Well, it’s crunch time. My beloved ‘baby’, the free online, creative writing competition that is Narrator Magazine, has to start earning its keep.
Unfortunately, because something is free online, people seem to think that it doesn’t cost anything to make, but nothing could be further from the truth.
I love Narrator, but it does cost to produce – in excess of $5,000-6,000 per issue. Not the printing, because we’ve managed to work out a print-on-demand method at a price that covers the cost, but:
- the website domain names and hosting
- the website maintenance
- the proofreading
- the layout
- the images which we purchase to spice the entries up with and make the whole thing more attractive
- the admin overheads of recording entries as they come in, printing and filing forms and cross-checking with various databases
- recording the People’s Choice Votes
- compiling the ready-to-go Narrators into different file formats for the various distribution channels we use (printable double-page spread for printing, pared down Word doc at Smashwords, single page PDF for uploading to The MoshShop and Issuu.com, just to name three) and soon ePub
- compiling the secret guest judge’s file with all the entries without names
- sourcing a secret guest judge every quarter
- getting the entries to the guest judge in a timely manner so they can get their choices back to us at least a week before Narrator is released
- answering telephone and email queries
- marketing and promotion etc.
So far, Narrator has been subsidised by the other services and products we’ve been delivering via MoshPit Publishing and Mosher’s Business Support, but this isn’t sustainable. Time spent curating and creating Narrator is lost billable hours from our core business – and in this economic climate we can no longer afford to donate those hours to a project which is not returning at least the cash equivalent.
And then there’s the prize money – nearly $2,000 every quarter. We’ve been blessed in that the wonderfully supportive Paul Phillips out at A Reader’s Heaven in Lithgow understood the potential and purpose of Narrator at a very early stage and has kindly sponsored third prize for the next few quarters – that takes the sting out of the tail. But try to get other sponsors?
We have a great, well-loved product, with huge potential, great ‘discoverability‘ (thank you, Mark Coker – that concept helps stop the panic when a client’s ebook isn’t a best seller within three weeks!), but we are not sellers of advertising and have struggled, so far, to engage a reliable, effective sales person.
Narrator is green, it’s free to enter, free to read online in various formats and from various online outlets, it’s full of variety, it keeps the contributors happy, you can buy one print issue or subscribe to four, and you can read all sorts of different stories, poems and essays – there almost literally is something for everyone.
In the eight original issues we’ve published so far (five Blue Mountains, one Central Tablelands and two NSW/ACT), we’ve published 200 items from 98 different contributors. We’re publishing people who’ve never been published before, and publishing people who have been published plenty of times – new and emerging writers mixing with professional writers – giving everyone a place to get their stuff out there in the public eye. We’ve even had entries from as far away as the USA, and an enquiry from an ex-pat living in Germany – so even though we can’t accept entries from them at this stage, it means Narrator’s potential for discoverability is certainly there!
We’ve also doubled our readership by converting to a statewide issue, rather than a regional one – doubling readership equals double exposure, which is better for everyone. With proper financial support, we can aim to double the readership more often as this will provide much needed funds for marketing.
And if we can keep the NSW/ACT issue going, but properly funded, then we can look at getting the Victoria/Tasmania issue up and running, and then the Queensland one, and then the South Australia/Western Australia/ Northern Territory issues. And then the one-off genre issues – we have a whole list of those! Science Fiction, Juniors, Romance, Gay Pride, Comedy, Gothic – and more. So many ways to bring writers to an audience, but so hard to attract businesses who could benefit from advertising to this market.
So this is it. We need to secure at least $5,000 by 30 April to bring out the Winter edition and pay the (currently un-sponsored) prizes to the winners of the Autumn edition.
However, we’re punting for $15,000 to keep it going for at least another two or three issues, because without that, we’ll be doing this again next quarter, and then again the quarter after.
So, if you think the idea of providing an outlet for the Australian indie writing scene to develop in a supportive and open environment is a good idea, then please, have a look at our IndieGoGo campaign, and even if you don’t see any advertising packages that interest you, just please send the link onto anyone or any business owner you know who may find it interesting or worthwhile – the more people who know about it, the more likely we will find the support we need to keep going.