS) theme as well as premium. Prices can vary, but a good premium theme can be as low as $40. That’s the minimum. Let’s say you want to produce 4 issues (I think 6-12 would be better) and pay for cover art (which is a good idea). In my opinion, $100 a cover is the minimum you should pay. And then let’s say you publish 6 pieces per issue and pay a token average payment of $20 per work. That’s $400 for a year’s worth of covers and $480 for content. Or say you were willing to pay 3 cents a word and averaged about 4,000 words per story/essay. That would make for 24k words per issue and 96k words total for the year at a total cost of $2,880. That’s all without paying for layout or editing or any additional services or advertising. But let’s say you operate under the exact submissions model as Irreantum and run a contest. For first, second and third place, Irreantum provided $300, $200 and $100. Assuming you’d do both fiction and essay, that’s $1,200 a year.

Crowdsourcing: One way to cover the start up costs would be to crowdsource them using something like Kickstarter or Indiegogo. The beauty of crowdsourcing is that you are essentially pre-selling subscriptions. The genre community has found some success in funding anthologies and/or a year’s worth of issues of a magazine. Such a campaign could also test whether there is a readership for the magazine. The thing is, though, that Mormon fiction projects don’t have a great track record of being funded via a crowdsourcing campaign. Another barrier is that because crowdsourced campaigns rely on a variety of deliverables to gain traction, often a print product is involved and print versions can quickly eat up funding. On the other hand, it’s easy to see why crowdsourcing is attractive to those looking to kickstart magazines or (more often) anthologies. Let’s say a magazine was able to offer a good range of virtual incentives (no print version) from $5 to $30 and average $15. If you could attract 150 funders (which, make no mistake is a lot in the world of Mormon fiction — it’s certainly no given, but it’s doable), then you’d have $2250 to work with. That’s enough to pay for some covers and token payments to contributors as well as for basic webhosting. On the other hand, what happens if the Kickstarter fails? That can suck the air out of a project. An audience for a fiction publication especially can take a long time to build as potential readers (as well as potential contributors) wait and see if they like the editorial direction of the publication (or just see if the thing is going to make a go of it).

Recruiting Volunteers: based on my experience, here’s how to effectively recruit volunteers.

  1. Have a system in place to manage the work being done. Note that email + attachments is not a good system. Also have a style manual and production manual.
  2. Create a defined list of positions along with the job duties and expected time it will take to do the job well.
  3. Make sure a few of the positions can accommodate a fair number of volunteers just in case they appear (for lit pubs, that’s often slush readers and copyeditors). These are folks who can grow into other positions (either through experience or the ability to commit more time to the cause).
  4. Provide training.
  5. Have people in charge who are responsive and friendly.

Social Media: use it. It’s a must in this day and age. You don’t have to be prolific, but you should be consistent in posting, interact with your followers and have a point of view/unique voice. I’d say that Twitter and Facebook are the place to start, but I’d also play with Pinterest and Google+.

That’s all I have to say in terms of starting up a successor to Irreantum. Any othe analysis would be in response to specific efforts. What did I miss?

And with that, we have one more to go in the series: Readership.

6 comments: “Replacing Irreantum: Starting Up

  1. Wm Morris Post author

    It is. It’s also doable — more doable than in the past. But it would take a lot of work. And that’s one of the problems with this kind of thing. Rounding up section editors and even slush readers and copyeditors isn’t super difficult. But finding a managing editor who can put together the vision and scope and all the logistics and the team is not easy. That’s what Irreantum struggled with. And even if someone has the skills to do that, they often don’t have the time.

    As fun as Monsters & Mormons was (and for that we had the benefit of a one-off project rather than an ongoing series), it took a lot of time. I know that there were people who wanted us to do a second one, but a) I become more active in writing my own fiction which sucked up that pool of time, b) I was called to a demanding church calling and also got more involved in my daughter’s school and c) I struggle with putting in time on something that doesn’t pay because although I have a very good job that I like very much, it’d be nice to have some extra income for things like vacations (or a larger emergency fund).

  2. Th.

    .

    I would suggest spending the $220 for a Submittable account. My impression is that all the rags—even the tiny ones—are finding it to ultimately save them time (and thus money).

  3. Wm Morris Post author

    The limit of 8 staff is a bit of a concern, but I guess you probably shouldn’t have more than that anyway if you couldn’t pay the $649 for the “premier” level.

    Oh, and look here: “If you’re a non-profit or publisher of art or literature, use the coupon code “NonProfitArtLit” for 50% discount.”

    So $110 + $100 = $210 and that would get you both the back end and the front end. That’s not bad.

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