Defining success

Nov 23rd, 2009 | By | Category: CG Blog

Put yourself in our shoes, just for a minute.

You live a pretty normal life. You work a day job you’re at best indifferent about, as does your significant other. You’ve got some debt that (for the moment) is manageable. You’re raising a great kid. Generally your life is good – tiring, but good.

You have this other thing that you and your SO work on together; a small magazine. You started it a little over a year ago, maybe a bit more spontaneously than was wise. But it’s worked out well. The magazine is chugging along nicely, with a growing reputation for quality work and professionalism. Contributors to previous issues freely say things like:

“…they were fantastic. Had great editing suggestions, were a pleasure to work with and put out a high-quality publication.”


“…a stellar presence that puts together great fiction and superb art.”


“This growing market is a prize. They’re good people and a pleasure to work with.”

It would be impossible not to feel pretty elated knowing that you’d made such a strong positive impression on the people you’ve worked with. Being a writer yourself, one of your biggest hopes for the magazine was that it would help encourage writers (however few or many possible) to pursue their writing with fervor and optimism. The magazine is a ton of work, but it’s immensely satisfying; you can proudly say that writers are proud to be published in it.

Unfortunately, the magazine is also a money pit. You knew you’d lose money on it when you started – you just didn’t think it would be so much money. At the one-year mark of the magazine’s existence, after going over your finances, you conclude that, at its current pace, you won’t be able to afford to keep the magazine going another year.

So you put out a call asking for help. You hate doing this; you don’t like asking for money under any circumstances, and especially not from people who you just want to share this fun work with. Hell, you started the magazine intentionally offering content for free because you knew the economy was very bad and people could really use some free entertainment. But you have no choice – it’s this, or no more magazine – so you do it.

And help comes in. It’s not an onslaught, because let’s face it, the economy’s still lousy and money is scarce all around. But a lot of people help spread the word, and those who can help, do. People even get creative on how they help, which shouldn’t be surprising because a lot of them are writers and artists.

Most amazingly, not one but several writers offer their work to you for free; either tearing up old payment checks they hadn’t cashed (and in one case, framing it), or saying not to send payments for work you’ve already agreed to pay them for – even offering to sign new contracts to that effect. Think about that, just for a moment: Writers, people who want to be widely published and (presumably) would love to make their livings writing, giving away their writing.

Why would they do that? The answer is in the emails you receive from them:

“Hey … if you are having finance issues with CG, you can totally have [my story] for free.”


“…I bought a few copies of the magazine sans discount, but I want to do more, so let’s not worry about paying me for the sub, all right? You can give me a penny next time we see each other at a con, so it’s still a sale, but really I think you guys need the bucks more than I do … so it’s not a huge deal for me (whereas being in the issue was, and that’s done, so good job all round).”


“You remember that check you sent me, as payment for the story you published. Well, I’m never going to deposit it, so you can take that debt off your books. Consider it a donation or contribution or whatever you prefer. I framed it and it’s hanging on my wall. Sorta like the first dollar for a new business.

I don’t know if that helps the finances much, but it’s the least I can do.”


“The greatest reward writing stuff for you guys has just been the honor of being accepted into your publications. Having my first story I submitted get snatched up by you guys right off the bat has given me the confidence to work harder at this whole writing thing. It is something I will be eternally grateful for, and it’s about time I showed it.”

Most of the money’s still lost, and will likely never be recovered; but enough has come back, thanks to the generosity of people who appreciate and respect the work you’ve done, that you can almost see stability on the horizon; you’re not quite there, but you’re close enough to be confident you’ll get there.

And when you read these emails and blog posts, it’s almost impossible to care about the money anyway. You know you should, but you can’t.

This is what success looks like. This is where you find yourself, if you’ve put yourself in our shoes.

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  2. […] anyone be misled by my last post, we have not quite reached that safety point in our finances yet. We need another dozen preorders, […]

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