Crowdfunding a Book and Shutting Down the Magazine

Hello, folks who listened to The Periodicalist! Two bits of news.

  • My publication, The Magazine, is ceasing publication after the December 18th issue. It's been a wonderful run, but the finances no longer work.
  • We've launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a new anthology drawn from our second year in publication (October 2013–October 2014). The funds will let us print a hardcover edition and release the electronic version for free.
Posted on October 14, 2014 and filed under Ebooks, Publishing.

New Seasons

Thanks so much for listening to The Periodicalist. I'm very pleased with our pilot season of six episodes, and I'm looking for a sponsor for future seasons of 6 to 12 episodes who want to help get the program heard by hosting it on their site or distributing to their audiences.

Production costs are modest. Please get in touch if you're interested.

Posted on August 24, 2014 and filed under Administrative.

6: Publishing Cartoons

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Cartooning (and more broadly illustration) has a long history on the Internet: people seem to have figured out how to send images in part to send comic strips and other cartoons to each other before LOLcat photos became dominant.

Glenn Fleishman is joined this episode by Matt Bors, a long-time political cartoonist and illustrator, a Pultizer finalist, the recipient of the presitigious Herblock Award for political cartooning. Matt is part of the team at Medium that is redefining online publishing, and is where he runs the section called The Nib.

Sponsor: This podcast is made possible through the generous support of MailChimp, which is underwriting our first six episodes. MailChimp lets you manage email lists of any size. They also make hats for cats and dogs.

Kate Beaton

Erika Moen

Allie Brosh

Jack Ohman

Rich Stevens' Diesel Sweeties

Posted on August 20, 2014 and filed under Podcasts, Cartoons, Illustration.

5: Curb Your Enthusiasm

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Glenn Fleishman is joined by Jason Snell, the editorial director of IDG’s consumer division and impresario of The Incomparable Radio Network, to talk about how publications can appeal to people who aren’t the most obsessed about a topic. Cultivating a community of slightly interested people, who represent the largest potential audience segment, is hard to do.

Sponsor: This podcast is made possible through the generous support of MailChimp, which is underwriting our first six episodes. MailChimp lets you manage email lists of any size. They also make hats for cats and dogs.

Let us know what you think and your ideas for future shows: send email to

Show notes

Jason has a rich background in experimenting with web sites and early content-management tools.

  • Jason started the short-fiction online magazine Intertext in 1991.
  • He was also one of the folks behind
  • Jason created a version of TeeVee run by NetCloak.
  • TidBITS was fed from a FileMaker database.

Glenn once helped try to put the Yale course catalog online (in 1990), and Prodigy was a reasonable suggestion as a place to host it. was incubated by Glenn’s first Internet company, and later purchased by Real Networks. (The domain was sold at some point to MTV.)

Back in the day, subscription revenue had high margins for a few reasons:

  • Captive market for advertising (no other places to advertise).
  • Second-class periodical mail was cheap.
  • Newsstand prices weren’t unreasonable for single issues.

The publication cycle used to be frenzied as one approached the date (weekly, monthly, etc.).

Jason describes changing from a punctuated cycle to a continuous one.

  • Originally there was separate print and web staff.
  • The Seattle Times and Post-Intelligencer had this odd joint venture run by the Times that handled the web side for both.
  • Wired Digital was run and owned separately from Wired magazine for eight years.

Glenn: “A blog is a ravening maw that demands to be fed.” Jason: “The process monster will eat a month’s worth of food in a day.”

Glenn helped produce the 1991 Time magazine man-of-the-year cover.

Jason and Glenn both came from backgrounds involving enthusiasm, whether professional, consumer, or personal.

The gadget sites might have set the tone for how news sites developed.

  • Gizmodo posted constantly.
  • Posting all your stories at once, one time doesn’t work.
  • You have to spread out posts across a day.
  • But that creates a medium in which “enthusiasm for a subject is required on some level.”
  • Dozens of stories every day.

The old value proposition for publications was based on yield. You paid a small amount of money and got a thick bunch of stuff, only some of which was interesting to you.

New York Times Innovation report was leaked, maybe strategically.

The current approach drowns out those with mild interest.

Yahoo Tech’s launch caused tech writers to roll their eyes, but it’s aimed at a general audience.

Jason walked away from comic books, but returned in recent years. But no site is focused around the casual visitor who wants to know what happened in the lst month: “we roll stories onto the site, and roll them right off.”

Where is the revenue pipe for making a site that is casual? Compared to a magzine that was general in focus but appealed to narrower and broader audiences at once.

Publishers love:

  • People who come all the time.
  • Those who have a specific need and come and find a single page.

Glenn has three examples of publications that may fit a more casual, but interested audience:

  • TidBITS has a long-running weekly mailing list that grew into a web site, but its mailing list continues to remain very important. Take Control Books as a division of the publication is outside the churn of Web publishing, plus the patronage model for supporters.
  • The Magazine is fully subscriber supported and we publish every other week. It’s a general-feature publication. Finding the audience has been maddening.
  • Medium commissions material and works as a blog platform, but it has no chronological focus. The stuff bubbles to the top that is most interesting to readers.

Podcasts have become the broad overview that we can’t find on web sites! They are weekly, fortnightly, monthly, and remain popular.

Accidental Tech Podcast:

  • They air their live recording.
  • People participate in the audience (the chatroom).
  • 75,000 listeners per episode.

Slow sites:

  • The Wirecutter
  • gdgt, which was folded into Engadget after it was acquired and doesn’t exist as a separate thing
  • This Is My Next at The Verge, which doesn’t have a dedicated section or landing page.

Boing Boing shifted from a firehose to a slower pace: firehose (the old blog style feed) is on the left, and the main part of the page is a slower-moving set of features.

Posted on July 16, 2014 and filed under Podcasts, Publishing, Enthusiasm.

4: Have Words, Will Travel: Freelancing

Modern publications — print, born digital, and hybrids — survive typically with a small amount of staff and small to large armies of wordsmiths for hire. In this episode, co-hosts Glenn Fleishman of The Magazine and Jane Friedman and Manjula Martin of Scratch magazine talk the freelance life with guest Jen A. Miller, a successful technology, medical, and running reporter. Can people make a living as a freelancer? And what’s the different between a freelance writer and a freelance reporter? Have rates really not gone up at some publications for 30 or more years? And much more.

Sponsor: This podcast is made possible through the generous support of MailChimp, which is underwriting our first six episodes. MailChimp lets you manage email lists of any size. They also make hats for cats and dogs.

Let us know what you think and your ideas for future shows: send email to

Show notes

How has freelancing changed recently?

  • Growing realization that most high-quality reporting is done in-house

Newspapers had 25% or more profit margins, which allowed for:

  • A huge staff
  • Ability to fund investigative journalism
  • Relied on stringers who were spread across the country/world

Freelancing is on-demand and is often paid a better hourly wage than in-house staff

Big publications have stringers do some news reporting nowadays

Taken to court

Contracts now insist on perpetual electronic rights

First North American Serial Rights

Worthwhile to buy non-exclusivity

When you aren’t an employee, the employer is not obligated to take care of you

Pay rates for online work is now much less

  • Jen’s Notes from a Hired Pen
  • Check the per hour rate
  • Jen’s best paying client is 50 cents a word
  • Newbies tend to work for lower rates
  • See yourself as a premium brand

Be sure to define your terms!

Newbies are getting social media/content marketing jobs

Is freelancing now more marketing than writing?


ACA/Obamacare’s effect on freelancers

  • Now guaranteed coverage, if you can pay
  • As a freelancer, you are starting a company of one
  • Today’s high student loan debt is a major issue

Are many publications open with their pay rates?

Rise of digital publications

“Don’t save the newspaper, save the news”

The gig taught Jen that:

  • Her major selling point was being proficient at concise and clear copy
  • Passion projects can be funded by other types of writing

How to specialize?

  • Start by finding your niche
  • Community driven by the internet age
  • Start with something you already know, but with an edge

Art of Nonconformity

Kathleen Tinkel co-produced a fax newsletter for years, MacPrePress, that was extremely valuable and lucrative

The Information by Jessica Lessin

Your blog can be your calling card and an important platform

How to keep up with “the next thing”?

Integrate the global with the specific

Should we get a degree in journalism/writing?

Final thoughts: Make your own path and don’t go into debt

How do freelancers get paid?

Posted on June 18, 2014 and filed under Podcasts, Freelancing.

3: Perils and Delights of Self-Publishing

Publishing your own work has never been easier, but easy is a relative term as co-hosts Glenn Fleishman and Matthew Amster-Burton discuss. Glenn recently produced a hardcover book with ebook and print-on-demand editions. Matthew has a series of ebooks underway. The two have both worked with conventional publishers in the past. The devil is in the many thousands of details: one wrong move and countless hours can be wasted.

Sponsor: This podcast is made possible through the generous support of MailChimp, which is underwriting our first six episodes. MailChimp lets you manage email lists of any size. They also make hats for cats and dogs.

Let us know what you think and your ideas for future shows: send email to

Show notes

The Magazine: The Book ultimately appeared in three editions:

The fork is your enemy.

Matthew's story

Things publishers consider:

  • No guarantee of sales
  • Niche market is tricky and risky
  • Profit and loss

The Magazine: The Book:

Know your audience:

  • Don't overestimate the size of your audience
  • Don't underestimate the size of your audience

Non-perishable books.

Why crowdfund and not self-fund?

  • Copyediting expenses
  • Cover design expenses
  • Vanity project
  • Is there another way?
  • To gauge interest
  • Pre-sales are awesome
  • Looks are pretty damn important

Pages from Apple is pretty decent.

The quality of bookiness

  • Codex
  • Type
  • Interface to words and thoughts

Project Gutenberg

Budget needs to cover

  • Copyediting
  • Developmental editing
  • Cover design
  • Interior design
  • Software

Glenn's tip: Choose the correct trim size!

Forks galore!

Matthew and Glenn's Saga of Unintended Budget Consequences

Print budget additionally needs to cover:

  • Printing (for offset)
  • Shipping (for offset). Note: International shipping will cost a million dollars.
  • Startup costs (for some print-on-demand providers)
  • Additional cover and interior design
  • ISBNs (may also need for ebook)
  • ISBNs image (EPS, typically)

Kickstarter price discrimination

Glenn's thoughts on The Magazine: The Book, Year 2.

Amazon's inertia, power and domination

Thoughts on distribution

Glenn's New Disruptors podcast episode with Ada's Bookstore owner

Matthew's new ebook: Child Octopus

Book thoughts: Matthew vs. Glenn

For immortality, choose wisely.

Posted on June 11, 2014 and filed under Podcasts, EPUB, Ebooks, Publishing, Self-publishing.

2: The Ins and Outs of EPUB

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EPUB and its derivative Amazon MOBI format are the lifeblood of electronic readers and ebook software. Mastering the details of getting a good workflow and a consistent result requires arcane knowledge and remarkable patience. Joining host Glenn Fleishman of The Magazine on this episode to discuss perfecting EPUBs are Tonya Engst of TidBITS Publishing; Michael E. Cohen, an ebook guru; and Serenity Caldwell of Macworld magazine.

Sponsor: This podcast is made possible through the generous support of MailChimp, which is underwriting our first six episodes. MailChimp lets you manage email lists of any size. They also make hats for cats and dogs.

Let us know what you think and your ideas for future shows: send email to

Show notes

Let's define the format

Are all EPUBs created equal?

  • Fixed Layout EPUBs
  • Flowing EPUBs

EPUB's directionality:

  • Everything flows in one direct
  • Think of it as a collection of web pages

Could be tricky for users used to PDF?

EPUB is designed for portable readers

  • Limited resolution
  • Limited size
  • Good for novels
  • Bad for photo journals

Glenn's blast from the past

Can't you just choose Export? Cue laughter. Watch Serenity's talk at the Çingleton Deux conference in 2012.

Ebooks are an immersive experience

TidBITS Publishing

  • 24 years of internet publishing
  • 11 years of Ebooks

TidBITS' blast from the past

  • Microsoft Word and PDF
  • Apple's Pages

TidBITS workflow

Markdown is becoming more and more useful across the web.

You can create content in Markdown or use Scrivener to convert

Keep it simple, stupid

Rule of thumb: Fork as late in the process as possible

Michael's workflow

Macworld's workflow

  • Started with PDF
  • Indesign's EPUB export
  • Pages EPUB support
  • Finally, Indesign with CS 5.5
  • Building CSS style sheet

Kindle Previewer

KF8 file format works with almost all devices

iBooks Author

  • iPad currently only device supported
  • Pages is being improved and could provide an answer in the future

More apps and services

  • Vellum has great text but no images

This whole process is in the adolescent stage

Working with ebookstores

  • Starting out
  • Numbers tapering off
  • Pushing out new books
  • Pushing out updates

The Metadata Problem

Reader expectations, demands and deliverables

A look back at lessons learned

  • Time savers
  • Pitfalls to avoid
  • Advice
Posted on June 4, 2014 and filed under Podcasts, Publishing, EPUB, Ebooks.

1: The Netflix of Ebooks

Download, listen to the episode above, or subscribe to our podcast RSS feed.

In our premiere episode, Glenn Fleishman and Jane Friedman talk over the concept of the "Netflix of ebooks": can one or more online services accumulate enough books of interest to allow subscription-based access that's interesting to readers, produces more revenue for publishers, and has a business case for survival? (See our About page for host bios.)

Sponsor: This podcast is made possible through the generous support of MailChimp, which is underwriting our first six episodes. MailChimp lets you manage email lists of any size. They also make hats for cats and dogs.

Show notes

How can we keep up with the constant change in publishing?

Existing subscription-based ebooks servcies

Can these services:

  • Provide a value and service?
  • Provide sufficient revenue for authors/publishers to invest?

Are libraries suffering from Blockbuster Syndrome?

Rights to books seems to be much more complicated than other media channels.

Is there a gatekeeper for the overwhelmed reader?

The biggest problem with subscription services:

  • Gym membership phenomenon
  • Books are not a mass media business
  • Heavy readers may not be their audience

Big Head and Long Tail

Safari Books by O’Reilly is a specialized market:

  • Books are plentiful, but perishable
  • Books are constantly revised
  • Books in every category
  • Books could be commissioned to fill in the gaps

Industry background:

  • How are royalties calculated?
  • Why are consumers interested?
  • Good for authors besides a paycheck?
  • The book club effect
  • Print vs. e-book profits
  • Beware the power of the Amazon empire

Where does an e-book go when it dies?

Other book-based models

Do publishers even know what is going on?

Glenn predicts a new dystopian future with algorithm created books based on demand.

Ultimately, e-book subscription services have a big struggle ahead of them.

Recommended articles:

Posted on May 27, 2014 and filed under Podcasts, Publishing, Subscriptions.

The Periodicalist: The Future of Publishing

The world of publishing in digital and analog form changes underneath us seemingly every day. Nobody — and I mean nobody — truly knows what the future will bring, though plenty pretend to have the answers.

We don't have answers. We have questions to explore. I'm Glenn Fleishman. I'm the owner, publisher, and editor of The Magazine, a digital periodical nearing its second anniversary of every-other-week publication of non-fiction reportage and essays. While I've been on the bleeding edge here and elsewhere, every day is a new adventure.

Sponsor: This podcast is made possible through the generous support of MailChimp, which is underwriting our first six episodes. MailChimp lets you manage email lists of any size. They also make hats for cats and dogs.

I've asked a number of people with varying expertise to join me as regular co-hosts and episode-specific guests to explore what publishing has become and where its going, including Jane Friedman, Manjula Martin, and Matthew Amster-Burton. (Visit our About page for their full biographies.)

We're going to investigate many nooks and crannies, looking at print and electronic; books, magazines, and blogs; offset and print on demand; card games and interactive books; anything that involves producing something and publishing it in a medium.

The show will delve into technology and technical matters, including some of the nitty-gritty details. Future episodes could include site visits to physical manufacturing plants for both analog and digital media, such as print-on-demand production facilities.

We've planned a six-episode pilot season to find out whether there's enough interest in creating additional seasons or regular production. We'll be releasing our episodes every Wednesday for six weeks, starting May 28, 2014. You can subscribe to our podcast via our RSS link or through iTunes.

We want this to be interactive: we want to hear from you so that we know more topics you want us to cover or we can answer questions we passed over in an episode. We hope after pilot season to schedule tapings so that you can listen in and offer feedback or question as we go, and we plan to experiment with Google Hangouts.

Send email to with your initial thoughts or any feedback.

In the spirit of transparency, here are just some of the topics we hope to cover:

  • Starting a magazine, whether as a hobby or a business.

  • Will people pay for content? What kind?

  • and the future of blog-platform publishing.

  • Native apps versus Web apps for publications.

  • Responsive design for Web periodicals.

  • Simultaneous publishing to multiple media.

  • Crowdfunding books, magazines, and more.

  • How to bake broad inclusivity into the core of your publication.

  • Fulfillment, the atomic menace.

  • Syndication of content.

  • Sponsored content.

  • Content-management systems, the devil’s workshops.

  • Permission, Creative Commons, and usage.

  • Comics, webcomics, merchandise, and publishing.

  • Game publishing and production.

  • Email management and lists.

  • Working with freelancers for all stages of production and publication.

  • Apple Newsstand, Google Play, and beyond.

If you're interested in sponsoring a six-week or longer run of The Periodicalist, which brings with it thanks, text, and links on our site, as well as in-podcast sponsorship messages read by the hosts, please get in touch with Glenn.

Thanks to Gabe Bullard for taking pictures of words typed on his typewriters!

Posted on May 17, 2014 and filed under Administrative.