...with Gordon Van Gelder on the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (2)
Publishing its October/November 2009 issue, the Magazine of Fantasy and Science can reflect upon a history of six decades. Unfortunately it isn't available in German (Germany will very likely never be a fruitful market for shortstories).
Here we continue with the interview that we started publishing yesterday.
Zauberspiegel: Imagine we establish contact with an alien civilization, how would you as a good publisher try to market, distribute, and sell F&SF to them?
Gordon Van Gelder:: Yeesh, I haven't even gotten a good foothold on selling F&SF in the English-speaking world and you're talking about an alien civilization? I guess I'd approach them same as anyone else---by showing them the magazine and describing what it is that I think we do well.
Zauberspiegel: What do you know about the (sadly defunct) German edition of F&SF that ran in paperback for decades? Due to the format and frequency not anywhere near all of F&SF's fiction was able to be translated into German. Do you know who selected those stories to be translated? Was it the German publisher, or was it F&SF? For a long time, way back when already, your predecessors at the magazine actually offered German (and other foreign language) editions for sale to customers in the United States. Know anything about those customers? Where they rabid collectors catered for the love of it, or did these foreign editions actually earn F&SF a little bit of money in the US?
Gordon Van Gelder:: l do know about the German editions that were published by Heyne, but unfortunately, they ceased publishing them right around the same time as I became publisher of F&SF. I have the impression that Wolfgang Jeschke or his staff selected the stories for translation, but I might be wrong. I'd love to get a new edition of F&SF going in Germany.
I don't know about the old foreign-language editions sold in the US, but we do currently have editions going in France, Israel, the Czech Republic, and a couple of other countries. I haven't seen any indication that those editions might find a market in the US.
Zauberspiegel: Care to share any demographics on the readership of F&SF? Age? Gender? Education?
Gordon Van Gelder:: Actually, we keep all that info on our Website, here on this page (scroll down): http://www.sfsite.com/fsf/adinfo.htm
Zauberspiegel: Currently, and for a little while now already, the relative weakness of the US dollar makes international subscriptions quite affordable. Have you noticed any related hike in foreign subscriptions over the last few years?
Gordon Van Gelder:: Just this year---we've definitely had an increase in foreign subs in 2008. Last year we had so many problems with the postal service for delivering copies overseas that I would have been shocked to find our international subs increased in '07.
Zauberspiegel: Let's talk about new media formats. F&SF is available as eBook for the same money as the printed edition is available at the newsstand (with some club discounts available). Do the eBooks sell in numbers you find adequate? Do you see any trend there that is about to make an impact in the not too distant future? Do they just chip in a little something, or are they essential for the feasibility of F&SF's publication as a whole? Do you think the same price as for a printed magazine is just and reasonable?
Gordon Van Gelder:: Well, I'd love to see the electronic sales triple or quadruple, but I'm not complaining about them, so I guess that means they're adequate. The sales already make an impact, but no, I don't see them as being *essential* to our overall viability any time soon. Do I think the prices for our electronic editions are 'just and reasonable.' Absolutely, and I have cost analyses to back up that assertion. (There's another example of why it's harder to be publisher than editor.) I know it's counterintuitive to think that an electronic edition would cost as much as one that requires printing and shipping, but in truth, if an electronic edition isn't subsidized by a print edition, there are other costs involved.
Zauberspiegel: A few years back, I recall coming across audio books selecting the best pieces of a few months worth of F&SF, being narrated by (amongst others) even folks like Harlan Ellison. Is this project still running, or are similar ones planned for the future?
Gordon Van Gelder:: Those audio books are still available at Audible.com, but they weren't commercially successful and Audible.com discontinued them. We're hoping to launch something similar in the near future.
Zauberspiegel: October/November 2009 will be the 60th anniversary issue. Anything you'd like to tell us about your plans for it? May we assume it to be a fitting all-star lineup? What are your thoughts about the anniversary, and do you see yourself putting together the 75th, too? How in general do you see the future for printed fiction magazines in the fantastic genres?
Gordon Van Gelder: : We've got a few things in the works already for our 60th anniversary year, but nothing I'd like to announce yet. As for the future of printed fiction magazines, well, I like to point out that Jim Gunn said the print magazines would all be gone by the year 2000. He made that prediction in the 1970s (it was in his book ALTERNATE WORLDS) and here in 2008, the print magazines are still going. Where will the print magazines be in another 25 years? I don't know . . . and I'm pretty skeptical of anyone who tells me they do know.