Email newsletters are obviously the cool new thing, and there are a lot of great (and not-so-great) journalists and opinion writers making serious money through Substack. But I've wondering for a while now how a successful fiction outlet might work1.
Fortunately, I don't have to wonder any more, because the Sunday Morning Transport now exists, with the goal of delivering one commute-sized short story to your inbox every Sunday2. Award-winning fantasy writer Fran Wilde (Riverland) serves as managing editor, with Serial Box / Realm.fm founder Julian Yap as the editor-in-chief — two people who absolutely know the ins-and-outs on every side of the sci-fi/fantasy fiction publishing community. So far, they have stories lined up by notable authors including Karen Lord, Kij Johnson, Kat Howard, Elsa Sjunnesson, Juan Martinez, E.C. Myers, Maureen McHugh, Tessa Gratton, Sarah Pinsker, Brian Slattery, and Malka Older.
Sunday Morning Transport published its first story this past weekend: "To Make Unending," a fun twist on epic fantasy and parenting by the inimitable Max Gladstone, author of the Craft Sequence (basically a magical steampunk legal thriller series) and the upcoming Last Exit. Just sink your teeth into this delightful opening paragraph:
In the twenty-second year of the Seventh Bale, six thousand years since the last High King of Men and Elves fell beneath the waves, and twelve thousand more since the wilting of the Rose, on a cold autumn day beneath the silvern trees in the Lady's Seat of Calberthrel, Celabrim Cindercloak returned from long ranging in shadow to find his son playing with a calculator.
All stories on the Sunday Morning Transport will be free for the month of January; after that, free subscribers only get one story a month, while paid subscribers get a new one every week. If you subscribe between now and January 31, you'll also get 20% off — so it's $56 a year, or $4.67 a month, which is a little more than a buck per short story. Which is a pretty damn good deal! Plus, we need more paying speculative fiction markets in general. So I've subscribed, and so should you.
Image: James Vaughan / Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)
1The existing speculative fiction magazines — Asimov's, Lightspeed, Uncanny, Clarke's World, and so on — all have their own subscription models, of course, and they're typically even cheaper than the Sunday Morning Transport, usually between $25 and $40 for a year's worth of fantastic fiction.
Still, a physical magazine, or even an ePub or PDF, is different from just getting something in your inbox. Could you get enough people to pay $5 a month for that? With a little more than 300 subscribes, you could arguably sustain about 5000 words a week paid at SFWA professional rates. That doesn't sound too implausible; however, I also have overcommitment issues along with extreme executive dysfunction, so I've been hesitant to attempt something like that myself. On the bright side, I no longer have to think about myself, because now there's new market out there!
2I, for one, am particularly intrigued by the idea of sending stories out on Sundays, when people might be more likely to commit some time to reading, and which can also help to set a tone for the week that could build a robust online community.