Biblioracle discusses business models and literary magazines

I recently realized that if you want to be successful in life, you must have one thing above all others.

Is it intelligence? No. Creativity? No.

Grit, courage, tenacity? Nope.

Great physical beauty? A winning personality? A DeLorean equipped with a time machine that will allow you to travel into the future and return to the past armed with the knowledge of events to come?

No, and let’s be serious now.

The answer is a business model.

A business model at its core is essentially the mechanism by which an entity obtains sufficient revenue to finance its operations, and ideally even make a profit.

Many of the things that are important to me have struggled with their business models. For example, newspapers, like the one you’re reading, have struggled for years to come up with a viable business model after the original one based on advertising revenue was disrupted by the Internet.

Twitter, a place where I spend too much time but is nevertheless the primary vehicle for drawing attention to one’s writing, seems to be suffering from its new owner’s lack of a viable business model.

Another type of entity that lacks a viable business model is the literary magazine. This past December saw the end of Bookforum, a book review magazine that has been running since 1994 and has produced some of the most in-depth and influential criticism in its entire existence.

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But when Bookforum’s parent publication, Artforum, was acquired by the Penske Media Corporation without bringing Bookforum with it, the cost of producing the magazine as a stand-alone magazine became too great to continue.

The average reader is most likely unfamiliar with Bookforum, but as I often note here, all of us who value books and reading are participants in a larger book ecosystem, and there are many parts of that ecosystem that we may not be aware of. is not aware. affect our lives.

The literary magazine helps sort, nurture and distribute books that aspire to achieve artistic merit. Authors such as Rachel Cusk, Karl Ove Knausgård and Maggie Nelson are first introduced to larger audiences through these smaller niche literary publications.

The truth is that there has never been a viable business model for a literary magazine, as they are often expected to make ends meet through a combination of philanthropy, patronage and sacrifice by those who produce the issues. Book Forum has managed to last far longer than most similar efforts.

Unfortunately, in the world we live in today, if you don’t have a viable business model, you don’t seem to matter. Can’t manage to print your magazine and pay your staff based on subscription income? It’s the breaks, kid. There is no place in our world for you.

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The thing is that all types of entities can apparently continue to operate without a viable business model. I already mentioned Twitter, but what about Uber, a company that has not only lost tens of billions of dollars during its existence, but one that many believe has no viable long-term profitable business model? And yet many continue to invest in Uber because we can cling to the likely fictional hope that it will one day return money on that investment.

One month of Uber’s losses would fund the entire literary magazine ecosystem for a lifetime.

The difference is that the literary magazine does not pretend that it will one day be extremely profitable, and therefore does not seem worthy of investment, no matter how successful it is in carrying out its mission.

It’s the thing I’m going to keep thinking about, maybe for the rest of my days.

John Warner is the author of “Why They Can’t Write: Killing the Five-Paragraph Essay and Other Necessities.”

Twitter @biblioracle

Book recommendations from the Biblioracle

John Warner tells you what to read based on the last five books you’ve read.

1. “Dr. No” by Percival Everett

2. “Valentine” by Elizabeth Wetmore

3. “The Violin Conspiracy” by Brendan Slocumb

4. “Stoners” by John Edward Williams

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5. “The Echo Wife” by Sarah Gailey

– Jane W., Apache Junction, Arizona

I look at this list and then I look at my bookshelf and let my heart and gut take me to the book that feels right for Jane and the answer is “The Fates Will Find Your Way” by Hannah Pittard.

1. “Going Rogue” by Janet Evanovich

2. “Beloved” by Toni Morrison

3. “NYPD Rescue 7” Marshall Carp

4. “Alive” Patricia Cornwell

5. “Fair Prey” John Sandford

– Linda M., Chicago

The “Slow Horses” TV series starring Gary Oldman is really fantastic, but it also reminds me of the book series it’s based on, which is even better. The recommendation is “Slow Horses” by Mick Herron.

1. “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles

2. “The hundred years of Lenni and Margot” by Marianne Cronin

3. “Britt-Marie Was Here” by Fredrik Backman

4. “We Were Liars” by E. Lockhart

5. “Happy All the Time” by Laurie Colwin

— Phyllis C., Chicago

In the cold winter months, I sometimes find myself drawn to books that truly warm the heart, and I think Phyllis will enjoy my selection that fulfills that goal: “The Lager Queen of Minnesota” by J. Ryan Stradal.

Get a reading from the Biblioracle

Send a list of the last five books you’ve read and your hometown [email protected].



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