Response to Market Analysis for DreamForge Magazine

Note: This market analysis is available free to the public. If you like my reporting on genre issues, consider backing my Patreon.  

DreamForge Magazine is a new science fiction and fantasy magazine which seeks “Positive stories demonstrating the triumph of the human spirit and the power of hope and humane values in overcoming the most daunting challenges.” 

In my most recent Genre Grapevine column, I wrote a market analysis of the magazine, focusing on the magazine's positive aspects for writers (pays 6 to 8 cents/word, has good contracts, publishes a nice print and e-book edition) while also raising concerns about other aspects of the magazine (possible connections with the Writers of the Future contest, editor publishes his own stories in magazine, and the tone of feedback in rejection letters).

Editor Scot Noel was nice enough to respond to all these points. In addition he discussed the magazine's very specific guidelines, including what he means by looking for stories about "the rule of law and liberty under the law.” Noel gave me permission to share these comments with people.

Thank you for the market analysis of DreamForge, and for giving us the opportunity to provide some additional information, as well as offer a word or two regarding the concerns you mentioned. It’s very generous of you.
DreamForge is a personal project of Scot and Jane Noel, Pennsylvania natives with a life-long love of Science Fiction and Fantasy. My wife and I met in computer game development when we worked for the now defunct but much beloved DreamForge Intertainment. (My first thought for a magazine name was “Absolute Infinity,” but no one liked that, so…)
The spark behind DreamForge is that we grew tired (sick and tired) of reading apocalyptic, despairing, anti-hero, gloom and doom dystopian genre stories. While we have no publishing experience whatsoever, we do own a small web marketing and software development agency called Chroma Marketing Essentials. One day we looked around and said: “how hard could it be to publish our own magazine?” (Turns out, really, really hard. Just FYI.)
Because of our background in computer games, we did have friends we could turn to for help and advice, like Jane Lindskold, author of 25 or so books, including the Firekeeper saga and Mark Zingarelli, a talented illustrator whose work has appeared in The New Yorker and many national magazines.
We put together a business plan and thought we should give it a go. Our third issue was released in September 2019, and we’re planning the layouts for # 4 and # 5.
Now, about some of your concerns.
There is no official or financial connection between DreamForge and Writers of the Future. I was a Second Place WoTF winner in 1990. I understand the concerns some writers have about WoTF and its relation to the Church of Scientology. For myself, my win with WoTF helped launch my career in computer gaming, which in turn resulted in me meeting my wife and life-long creative partner, Jane Noel.
I was brought up to “dance with the one who brung ya.” John Goodwin, the President of Galaxy Press, has been personally supportive of DreamForge and was an early subscriber. He gave us the opportunity to interview David Farland and distributed copies of our first issue to the winners in this year’s Vol. 35. In turn, we’ve provided some free advertising for the contest.
To date, we’ve published and purchased stories from several WoTF graduates. They’re good writers.
For the record, I’m a Catholic with Buddhist leanings and Taoist sensibilities. It’s all ZEN.
I do not publish my fiction in each issue of the magazine. I had one story in the first issue largely because, as a new publication, I needed to fill the space and conserve budget. More of my work is online as additional content outside of the issues themselves. This is not to say I won’t publish more of my own fiction in future issues. I’d like to pay more authors at our 8 cent/word rate, and one way to do that is for me to work for free. Anyone should feel free to complain if my stories suck.
With regard to paying people, by the way – only the authors (sans moi), illustrators (sans my wife Jane), and printer are paid. The rest of us are volunteers contributing to an anti-apocalyptic message of the triumph of the human spirit.
We pay promptly on acceptance and model our contract after the SFWA recommended agreement.
With regard to rejections. It might be bit much, but we don’t call them that. We simply “return” stories we can’t publish. Many of them were quite enjoyable, but didn’t fit for one reason or another.
As our submissions pile has grown, it has become impossible to personally answer each hopeful author, but we try to accomplish a personal note with a high percentage of our returns.
At first, I tried for more detailed critical commentary on stories, but I don’t think that was taken well on all fronts. I did not mean to be harsh, but I was sometimes less than gracious. My personal apologies to anyone who was offended. Day-to-day, my job is content manager for a large variety of websites. We work in a more rough and tumble world than this appears to be. Clients have no patience for anything they’re not delighted with and make that knowledge evident in no uncertain terms. The problem is corrected immediately, or you lose the work and someone goes home without a job.
The faster we learn what we did wrong, internalize it, and project back what the client wants to see, the more certain we are of paying the rent.
However, I’m learning to separate the two worlds of magazine and content manager for the web. At Readercon this year I attended a panel on Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, so I better understand how fiction writers may respond to rejections, gentle or otherwise. We also understand that some writers may not want any feedback at all, just a green light or a red one.
For a while, when I saw writing accomplishments listed in cover letters, I congratulated the writer on their achievements. Though meant sincerely, some took that as condescending. It’s certainly a tricky business this selecting and returning of stories.
FYI, at this point DreamForge has recruited an international team of volunteers with a wide variety of backgrounds to help evaluate the slush pile. They come from India, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the U.S. Some are avid readers, others writers, and a few have MFAs. We call them our First Line Readers.
Our magazine does have a mission, and certainly we don’t want to waste any writer’s time who doesn’t want to contribute to it. We want to see stories where characters overcome rather than simply elucidate some fatal flaw in humanity. We want stories where humane values triumph, not because that would be nice, but because they indeed do foreshadow the future of the species.
As an aside, one way “the rule of law and liberty under the law” would affect our judgement is that we would rather not see stories of revenge, anarchy, revolution, or murder. We prefer to see stories of protagonists working for the good of others and the communities in which they live. Sometimes that line can have fuzzy borders, but how to judge it is up to me. No horror, please.
We would love if writers would read us before submitting. While all of our content is not free online, we do have 3 levels of participation. Some stories are Free to Visitors, others are Exclusive Content (requiring a profile in our online portal), and finally full content to paid subscribers. As we build more issues, more is unlocked at each level.
We are open to any questions or concerns from our readership and from anyone in the SF and Fantasy community. We operate transparently and perhaps with all the clumsiness of a new organization trying to find its way. Like all small press magazines, we also operate on the knife edge of being able to pay the bills, so if you want more good genre magazines around, then subscribe. If not to us, subscribe to our friends at Fireside, Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, or Space and Time Magazine, all of whom offered encouragement, industry insights, and sound advice (which we ignored and started a magazine anyway.) Just keep your dollars supporting the literature you love.
Scot Noel
DreamForge Magazine
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