Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Return of the Pulps, Online?

On more than one occasion, I've pondered the media markets of the pre-television era and wondered if my fiction-writing career would have been better if I'd been born in, say, 1900 or so. 

Assuming of course I didn't die of the Spanish flu (or some other disease curable by antibiotics, as I think happened to a distant relative who died of pneumonia that could have been treated today) or didn't get drafted and die in a trench during the First World War, I could have had a full-time job writing for the pulp magazines of the era, so named because they were printed on rather cheap paper.  Robert Howard, Robert Heinlein, and H.P. Lovecraft did, after all, as did many other well-known sci-fi, fantasy, and horror writers.

Of course, television and other socio-cultural changes helped destroy the pulp magazines.  However, I am now wondering if, thanks to technological advances, a media market similar to the old days could be coming back.

My only two fiction sales have been made, not to the significantly-fewer (and thus choosier) print markets of our day, but to two web-based publications, the now-defunct Chimaera Serials and the BattleTech site BattleCorps, which has a $10 per month subscription fee and sells individual stories as PDFs for around $2.00 each.  When I was in college, I also "sold" a historical piece called "That Dreadful Day" to the online publication Cry, Havoc (I say "sold" because I would have only made money if a certain hit threshold was reached and that did not happen), which was released in PDF form.

I'm working on a collection of short stories with Daverana Enterprises, a small press that's moving away from print and towards eBook markets centered around Kindles and similar technology--I believe the current policy is that a print run will only be considered if one sells 100 eBooks.

Thanks to the digital revolution, one does not need big printing presses, elaborate distribution networks, etc. to have a publication anymore.  One can keep it entirely online, with print-on-demand for print copies if you feel the need.  It is now much cheaper--and thus easier--to start one's own publication, just like how it used to be.

Unfortunately, thus far, the pay rates of the old days--when $0.01 per word was a decent chunk of money--have not returned. Most of the web-based markets are in the lower pay scales at Ralan.com.

Still, we're at the early stages of the trend.  Stephen King released one of his books, The Plant, as an eBook and if I recall correctly, it failed.  The eBook market is now significantly more advanced.

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