Watts (chipotle) wrote,

  • Music:

The magic money faeries

First a minor clarification:

Submissions should be emailed to <watts#ranea.org> (change the ”#” to an at-sign, of course). The best format is straight ASCII, bracketing text with _underscores_ to indicate italics and *asterisks* for boldface, and separating paragraphs with blank lines. I can read HTML, RTF and DOC formats, but the marked-up ASCII is actually the format that Textile, the text formatter, I’ll be using expects, so I’ll be putting it in that format if you don’t. (If you know what you’re doing, you can use any of the Textile markup.)

Okay. So. If I’m going to be paying people, what will the expenses be? Well, assume I add one or two new features a month—call it eighteen a year—and manage to get each one illustrated. (Both of these, particularly the illustration one, are likely optimistic!) And, assume an average of a column a month, and for good measure, assume six poems.

 Cost Item   Unit $   Units   Total
Fiction/Articles $20 18 $ 360
Illustrations 20 18 360
Columns 12 10 120
Poems 10 6 60
Monthly Hosting 5 12 60
Total Annual Cost $ 960

(A note on hosting: I’m likely to go with Textdrive for a variety of reasons. Yes, I’m sure people can find better deals out there, but I’ve watched the responsiveness of the admins at TXD and really believe they’re second to none. And I suspect I won’t have any trouble staying within the modest limits of the $5/month plan for a while. Yes, these are the folks I once mused about getting the $199 lifetime hosting deal with. And, yes, part of me still wishes I’d taken it.)

By some measures, $1K a year is a steal: a single issue of Mythagoras ran about that much, most of it in production costs, and that much content would have been about four issues. Even an issue of Yarf!—which didn’t pay contributors—runs about $500, AFAIK, for an initial printing. Since the “production costs” online are essentially just hosting, more than 90% of the income goes to contributors. That’s cool.

By other measures, it’s a money pit. I’d need to average $80 in monthly revenue for it to break even. That’s less cool.

So how do I want to try and fund this? Through magic money faeries.

Well, okay, not really. But close. Bear with me a moment:

Subscriptions are tempting—at a pretty modest $15 a year, I’d only need 64 to meet that break-even point. But I’ve watched the web grow from its beginning and I honestly think required pay access is, in all but the rarest cases, a doomed proposition. The idea of the paid archive might have potential, but not until there’s an archive big enough for people to want to pay money for.

I’ll also look at the typical “put no effort into it and get money” scams programs like Amazon affiliates and Google advertising, but until you hit several thousand hits a day such things rarely pay enough to be worth the aggravation. I don’t have plans for daily content updates; even weekly content update would be pretty optimistic, unless I want to get goofy and add a “publisher’s blog” somewhere. (Did I say goofy? Don’t rule it out.) Google also files tax reports on your trivial income, which means I’d really need to get my ducks in a row as an “official” non-profit literary magazine before trying such things. I’d really rather not go through that aggravation until I’m confident Claw & Quill is not only airborne but has a good chance of remaining in flight for a while.

So, right, the magic money faeries. What I mean is that I want to try and fund this just with donations and sponsorships, and perhaps with branded merchandise down the road if there ends up being value in said brand—T-shirts, prints, perhaps softcover story collections. The model is sort of half public radio and half Kevin & Kell. It’s possible people will be able to buy “banner boxes” but the idea is still that you’re sponsoring some of the operation.

I’d need less than 50 people to give me $20 a year to pay for the whole thing. Is this unreasonable? Maybe. We’ll see. I saw one online magazine which was offering sponsorships for specific stories: send them enough and you got your name (and perhaps link?) affixed to the story permanently. That strikes me as kind of cool, I don’t know. Maybe there could be $5 for “brought to you this week” lines on the front page, $20 for a month long ad box, $50 for the permanent story sponsorship. A special “angels” page listing our big sponsors, whatever that criteria might be.

(And maybe six months after launch I can run a membership drive. Give me $60, and Carl Kasell will record his voice on your home answering machine! Um, maybe not.)

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