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Australian Speculative Fiction Survey.

Above is a link to a survey currently being run by Russell B. Farr (punkrocker1991). I did it about a month ago, but didn't take it as seriously as Russ would have liked, and got bitched at for it. Frankly, the survey reads like another moment where the local scene here asks why they haven't gotten an international audience, and who isn't tired of that question now? Given that the primary international markets listed in comparison are magazines such as Fantasy and Science Fiction and Asimov's, I suspect that that reasons have more to do with distribution, the time those magazines were created, and the fact that there is nothing to equal the long standing publishing run that they have. Generally speaking, I find that comparing the books and magazines produced here to the big markets overseas is just the wrong comparison, and one of my complaints for the survey was that it didn't accurately represent the international independent presses that I believe are more comparable, in terms of sales, standards, and pay rates. There is no Polyphony, no Paraspheres, no books printed through Lulu (Twenty Epics and the RageMachine stuff, for example), no FarThing, none of the countless publications that, to my mind, are more comparable to the scene here.

Likewise, I find it problematic--to say the least--that Australian speculative fiction is treated as if it is an entirely different subset of fiction from genres such as fantasy, science fiction, and whatever else is there. That's really part of the problem with the local mind frame here, I think. It is as if it is always trying to find out a way in which the word Australian has a weight that somehow makes it different to the speculative fiction throughout the world. It is like being an Australian writer is cause for being, somehow, treated differently--though no one is quite sure for what reason or how it should be done. To give Russell at TiconderogaOnline credit, he has decided that the answer is to treat Australian authors as if they are endangered animals in a zoo, and offers you the chance to sponsor his contributors:

Have you ever wanted to be a patron of the arts?

Starting from December 2006 TiconderogaOnline are inviting individuals, groups, organisations and businesses an exclusive opportunity to be patrons of literature.

TiconderogaOnline offers a range of quality fiction and non-fiction completely free of charge to our readers. We remain firmly committed to continuing this practice. Delivering this level of quality costs us money paying writers, web hosting fees, in postage and promoting the site.

Yes, you can have a plaque, saying you sponsored an author. Can't you just see authors with a bit of self respect lining up for this experience? And readers--don't you just want to sponsor an author? Get your photo taken. Pet them. Ask them if they can do a trick.

What's even better, is you can have three different kinds of sponsorship: Gold, Silver, and Bronze. The price is scaled accordingly at $88, $66 and $55, so you can decide, based on name quality--or perhaps even by reading the story beforehand--how much you like it or the person and how much you want to pay. Don't like the author or the story that much, but would still like to feel good for helping poor Australian speculative fiction? Then pay less.

There are times that I think the main problem with the local scene here is that it just doesn't have any respect for itself. Not all the time. Not every person. Just occasionally. Anyhow, despite my reservations with the sponsorship, and while I don't think the survey properly represents the international scene and the place of the Australian small press market in it, I'm linking it.


'Cause you can win free shit.

Who doesn't like that.


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Nov. 2nd, 2006 01:27 am (UTC)
Thanks for the tip -- filled it out. I'm a bit torn about the whole local product thing. On one hand, it makes sense if the local product is as good as something else. No point in homogenizing all markets until they all look like F&SF and are dominated by American writers. On the other hand, if quality is deemed irrelevant by 'support the local genre' crowd, then there's no impetus to improve said quality.
Nov. 2nd, 2006 03:02 am (UTC)
the local product varies, like all products. some of it is real good. some of it is shit. it's unfortunate that everyone here looks overseas and sees this bigger, wilder market, or whatever they see--it's a grass is greener on the other stuff thing, for a large part.

this scene could do with bringing in some outside authors, too.
Nov. 2nd, 2006 01:28 am (UTC)
Ben Peek today one himself many more friends.

I do think the plaques are pretty bizarre, to say the least, and I'm not entirely convinced about the survey, but I think it's interesting all the same. I would also have liked to see Polyphony and so on represented, but hey.
Nov. 2nd, 2006 03:00 am (UTC)
yeah, i imagine my friend quota is skyrocketing. but you know what? i been saying this stuff offline for a week or so--i dislike being hypocritical like that, so fuck it.

i hope the survey proves out with something interesting, but i fear, like most surveys, it'll be kinda pointless.
Nov. 2nd, 2006 10:02 am (UTC)
The survey is actually turning up some results that are quite interesting, not that I expect you to believe that. Sure we're not covering what you want answers to, but you must realise that this survey hasn't been done for you.
Nov. 2nd, 2006 11:45 am (UTC)
i love how you think i'm an ego driven maniac who thinks everything has to be done for me, russ. it's very comforting.
Nov. 2nd, 2006 11:55 am (UTC)
actually benjamin, i'm surprised that you believe i think at all.
Nov. 2nd, 2006 11:57 am (UTC)
i'm guessing a lot of people would be surprised by me.
Nov. 2nd, 2006 12:09 pm (UTC)
I'm regularly surprised by you. I'm surprised how inflexible your thinking is, how you will always analyse anything I do along Australian/non-Australian lines, your readiness to play the man and not the ball, and often you produce straw men.

It really doesn't matter what I do, it will always produce two non-surprises:
1. you will have something derogatory to say about it;
2. you will judge this against an imaginary ideal that has little to do with the actual work.
Nov. 2nd, 2006 12:21 pm (UTC)
yes, man, i'm inflexible. that's me.

you want to reduce everything about me to being nasty and sticking to some imaginary ideal? that's fine. everyone's got their take on me and i'm cool with it.

as for the australian thing, hey, you don't want to be viewed that way, take the show international. or i could always analyse you on a western australian, non western australian line.

Nov. 2nd, 2006 12:37 pm (UTC)
The show is international. Will you only be satisfied if I exclusively publish o/s work?

Please remember that you're talking to the person who published a Steven Utley collection eight years before a collection was published in his own country.

Some years I publish overseas writers, some years I publish Australian ones. The last few have been mostly Australians, the next few may surprise you.
Nov. 2nd, 2006 12:44 pm (UTC)
one collection by steven utley does not equal an international show.

as for me, i'll never be satisfied, so why bother asking the question? i might like the next thing you do, i might not. if you become boring, i'll lose interest in watching and won't say anything. so be surprising.
Nov. 2nd, 2006 12:56 pm (UTC)
I consider that publishing a mix of australians and o/s writers makes Ticonderoga an international show. If you look at it, 2 out of 7 Ticonderoga Publications have been solely o/s.

And try this reading: look at my work as the product of a first generation Australian from working class, migrant parents, trying to make a contribution to the development of an adopted country that has given me greater opportunities than if my parents had stayed in their birth country.
Nov. 2nd, 2006 01:04 pm (UTC)
what's the second overseas?

and i disagree, but mostly because the zine is australian aimed, and the stuff you're doing since the restart australian focused. but hey, if you want to take it international, cool.

what you've described there isn't a way to read, but rather a background of the publisher. it also, i might add, supports the idea that you're about developing an australian show, not an international one.

Nov. 2nd, 2006 01:21 pm (UTC)
Custer's Last Jump, reprint by Utley and Waldrop.

I feel the focus since the restart have had a lot to do with the business plan: I personally felt that it would be easier to reclaim the name and build up the zine through working with locals, where there was still brand recognition. Once the zine has established a reputation then it should be able to attract a better class of o/s sub; similarly once it has raised some funds it can afford to pay enough to attract better subs. I don't feel that we'd be in the same position today if we'd gone after internationals from the start.

Similarly, by focussing locally we're aiming to raise the Australian bar, both in terms of quality and payment.

On the book side of things, post 1997 the Australian dollar made it more challenging to publish o/s writers. With the Utley book I agreed to pay in US dollars: the first half was when the exchange rate was 0.775, the second half was 0.675 and falling. For a number of years I looked at publishing collections of o/s writers, did the figures, factored in the exchange rate and binned the spreadsheet. Postage o/s is also a factor -- it costs around $12 to send a copy of Troy to the States. It cost me US$9 to get a copy of 26 lies, but postage within the US is only US$3.

I feel that the migrant/multicultural reading is valid.
Nov. 2nd, 2006 01:37 pm (UTC)
I should add that, having built up the reputation of the zine on Australian talent, we're not going to throw them over for the out-of-towners. By increasing the number of stories published overall we're not going to reduce the amount of local content, just adding the international content to the total.
Nov. 3rd, 2006 12:11 am (UTC)
I feel that the migrant/multicultural reading is valid.

it's really difficult to make that call on a publisher. the problem is, what you publish, that's how the reading is made. the stories on ticonderoga don't represent a multicultral, migrant feel. simon's TROY was, likewise, not giving this a voice. the only real clear line that such a reading shows is that you are giving back to the country, or investing in it, but that doesn't then cross over to the work that you publish. it's possible that you can have this, and you will with the migrant anthology idea you were tossing round with, but for you to really have that point read, you'd need to publish work that actively worked that reading.

as for the zine, i tend to think that focusing on the locals has rebranded it as a local zine. the reviews you get treat it as such, and things like the survey, and commentary about the local scene, that also helps that. but if you view it different, that's cool. i'm just saying how it comes across to me.
Nov. 2nd, 2006 03:03 am (UTC)
Yes. I can't really see the plaques working, but it might be worth a try. The fact there's a few people who seem to willing to give a lot (as opposed to a lot of people willing to give a little) does strange things to the economics.
Nov. 2nd, 2006 03:06 am (UTC)
one of the problems with the plagues is that they just continue the gouge the people already in the scene. charity drives, buying books that you feel obligated to do so... occasionally it feels like the authors are being asked to fund the venues they appear in.
Nov. 2nd, 2006 03:09 am (UTC)
Well, someone has to.

Or not.

(But the existing markets have a predisposition to the former.)
Nov. 2nd, 2006 03:21 am (UTC)
Nov. 2nd, 2006 09:10 am (UTC)
I'd really like your answer to the following question:

How should TiconderogaOnline generate income to pay its writers and other costs?
Nov. 2nd, 2006 09:31 am (UTC)
How should TiconderogaOnline generate income to pay its writers and other costs?

chances are, you're not going to be able to generate much from the website, because unless you're porn, you're not going to do so online. but if you're hell bent on making it pay, and you're going to continue with the charity/donation line, just make the site a subscription only one. this, of course, will limit your audience, but it strikes me as a lot more honest than continually asking for donations.

outside that, i would, personally, be looking for ways to finance myself thru larger companies, government grants, and investments. if you have a lump sum designated for publishing, put it into a form of investment that will return money to you, and which you can use each year to finance the site and work. grants are given out each year for publishing, and there are more initiatives. more, it strikes me, is that large companies are often willing to donate money towards locally produced things--so long, of course, as they get advertising or so forth. this can even be done in books, especially 'community' orientated ones.

you yourself can go out and work the money up. teach courses at the local writers centre, run a community college program, and put that money into it.

the truth is, small press books without distribution (and a website the size of ticonderoga) will not generate income of a sufficient and lasting kind that it will pay contibutors professional rates and cover printing, site hosting, whatever. (i assume you're aiming for professional standards, or at least to exist comfortably.) these things are run on a loss, at every stage: writer, artist, editor, publisher. if i took the amount of time and effort i put into a story, which i then sell for maybe three hundred bucks, maybe twenty five, maybe five hundred, then i AM running at a loss, and i cannot finance myself off this. my response to this is to take my skills and use them elsewhere, and then funnel the cash back into it. it strikes me that you would find more money looking outside the scene, then at the people in it.

anyhow, that's just my opinion, worth nothing. but you asked.
Nov. 2nd, 2006 09:57 am (UTC)
Because you're in "the scene", you're only seeing the work Ticon is doing within the scene. Behind the scenes, we have been working to attract sponsorship from large corporations. We've also been looking at grants funding, and for the most part Ticon isn't attracting the traffic at present to qualify for this. But we have recently approached someone to look into this more closely.

What you raise above is, in general, not new, and contains options we've already looked at and/or tried. The sponsorship idea is something different and has, to date, been targeted at businesses -- we haven't directly approached any individuals to take part in this.

Right now we're trying stuff that hasn't been done before, that we know of. If it works we'll keep it, if it doesn't we won't. The only failure is in not trying different things. And the more things we try, the more you get stuck into us, and that increases our traffic, bringing us closer to qualifying for grants. So it's a win-win really.
Nov. 2nd, 2006 11:15 am (UTC)
hey, man, if it brings you traffic, that's fine. you think i only link your site just to rag on you? i don't give a shit if people disagree with me, but at least they talk, and at least they go and look.

you want to know an easier way to up your traffic? contract name authors. build the site into something that brings people. don't rely upon submissions, but actively go out, and find them, and not from australia, but outside. bring them in and build the brand on them. once you have your brand built, it will be easier to bring these things to you.
Nov. 2nd, 2006 11:19 am (UTC)
and, if you want to keep it australian, go outside the local scene. there's a whole country of good authors out there who if you paid pro rates you could build a brand on.
Nov. 2nd, 2006 10:09 am (UTC)
Ben, what you've missed is that this -is- aimed at companies. It's advertising. It might work and it might not, and that's why we're trying it out.

Every single idea you've suggested above has already been discussed. Some are in the process of getting started, some are already happening, and some were rejected as not suitable.

If you don't like it, by all means don't "sponsor" a story. Don't shit on those who might want to do so, or on Russell for attempting to run a small press as a business. Where's the lack of respect in that?
Nov. 2nd, 2006 11:10 am (UTC)
the thing is, as you are running it now, you have it designed as a charity, a non profit business. the kind of ways you've gotten to ask for money are more comparable to the salvation army and door knocking than it is to any kind of publishing house.

if you were interested in creating a profitable business, you would be more interested in bringing in investors, who could thus finance part of what you would do. of course, to do that, you would need to create an object that would be viable as something for share holders, which is problematic for a web based zine.

the problem here that i have is not that you want to do it, or even how you do, but how these aims are percieved outside. plaques? continued charity donations? what kind of reputation is that creating for a business? what does it say about the kind of work that is put out? about the writers who appear? at what point does this stop becoming a small business that russell is running and becomes a publishing house that the locals are supporting out of good will?

Nov. 2nd, 2006 01:45 pm (UTC)
There's a huge gulf between a charity and a not-for-profit business.

TicOn is not for profit, but it's certainly not a charity. As such, of course we'd like it to run at the smallest loss possible, and we're investigating ways to do that. The day it actually turns a profit, it will be a completely different business model.

I'm a bit worried about the implication that every organisation that solicits donations and advertising to offset part of their running costs is a charity and should be looked down upon and seen as only being worthy of pitiful "goodwill". I certainly don't look at organisations in this way. I wonder how many people do?

Nov. 3rd, 2006 12:03 am (UTC)
I'm a bit worried about the implication that every organisation that solicits donations and advertising to offset part of their running costs is a charity and should be looked down upon and seen as only being worthy of pitiful "goodwill". I certainly don't look at organisations in this way. I wonder how many people do?

it really depends on what the end goal of your organisation is. if your goal is to feed starving children, or bring AIDS medicine, or abortion clinics, or all that other worthwhile and important stuff, then you have no problem. after all, these things, they're good, moral things to be doing.

fiction is a different game, however, and it gets a different response. after a while, it just looks like your gouging your audience for more and more.
Nov. 2nd, 2006 11:13 am (UTC)
I think a combination of regular donation drive and grant-seeking.

Strange Horizons and other free online 'zines have donation drives, and if they are regular, you have a better chance of the readers sending out their own publicity on blogs, livejournals, websites, etc -- they know when it is and can plan accordingly, in other words.

If you want to be seen as an Australian zine, rather than an international 'zine, this approach does run the risk of feeling like an obligation for those within the Australian scene, but I think that's a risk you have to take.

For what it's worth, ASIM has considered pretty much the same things you have. Being flexible about this stuff helps, as does setting out clearly defined metrics about when and how to consider an experiment a success. cost-benefit for each fundraising method, etc.
Nov. 2nd, 2006 01:48 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the input. Will keep it in mind :)
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 2nd, 2006 11:50 am (UTC)
Doesn't that happen to the word in other contexts, anyway? I remember that there was a certain pressure to buy Australian (when I was there, anyway) and that many companies used their "Australian-ness" as a selling point.

yeah, it is. there's a rather large cultural question floating around on just what the australianness is, however, and there is a backlash. when i was a kid, you'd deliberately not buy australian, and believed everything not australian was superior somehow. so i tend to think as a selling point that it can be damaging.
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