The publishing industry has been hit hard by a weak economy and the changing entertainment marketplace. Print magazines have felt the brunt of these changes more than most, and Realms of Fantasy, one of the premiere fantasy magazines within the fantasy fiction community, has announced its closure twice in as many years. And yet there is still life beating within this magazine, which won’t go gentle into that not so good night. The resiliency of the science fiction, fantasy, and horror community is nothing, if not impressive in its ability to reinvent itself.
A year and a half ago, Realms of Fantasy announced that its publisher was closing the magazine, but at the 11th hour Warren Lapine of Tir Na Nog Press stepped in and offered to take over the magazine, keeping it in print for a while longer. Last month, Warren announced that for a variety of reasons Realms of Fantasy would be closing its doors for good. In true underdog form, Damnation Books tossed Realms a lifeline, pulling it back from the brink of extinction once again.
While some readers and writers may be familiar with Damnation Books and its CEO Kim Richards Gilchrest, most people are still trying to get better acquainted with this small press and eBook publisher. Although there are more questions to be answered, this interview should help to dispel rumors, to answer questions, and to give the SF/F/H community a better idea of what the future holds for Realms of Fantasy and its new publisher Damnations Books.
Many of Realms of Fantasy’s readers and writers may not be familiar with Damnation Books. Can you give a glimpse into Damnation Press’s mission, what kinds of books you publish, and how long you have been in the publishing business?
Damnation Books publishes dark fiction: horror, thrillers, paranormals, dark fantasy—we also publish some gay fiction, science fiction and erotica with dark themes to them. We want to become THE place to go for dark fiction.
Now, Damnation Books (as the LLC) also owns Eternal Press, which publishes erotica, romance, westerns, science fiction, paranormals, historical fiction and contemporary fiction. It’s much more of a mainstream market.
There is a little cross over with genres between both Eternal Press and Damnation Books with Realms of Fantasy. In fact we took out ads twice in 2010 for our books in the magazine. The common elements mean some of our promotion points and distribution are the same and others are ways for both the magazine and books to expand.
Realms of Fantasy has mainly been a print magazine, with some PDF and a few Kindle editions. We plan to expand more into the electronic arena to reach new readers, reconnect with former readers and offer more ways for people to read this incredible magazine. Those who love print need not worry; we have no plans of going completely electronic. It’s an exciting time in publishing and we want to be there and available for everyone, no matter how they like their fiction.
Realms of Fantasy announced its closure several weeks ago. When did you decide to buy the magazine? What was it about ROF that made you want to bring it back from the brink for a second time within the last 18 months?
I’ve enjoyed Realms of Fantasy since the 1990’s. I have a binder of issues from back then so my husband (the other co-owner) and I have a love for the genres. When I heard RoF had folded again, it made me sad. Then I was on a writer’s chat with guests who publish a different magazine. They mentioned the former owner of Realms joking about selling it for a dollar. I teased my husband about buying it and when he didn’t faint, the conversation turned serious. So I contacted them.
Obviously we paid a LOT more than a dollar for the magazine. That would be insulting for something worth so much more. It turns out we use the same software to format books that the magazine uses and with staff and distribution already in place, we were a good choice.
It’s exciting how the staff asked the hard questions and are confident enough in us to stay on board so the fiction editors and columnists are remaining.
Considering that the magazine industry is on shaky ground and Realms of Fantasy has struggled with generating adequate subscription renewals to keep the magazine going, what is your plan for turning the magazine into a sustainable enterprise?
Of course, subscriptions are really important but so are single sales. Maybe that’s my book background coming through but I have no problem with selling one issue to someone. If they like it, they’ll be back for more. I’ve been in the shoes of someone who cannot afford a subscription but can grab an issue on payday. Their love of the magazine isn’t any less.
That’s another reason for reaching out digitally. The affordability of electronic editions and the ability for it to reach people through their iphones, ipads and ebook readers. I’ve seen a lot reported on interactive books and see the potential to sell a digital subscription where an rss feed gives you the updated new issue each release. Some people aren’t ready for that but a lot are looking forward to it. We want both kinds of readers to enjoy our magazine.
In the perfect world, looking two years into the future, where do you see Realms of Fantasy? Damnation Books? What is your vision for the future?
For Realms of Fantasy we want to have the number of electronic subscriptions match the print subscriptions. In addition we want to know that our fan base loves the magazine and always anticipating the next issue.
For Damnation Books LLC we want to continue to publish the best fiction in the industry, both from established and new authors. We will also be keeping an eye out for new technologies to leverage into our business. Most of all, we want our customers to be confident in the kind of books and magazines we publish.
What are some of the greatest challenges that you foresee in achieving that vision and getting the magazine up and running under your press?
We have some proving of ourselves to do and a lot of hard work. We’re continuing to automate some areas of the workplace to make our staffs’ lives easier, but some of that comes with training and patience. That should also help us keep costs down (meaning keeping prices down).
Impressing readers, writers and artists is not an easy job but one we’re already working on. Getting the word out that we’re here to stay is also something we’re working on.
Damnation Books is primarily an eBook publisher, which is a much different animal than a print magazine. Do you envision a dual publishing format for Realms of Fantasy in the future, will you only maintain the print version of the magazine, or will you transition to an eZine format for digital readers?
I think I addressed this before but yes, I definitely want to publish Realms of Fantasy in as many formats and sell it in as many places as possible. The former owner talked about publishing anthologies of each year’s stories from the magazine (starting with 2010). That is also something we’re interested in doing.
We’ve already heard through Doug Cohen’s blog that Realms of Fantasy’s staff will stay in place. What other logistical changes can people expect now that ROF is under new management? For example, would you consider switching to electronic submissions?
We are considering electronic submissions and are looking seriously at how to best handle them. That said, it will be a bit before we actually implement this because our focus first off is to see the December issue out to subscribers and newsstands. Then bring out the February 2011 issue with a bang.
For now, I’m recommending authors, poets and artists use the normal submissions mailing address:
Realms of Fantasy
Shawna McCarthy, Fiction Editor
P.O. Box 527
Rumson, NJ 07760
P.O. Box 1357
Valley Stream, NY 11582
Regarding the content of the magazine, will Realms of Fantasy maintain the same look and quality that it has now? Other than the upcoming April 2011 edition, will ROF take on more of a dark fiction format? Will you keep the full color artwork for which ROF has become so well known?
We’re adding poetry in the coming year. We’re taking poetry submissions, but don’t expect the first pieces to appear until the June 2011 issue (which is the 100th issue of Realms of Fantasy so we’re planning a 100 page issue to celebrate).
The reason for the dark fantasy issue for April 2011 is Damnation Books is already set up for a dealer’s table and a party at World Horror Convention at the end of April and we want to show off Realms of Fantasy while there. It’s not our intent to change the entire focus of the magazine, just that one issue’s theme. I wish I could tell who the cover artist is for April but it’s too soon. I’m loving it and know you will too.
We are keeping with the full color magazine and full color art for now. However, we are planning to open to black and white illustrations as well because some artists specialize in the black and white. It’s more of an expanding options than anything else, but note that not all issues will have black and white.
Where can authors go to get more information about the transition to Damnation Books and their submissions?
I’d say keep an eye on the website. It will be going through updates and some changes in the next couple of months as we transition. You can also follow us on facebook and twitter.
- FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/RealmsOfFantasy
- Twitter: @RealmsofFantasy
- Twitter: @DamnationBooks
Where can readers go to subscribe or renew their subscriptions?
That’s the first thing to be updated. Subscribers can use the subscription card in their issues and mail them to :
Realms of Fantasy
P.O. Box 1208
Santa Rosa, CA 95402
Or they can email me at email@example.com
We can send a paypal invoice (which can be used to pay via paypal or by credit card) if you prefer. I will also be writing to all of our current subscribers in the next few weeks to reassure them we will honor their current subscriptions. The plan is to include a subscription renewal form in case they need one.
We plan on adding email subscriptions soon as well so look for that option in probably January. For an email subscription, you can receive the pdf mailed to you with each issue’s release.
I’d also like to mention the advertising contact is also firstname.lastname@example.org
Realms of Fantasy
P.O. Box 1208
Santa Rosa, CA 95402