Jim Baen's Universe to Close April 2010

From the editor of Jim Baen's Universe, Eric Flint, August 1, 2009:
I’ll write a long analysis of the reasons we found it necessary to close the magazine for the October issue. I’m not in position to do it right now, however, because I simply don’t have the time. As many of you know already, I had to have open heart surgery three months ago (triple bypass operation) and once I was able to work again I was under tremendous deadline pressure to work with David Weber to get Torch of Freedom finished. (That’s the next volume in Weber’s Honor Harrington series, coming out in November.) So I’ll still trying to catch up with everything.

For the moment, I’ll just provide a short summary. In a nutshell, we were simply never able to get and retain enough subscribers to put us on a sales plateau that would allow us to continue publishing. From the beginning, we were too dependent on the income from the Universe club. The Club’s purpose was to provide the magazine with a much-needed initial surge of income—which it did indeed provide—and then, after the first year, to continue as an important but subsidiary source of income. Instead, the Club wound up being the source of about half of our annual income, from beginning to end.

That was just too much; or, to put it another way, a reliance on too few critically important subscribers. Once some of them began to fall by the wayside—which was inevitable and, indeed, something we expected—the magazine’s income began to be badly squeezed.

It was our hope from the beginning that, as time went by, we’d expand our regular subscription base to the point where that base alone provided all the income we needed to keep publishing. Obviously, a situation where many customers are paying a small amount is a much more stable and dependable financial basis on which to operate a magazine.

But... we never got there. As I said, we came close. But it was never enough, and as time went by the situation simply became untenable. By the end of our third year of publication (which was officially July 31, 2009), we saw no reason to think that the situation would change—not, at least, in the near enough future—and so we made the final decision to close the magazine. We wanted to make that decision early enough that we could avoid the sort of mess that so often accompanies the folding of magazines. (Short-changed subscribers, orphaned stories, unpaid authors... oh, it can get very ugly indeed.)

For whatever it’s worth, I can assure you that no one is sorrier that we had to come to this decision than the magazine’s editors, Mike Resnick and myself, and the rest of the magazine's staff: Paula Goodlett, our managing editor, Dave Freer (art director), Rick Boatright (tech geek), Walt Boyes (marketing) and Stoney Compton (for lack of a better term, our utility infielder.).

Eric Flint
August 1, 2009

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