tbnl Magazine – more on types of stories we want
Posted by shannonclark on January 16, 2009
Earlier this week I posted a long post on the first thoughts on submissions, subscriptions and advertising on tbnl Magazine. In this post I will outline more about the types of work I will publish in tbnl Magazine and, I hope, will inspire submissions (or proposals).
tbnl Magazine is about great stories, stories that took time to write and time to read
That said, tbnl is also intended as a magazine for readers. In many ways I am thinking of each issue of tbnl as a small book. Since every issue of the magazine will remain available (via print-on-demand and digital sales at a minimum) for a year or longer, the goal is to only publish stories which will remain of interest and relevant even years after they were published.
There are at least three main types of writing I expect to publish in tbnl that fit this criteria.
- Great fiction. I define great fiction as being great stories – not as being limited to a specific genre. Specifically I do not like the majority of the fiction in The New Yorker and I will be very open to publishing great science fiction, fantasy, mystery and perhaps even romance. I’m also open to being surprised by a work with features of other genres. I expect to also publish non-genre fiction but I will be biased towards stories that engage me, that have a plot, strong characters as well as great writing. We may also publish some poetry.
- The “new” non-fiction. Non-fiction with a strong voice, often with some of the features of fiction writing. Think “This American Life” or the collection of writings in “The New Kings of Nonfiction” edited by Ira Glass. Many of the stories, though not all, in The Atlantic and in The New Yorker fall into this style of writing (Malcolm Gladwell’s stories for example). Writing where the voice of the author is strongly present, where the focus may be on a personal story, or it may be on more traditional reporting. But it is also writing which is passionate about the topic – far more than just reporting on the “facts” – and a style rarely found in newspapers these days. I’m open to an extremely wide range of topics – in fact one sign of great writing of this form is that it can take a topic I wouldn’t normally think I’m interested in (indeed may have never thought about or may be actively negative towards) and make it engaging, draw me into the the story about it and show me a new perspective.
- Academic writing for non-academics. In every issue I intend on publishing at least one piece of great writing by (or on) serious academic topics. Again these may be wide ranging – a deep history of pop music in one issue, a new theory of the universe in the next. Here think of the content of the talks at TED – wide ranging, serious, yet intended for a non-academic audience. An important criteria for these works is that they should be written for a non-academic audience, yet should also meet all the usual academic rigor and requirements. Indeed we may do peer review for articles which cover emerging areas of research and we expect to link to and publish on the web many additional resources for each issue’s papers. Given my own personal interests may of these works may include research around the study of Networks. I will also be strongly biased towards reporting on (and supporting) research which is interdisciplinary in nature. The authors will be paid for these works (or equivalent amounts donated to their institution or the organization(s) they select). We will seek to strike a balance with these works between being highly readable by a lay audience and with adhering to a given academic field’s standards which differ from field to field.
Initially my intention is to publish about 35,000-40,000 words in a typical issue of tbnl Magazine though the exact amount will depend on the final typography, page count (anticipated to be 80 pages for the first few issues) and other factors. This includes an expectation of including at least one, or more if they add value images with each story (photographs or illustrations).
Roughly this will probably mean the following range of works in each issue:
- short fiction stories totaling about 15,000 words (typically 2-3 stories of roughly equal length and rarely any works over 7000 words)
- one or two academic reports on research totaling about 7,000 words (typically one long and one or two shorter reports)
- five or six works of the new non-fiction which are relatively short form (so totaling about 7500-10,000 words)
- one or two long form works of the new non-fiction (also totaling about 10,000 words)
In any given issue one of the above categories will be shorter to make the page count, the plan is to publish about 10-12 different authors in each issue. Some stories may be <1000 words and we will edit everything to ensure that it is highly readable and focused – but that said we will err on the side of more writing vs less.
We are still working out the rates and minimums (and perhaps maximums) which we will pay and the pay for a story is for the words & related images (so may be split amongst multiple people). Roughly we will look at the number of pages as an important criteria. We also will be working towards being able to meet the definition of “professional” market (as determined by various writer’s unions/groups).
For non-fiction works of over 5000 words we will probably accept proposals and may occasionally include some expenses in our pay – but at least initially we won’t be “assigning” stories. We may work to match up artists and authors.
This is all still in flux – and I’m open to proposals of works that are not in the categories above. But note that the goal is always to publish works which are timeless – so reviews, time-sensative reporting, “exclusives” etc are unlikely to be published.