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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.
Re: NEWSFLASH - benpeek - Nov. 2nd, 2006 11:45 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - punkrocker1991 - Nov. 2nd, 2006 11:55 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Nov. 2nd, 2006 11:57 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - punkrocker1991 - Nov. 2nd, 2006 12:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Nov. 2nd, 2006 12:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - punkrocker1991 - Nov. 2nd, 2006 12:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Nov. 2nd, 2006 12:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - punkrocker1991 - Nov. 2nd, 2006 12:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Nov. 2nd, 2006 01:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - punkrocker1991 - Nov. 2nd, 2006 01:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - punkrocker1991 - Nov. 2nd, 2006 01:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Nov. 3rd, 2006 12:11 am (UTC) - Expand
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.
Re: NEWSFLASH - ashamel - Nov. 2nd, 2006 03:09 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: NEWSFLASH - benpeek - Nov. 2nd, 2006 03:21 am (UTC) - Expand
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.
(no subject) - benpeek - Nov. 2nd, 2006 11:15 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Nov. 2nd, 2006 11:19 am (UTC) - Expand
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?
(no subject) - benpeek - Nov. 2nd, 2006 11:10 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lyzbeth - Nov. 2nd, 2006 01:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Nov. 3rd, 2006 12:03 am (UTC) - Expand
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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