Patrick O’Ryan shares the history of Medusa Tales and future plans for this new publisher.
SR: Let’s start with introductions. Tell us a little about the team at Medusa Tales.
PO: I’m fortunate to have a team of ten slush readers to help evaluate submissions. My responsibilities include editing, publishing, marketing, and the tech side of things. My day job is in technology so that last part is easy, but the rest of it is a bit foreign at this point. It’s been a fun learning experience, though.
SR: What inspired you to get into publishing?
PO: That’s a good question. I enjoy reading other speculative fiction magazines and I’ve submitted some stories here and there. It’s a tough business for authors given the single-digit acceptance rates. I wanted to provide another publishing outlet and also see if I could find a market for our niche theme.
I suppose I also wanted to see if I could run a magazine. I think the answer to that question is “not by myself.” It takes a village to publish a magazine.
SR: How did you decide on a name? What does it mean to you?
PO: We considered several names, but Medusa Tales just had the right vibe. Naturally, the name ties in with the theme of transformation stories. After all, who better to embody transformation than Medusa herself? She transformed in a radical way thanks to Athena and, of course, transformed a lot of other people in turn. Also, I think she’s been unfairly vilified, so the least we can do is name a magazine after her.
SR: Who’ve you published so far?
PO: We published stories from 30 different authors in our first two issues. For some of them it was their first sale while others have fifty sales or more. Anyone is welcome to submit their work and we consider every story.
SR: Medusa Tales has a pretty unique focus. How did that come about? What is it about transformation and immobilization that appeals to you?
PO: Yes, it is a unique focus for sure. I developed an interest in transformation stories (statues in particular) after finding some well-written examples online. I tried my hand at writing one and quickly discovered it’s not an easy task. Then I found a group of authors who were critiquing each other’s transformation stories and get involved with that. So I suppose I got into this niche gradually.
I should mention, though, that our expanded focus for the magazine encompasses any sort of physical transformation. I’ll always have a soft spot for statue stories, but I’m thrilled with the work we’ve received so far and the breadth of stories submitted.
SR: What work out there do you wish you’d published? What would you hold up as the benchmark of what you’d like to put your name on?
PO: I’d love to publish stories from some well-known authors in sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. That could be huge for promoting the magazine, boosting sales, etc. At the same time, those authors would have to compete with everyone else and may not get selected. It’s more important to me to publish the stories I feel are best for the magazine than to chase the big names.
SR: What do you wish you’d known about publishing before you got started?
PO: I wish I’d known how much time it would take to respond to submissions. I should have had a better system in hindsight. I actually sent emails by hand in response to all 145 stories we received for our first issue. After that, I invested in a Web-based submissions management solution that automates a lot of the manual work I did the first time around. And I’m still able to personalize many of the emails.
SR: What’s the most surprising thing you’ve discovered from publishing?
PO: I was surprised by the low barrier to entry for new digital magazines. After setting up a website, a Patreon, and a Twitter account, I was off to the races and receiving stories. The challenge isn’t so much in starting a project like this. The challenge is in following through by publishing the first issue and then sustaining the project for the long term.
Of course, Medusa Tales needs to be sustainable from a time and workload perspective. If we can’t keep up with submissions or meet publishing commitments, that wouldn’t be good for authors, readers, or anyone else. It also needs to be financially sustainable where our revenue covers our expenses. We’re not there yet, but I’m optimistic about reaching that goal by the end of the year. In the meantime, I’m covering the difference. I also want to increase the pay rate for authors, but we need to break even at the current rate first.
SR: What will you be releasing in the next few months?
PO: We’ll publish our third issue in September and our horror-themed issue on Halloween. I’m also planning a special edition with a tentative date of December. Stay tuned for more about that in the near future.
SR: When can writers submit stories to you?
PO: Our next submission window runs from October 1st to the 15th.
SR: What one tip would you give writers hoping to be published by you?
PO: My number one tip would be to read some of the stories from our first two issues to get a feel for what we publish. They’re available for free on our website. Then come up with an original tale of transformation that could fit among those other stories. The fit of a story is huge. I turned down several excellent stories because they just didn’t have a transformation element. Also, while we accept stories up to 5,000 words, the sweet spot is really 3,000 words or less. We do publish longer stories, but they need to be exceptional.
Patrick O’Ryan lives in Boise, Idaho, with his wife, kids, and dogs. When he’s not working his day job in technology or running Medusa Tales, you’ll probably find him skiing, playing disc golf, or writing his own transformation stories.
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