RIP: Realms of Fantasy

In A Farewell Note from the Publisher, Warren Lapine sadly announced that Realms of Fantasy was folding. Here's an extract:

I purchased Realms of Fantasy with the intent of restoring it to its former glory.

In the past I have published two magazine that had larger circulations than Realms: KISS Magazine and the Whole Cat Journal. So I knew exactly what I was undertaking. I got the relevant numbers on Realms’ overall performance for the past 12 issues. Based on my experience with purchasing other defunct magazines such as Weird Tales, Fantastic Stories, Science Fiction Chronicle, and The Whole Cat Journal, I had every reason to believe that I could turn Realms around quickly and easily.

But that didn’t turn out to be the case.

I invested more than $50,000.00 of my own money into reviving this magazine. I tried every traditional method I could think of to increase the circulation, but nothing worked. I also spent a great deal of money trying nontraditional methods. I advertised online with Google and Facebook, neither of which came close to covering their costs. And we created DRM-free electronic versions of the magazine to see if that would help increase our circulation. Sadly, the DRM-free versions never sold more than twenty five copies per issue, and the Kindle editions sold fewer still.

As things stand, I would need to invest another large amount of money simply to continue publishing the magazine at its current level—an investment that I do not believe would have any chance of repaying itself. So, unfortunately, I have no choice but to close Realms of Fantasy and Dreams of Decadence. I have written more than $10,000.00 worth of checks to contributors of Realms in the last two weeks. Tir Na Nog Press, Inc., is still owed money by distributors and advertisers, and as that money trickles in we will pay the handful of contributors that are still owed money. We did all of the work on the December issue and had it ready for press in the hopes that things might turn around. We will be placing a PDF of that issue on our website for our subscribers to download at no charge. We may do the same with Dreams of Decadence. I will also try to find another magazine to assume the subscriptions so that the readers will get something for the unfulfilled portion of their subscriptions.

Ultimately, I believe Realms failed because of a terrible economic climate. When I purchased the magazine I did not believe that the worst economy since the Great Depression would actually get worse; that was a mistake.

Before the coming of SFF websites, message boards, and blogs, I used to read basically every issue of Realms of Fantasy. So I'm sad to see it go, regardless of the fact that I haven't been a steady reader in the last decade or so.

But then Cheryl Morgan came up with this post, in which it seems that Warren Lapine blames free online magazines for the fold. Here's an extract:

I’ve not seen what Warren actually wrote, and I suspect he’s mainly just a bit upset, but my own view is that if online magazines are doing better than print ones it is because they are more accessible rather than anything else. One of the main reasons that Clarkesworld has such good content is that we pay very well (and are picky about what we publish). And we are able to pay well because people give us money. It is a virtuous circle. The better the content you publish, the more money you get, and the better content you can afford.

Now this is interesting, especially since blogs like mine became a target when print media started to cut down on SFF book reviews a few years back.

The Homeless Moon's Online Didn't Kill the Print Star elaborates even more on online magazines. Here's an extract:

Economic factors are stacked against all short fiction magazines these days, not just print ones. The readership for short fiction was declining for decades before this. On top of all that, it’s a time of great flux in all facets of publishing–readers are fundamentally changing the ways and places that they read.

It’s short fiction publishers’ responsibility to adapt to this changing landscape, not only in weathering the economic factors as much as possible but also in reaching the readership in the ways they want.

Online magazines are less economically risky because they’re cheaper to operate. True, there is no ideal business model yet, but a bunch of free pro-rate mags are subsisting fine, some using for-profit models (Clarkesworld, Fantasy, Lightspeed) and others as non-profits taking tax-deductible donations (Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies).

Online magazines better provide fiction in the new ways readers have shown they want it: as web pages to read at home or at work or anywhere there’s wifi; as audio podcasts to listen to during a commute or workout; and as e-books, available for instant purchase and read on dozens of different devices already owned by millions of readers.

The low or free price of online fiction also attract readers. The only hope of slowing or reversing the decline in the short fiction readership is making it as easy as possible for them. Escape Pod reportedly has 20,000 subscribers, which shows that the audio short fiction ‘readership’ rivals that of the “Big Three.” Asimov’s in 2009 had an increase in subscribers, the first year that’s happened in decades, and it was because of Kindle subscriptions.

Check out the aforementioned links and join the debate.

Yet the sad truth remains: Realms of Fantasy is no more. . .

6 commentaires:

Skip said...

It's interesting, I really don't read a lot of short fiction, but when I got my Kindle I bought subscriptions to Asimov's and Analog, neither of which I'd read in more than a decade. After eighteen months or so I canceled the Asimov's subscription - their hitrate on stories I actually like was just too low, but Analog actually has a pretty decent hitrate for me. I might add another short fiction sub to replace it, but probably not. My long fiction backlog is big enough as it is.

amysrevenge said...

Magazines are dead, long live podcasts!

I'm an audiobook junkie (I listen to roughly 20 hours of audio fiction a week), and there's already more content than I can manage in my free time.

Theoretically, more content means more choices and the better material will rise to the top.

Ben said...

Go figure...

Pat writes a Towers of Midnight update and the entire blogosphere explodes into a massive pissing contest. A quality staple in the fantasy genre disappears and none of those idiots discuss the ramifications of SFF print media vs SFF online media.

That says a lot about the majority of bloggers...

Dream Girlzzz said...

Aidan is probably too busy posting covers and shit. He's the crybaby who started the embargo crap.

I doubt he would have anything intelligent to say about ROF folding.

Cecrow said...

I bought RoF for the first time last year; definitely the stories didn't line up with the style of fantasy novels I buy (tended to be a lot more urban and took more direct shots at being literary) but I appreciated their quality. As an aspiring contributor I'm sorry to lose it. I worry over whether publishing to online media will carry as much credential weight as publishing to the traditional print markets. I guess it will depend on what reputation the online sources are able to make for themselves in tersm of quality.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for linking to my post on Homeless Moon. I'm actually Scott H. Andrews, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of _Beneath Ceaseless Skies_ Online Magazine, a SFWA pro-qualifying online fantasy mag. Homeless Moon is a shared blog I run with several other writer friends.

Anybody interested in F/SF short fiction on Kindle and audio should definitely check out the great free pro-rate online mags, most all of which offer stories in those formats. _Clarkesworld_, _Fantasy_, and _Beneath Ceaseless Skies_ are great places to start.

Scott H. Andrews
_Beneath Ceaseless Skies_