Interview with Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner of Apex Magazine
Posted October 25, 2016on:
As many of you know, I’m a non-fiction contributor at Apex Magazine. I interview authors, and occasionally do some other fun stuff. If you’re a spec fic reader who is always looking for something a little weird, a little different, something unexpected, Apex Magazine is for you! Jason and Lesley get this incredible magazine out the (digital) door every month, jam packed with surreal and atmospheric fiction, speculative poetry, author and artist interviews, and essays. But that’s not enough for Jason and Lesley. No, they want to bring you more fiction! more poetry! more non-fiction! For the next 2 weeks, the Apex Subscription drive aims to do just that: gaining more subscribers means more people will enjoy this magazine every month, which means funding for more Apex awesomeness. But why don’t I let Jason and Lesley tell you more? And why don’t we do that while surrounded by gorgeous Apex cover art?
oh, and by the way, there is something really awesome (and a little crazy) coming later this week. It involves you putting your thinking caps on, and me giving away a subscription to Apex.
Andrea: First things first. How did you each get involved with Apex Magazine? What are your responsibilities at the magazine?
Jason Sizemore: I’m the creator, owner, editor-in-chief, and He Who Writes the Checks. I started Apex in response to an early midlife crisis. Here I am, truly in midlife, and I’m still doing it.
Lesley Conner: I’d been working on the book side of Apex Publications for a few years when Cameron Salisbury decided to step down as the managing editor of Apex Magazine. Jason had recently stepped back into the editor-in-chief role and we already knew that we work really well together. He asked me if I’d be interested in filling the vacancy, and I immediately said yes.
As for what I do … a little of everything. Except write checks! That is all Jason!
Andrea: What goals are you hoping to reach with this subscription drive?
JS: Our goal is to raise an additional $10,000 in revenue via subscriptions, bundle purchases, Patreon, and donations so that we can increase our content from 12,000 words to 16,000 words per issue. If we make our $10,000, we will also increase author pay to 8 cents a word. I’m especially keen to raise our author pay.
LC: Yeah, being able to raise our pay rate for authors to 8 cents a word is huge! It’s something Jason and I have talked about for a while, and when the topic of this year’s subscription drive came up, we knew now was the time to push ourselves and go for that pay raise! $10,000 is a BIG goal, but I’m confidant that we can reach it!
Beyond the monetary goals, a big thing for me is reaching new readers. Obviously, I love the stories that we’re publishing and the authors that we work with month after month. I want people to discover these stories and fall in love with them just like I have. The subscription drive is a great way for new people to discover Apex Magazine, and I hope that a lot of people will.
Andrea: What’s something about Apex Magazine you wish more people knew?
JS: That we’re digital only. I still receive post mailed submissions. I have to explain over and over at promotional events that we’re not in print. My parents still think the zine is in print, and totally don’t grok the nature of a digital publications!
LC: That Jason and I are supremely awesome!!! … No? Um … Okay.
In all seriousness, I wish people knew how much time and energy and heart Jason and I put into every issue. How much time and energy our slush readers and interviewers and poetry editor Bianca Spriggs and assistant editors put in. Every issue is eating through lunch, and worrying that I won’t get that one last piece in time. It’s stressing that maybe our readers won’t connect with a story the same way that we did, and working our way through all the little problems that seem to pop up endlessly.
We’re doing this because we love it. Despite the stress and the time commitment and the problems. So when we say we appreciate our subscribers or someone who tweets something nice about one of our stories, we really mean it. Knowing that other people find value in what we’re doing … yeah, that’s the best.
Andrea: What’s the process for getting an issue out the digital door?
JS: Blood, sweat, and tears. The process, technically, starts months in advance of the issue when we decide on the cover art and the original fiction for the issue. The rest of the contents are rounded out over time.
LC: Beyond finding the right content, getting an issue out the door requires an enormous amount of email! Between getting bios and headshots for all the contributors, lining up how everyone prefers to be paid, getting the interviews rolling, sending copy edit notes to the authors, then putting together the draft of the issue and sending it out for a final proofread by everyone involved … The amount of email involved in every single issue is staggering. And that doesn’t even take into account all the email that is generated through the slush pile. Luckily, I can type at a pretty impressive speed. Thank you, high school typing class!
Andrea: I know you’re not supposed to judge a book (or a magazine!) by it’s cover, but wow do I love all the cover art at Apex! Where do you find the artwork? How do you know the artwork is right for the magazine?
JS: I take minimal credit for our incredible cover art. Lesley has an eye for what works and what doesn’t.
LC: Thanks! I absolutely LOVE looking for cover art. There is something very thrilling about discovering a new artist or falling in love with a piece that I think would be perfect for the magazine.
I find the majority of our artwork by searching DeviantArt. Most of the time, it’s pretty easy to find contact information for artists through the site, which is the biggest hurdle when it comes to lining up cover art. If I can’t contact the artist, then we can’t use the artwork, no matter how much I love it. There have been handful of times when either I couldn’t find contact info or I never got a response to a query, and we’ve missed out on truly stunning artwork.
Typically, I don’t try to match artwork to specific stories we’re publishing because a lot of the time the cover is chosen before any of the original fiction is scheduled. So when searching, I use very general search terms. Science fiction, fantasy, weird. Or, if I’m wanting something a little more specific, possibly terms such as: robot, alien landscape, or fire. I scroll through the results and will open anything that looks interesting in another tab. From those I narrow it down until I have three or four that I find interesting. I shoot the links over to Jason to see if any jump out at him as winners. Most of the time, he agrees with my instincts.
Andrea: Thanks Jason and Lesley! Keep being amazing!