It’s nearly a year since I printed the first story on my ezine, Theme of Absence.
It’s been a wonderful experience and a great year so far. I set out with three objectives when I started the site, and either met or surpassed all three.
The first was to become a better writer.
I wanted to use the site to gain experience as an editor, and as a result, improve my own writing. This really has helped my writing in so many ways. Once the submissions starting coming it, I was suddenly finding mistakes in storytelling that seemed so obvious I couldn’t believe the authors were making them.
I want to be clear that I’m not knocking any authors here; what I found is that these errors aren’t always apparent to the writer. I quickly discovered that my short stories were full of these exact same errors. My short stories were getting rejected from editors for the very same reason I was rejecting stories at Theme of Absence.
What an eye-opening experience.
The second objective was to make connections with other writers.
This has been both the best part and the worst part of Theme of Absence. As far as it being the best part, I absolutely love meeting and connecting with other writers. We can share our victories and defeats. We can commiserate and celebrate. It’s been great. I’ve received submissions from authors I share anthologies with as well as a few friends. I’ve also made a few sales on other anthologies I’ve been published in simply because the reader was familiar with Theme of Absence.
So what is the bad part?
The bad part comes with rejection letters. It’s an unavoidable fact that editors need to reject stories more often than not. The overall acceptance rate for Theme of Absence is less than 30%. This means that I had to send out a number of rejections to authors I’ve previous met through the site, or even worse, authors I’ve met in real life. As a writer myself, I know that rejections are rarely personal, but when you have to send one to a friend (real or virtual) it still feels personal.
The third objective was to grow every month.
Without bragging, I’d like to say that I passed this goal with flying colors. In the first year of the site, we’ve had over 4200 unique visitors to the site, over two-thirds of them returning visitors. Of those, over half have been in the last quarter, so we’re making big gains in 2015 so far. I receive between 5-10 submissions per week and have for the most part been able to respond to each within a week.
I made several other achievements on Theme of Absence this year as well. I migrated to WordPress and gave it a professional make-over. I introduced the author interviews early on, a feature that I’m still very proud of, as I feel it’s something that differentiates Theme of Absence from the competition. I introduced the art to give the stories some life, switched it from a non-paying market to a token-paying one, and increased the minimum word count to 3000 to improve the variety of stories published.
So it’s been a good year, but what about next year?
What I would really like to do is make the site profitable. This isn’t just about money, by the way. I’m operating Theme of Absence at a loss right now. If it could start turning a noticeable profit, I could, first and foremost, start paying authors more. I’d love to move the site to HWA-qualifying ezine, which I believe requires a minimum of $25.00 per story. Obviously, that will take a more aggressive advertising plan, and a lot more traffic.
There are plenty of other long-term goals I have for the site. At some point, I’d like to start collecting some of the stories in an annual anthology. That was an idea I toyed with early in the site’s life, but have since then put on hold. It’s still on hold, but not completely out of the question.
I do have some other ideas. I’d love to get to the point where we commission original art, as opposed to royalty-free. It would also be fun to introduce some sort of audio/visual component, and non-fiction editorials about the genres we publish.
Anyhow, a lot of that belongs in the 5-10 year plan. The focus of this coming year needs to stay focused on continuing to increase the exposure and traffic.
If you’re a regular visitor to Theme of Absence, I’d like to thank you, and if you’re not, I’d like to invite you to click on over and give it a look.