The magazine vs. the short story: a comparative study

Someone once commented to me: "What if the short story becomes widely accepted?  We will see the end of magazines as we know it."  This interested me.  For one, I had never even thought to compare a magazine to a short story.  But once the comment was hanging in the air, I could definitely see the similarities.  A magazine is essentially a collection of short stories and viewpoints interspersed by ads.

Let us imagine for a second that the golden dream of every short story author comes true: people buy just as many short stories as they do novels.  Would magazines cease to exist?  I honestly don't think so.  There will always be new authors.  The selling point for a good magazine is a large audience.  That same audience is exactly the kind of thing authors need.

But I would like to discuss the point.  Anyone else have any opinions about these two literary mediums?


  1. A magazine is an advertising platform for a particular group of users. That is, the magazine provides just enough content of a particular sort to attract to a particular demographic. The magazine then sells ad space to advertisers who wish to reach that demographic.

    Magazines aren't going anywhere. They'll morph, sure. They've already morphed quite a bit in my lifetime.

    How many topselling magazines still include *any* short stories? Less than a dozen, maybe? I doubt Vogue is going to be affected much by an increase in short story ebook sales.

    As for the smaller ezines, they're already ebooks serving a limited subset of readers. Business for usual for them.


  2. Generally, I agree with you, David.

    But what's to stop a short story writers from, say, putting together a collection and interspersing it with ads of his own? He's sold a few thousand copies, goes to whatever company and says, hey, pay me X dollars and I will advertise you in my next ebook.

  3. What's to stop a writer from creating his own magazine? I have no idea. =)

    I considered the idea of publishing my own monthly or quarterly fiction ezine (with POD version). I still like the idea and might pursue it at some point. I wasn't planning to pursue much advertising, though. I came at it from more a bootstrapping angle, use its own sales to build a revenue stream.

    As an indie, I do know that I would not want to be responsible for tracking small royalty payments for a group of people *forever*. Which is what you would end up having to do. Or pay an upfront fee that compensates writers for a forever ebook run. That just seems like a thorny issue to me.


  4. Oh, definitely. It would have to be somewhat detached like getting ad money from youtube. They pay you a certain amount for every book that you sell.

    I think a quarterly magazine would be an awesome idea! I'd read something like that. Just have a collection of articles/thoughts/stories. It would be interesting.

  5. A local friend of mine has some college buddies who started their own Sci-Fi ezine last summer: Redstone Science Fiction ( My understanding is that by having regulary publication for a year, and by paying pro rates (5 cents/word), they will be considered a "pro market" by the SFWA. But that's a side point. I don't how the finances are working out for them, but they seem to be having fun with it. Their model is much like how I would do it (even to using WordPress as a content manager for the site).


  6. So it's just a blog? Or are you wanting to actually create an ebook and just put out regular "issues"?

  7. Restone is a monthly ezine. They just use WordPress as a content manager (it's highly customizeable). Which does make it look rather like a blog, yes. =)

    My original thought (back in late 2009) was to put out an ezine as an ebook (PDF was what I was thinking; now I would add mobi and epub) and as a POD "book". I put the idea on hold, though, to focus on getting my first ebooks out the door.


  8. Good conversation!

    Alain and David, you both mentioned blogs.

    I think that's the ticket, here. If anything will displace magazines--and that's a big if--it's going to be blogs.
    They're already displacing newspapers, after all.

    Shana Hammaker
    Twelve Terrifying Tales for 2011

  9. Now that's a very interesting point, Shana. I could see that happening. Where the blog currently lacks is credibility. Anyone can blog vs. a reporter is hired for their knowledge (in theory).


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