The Vile Rites & Arcane Rituals Behind Worlds Without Master

Yesterday we looked back on the first year's worth of Worlds Without Master, with particular attention paid to how viable it has been as a publishing model. You can read about that here, but the gist of it is that, for my purposes, the ezine is fairly sound.

Now our starry eyes shall look back to the very origin of each issue. How do I make the decisions I do? Where does the Patron Horde's hoard go?

Let's begin by setting some expectations (paraphrased from the submissions page):

  • Worlds Without Master is a self-publishing endeavor. Just so we’re clear on my intentions. I have fiction and games that are burning to get published. There are folks out there interested in seeing this fiction and these games published. Together we are also interested in publishing the fiction and games of like-minded individuals.
  • The ezine is funded by the Patron Horde. You can witness the might of the Patron Horde for yourself by going to Patreon is a crowdfunding site that allows readers to pledge to fund each issue of the ezine as it comes out. The number of patrons and the amount of funding available for each is issue can fluctuate quite a bit.
  • Each issue is only planned a month ahead of time. Fluctuations in funding as well as a number of other concerns make it impossible to predict the size of the issue more than a month in advance.

Worlds is alchemical concoction of time, material and money, and these are three resources I must keep a watchful eye on. At the start of every month I have to ask . . .

  • . . . do I have time this month to put out another issue of Worlds Without Master?
    • If no, then I can let it sit until next month while I focus on other projects.
    • If yes, I must then ask . . .
  • . . . have I written something that is ready to be published?
    • If no, then I let the ezine sit while I get to typing.
    • If yes, I must then ask . . .
  • . . . what can we afford to publish in this month's issue?

At the very moment of my writing, the Patron Horde has pledge $1,613.68 for the next issue. This will likely change before I can even finish this post, but it has been hovering around this number for a while now. So we'll build our budget for the next issue on this number.

That number is, like all its ilk, a lie. To get to the truth of it, we must first shave 5% off of it for Patreon's cut. This a very reasonable cut and I'm happy to pay it, but I always be aware of the fact that I am paying it.

Then the credit cards take their cut, which is usually around 7%, but we'll say 10% just to be safe. The credit card used to dig deeper. I can get into the math that I suspect is behind that change if folks want, but the long and the short of it is as a patron backs more than one creator, the flat portion of their credit card fee gets spread a little thinner. It does fluctuate a little, though, so I'm sticking with 10%.

Then a small amount of pledges don't go through at the right time. Most of these seem to come through eventually, but I have to build my budget on the money that will be coming to me in time to pay the contributors. So I'm going to be overly safe and tack another 10% onto the Patreon and credit card fees, even though in practice this is usually less than 5%.

That brings us to about 75% of the Patron Horde's pledge. In this case, we have $1,210.26.

Chapter One: Eppy's Story

Each issue starts with one of my stories. For the moment, I'm content with paying myself for my stories out of the money the issue makes on post-release sales. So I don't need to worry about what the ezine owes me when I work out the budget, but I should keep track of it anyway. Since I pay myself the same rate as the other authors, we're going to start off with the ezine owing me $200.

But unlike this blog, I'm not going to just dump my raw thoughts into the ezine. I'm going to need an editor ($80) and a proofreader ($20) to keep me in line. Plus, I want the story to look pretty, which means an illustrations: one 1/3rd page black-and-white column at $25 and a 2/3rd page black-and-white block at $75.

  • Debt to Eppy: $200
  • Cost for editing, proofing & illustrating: $200
  • Remaining Budget: $1,010.26

Chapter Two: Oh, the Beating Drum!

It is my great pleasure to have published an installment of Bryant Johnson Paul's continuing saga of the everyday lives of adventurers in every issue of Worlds to date. And I see no reason to stop now. Well worth $200.

  • Cost for comic: $200
  • Remaining Budget: $810.26

Chapter Three: Illustrated Cover

$1,600 was the milestone for an illustrated cover and we beat that by just over $13. So we're going to take another stab at it. I pay quite a bit more for the cover illustration since it is both in color and under more scrutiny than an interior illustration. And I'm happy for it. We've only had one illustrated cover thus far, but damn, folks, take a look at it! Rachel Kahn did an amazing job and I look forward to seeing what other artists do with the space.

  • Cost for cover illustration: $300
  • Remaining Budget: $510.26

Chapter Four: The Game

We're starting to cut it a little close here. Usually at this point I get a little scared and start thinking about putting one of my own games in here, just to go a little easier on the budget. But the one I currently have lined up is not my own, but it's a two-player game that literally requires that you play with fire. I'm not passing that up. So that's $200 for the game itself. I'll do the editing, but I can't do illustrations ($100). And I should probably have someone else do the proofing ($20).

  • Debt to Eppy: $80
  • Cost for game, proofing & illustrations: $320
  • Remaining Budget: $190.26

Chapter Five: Another Story

Here's where we close our eyes and leap over the edge. But I've got a ton of scintillating sword and sorcery fiction from other authors just snarling and clawing at their cages. There's always going to be at least two stories in each issue and one of them has to be from someone other than Eppy. $200 for this story. $100 for its illustrations. I'll do the editing, but I need to leave the proofing to someone else ($20).

  • Debt to Eppy: $80
  • Cost for story, proofing & illustrations: $320
  • Remaining Budget: -$129.74

Chapter Six: The Miscellany

I guess I'll do this my damn self. But I should probably have someone else proofread it.

  • Debt to Eppy: $100
  • Cost for proofing: $20
  • Remaining Budget: -$149.74

Epilogue: The Hustle

I also charge the ezine 10% of the contributor costs to cover all the layout and extra hustle that needs to be done before it can be put out. It's not a particularly fair rate for me, but ezine's happy about it and when it comes down to it, that's what counts.

Final tally:

  • Total Costs: $1,360
  • Estimated Budget: $1,210.26
  • Amount in excess of the estimated budget: $149.74
  • Estimated Debt to Eppy: $743.74
    • $200 for the story,
    • $160 for the editing,
    • $100 for the miscellany,
    •  $134 for the hustle,
    • And $149.74 to cover the budgetary gap.

And that's how an issue is conceived. Perhaps a bit later this month I'll go into all that the hustle entails, because it's not nothing. But this is probably enough for the time being.

The Patron Horde is the lifeblood of Worlds Without Master. That bimonthly $1,360 bill would seem indomitable without the might of the patrons at my back. And it is only through their strength that the ezine will grow. Our very next milestone is less than $300 away, at which point I can safely pay myself for my fiction when each issue is released. Beyond that, the future is unwritten. More fiction? More comics? More games? Or something entirely new? The only way to find out is to join the Patron Horde and ride with us into these unknown lands.