It’s already been nine months since I launched my online magazine, Theme of Absence.
To be honest, I started the site almost on a whim. I had owned the domain name for over a decade, as I first bought it to use for a Pink Floyd fan site. (Note: This was in 1996, so you can’t make fun of me for having a fan site.)
After deciding that my ability to write could be better put to use than transcribing lyrics to Pink Floyd songs (Note: This was in 1999, where it was still difficult to find a good lyrics site) I transitioned the site to something else.
With an interest in politics, Theme of Absence became what would now be known as a blog. Blogger hadn’t quite entered the scene at this point, or if it did, no one was using it. I’d post a “News item of the day,” where I’d link to a news article and write a few sentences with my thoughts about it. Later, I started writing full page commentary and even recruited a handful of other writers to provide commentary.
It was fun, but as the 2000s progressed and politics continued to become so much more heated (and viscous) online, I just grew tired of it. I moved the site into a traditional personal blog and just wrote whatever I felt like. Movie reviews, book reviews, exercise plans, cryptozoology news, and yes, sometimes even politics.
I enjoyed it, but I knew that the blog wasn’t really going anywhere. A few of my friends read it, but that was it. Where my politics blog was gaining upwards of 300 unique visits a day, the new site was getting a fraction of that. I was writing, but no one was reading.
Somewhere between the politics/personal blog phases, I got married and we went to Italy for our honeymoon. My wife and I kept a journal as we traveled. She liked my writing and suggested I try writing more often. I thought, “Yeah, I should. I always wanted to try writing fiction.”
So I started writing fiction.
I used Theme of Absence to promote my fiction a little bit, but eventually set up my own author site and the personal blog moved there. Unsure of what to do with Theme of Absence, I took things back to the beginning and set up a Pink Floyd site.
That lasted a few months, until I realized I didn’t really care enough about the Floyd to maintain a blog about them, so I decided to let it die and allow my registration of the domain name expire.
But then at the last minute, I realized I just couldn’t part ways with a domain that had been with me from my earliest days online. I renewed the domain, but told myself I can only keep it if I can use it to in one way or another promote or enhance my writing.
I don’t remember where the idea of an ezine came from, but when that idea came to me, I couldn’t sleep that night, I was so excited.
I got to work the next day. Originally, I started out as a non-paying flash fiction site with a new story posted every Friday. I got a few submissions early on, but I could see that I wasn’t getting enough submissions and at the current rate, I wouldn’t be able to keep the site alive for long.
To increase both the quality and quantity of submissions, I made it a token paying site. I also started better promoting the authors by offering to include a 10 question Q&A with their story, and eventually started accepting short stories instead of only flash fiction. All of these things helped, and I was suddenly receiving a submission or two every day.
I’ve redesigned the site three times, and finally found a look for it that I’ll be keeping indefinitely.
It is still operating at a loss, but at the current rate of growth, I could see it breaking even in the next year or two.
That said, I do consider Theme of Absence a big success. Through the site, I’ve learned a lot as a writer. My editing skills have improved due to my work on the site. It’s driven traffic both to this blog, as well as my author site.
I’ve been able to give a few authors their first publishing credit and I’ve even made a few friends along the way.
Like I said. I consider the ezine a success.
I’m currently accepting just under a third of the submissions I receive. One thing I’m not surprised about is that I still feel bad sending a rejection letter. As a writer myself, I know how much it sucks to get a rejection. When I can, I try to give personal feedback with each rejection, and hopefully soften the blow while remaining constructive.
The final, and perhaps most important point I’ve taken away from running the site so far is that a lot of the submissions contain the same mistakes I make. I found plenty of sentences written in past progressive tense and strings of sentences beginning with the same word. It’s interesting to see how easy it is to pick that out in someone else’s work, but so difficult to find it in my own.
So after nine months, I’m still really excited about the site. I think it will continue help my own writing in the long run, and I’m looking forward to watching it grow as it approaches its one-year anniversary.
If you’ve never been to Theme of Absence, please check it out. Read a couple of stories or interviews and send in some feedback. And even send in a story, if you’ve got one that you think would fit.