On Spec

I think I first found On Spec in The Writer’s Market. I can’t quite remember. All I know is that I’ve been reading them for years. They publish sci-fi and fantasy and they’re Canadian! Jen Laface was kind enough to answer a few questions about this out of-this-world publication.

On Spec is celebrating it’s 25th year in business. What is the secret to your success?

Many things! One is perseverance. On Spec is primarily grant-funded, but due to shrinking contributions from all levels of government, we’re challenged with finding new ways for funding. By and large, we are a “critical” success, which means our authors and stories often win acclaim. But the reality of Canadian publishing is that our population isn’t necessarily large enough to sustain a special interest title like On Spec. Grants are necessary to give us a more level playing field with similar publications that have access to a larger readership. This, on the other hand, could change once we are more visible on the digital marketplace. On Spec’s secret weapon—ok, well Managing Editor—is Diane Walton. She’s been with On Spec since the start, and at the helm of On Spec for several years, since Jena Snyder left us to pursue her own writing career. Diane and the other editors have a passion and drive to see a Canadian science fiction and fantasy magazine thrive.

Commitment is an important part–the editors donate their time to On Spec without compensation. That’s a labour of love, from reading and selecting stories to administrative tasks, promotions and fundraising. The editors frequently attend out of town conventions and conferences at their own expense, and spend most of their time doing On Spec work—both selling and promoting. The team is committed to showcasing talent, established and emerging especially in Canada, and delivering the best stories to our subscribers.

Many literary magazines have gone from print to digital. Will On Spec be next? If not, why not?

Most likely yes. Due to the costs of printing and mailing, plus fulfilling membership obligations with print copies, it does get costly. We’ve observed magazines that have started only digitally, and one of the benefits is not incurring print and mailing costs.

At this point, we’re in the midst of solidifying our process for digital issues, so there won’t be any changes quite yet, probably not in the next half year. But we do recognize that making our magazine available in digital format will open us to a much wider international audience in the English-speaking world, and that can’t be a bad thing. For those readers who still enjoy the feel of a magazine, we can also investigate limited print runs or print on demand options.

Do you have a sense of your readership? Are On Spec fans readers or writers?

We’ve only done a little research on our subscribers. We think 75% is fans, 25% writers. For web searches, it’s usually in reverse—writers are searching for markets and from our experience, more likely to seek out On Spec.

Plus there’s people who are a little of both! 🙂

Can you talk a bit about the short story medium in general? What about it appeals to you?

Short fiction has a long and noble tradition in publishing, and is far more than merely a “gateway” for writers who are working on their novels. It is an art form in itself, and far more challenging in many ways. In literature of the fantastic, it is also a good place for writers to test new concepts and characters. And most readers can tell you of one or two particular short stories that continue to resonate with them, even years later.

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