Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Posts Tagged ‘science fiction’

Imagining the future – or why the tech press lets us down

Posted by shannonclark on June 29, 2012

This week in San Francisco is Google I/O where Google gathers together some 6000 developers and woos them with the devices and API’s of the future that Google hopes will happen.

In the past this hasn’t always worked, sure it included launching Android which has been, mostly, a success but it also included launching Google Wave which while cool was not a success.

This year it included launching a pretty interesting Android tablet (the Nexus 7), a beautiful to look at in-home consumer electronics device (the Nexus Q – notable for among other reasons being made in the US), new Chromebooks, a new version of Android that (apparently) finally solves many of the UI issues that mobile OS has been plagued with and a bunch of other new APIs and services for developers to leverage to build new products on top of Android and Google+ (and other products of Google such as Maps).

Oh and it also featured one of the founders of Google channeling his full on geek ID by taking to stage in a homage to Tony Stark (Iron Man for you non-geeks, most specifically the movie version of Tony Stark played by Robert Downey Jr in the current Marvel series of major films, less so the original comics version) anyway Sergey Brin channeled Tony Stark with his keynote demonstration of Google Glass (and Hangouts and less clearly the hacker ethos and money of Google) to pull off perhaps the best demo in tech history. It involve skydivers leaping out of a Zeppelin while live-streaming multiple feeds of images and landing on the roof of the conference center in downtown San Francisco.

But with all of that happening this week we still see a technology press that mostly misses where the future is going – finding it hard to imagine mythical “real people” using any of the products demonstrated by Google this week and further mostly focusing on the tactical achievements of one company or the other in raising money or launching some latest and greatest version of something.

Where has the imagination gone?

My reference to Tony Stark/Iron Man is a telling one – a small handful of major motion pictures in the past few years, starting back with Minority Report and more recently with The Avengers do take seriously the attempt to envision the technology of the near-future and illustrate how we may interact with that technology in the future.

In many ways the story of the 1990’s (and early 2000’s) was a that of a generation of geeks who had grown up on Star Trek making much (though not all) of the technology of their childhood imaginations reality. Starting with the communicators (which gave us the industrial design inspiration for Motorola’s flip phones) and leading up to tricorders (our modern smartphones are coming close though still lacking a few sensors out of the box – though increasingly you can build something akin to a tricorder if you try…. and our iPads (and other tablets) have inspirations from Star Trek as well.

But if you think of the iconic fiction of this generation you see little to inspire future generations, few explorations of the real possible impact of technology that could be possible in the future.

And almost noone even gets what is possible today right in fiction – across any medium.

What is possible – not possible as in some obscure military lab – but possible as in “you can order it for next-day delivery” is beyond the imaginations of our creators of today. Sure Google Glass’s small formfactor wearable computer is only just available for pre-oders (and not shipping until sometime in 2013 – 2014 for consumers) but other examples of wearable computers have been around for years now. Our nearly throwaway devices – smartphones available for free (when you sign up for service) have more power and processors and sensors than the computers of just a few years ago.

We have autonomous cars, flying vehicles and walking robots (in many sizes and shapes and styles0. We have 3D printers in the home capable of amazing things. If you can imagine it you can also now get it made and delivered to any part of the globe in a phenomenally short period of time. And people across the globe are exploring what it means for billions (not millions – billions) of people to have digital access to each other.

The number of cell phones on this planet is rapidly approaching the number of people on this planet.

Yet out fictions rarely think about what happens when billions of people can share with each other, when billions of people are reachable and can pool together – sure in “small” groups but when billions of people are connected “small” can be millions of people.

The core assumptions of most of our economic and political thinking needs to change to accommodate the real impact of pervasive connectivity and technology on the globe but our creators in whom we rely upon for images of the future have let us down.

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tbnl Magazine – call for stories continued

Posted by shannonclark on February 11, 2009

I have written about the types of stories we expect to publishin tbnl Magazine before – and have mentioned that a likely overall theme for the first issue is Inaugural now I have some more specifics about what we are seeking for the first issue and some specific details to, I hope, inspire friends old and new to submit stories (or in some cases as detailed below proposals for stories).

First the main thing to keep in mind is that tbnl Magazine is not a blog or an online only magazine, what we are seeking first and foremost are stories – fiction or non-fiction – which are intened to be read and thought about – which likely took time to write and will take some real time and thought to read. 

Not that stories should be obscure or obtuse – but rather that they should be focused with care taken on both the content and the form. Shorthand or simplifications such as linking to Wikipedia or writing as part of an ongoing and linked discussion (as I did in the first paragraph of this post for example) do not work as well in print. Print demands a more self-contained work, one which stands alone – while also engaging with the world and prior works (more the case for non-fiction than fiction though much of fiction contains echos and allusions to works which have come before)

Second, we are looking for original stories, stories which cannot be found elsewhere (at least prior to publication in tbnl Magazine, all authors will retain the right to sell their stories in other forms or to publish the stories to the web, including under a cc license). This does not mean that in the case of non-fiction we require only original research, indeed new stories which build upon prior coverage and study of an area are quite welcome – especially where the longer timeframe of tbnl Magazine allows for a different and new focus to a story. 

By “longer focus” what I mean is to keep in mind that every issue of tbnl Magazine is intended to remain in print for at least 2-3 years and very likely to remain in print indefinitely (and as I wrote earlier this morning our intention is to pay rates which include ongoing royalties) so we are seeking stories which are written in a timeless fashion. Not stories covering a news event just or about to happen, but stories which are analytical or which could be read and engaged with years after they are written. The features of a more typical magazine versus the news or reviews. 

We also welcome fiction from any genre (or no specific or clear genre) though I do have a bias towards Science Fiction and Fantasy (followed by Mystery) and will ocnsider stories which are part of an ongoing universe, though everything we publish should be complete and self-contained. We do not expect to publish stories of greater than 8000 words very often and almost never anything over 10,000 words. 

So what are we looking for? What should you my readers and friends be thinking about submitting?

  • Stories of your passions – explain in a clear and relatively consise way an interest you have pursued for years, your passions, the thing which you have been a “geek” about for years, the interest you perhaps rarely share with others or conversely share too often. At the BIL conference this past weekend the closing speaker spoke on the classes she has taught for the past eight years on giving blow jobs. While we probably would illustrate that particular story with care and tact, we are open to stories covering a very wide range of topics – especially when they are written with passion as well as expertise (or the knowledge of your lack of expertise and the story of how you are learning). 
  • If you are blogger a story you need to tell but your blog is not the place to do it.  Probably a story you have hinted at on the blog or which a series of blog posts have referenced and discussed but which is better as a single, timeless, written with more care story. If your blog is often writen with an eye to that day’s traffic and DIGG/Techmeme and other rankings, tbnl Magazine is a chance for you to expand upon topics and stories in greater depth and with a longer time horizon. Remember, however, that tbnl Magazine is intended for lovers of great stories – we will include stories from many genres and on many topics – sports, fashion, sex, economics, business, technology, food, design, history and much more are all welcome.
  • Specifically for Issue #1 stories about a start, an Inaugural. Think back to important personal firsts or look back at a first in a field you care deeply about – wither a business or a sport, politics or gaming. Again we are open to a very wide range of topics – for the first issue we want to start with an exploration of many starts (as well as other creative interpretations of the term Inaugural. 

So please, be creative and surprise us. 

On a technical note in general we prefer to receive the full story as a submission instead of a story proposal, though we are open to proposals for longer non-fiction stories. That said, we will likely only accept such stories from authors whom we have strong reasons to assume will be able to deliver the story on time and both well written and well edited. Very likely we may accept proposed stories for Issues #2 and following (especially once we settle on overall themes for those issues) but are less likely to accept a proposal for the Issue #1 as we are looking to publish that Issue as quickly as possible. 

Watch this blog for more details and announcements in the coming days and weeks.

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tbnl Magazine – rates experiment for the first issues

Posted by shannonclark on February 11, 2009

This past weekend I led a small discussion about tbnl Magazine and the process I’m undertaking to publish a new print magazine today at BIL 2009.

One of the ideas which I’ve been thinking a great deal about is how to set the pay rates for tbnl Magazine – for the first issues and for later issues. How can I do this in a manner which is fair to all, sustainable as a business model in the long term, sufficient to attract (and reward) great writers, and inclusive of the rights of photographers and illustrators as well as writers?

First some background based on rates based on my research so far – please update/correct this in the comments below!

Fiction Rates:

  • Over $0.05/word is considered fairly “high” with few publications offering >$0.07/word
  • Many fiction markets pay a small, flat per story rate or pay only in copies of the publication
  • Even with these low rates, open submission policies garner 1000’s of submissions to many publications
  • Rates for poetry considerably lower than for short fiction with a per poem fixed rate most typical
  • Few markets accept stories of >7000 words

Non-fiction Rates:

  • “Low” is, at least in some markets, considered $1.00/word with $1.50-2.00/word more “normal”
  • Flat per-article rates are also not uncommon for smaller publications but are often something like $500 for a ~750 word column
  • However there are also many markets which pay $10-50/article for non-fiction (yes ~10x less than “low” rates)
  • Unclear how rates vary based on wordcount, many current publications have very low wordcounts for most articles (<1000 words, often <700 words) with long form articles being exceptions
  • Rates for web only writing (“professional” blogging) considerably lower than print non-fiction rates

Academic Rates:

  • In general academic writers expect to PAY (not be paid) for publication (costs typically born by research grants)
  • Academic “payment” is more accurately in the form of peer review which in turn leads to more grants and tenure
  • Some academics may be restricted from accepting payment
  • Others (business school professors, economists etc) may be paid for non-academic writings (for business publications etc)

Photography & Illustration Rates:

  • Varies considerably by genre of publication and use of image i.e. cover photos pay more, fashion photography pays more than music or sports, news photography/photojournalism varies widely
  • Competes with stock photography which is often used for illustration purposes – and which can be as low at $1.00/image from online stock photography sources
  • Online image rates tend to be lower than print image rates (at least for photography)
  • Different categories here – photography, illustration (artistic), and illustration (charts & informational graphics) with somewhat varying rates (but which I need to research in greater detail!)

So where does that lead tbnl Magazine?

I think the typical approach today is to have highly variable rates based on the type of content, though often publications focus on just one (primarily) type of author (only fiction w/small selection of reviews or other low rate non-fiction for example). I suspect, but do not know for sure, that magazines such as Granta pay for fiction & non-fiction at similar (relatively low) rates.

The relationship between rates and the number of a given issue which is printed is also unclear to me at present – other than the obvious that high circulation publications typically pay among the highest rates, low circulation publications pay among the lowest rates.

Ideally I would like to pay all contributors at a relatively similar rate – though I also recognize that the word counts for great writing differ from type of writing – I’d rather reward a non-fiction author for writing a short but very compelling story over an overly wordy article which is less compelling to read. Likewise I want to get fiction which is the length needed to tell the story – but also short enough to be read comfortably at one sitting – i.e. tbnl Magazine will not, at least initially, be publishing novellas or other longer forms of fiction writing.

I also feel strongly that one of the virtues of a great magazine, of the magazines I prefer to read, is that the images in the magazine enhance the experience of that magazine – they add to the stories they are a part of and serve more than just a design portfolio purpose.

At the same time I also want to focus on great typography and a consistent look and feel from page to page and issue to issue – if reducing the amount of photography & illustration helps to achieve this I consider it a worthwhile decision. My goal is NOT to have a heavily “designed” magazine – ala Wired or indeed many current magazines which offer different layouts and visual design for nearly every story and feature they publish.

Instead my model is magazines which have a more consistent, focused on the text, look and feel but where illustration and images used spareingly do serve a valuable purpose for individual stories.

Keeping all this in mind here is my current – and very much subject to change – thinking about rates for tbnl Magazine’s first few issues (at least issues 1 & 2, perhaps also 3 & 4)

  • All contributors will receive one payment based on the first 2000 copies of tbnl Magazine to be printed
  • All contributors will then receive further payments (royalties as it were) based on additional sales of that issue (print-on-demand or digital) in multiples of 1000 copies (or on a pro-rated basis each year until the issue is no longer in print)
  • Contributors can choose not to be paid (either at all or after some amount) directing instead those payments either to a charity or back to tbnl Magazine
  • This will apply to all contributors regardless of genre of submissions

So what rates is tbnl Magazine going to pay for the first issues?

My current thinking is as follows, this is based on an assumption of ~30,000 words of writing in each of the first few issues (for an approximately 80 page, magazine sized publication).

Base rate of $0.10/word for Fiction & Non-Fiction (i.e. $100/1000 words) with a $75 minimum (so even articles shorter than 750 words will get $75) + 5 copies of the magazine for all contributors.

Base rate of $200/image for photos or original illustrations (including info graphics) we commission. If we decide to use images on the cover (I’m considering a typographic design) then that work would likely be paid at a higher rate, probably at least $400.

This means that for a typical issue of tbnl Magazine the words in the issue will cost us ~$3000/issue and assuming at least one image per article another $1000-2000/issue for images & cover artwork. Thus, roughly speaking, a per-issue content cost of about $5000 for the first 2000 copies.

This is a very high rate (relatively speaking) for typical fiction markets, it is a low rate, relatively speaking for at least some non-fiction markets. For a given issue I may rethink my balance of types of stories based on what has been submitted or proposed – some issues may have more than 1/3 of the magazine as fiction for example. For non-fiction I realize this rate may not be high enough to cover some of the expenses of covering a given story or the time and research certain stories take – we will welcome writings on topics a writer has published about elsewhere – provided that what is submitted to tbnl Magazine is original and not restricted by that prior sale (i.e. the research was not done as work-for-hire for example).

For every 1000 additional copies sold (print-on-demand or digital) we would then pay an additional $0.05/word to all authors and $50/image to artists.

This is, of course, assuming that the margin we can fetch on a per-issue basis for print-on-demand (as well as the net proceeds from each digital copy sold) allows for those payments. For this to work the net margin per issue sold will have to be at least $4.00/issue most likely.

Unfortunately this likely means that though I like their model in many ways the numbers don’t add up to use magcloud. An 80 page publication at $0.20/page (assuming they do charge per side of a page) would have a base cost of $16/issue, to net at least $4/issue would require that we sell each issue for $20 + shipping as print-on-demand. My gut tells me that the price needs to be closer to $10-12/issue with probably an upper limit of $15 to be workable.

I am also assuming, at least for the moment, that advertisers will not pay us on a per 1000 additional copy basis, though that when we consistently reach higher per-issue numbers and have more detailed demographic details about our readers we will be able to raise rates for advertising.

As I said, these are only initial thoughts – I welcome feedback and reactions. My underlying goal is to be able to publish a magazine every story of which I would want to read myself – and which as a whole tells a story every issue – one which rewards reading the issue cover to cover and which stands a test of time – being interesting and relevant for at least many years.

I do not expect tbnl Magazine to pay anyone enough to make a full living, but likewise I do want it to be a part of a comfortable living on the behalf of every contributor – I want tbnl Magazine to garner great works from many contributors.

Based on an estimate of $5/copy short print run costs, a 2000 issue initial print run, and $5000 in content costs, this suggests that we need to raise around $20,000 to publish issue #1. Suggesting a price of $20/issue and a target of 1000 issue #1 subscribers. (this only leaves about $3000 for design & other startup costs assuming ~$1500-2000 in shipping costs). ~100 issues would be given to contributors leaving about 900 issues for promotional purposes (or sale at select retail or at events we hold in the future). $25,000 would probably be a better initial target (very achievable with 1000 subscribers at $20/issue for the first issue + 5-15 advertisers at ~$500/ad.

Of course I will be researching printing costs in greater detail and will be looking for <$5/issue options and we could look at even lower initial issue numbers (both for cost of content & number of copies printed) to keep startup costs even lower.

What are your thoughts about these numbers?

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tbnl Magazine – Inaugural

Posted by shannonclark on January 29, 2009

A few days ago I ran into a good friend of mine on the streets of San Francisco, he was walking home, I was waiting for a bus. We got to talking about tbnl Magazine and I noted that my intention was to pick a topic for each issue then to publish a mix of fiction & non-fiction which relates to that topic. 

I may still also publish a wide range of other stories and content but at least for the first issue I have picked a broad topic, appropriate for Issue #1.


So if you are interested in being in the first issue submit or propose a story related Inaugural. It could be your first love, a first contact with aliens, presidential politics or a tale of your first business. It doesn’t have to be a personal story, it can be reporting, but as you submit, include a brief explanation of how what you submit relates to Inaugural. 

And please be creative.

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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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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tbnl Magazine – call for submissions, subscribers & advertisers

Posted by shannonclark on January 14, 2009

Over the weekend I posted about the magazine – to be named later – I’m thinking about starting. Now having gathered feedback from many folks – in response to my blog post, to email exchanges, and personal conversations I’m ready to announce the next steps and to issue a call for submissions, and  pledges to subscribe or advertise. 

First a simple announcement – until someone suggests a better name (and pending various trademark & domain searches) my working name for the magazine is, in fact: tbnl Magazine. And yes, that stands for “to be named later” and yes, my intention is to refer to it in the lowercase form at least for now.

I wrote a lot about my impetus behind starting tbnl in my first post, having now talked with many people here is a quick summary of the types of works I’m looking for, as well as my intentions around the scale of the magazine (at least initially).

Size: My target, primarily due to practical matters of the technology of magazine printing (multiples of 16 pages offer advantages as most magazine printing presses print 16 pages at a time) is for an 80 page magazine + cover, on a relatively heavy, recycled paper stock (ideally with green inks etc) probably with full color inside and out. The physical size will be close to 8 1/2″ x 11″ (slightly smaller when printed on demand), saddle stitched (i.e. staples not perfect binding). Inside I plan on running advertising (more on that below) with a target of 12-16 pages worth of ads (some will be partial page ala New Yorker small format ads) and will keep the housekeeping pages (table of contents, colophon, staff, writers & artists bios) to a minimum. That leaves around 60 pages for content each issue. The design I’m leaning towards will take inspiration from The New Yorker and the redesigned Atlantic Monthly with somewhat more images (and likely heavier paper) than The New Yorker and probably somewhat (but not by much) less overt design than the new Atlantic Monthly.  Very roughly this means around 35,000-40,000 words per issue (depending on ratio of images to text, final font & font size decisions and other factors). 

In turn this means that published pieces will likely range between 1000 to 5000 words, probably a bit longer for the one or two fiction pieces in each issue (at least one of which will likely be a ‘genre” piece – probably Science Fiction or Fantasy but I’m open to great mysteries or even romance if done very well, probably still less than 10,000 words however). 

In researching current rates in the market, it appears (not entirely surprisingly) that rates for most markets are quite, quite low. Lower than I expected. For fiction it appears that higher than $0.05/word is considered quite “high paying” with $0.07 being considered a premium rate. Non-fiction rates are harder to view publicly but I know many writers in various genres so I will be checking with them to determine what would be good and more than fair rates.

My intention is to be a “high” paying market, I want to get the best possible work from the best writers I can find. While I don’t expect what we pay will (at least for the first few years) be high enough to be lifechanging or a significent income, I do want it to be more than just the cost of a nice dinner out somewhere. 


Initally they will be EMAIL ONLY.  

For the first issue(s) I will start with an OPEN submissions policy. However I reserve the right to publish works from people I as for pieces and we may close or somewhat restrict submissions in the future to manage the flow.  A few guidelines

  • Submissions MUST be original, complete, unpublished works. This means no previously published pieces (which includes blog/web published works). Complete means no parts of longer works (i.e. part of a novel for example). See “proposing a story” below for guidelines if you have a nonfiction story you want to propose writing vs. have in a completed form.
  • Submissions MUST be in a standard format. This means: in the email text (with clearly marked beginning and end), as a txt attachment, or as a well formated PDF attachment (well formatted means 12 point font, double spaced, with page #, title & author on every page). An estimated word count should be included, along with a SHORT author’s bio & website link(s)
  • Submissions of nonfiction should, if possible, also include related illustrations. Every story in tbnl will include at least one, in most cases more than one, related images. For nonfiction where possible these should be photographic (or relevant illustrations). For fiction these will be either carefully selected photographs or art. If you submit artwork you MUST have the rights to those works (or show that they are Public Domain works). Creative Commons licensed works which allow for COMMERCIAL USE will be considered. 
  • The payment for a work will in most cases be for the BUNDLED written work and related images. Thus if you do not own the images (i.e. you took your own photos) a split payment will be negotiated between the writer and the photographer or artist for that particular piece. 
  • tbnl will be buying “FIRST PUBLICATION” rights. This means that you are free to sell or publish the work in a collection after it has been published in tbnl. NOTE that issues of tbnl will remain in “print” via Print-on-demand for at least a year and likely longer. Also tbnl will have a “digital” edition for sale to ebook readers which also will remain in “print” for at least a year. tbnl will be purchasing these related digital rights (for first publication) and the right to keep the issue in “print” via Print-on-demand. The intention is to keep every issue in print for as long as possible – but also after some threshhold has been met to pay additional royalties to all contributors to an issue. The specifics of this are to be determined, if you are uncomfortable with this level of uncertainty, do not submit a work for publication in our first few issues. 
  • Deadlines for the first few issues will be announced, with a limited amount of grace period around each (but since submissions are initially “email only” the expectation is that deadlines should be met. Works submitted after the deadline for a given issue MAY be considered for future issues – but a note will be sent (likely autogenerated) noting the missed deadline. Requests to not consider the work will be honored.
  • tbnl will NOT accept simultanous submissions. This is to keep our process as simple as possible for the first few issues. In the future, especially for fiction submissions we likely will change this guideline. This means that if you are submitting a work to tbnl you do NOT currently have the same work being read at another publication.
  • tbnl encourages but does not require CC licenses for the works we publish. Done well we think that CC licenses make a lot of sense for most authors and allow for works to see wider distribution & creative reuse. 
  • The type of writing being submitted MUST be clearly defined. The best way to do this is to include a short (as in one paragraph) introduction to the work. Clearly noting if it is FICTION or NONFICTION. 
  • For a good example of the type of nonfiction tbnl is seeking see the book The New Kings of Nonfiction edited by Ira Glass. Also listen to the stories told on This American Life or on stage at shows like Fray or The Moth. This means a strong, personal voice and point of view, a wide range of topics, and strong writing which can incorporate some of the techniques of fiction writing. 
  • Authors who do not wish to be paid will have options to reallocate their pay. Some writers may not wish to be paid for work they submit. Options will be available to reallocate these payments – likely ranging from donations made in the name of the author to one of a select group of charities or to raising the rates for the other authors and artists in that particular issue. 

tbnl is NOT a forum for “breaking news” or for time-sensative reviews. The print schedule for tbnl is still being determined, at least quarterly though the plan is to go to bi-monthly or monthly as soon as possible.  While we may publish some long form non-fiction which is not in a “personal” voice it will always be with the focus on writing which will be relevant and worth reading for many years so reviews of a new movie, restaurant, play, book, album or product will likely not make the cut. Nor will discussions of topics “in the news” (pending elections, business moves etc). 

tbnl is a forum for great, timeless stories. 


In no particular order the following are some (and by no means the only) topics we expect to publish in the first year of tbnl:

  • Serious food – especially looking at “Slow Food” and being a foodie/locavore
  • Hacking – in the original, positive sense of exploring the limits of technology and of creative ways to do things
  • Serious design – especially of the worldchanging variety 
  • Networks – I am the founder of MeshForum, a conference on the study of Networks so not surprisingly I expect to publish works exploring a range of network related topics in tbnl
  • Art – especially emerging art including digital art. Also ways to view and “read” art that illustrates the power of great art
  • Music – not reviews of new albums but rather stories of and about music – about a personal history around music, about the art of making music, about the history behind specific works. Especially of interest is writing that crosses musical boundries – I’m personally a fan of Opera as well as Mashups, Folk music as well as Electronica. 
  • Economics and “smart” business – timeless, great writing about Economics or business are rare and difficult to do, but tbnl will look for great, engaging stories
  • Games – again not reviews of particular games but stories about games, about the game industry, about game design or the mindset of game playing. Everything from computer games to chess to live action role playing games are welcome
  • Much, much more.

The primary focus of tbnl is timeless, great stories presented in a highly reader friendly form. “Great” is of course subject to debate but the goal will be to publish a magazine which you read cover to cover and which introduces every reader to a new perspective, to a way of engaging with topics they might not think are of interest. 

I am a geek – but a geek with a very eclectic and quite wide ranging set of interests tbnl will reflect this eclecticism. 


Pledges to subscribe are being sought now. Exact costs will depend on the number of issues we decide to publish in the first year and we are exploring a tiered model as well as a range of publishing options. tbnl Magazine is intended primarily as a labor of love, as such it hasn’t yet been decided if the underly organization will be non-profit or for-profit. In either case tbnl will be run as a business seeking to generate sufficient revenues to pay all parties and contributors and to put out the highest quality publication possible. 

Here are some, very rough, initial thoughts:

1st year (at least 4 issues) subscriptions: $50-75 (less for US subscribers, more for overseas). The planned print-on-demand rate will be between $15-20 + shipping per issue. The retail price, if copies of the initial print runs are sold at retail at all, is likely going to be $15 at least for the first few issues (will probably be lower when/if we move to a more frequent publishing schedule). 

1st year SUPPORTER subscriptions: $150, includes some range of bonus/special features to be determined. This level (or higher) will mostly be supporting the existence and formation of tbnl Magazine. The plan will be to have a range of ways of thanking supporters – this will likely include special events w/author readings, limited editions of art, bonus items and more. It will also include public (unless the supporter wishes to remain anonymous) thanks on the tbnl website.

1st year DIGITAL ONLY subscriptions: $30. Probably around half of the print subscription rate. Individual eBook copies of each issue will also probably be available, likely at around a rate of $10/issue (though exact pricing will be decided based on feedback, costs incurred via the ebook sales partners etc)

Print-on-Demand.  The plan is to make each issue of tbnl Magazine available on a print-on-demand basis. Most likely via MagCloud for a price of between $15-20 an issue. This is, however, limited to US orders only until MagCloud exits beta. As such, the plan is to have a small, limited edition print run for each issue for subscribers (including non-US subscribers) prior to the release via print-on-demand.


From the beginning tbnl Magazine will accept advertising. The initial design allocates around a total of 12-16 pages for advertising out of the expected 80 + cover pages. The full page cover inside & back will be highest priced ad pages. Interior ads will be accepted in full page, (half or 1/3 page – depending on if we settle on a two or three collumn layout), 1/4 or 1/8 page ads (think the ad formats found inside of The New Yorker for examples). 

All ads will be included in all editions of tbnl Magazine including digital editions. If we decide to make some or all of the content of tbnl Magazine available on our website this will include advertising from a given issue so advertisers are requested to include a target URL for those ads.

Like the other content of tbnl Magazine advertising in the magazine should be Timeless in nature. That is, it should remain relevant to readers for at least the next year and preferably the next two years from the date of publication. Thus advertising for brands and ongoing ventures is preferred to the promotion of specific events (i.e. a movie studio vs. a new movie, a publisher vs a specific book). 

The audience of tbnl Magazine is obviously still being determined, but the expectation is that it will be a diverse, highly literate, and deeply engaged audience. Likely small, but also influential and passionate.

Advertising Rates:

These are very much still being determined and to a degree will depend on the initial print runs. But here are some, very rough and subject to change, estimates. Discounts for prepayment and multiple issue committments will be made and agency fees may be extra. Discounts for some types of advertisers may also be made (non-profits, publishers, startups, galleries etc). These are also all based on expectations of relatively low print numbers (<10,000 per issue) when/if demand raises and/or retail distribution is determined these rates may go up. And remember that in addition to the subscriber only print run, the ads will run for 1-2 years (or longer) in the print-on-demand and ebook editions. 

  • Cover (inside, back and inside of back) – $5000/issue. This may be glossy, will definitely be color
  • Full Page – $3000/issue
  • 1/2 page (or one column if a three column layout) – $1500/issue
  • 1/4 page – $1000/issue
  • 1/8 page – $500/issue

As I noted – these are just initial, rough estimates. And they are negotiable. Priority will be given to advertisers who are willing to preebuy and to presupport for the full 1st year of issues (which ensures that those issues will be published).

Email me at shannon DOT clark AT gmail DOT com with submissions or advertising inquieries. Please include tbnl in your subject in all such emails!

Posted in advertising, Entrepreneurship, geeks, networks, personal, reading, San Francisco, tbnl | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Idea for a new magazine – to be named later

Posted by shannonclark on January 10, 2009

I recently learned about a very interesting new service, MagCloud, which prints magazines on demand and handles all subscription features (mailing, payment etc).  They are currently in limited Beta and have some limitations (the biggest of which is the cost for buyers – $0.20/page though the publisher can set the price for any given issue at a higher rate to make some profit. 

For a long time I have been thinking about creating a media outlet of some form and at the moment I am serious leaning towards a magazine of some form. This post is an exploration of those ideas, it is a stake in the ground as to the shape of this new publication. It is also a call for submissions and volunteers.

The Name – to be named later

My working name for the publication was going to be Mesh (or The Mesh) but it turns out that there was a MeshSF magazine here in SF a while back (appears to be out of print now) and there is another Mesh magazine in Jacksonville Florida. Thus to be named later – the name has to be highly inclusive and evocative of the range of topics to be covered, while also not being too long or hard to remember or use (and yes this includes requiring that there is a good domain available). 

The Format

My thinking is that to be named later will be more akin to a series of books than a monthly (or more frequent) magazine, though over time it may evolve into a more frequent publication. Thus I am torn about a number of physical formats – leaning between a book like size such as that used by Granta (or many University literary magazines), a slightly larger format such as that used by Foriegn Affairs, or a more traditional magazine size such as The New Yorker or Monocle (which is more booklike in format). 

That said, while a perfect bound format (glued edge) creates a more booklike publication, I personally find that format less conducive to reading – as quite literally it makes it harder to read the publication (since you can fold the magazine to only view one page at a time as you can with a traditional magazine). That said, it does create a more archival publication which has some advantages. 

Years ago when I was the editor of a literary magazine (in high school, we won an award) we decided to go with a half size format which had some advantages especially for the publication of poetry as it created a highly readable format (if small).

However for to be named later my goal is to have a publication which stays in print for a long time (so “back issues” remain available for a long period of time), which eventually (and as soon as possible) pays highly competitive rates for photos, art and articles, which supports a lot of very interesting writing, and most critically is a publication which I want to read myself. 

The Guidelines

  1. Articles must have a point of view, but may not be purely opinions.
  2. Every article will have illustrations – photos or art
  3. Every article will be bylined
  4. A very wide range of topics and types of articles will be accepted – no subject is out of bounds IF the writing is good, consise, and well written.
  5. Serious as well as non-serious writing is welcome and encouraged, including in most issues at least a few articles that meet peer-reviewed academic writing standards (footnotes and all)
  6. The physical form & design matters.
  7. Every issue will have at least one work of fiction (clearly identified) – genre writing not just welcome but encouraged (Science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance etc).
  8. Every issue will be meant to be relevant for at least a year, usually longer. Thus timely articles will not be printed, nor will reviews which are timelimited (i.e. of a limited run of a show – though movies which will eventually be on DVD may be accepted)
  9. While the focus may include regional and city interests – underlying to be named later will be a global perspective (though initially at least all articles will be in English)
  10. CC-licenses for the content will be encouraged (though not mandated) and while to be named later will retain a right to keep each issue “in print” for a long duration, authors & artists will have the right to sell their work for other publications (i.e. they retain all rights – but to be named later has the right to keep an issue “in print”, including via print-on-demand for a long duration – ideally perpetual). Much of to be named later (perhaps all) will be published online as well as in physical form – though the PRINT edition is the primary focus.

So what do those 10 somewhat random points mean?

First I am imagining a publication which will have a seriously broad range of articles – from writing about food, to serious academic exploration of economics, to science fiction stories, to photographic coverage of art and hacking. 

That said, the focus of to be named later will also be on timeless writing, on writing which is first and foremost eminently readable and engaging – which you want to turn back to and could pick up anytime after it is published and enjoy (i.e. this will not be a publication trying to cover breaking news or trying to get “exclusives” or scoops). 

to be named later will have advertising

Even if to be named later is wildly successful in generating interest and subscribers it will include commercial content from the beginning. Advertisers who welcome the timeless nature of to be named later and want to support the publication of high quality, challenging, intelligent writing covering a wide range of issues with a high focus on being enjoyable to read and experience. 

My tastes are wide ranging and eclectic – a magazine I publish will reflect these interests – and thus, I hope, will be of interest to an audiance that share some traits with me. In turn, I hope that there are (and I believe there are many) advertisers who want to reach this audience. Some may be local, some national, some global. All will be welcome (with some limited exceptions) specifically political or advocacy advertising will probably not be accepted as it would be discordant with the tone and focus of the magazine (which is inclusive not exclusive). 

Curation will be key. 

I may technically be the publisher, may also be an editor, but first and foremost I will be the Curator of to be named later – it will be my tastes and decisions (or my choices on delegation) which will determine the content of the magazine. 

Topics to be covered

  • Food – especially from a Slow Food and serious foodie perspective
  • Local businesses – not reviews persay but stories about local businesses but with a global perspective
  • Hacking – especially from an Arts perspective
  • Science Fiction – both via publishing great stories (including perhaps Fantasy or other genres) and also articles about the field & genre
  • Science – especially reports from the frontiers of research
  • Business – if written about in a highly engaging manner and in a timeless manner
  • Non-fiction storytelling – think This American Life style stories – which can cover any topic imaginable but are written with a point of view and story to tell
  • Design – especially highlighting intentional design applied in innovative ways.

Topics which will not, mostly, be covered:

  • Breaking news – i.e. current events, pop culture etc
  • Politics – while great stories about campaigns might be published, “stories” which are more manifestos will not
  • Activism – I am a CENTRIST. I am neither “left” nor “right” and my magazine will reflect this. While we may, occasionally, take (and publish and clearly label) an opinion on important matters, my magazine will not be a forum for activism, nor will it mirror the articles found in most Free weekly newspapers around the country (indeed in spirit we will likely be more capitalistic)
  • Time sensative reviews – stories about the arts (movies, theater, music, books, gallery shows or events) will definitely be published, but reviews of specific events or limited availability content will not
  • Product reviews – the focus of the magazine will be on stuff people want to and will enjoy reading, reviews of products rarely meet this criteria – nor do they usually meet the criteria of remaining relevant for years to come (since most products today are only sold for a limited time and replaced later with newer/better/cheaper/faster versions)

I intent to be named later to be eclectic, to be personal, to probably not be for everyone. That said, for those to whom it resonates I want it to be a publication which is read cover to cover. The focus will be on being reader friendly first – high design second (we will not be akin to Wired magazine in terms of design aesthetic)

All of this is tentative – now I am looking for:

  • Submissions: email submissions or ideas for articles/stories to shannon DOT clark AT gmail DOT com, please use a SUBJECT line of “Submission for to be named later”. Include a short bio of yourself, as well as the publication history (if any) of the article (preference is for unpublished writing). For the first issue(s) payment will depend on advertiser and subscriber targets so be prepared to only get a token initial payment (but the goal is to reach “professional” levels as quickly as we can. If you will only sell the story for a specific ammount include that, but realize that may impact our ability to accept the article/story for the first few issues
  • Volunteers: while in the future all staff will be paid (if only small amounts initially) to get going will be a labor of love, not money (unless we obtain financing or serious advertisers/sponsors quickly). Copyediting, “slush pile” reading, and pre-press layout help are initial core needs. Quickly as well help with advertising sales, distribution and more will also be needed.
  • Advertisers: From the first issue the plan is to have advertising. Rates almost certainly will go up as we grow the audiance, but the advertisers in the first few issues will be set – even as those issues remain (as is the plan) in print for at least a year, likely longer. So the first few advertisers will, we hope, get a bargain over the long term. There will be a limited number of full page ad opportunities, as well as a handful of partial page opportunities (think New Yorker style part of page ads). The back of the front cover as well as the back pages will be the highest cost ads. Rates are still to be determined, preference will be given for advertisers who are willing to commit to a full year of issues (at least 4 but the goal is to get to probably monthly). Advertisers will also be part of the online presense as well as the print publication – so should include a URL to link their ad to online. As a new publication ALL aspects of the readership are yet to be determined (including the size, demographics etc) so early advertisers must be interested in the mission of to be named later and willing to support it. Exact dollars are hard to determine (and to a point go up as the number of copies printed go up) but my initial “gut” guess is that for the first 4 issues something close to $100,000 is needed to pay all writers & artists, to physically print the magazine, and to pay staff (even just a token amount). So a target of about $25,000/issue is the goal though more may be needed for the very first issue.
  • Investors – My plan is to bootstrap. Even in the absense of all the advertising support I might like, the goal is to use a service such as MagCloud to enable us to put out a first issue (or two) and build up the audiance over time. To learn by doing and to thus incur as little costs upfront as possible. But if the right investor or sponsor/grantmaker were to offer I would listen. My goal is first to get great stories published, secondly to make money doing so (mostly I want to build something which is self supporting at a minimum). I also want to test my theories about how a new media publication could more than just made do but also prosper even in the Web 2.0, “the media is dying” world. 

So that is the idea – very rough, may not happen, but I hope it will. Please leave a comment, blog about this, link to this or at least contact me if you are interested!

Posted in digital bedouin, Entrepreneurship, futureculture, geeks, internet, personal, photos, reading, tbnl, working | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »