First Edition’s Response

Thanks to Jeff Webb, Editor-in-Chief at First Edition magazine, for the following response. I’d like to say thanks to him for getting back to me. He’s also said that he’s open to suggestions and constructive critisism, so if you have any then you can leave them in the comments box. I still think it’s a bad idea (asking writers for money to publish their work is wrong) but I’m happy it’s not cynical or a scam.

Anyway. Jeff said:

Dear Nik,

I read with some disappointment your comments, but as always we welcome feedback and questions and queries as they come along.
I have read your post, and whilst I found it a tad harsh, I do agree with some of the points you have raised. I’d like to take a moment to explain a few things, if I may…
Ever since we launched we have been determined to showcase the works of new short story writers, novelist and poets. Many (and I do mean many) have been people who hadn’t previously had the confidence to put forward their work, especially considering similar magazines/websites/competitions charge an entry fee. We were determined that we would not charge. As a results we have had literally tens of thousands of submissions from 92 different countries, age ranges from eight to 92, and yet only have the space to print so many each month. Magazines, I’m sure you will appreciate, are not cheap to produce. Advertising revenues are laughably bad, and we do what we can to keep getting the magazine out to the many thousands of readers around the world.
We are still very proud of what we do here, but as soon as we saw that some of the bigger companies were taking as much as 80-90% of revenues, we thought this was a great opportunity to follow on with our magazine work and offer something that authors would truly deserve – more of the money based on how good their work actually is. We don’t believe it is fair that the author doesn’t get most of any money the work earns. To be fair, we actually thought this was a good proposition, and the majority of people we have contacted have been very positive about it. It’s never easy getting that first piece published, getting the foot in the door (believe me, I know).
Unfortunately there ARE costs involved in e-book publishing, not least of all the bank charges for processing payments, VAT (as you are doubtlessly aware, there is no VAT on printed books, but there is on e-books), the promotion in the printed magazine, promotion on the website, the contracts themselves, the hosting space, staff time, external promotion… well I could go on, but £25 is hardly asking the earth. In answer to your post,  an author would recoup this money based on 67 downloads of your short story – which considering our magazine and website readership, equates to approximately one in 800. There is, as we prove each month, a huge market for short stories. These are particularly suited to the mobile phone/laptop/e-book reading market.
Anyway, once again we do take your comments on board, and I do hope you will take this response likewise.
Jeff Webb 

16 Comments on “First Edition’s Response

  1.  by  Kay Sexton

    Hmmm, while I hear what First Edition are saying, I'd want to know a lot more about their business model before I handed over £25. What percentage of authors do actually make back their payment, how are these authors selected, what form of quality control is used? And so on.Once we commoditise literature in this way (and I'm not against it, as such) we, the writers have a different set of rights, I think, to the traditional set of being paid to have our work published, and one of those new rights should be some breakdown of the First Edition market, evidence of successful recouping of fee, ability to interrogate other writers about their experiences.When I BUY a service (which is what is essentially being offered here) I expect a high level of transparency and the reply doesn't provide me with enough clarity, or clear metrics, to assess the deal that's on the table.

  2.  by  Jenzarina

    Thanks to Jeff Webb for his prompt and in-depth comments. I hadn't realised the outlay of digital works. It is an unknown but potentially exciting new media for writers.Nik, I'll let you know if I make £25+ on my e-story!

  3.  by  Jane Smith

    If this scheme is such a good idea, and is likely to make so many sales, then why doesn't First Edition have the confidence in it to fund it all itself, and pay writers a decent royalty on all sales made? That would be infinitely preferable to them charging writers for publication–which looks a lot like a move into vanity publication from where I'm standing.Good e-publishers cover ALL COSTS of publication and then pay their writers royalties of 20-35% on all sales made; this is higher than most print royalties because of the reduced production costs, but it's not so high that the publisher can't afford to publish the books properly.I'm afraid that Jeff's email doesn't persuade me. I'm not sure if he even realises that charging writers to be published like this IS VANITY PUBLISHING: but if he drops by and reads this I would like to urge him very strongly to reconsider this new business plan, which can only reflect badly on First Edition as a whole.

  4.  by  Vanessa Gebbie

    The owner of First Edition seems to be saying that he knows of many print magazines and websites who charge writers to submit and showcase their work. Could he give us some examples?

  5.  by  Jeff Webb

    Interesting points again, and I really do appreciate your comments and suggestions. To go through some of the points:1) We sell many thousands of copies of the print magazine retail and online each month around the world – and we are roughly 80% short stories. True to say we can only gauge how popular short stories are, and who would pay for them, based on print sales so far… but e-books are, I'm sure you will agree, a very youthful medium that is only going to grow as years go by.2)Approximately 65% of our published works have been from previously unpublished authors, with around 25% of these only having been published online before. As I stressed in my email, there are an awful lot of people out there who don't even think their work is 'up to scratch', and we ALWAYS accept submissions, and read ALL of them, for no fee.3) For obvious reasons I cannot mention specific titles, but there are other magazines, websites and competitions (mainstream, on the shelves, you can just Google them if you like) which charge upwards of £10 to simply submit and have it read. I saw a competition just the other day which wanted £39 just to enter a poem in a competition…4) As far as confidence goes… yes you are correct, and if we had the funds we would gladly risk all on publishing everyone. But as we all know, publishers don't do that or all authors would have everything they have ever written in print. But as you said yourself, you are looking at getting just 25-30% back if it does succeed… whereas we are saying that if it is a successful story, and our existing and growing audience like it, you get 75% because it is YOUR work.I take this all on board. If you don't think authors will pay a £25 to forego the various promotional/distribution/transactional/protection issues relating to e-books then fair comment. Would you, as authors, be happier if it were a free process but the percentage were much lower? Once again, thank you all for your feedback.

  6.  by  Jenzarina

    Interesting comments from Jeff Webb.Actually, I would be happier if there was no fee but the percentage was much lower.

  7.  by  Vanessa Gebbie

    JeffThank you for your info. I appreciate that this is a business and no one in this business does nything purely altruistically… but maay I push for one further piece of info?I've been involved in literary short story competitions now for some few years, as an entrant, then as a reader, now as a judge. For many comps, the entrance fee supports the literary magazine who hosts it, and this is done openly. Entrants are happy to support. (My own magazine, Cadenza, charged a fee, ran a comp twice a year, and would have closed a lot faster without that support, which raised the prizes, and subsidised printing costs.) Others have paid readers, paid judges, administration costs – Asham, Bridport, Fish to name but a few. Hence a legitimate need to charge to enter what is, after all, a comp that means something if you win. But you say above in your first reply that there are also print short story magazines and online magazines which charge just to submit work. Or which charge writers for publication – I'm not clear. And those, I am unaware of. My fear is that the newer writers who you have published over the last year are not aware that e-publishing is not that young an industry. They may not know that plenty of writers are already having their work downloaded in e-format regularly. And they may believe, because a trusted editor is telling them, that paying a fee to have your work included is normal practice. When it is not.

  8.  by  Nik Perring

    Thanks for this, Jeff."Would you, as authors, be happier if it were a free process but the percentage were much lower?"Yes.Nik.

  9.  by  Anne Brooke

    I do agree that this charge is a bad, bad idea – it gives the wrong impression about First Edition and the sort of reputation I really don't think they should be seeking. Agree a rethink is needed and also agree that free entry and lower percentages would be fine.Axxx

  10.  by  Leila

    "It's never easy getting that first piece published, getting the foot in the door"That's true, but some publications have more kudos than others. Some will actually damage your reputation. Paying to have a story published is not a foot in the door, it's a big step backwards into a very muddy puddle.

  11.  by  Nik Perring

    Okay. This is a message to the person who KEEPS trying to post spam/advertising comments here:STOP WASTING YOUR TIME. I DO NOT PUBLISH SPAM OR ADVERTISING HERE. Got it? Good.Nik

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