This is a very broad look at what goes into producing Crossed Genres magazine. This isn’t necessarily a blueprint for how all magazines work – later in the post I’ll touch on the larger differences between Crossed Genres and other magazines.
Production of an issue really begins some time before the month we’re actually pulling it all together. It starts when we begin to accept submissions for that issue (okay, it really starts sometime before that, but I’ll get to that in a minute). We announce a “theme” genre on the first day of a month, and writers have that calendar month to submit stories that combine the theme with SF and/or F. We accept submissions until the last day of a month, and that issue will be published just one month later (i.e., submissions during the month of April would be published June 1). We can’t make our final decisions on which stories to accept until we’ve read all of them, and we can’t very well put together the issue until we know what’s going in it.
So what does that mean? It means that for each issue, after we’ve finished accepting submissions, have just one month to:
· Make our selections, contact the authors and arrange contracts and payments
· Send rejection letters for the submissions we don’t accept
· Edit the stories and communicate with the authors for approval on any changes
· Format all the content
· Put together the Print edition of the issue
· Resize/reformat the Print edition for PDF publication
· Reformat the Print edition for Kindle publication
· Add HTML tags to all the content
· Build an updated website with the new issue and all necessary changes
· Update our store
Of course, that’s only the work for the issue which hasn’t already been done. Prior to any of that, we have to track down and make arrangements for Cover art, nonfiction articles and interviews. During any given month, while we’re doing all of the above, we’re simultaneously searching for content for the two, three or even four issues that will follow. As I write this we’re putting together Issue 6, but we’re already in the early stages of making arrangements for Issue 10.
We also have spent a good amount of time dealing with past issues as we’re working on the current one. Fortunately we’ve changed our process somewhat over the last couple of months and have almost eliminated the need to look back… fortunately, because we’ve got enough to deal with in the present and future.
Not all magazines work like CG – in fact, in some very significant ways, most don’t.
See, most SF/F magazines don’t have monthly “theme” genres. That means that at any time they can accept any SF/F submission for any issue. This gives them enough flexibility that if they receive a great story, but their upcoming issue is full, they can buy the story’s rights for an upcoming issue. In fact many magazines are consistently booked out months in advance. This ALSO means that, if one of those magazines goes an entire month without receiving a single submission they’re happy with, they can simply accept nothing because they don’t have any spots to fill for a couple of months anyway.
This is something Crossed Genres can’t do because of our monthly “themes” – we have to work with the pool of submissions we have for each genre. We’ve been fortunate enough so far to have high-quality submissions every month, but it’s theoretically possible that at some point we could be forced to accept stories we weren’t satisfied with; it’s because of this that we put out multiple calls for submissions each month.
We also almost never have the flexibility to accept a story for an issue other than the upcoming one. Submissions for one theme rarely also meet the criteria for another theme. (For example, most “Romance” submissions won’t fit the “Western” theme too well.)
Another way in which Crossed Genres differs from other magazines is in staff: it’s just us, my wife Kay and I. Editors, slushmasters, advertisers, webmasters, layout designers… we wear all the hats, in addition to our “real” jobs, and raising our son. There are a number of other magazines in similar situations, but there are also those with significantly larger staffs that can more easily distribute the responsibilities. (This actually has advantages as well as disadvantages. We can make decisions very easily; there’s no need for approval from other parts of the team, because we are the team. Miscommunication is almost nonexistent since there’s very little chance that one person’s heard something while another hasn’t.)
Of course, there are always numerous other things that come up and have to be addressed each month – Crossed Genres is a passion, but it’s also a business, so we’re always dealing with marketing, advertising, and generally figuring out where the money for the next issue is coming from.
CG has also changed a great deal since its inception 7 months ago; we began as a nonpaying market but switched to token payments, and have always had our eyes on eventually reaching professional rates; we switched from being a publisher to using print-on-demand and have begun to offer the magazine in digital formats; we’ve released our first audio recording of a story. None of these things were part of our original plan, but it became obvious that they were the way to go. The key to everything has been flexibility (as well as a willingness to have no lives and give up on sleep); the running of the magazine is still shifting, and I suspect it’ll keep shifting, subtly, for some time. I already have enough material to write a book just based on “so far”, let alone what’s to come.
There’s a lot about the process of running the magazine that I just couldn’t fit in a single blog post, and I apologize for that. I’ve been considering doing a daily blog on the day-to-day running of the magazine; if that’s something you’d be interested in, please let me know!
Bart R. Leib
Editor, Crossed Genres