Thursday, August 03, 2006

Working for the Man vs. Entrepreneurial Drive

I said some things in yesterday's post that could be construed as disparaging to the small press and those authors who publish there. This is the flipside of that, another aspect of my dilemma, if you will.

When the Wife and I were dating, I remember one time we were discussing something about the future and she said something about how she wished I could get a really good job with a company that I could stick with for a long time. I objected to that, because it was never an ambition of mine to be a corporate man. She and I were brought up in different types of households, understand. Her grandfather and her mother both worked for rather large companies, and had worked for the same company for basically all of their adult lives. On the other hand, my father owned a jewelry store, his father and brother were independent farmers, my stepmother was a florist and my stepfather was a partner in a construction equipment firm, for a while at least.

So she came from a family of company folks, and I came from a family of entrepreneurs. It's not surprising that we looked at the issue from different directions. Now I'm in my forties, and I've been a company man for several years (although with different companies). I still think it would be cool to be my own boss, but like those folks who say they want to write when what they really want is to have written, I don't know that I have the mindset to be a successful entrepreneur.

And this is the thing about the small press. Say what you will about Yard Dog (which I mentioned yesterday) - the lowbrow humor and the amateurish production values and the cheesy marketing techniques - but they have managed to survive through some really tough times for ten years now. They've grown and built a core audience, and they've managed to collect a stable of authors who are willing to jump through hoops to publicize their books.

And the thing is, if it weren't for entrepreneurs like Selina Rosen, one of the driving forces behind Yard Dog, we wouldn't get the new blood that the publishing industry needs. If the Big Three or Five or Seven publishers were the only game in town, who knows how much good work would go unnoticed?

But it takes a special type of person to lead that charge, and I don't think I'm it, as much as I might want to be. I've got this idea for a fiction magazine, something like Baen's Universe, only with a bigger emphasis on adventure and not limited to SF/F, something like the old Argosy, only pitched at the same audience as Maxim, say. A magazine full of fast-paced adventure and rowdy humor. Frankly, I first thought of it as a way to market the stories I've written that don't seem to fit the existing markets, considering the big magazines are looking for serious literary stuff and the small magazines are mainly looking for dark stuff. Nobody seems too interested in a romp for its own sake, and that's what this would be. In fact, I even call it Romp!

I think it could sell, and my limited experience combing the slush piles at Baen's and picking winners (defined as "stories I liked that ended up being bought") makes me think that I could do a good job editing it. But will I ever try?

Probably not. Like I say, it takes a special type of person to want to take on the challenges of publishing a magazine and trying to get it marketed, and I just don't think I'm it. I think, as much I may have denied it years ago, that I've now thoroughly become a company man. I demonstrated that pretty definitively with Blue Falcon, which I hardly dared to market at all once it was published. I'm content to write and cash the checks, and let others go through the heartburn of publishing. Which disappoints me a little, but there you are.


mtreiten said...

Romp! is a good name for e-zine. How hard could it be? I read web zines all the time... (cough)

TheyStoleFrazier'sBrain said...

Putting it together isn't the hard part. The hard part is finding a way to bring in readers and make it pay for itself, and hopefully, make a profit. There are so many people out there providing this kind of stuff for free that making it pay is a tough proposition.