by Sam Hawksmoor/North
How not to run a Web Magazine
When invited to give advice we always say don’t do what we do. Hackwriters.com has been running for 15 years – which makes us older than Noah in Web years. We have a team of regular writers contributing on politics, lifestyles, travel, reviews and original fiction. We never advertise and have never made a profit – indeed although we say we are supported by the two editors book sales – so few buy them – I doubt it runs tona couple of lattes a month. It’s insane. Gathering, editing and posting around thirty to forty articles a month takes a lot of time and no one gets paid. Of course, the writers have links to their blogs or books and they are building a powerful portfolio of work, which somehow gets found and read every month. And every month someone new finds us, so not only do we gain new writers but readers too.
The quality is often high – and we do try to encourage writers from other places. Sometimes the English is too tough to fix, sometimes the submissions aren’t as interesting as they think they are and sometimes they haven’t read the submission criteria which clearly states we aren’t ever going to print anything to do with porn or racial abuse or partisan politics with no wit or point. Sadly there are no Republican Party Reptiles with a sense of humour any more. I like it best when I get an original voice whether in lifestyles, travel writing or fiction – it’s rarer than I’d like it to be.
I don’t know how we’d even cope if we were actually popular – we couldn’t accept more .(Although we could reject more of course), and since we don’t run all those Google Ads, we earn nothing. I like to think of us as dinosaurs in the web – don’t even know we are supposed to be extinct. – We run on an ancient Mac that works perfectly well but can’t be upgraded any longer. Why do we put up with this? What if I had to install a new engine in my car every time I needed a service? Would we put up with that so easily? Actually a sponsor has emerged willing to give us a new Mac but since she worships RT and thinks Putin is God I have resisted her offers. (RT is the Russian English language news that corrupts everything it touches and supports evil on a global scale).
I have noticed distinct changes in attitudes over the last fifteen years. People are less reasonable in their views. More casual and reveal some unpleasant ideas that might have been hidden in the days before chat forums etc. I don’t let people comment on articles (another characteristic of the stone age we foster). I like to read material on other web magazines, but I dislike the often unguarded, downright unpleasant comments people feel compelled to post at the comment stage. Some people regard this as democratic – but I think the web empowers demagoguery more often than reason. One of our key contributors James Campion sends in his reader responses every month and we print most of those. He includes the hostile ones, which keeps him honest.
But in general I think the feature or the piece of fiction should stand on its own without comment and if you are absolutely inspired to comment – start your own magazine.
Search Engine Optimisation:
We use Freefind. It works. People find us. I am sure we could use Google and a million more would find us, but I’ve learned to accept that we are like the antique book in the attic that gets read on wet Sundays once a year and quite like that. Someone told me that if we put Beiber in the keywords in every article we’d have millions of page views. I’d rather put Roth or Bardugo and get one literate response.
We do no search optimisation of course. The magazine desperately needs a redesign but we feel it has its own logic and well what the hell – one day we will wake up and say – let’s go to the beach – let someone else do this. 15 years is a very long time.
I’d recommend you search our archives and find out what people were thinking and doing all those years ago. Most of it is still there. Hell we’re even archived at the British Library – we are a museum piece. I kind of like that. Perhaps just before Sam One pops his clogs I should call a taxidermist so he can be put in a glass cage marked
‘Penniless Web Editor of obscure magazine’. It could be a warning to entrepreneurs about what not to do.
We were reminded about what we wanted to do when young the other day. Even then it was never about making money. Sam One, wrote a book called ‘209 Thriller Road’ about sitting in a shop window and writing novels for anyone who wanted an instant life story. It was published by St Martins Press all those years ago. We can’t recall if he ever got paid. Sam Two, wanted to make big budget movies from his stories – ‘The Repossession’ came close with calls from Hollywood, but no cigar. He remains optimistic that one of these days it might still happen with one of his stories.
Either way here we are running this magazine so other writers can gain a foothold.
Quite a few have moved on to brighter better things – that’s great, that’s how we measure success. Giving people the confidence to be much more successful than we are.
Editor – .hackwriters.com – The International Writers Magazine
“I am proud that over the last 15 years you have dedicated your time and passion to your magazine. Its calibre is to be admired and revered and I hope that someone will support you without expectations”.