Whose Work Is It Anyway?

Two 'Salon' Writers Cry Foul

Since 1998, the Sun has reprinted several Salon stories, including at least 10 by Scott Rosenberg. Ironically, one of his pieces envisions a future in which copyright law falls by the wayside. Instead of trying to profit off corrupt distribution systems, he argues, artists should concentrate on forging direct relationships with their fans. Perhaps Salon should follow the same advice.

Forbes's Poetic Profits

It's axiomatic that you can't make money from a literary magazine. But don't tell that to the editors of the bimonthly Forbes ASAP, who spend a few months every year rounding up the best writers in the world and turning them loose on some incredibly trippy subject. "What Is True?" is the topic of this year's Big Issue, a labor of love that stays on the newsstands until November 8. They say it turns a profit. But how?

The Forbes brothers knew the Big Issue would be "something of a risk" when they launched it in 1996, says Forbes ASAP editor Michael Malone. But advertisers quickly responded to the chance to "be part of something memorable and important," and writers tend to "fall in love with the topic." It costs more than other issues, with some writers commanding as much as $15,000 in fees. But the ad-edit ratio is up to 53-47 this year, and Malone says the newsstand sell-through rate is equivalent to that of Harper's or The Atlantic.

It doesn't hurt that Forbes ASAP is sent free to all 860,000 Forbes subscribers, or that its bread and butter is technology coverage. But once a year, Malone sets his staff free to engage their favorite writers (William Vollmann! Tom Boyle!) in "long and intense editing sessions." Modeled after special issues of Esquire in the 1960s, the Big Issue is "the ultimate literary journal," says Malone. "We actually pay the writers money instead of copies of the magazine."


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