Monday, December 16, 2013


AS WE COME INTO THE HOLIDAY SEASON, Diane Walton, our Managing Editor at On Spec, and Jen Laface, our Business Manager, have suggested to folks that a subscription to On Spec would be a great gift idea. They always sound upbeat when they make this appeal. I can understand why; it's embarrassing to look as if we're asking for your support. So please bear with me, as I do.

EVEN THOUGH THE MAGAZINE HAS been going for 25 years, On Spec has always been in an precarious financial position. The magazine exists almost entirely on government grants through the Canada Council for the Arts and the Alberta Multi-Media Fund. Over the past three years, we were guaranteed that our AMMF grant would only slip by 15% each year. Year Three is now looming; we don't know what will happen. As for the Canada Council, we’ve been given two ‘warnings’ that we need to become more literary. I find this surprising, given that in terms of speculative fiction, we publish quality work (in the past, we’ve actually been accused by others of being too literary). It's clear to me that we're running into the same old bias that SF writers face everywhere: genre fiction is less worthy of receiving government funding. 

In Canada, On Spec is an SF institution. Although we’ve been a venue for many SF writers (Canadian and otherwise) who are happy to see their work appear in our pages, we are supported only minimally by our subscription base. I've never spoken on behalf of the magazine before, but perhaps now is the time. If you’ve been published in On Spec but don’t have a subscription, please think about getting one. If you have friends or family who enjoy reading SF, why not buy them a subscription as a gift? We can’t know what the future holds, but as an SF community, I think it’s important that we support one another. I’d like to see On Spec continue to be part of the SF scene for a long time to come. I hope you do, too. 

What does a subscription cost? An annual one costs less than five Eggnog Latte Grandés at Starbucks - only $24.00 Canadian, $25.00 US or $35.00 overseas. If an e-subscription is more your thing, we also offer them through Zinio. 

Here’s the link to our On Spec Subscription Page. Thanks so much for your support! On behalf of myself and On Spec, have a wonderful holiday season! 


  1. William Green11:50 PM

    I have a question that I've long wondered in regards to smaller magazines like On Spec.

    I am fortunate to live in a city with a glorious magazine store (Christopher's in St. Catharines) that carries On Spec (as well as The Fiddlehead, Malahat, Broken Pencil, Grain, Qwerty... a wide selection of smaller magazines). Hence I buy On Spec right off the shelf.

    I'm curious if magazines such as yours would prefer someone in my situation to be a subscriber (perhaps you make more per issue or having a strong subscriber numbers looks good)?

    Which is better? Buying from the news stand or subscribing through the mail?

  2. Hi, William. Thanks for asking this question. I passed it along to Diane. This is her take on it:

    "Frankly, we lose money on newsstand sales. Both the distributor and the retailer take their cut from the cover price and we get what's left. If all the retailers sold all the copies, perhaps we could break even, but the copies we send to distributors that don't sell are simply trashed, which means we can't even get them back to sell ourselves.

    So for our purposes, newsstand copies are more valuable as an advertising tool - to be seen by customers who look over the shelves. Like any advertising, we hope someone may be interested.

    We make money on subscription copies, for sure. On the other hand, we also are very happy when people support a local business, like an independent bookshop or newsstand. So there really is no "better" or "worse" in this equation."

    Susan, again: My take on it, William? I'd like to see our subscriptions increase 'substantially'. We will always have a newsstand presence, but we need the subscriptions especially with an unstable future looming. Thanks again for asking, and thanks for your support.