As I write this, my little ezine/blog content experiment is rolling halfway into its fourth month. In all honesty, it’s going a lot better than I thought it would, and I was pretty optimistic about it. I’ve received a ton of truly phenomenal microfiction submissions, found audiences and support from some completely unexpected places, and discovered I have something of a passion for editorial work.
But after a quarter of my trial-by-fire year, I started examining things at a higher level than just “read this next submission! layout the next issue! format this accepted story for posting!” What was working, what I wished I’d done differently early on, how things looked financially, whether the schedules and formats I’d established were sound, basically evaluating everything from top to bottom.
The first result of this was a minor re-design of the aesthetic elements. It was something I’d planned to do starting in Volume 2 but I realized I didn’t want to wait. I also made Nikki the Managing Editor, really just formalizing the work she was already doing behind the scenes. Guidelines were set for guest editor spots; plans set into motion for the Volume 1 edition which will collect all stories from Issues 1 through 6; contingencies were established for the budget; realities for the social media presence were addressed.
But the biggest and most glaring source of contention from this examination was the way the stories were being rolled out. Friday posts felt like they were being lost in the shuffle of weekend plans (partially confirmed by the traffic numbers and the relative responses to “in case you missed it” reminders the following week). But moreover the monthly issues with only four short shorts felt like they weren’t being given sufficient treatment in the ezine. In fact with two 600-word editorials per issue (one from me and one from the guest editor), the ratio of story content to meta or editorial text was 2:3. For a fiction publication, that seemed a little funny.
Perhaps even beyond that, I also found it difficult to curate the issues. Four stories make either a very targeted theme issue or a very eclectic grab bag. The addition of the holiday special submission call stories added another layer of randomness onto it. The end result: while I love every story I buy and publish, the individual issues weren’t living up to my expectations because they were more or less just happening and not being created.
My diagnosis for the underlying problem is in a lack of per-issue content. Of course, adding more content means adding more expense. Still, after plenty of thought I decided it might be worth it for at least a trial run. What if I had twice as many stories to pack into a single monthly issue? I realized I could use that format to better balance the issues. I could explore a particular theme with a bit more breadth. I could give more of the great stories I saw coming in a chance.
So May is going to be our trial run for a double-sized 200 CCs issue. Starting May 3rd there will be two stories a week, one on Tuesday and one on Friday. The other thing I’m doing—and this will be true whether I continue the twice-weekly story schedule or not—is I’m moving the special holiday theme stories to their actual holiday instead of the nearest Friday. So, including the Mother’s Day story, May’s issue will feature ten microfiction short stories instead of four.
Not coincidentally, May will hopefully feel more unified. Most of the stories are literary in their bent, focusing on families and relationships and moments. The kind of stories that—to me—feel suitable for late spring.
I hope the experiment is successful. It’s been a source of contention that I’d only have 52 stories to run for the entire year. I’d love for the rest of the year to have this amount of great storytelling. Truthfully, I’d love to bump it up even further to three times a week. But I’m getting ahead of myself. For now I’ll try May’s super-sized issue and see how it goes.