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Thread: Astra Publications

  1. #1
    Kiss me, I'm a prince! Keffington's Avatar
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    Astra Publications

    I find this worrisome.

    http://www.astrapublications.com/

    The site claims to have 7 professional-rate short fiction markets. Some of these are strangely similar in name to existing professional-rate fiction markets, example: "LightSpeed SF", rather than Lightspeed Magazine, a legitimate market edited by John Joseph Adams.

    LightSpeed SF, by the way, is already selling Volume 1 and asking for donations. You can give them paypal money, but there is no TOC listed and no cover. The paypal address listed appears to be a personal email address and account, rather than a business account.

    The fiction posted on one of the magazines, Fragment Fiction, consists entirely of reprints from dead (and sometimes hilariously misspelled) authors:

    http://fragmentfiction.astrapublicat...m/browndog.htm

    On some of the markets the editor name is not listed. When it is listed, it is a name that I do not immediately recognize.

    All seven markets share the same domain name, astrapublications.com, which is owned by Alex Korovessis, a name you might recognize from Kasma Magazine:

    http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=160729

    He showed up to vaguely complain that his magazine was in Background Check and to post a call for subs.

    Kasma Magazine paid $10 a story. Jumping to SEVEN pro-rate markets from that without any traction or visibility worries me. The whole thing throws up a ton of red flags.

    Does anybody have any further information?


    EDITED TO ADD:

    1) A NEW eighth "market" has popped up in the past 10 hours. - http://futuramachine.astrapublications.com/index.html

    2) C.M. Daniels (posted at the bottom of the Kasma publications page) said that he was happy publishing with Kasma, a start-up ezine that paid $10/story. (He responded to my PM asking for follow up on his acceptance.)

    3) However, Astra Publications keeps sending up red flags like flares from a sinking ship. They are also being discussed on Hatrack: http://www.hatrack.com/forums/writer...ML/006405.html Apparently, everybody has been getting all rejections from them, and despite having different form letters and different "editors" the rejection pattern (5 rejections to different markets sat for a few days and then were all rejected within the same 30 minute spree) suggests that there is one reader for all 7,8, whatever.

    4) Speculation that this may be SEO related. Perhaps Korovessis is trying to drive traffic to... something? Kasma?

    5) Readshift SF is also already selling preorders for issue 1 of the magazine for $18.98 each, the exact same price as the first volume of LightSpeed SF.

    6) ALL of the buy and donate paypal buttons lead to his email address.

    7) Also, forgot to mention before: it is more than a little suspicious that the front page is offering advice? Services? for starting a new magazine. As if Astra is able to give real advice on that account.

    ETA:

    A ninth magazine has gone up on the index page, but there is no page for it yet.

    - The ninth market is a "Literary magazine". The fourth story listed is the same story that appears in the free section of the Pulp Fic magazine.

    ...Yeah. I'd pass on this one.
    Last edited by Keffington; 08-28-2010 at 12:59 PM. Reason: commas -- New information -- and removing excessive scare quotes
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  2. #2
    Patron Saint of Sarcasm plunderpuss's Avatar
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    Hmm. I am wary of anyone who wants me to give them money for a product they cannot describe. If you're surfing around on B&N's online catalogue and you find a .gif of a question mark, and it doesn't tell you what's inside it, you're not exactly going to click "Add to Cart," now, are you?

    I also find it unnerving when a fledgling market bites off more than anyone else has ever been able to chew. Let's take their 1,500 word sweet-spot and multiply it by $0.05 cents: The author gets $75. Let's say an issue has five stories, which is average enough. So, $375 per issue. All seven magazines? $2,625 just to put out a first issue from each one.

    Without ad space, and no (apparent) corporate sponsorship, that means someone is paying the price of a second-hand 1985 Honda Accord (in very good condition, of course, maybe even with automatic locks that work and matching paint on all the doors!) each time they release issues from all seven markets. And that's not including domain registration, hosting, etc.

    I'm REALLY curious how this is supposed to be a sustainable model.



    P.S. I just realized how hilarious my first sentence is if you click my signature. However, in my defense, since you can see some of the products, I figure you can guess what the others MIGHT be like. It's supposed to be fun! This site appears to have no products which were not created by dead people a long time ago.
    Last edited by plunderpuss; 08-28-2010 at 11:30 AM. Reason: add my P.S.



  3. #3
    Doing the Space Operatic Izz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by plunderpuss View Post
    Without ad space, and no (apparent) corporate sponsorship, that means someone is paying the price of a second-hand 1985 Honda Accord (in very good condition, of course, maybe even with automatic locks that work and matching paint on all the doors!) each time they release issues from all seven markets.
    That's a lot of money for a 1985 Honda Accord.

    To be fair, most of the magazines appear to be annual or bi-annual so, going by your average model equation, they'd be looking at $5-6,000 per year to contributors. While still a lot, it could be feasible to fund that out of one's own pocket based on a love of fiction. Of course, that's not including printing, shipping, general time spent, etc.

    It's the whole pre-order thing ($18.95 for print? that better be one ton of top quality fiction) that really has me wary. Along with the general lack of industry experience, and basic copy-editing errors within most of the sites.

    Personally, i think the person running this has good intentions, but good intentions don't go all that far.
    Last edited by Izz; 08-30-2010 at 09:28 AM. Reason: i can haz grammarz?

  4. #4
    An Author in Search of a Plot Catadmin's Avatar
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    The main website is substandard at best, and the tag "Interested in starting your own professional fiction magazine? Let us show you how." doesn't inspire me with confidence.

    On the other hand, the rates do seem quite respectable. Nth Dimension is a once annually published magazine (or will be). How do they expect to maintain a readership with such a limited production run? And one-time North Am. rights? It doesn't say if it's e-rights, print rights, or what.

    I can't find anything Googling James Carter. It's too common a name. Hmmm.

    Thanks for the info on the rejections. I might sub just to see what the reaction is.
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  5. #5
    Patron Saint of Sarcasm plunderpuss's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Catadmin View Post
    On the other hand, the rates do seem quite respectable.
    Anyone can claim to pay $.05/word as long as they reject you.

    If I was going to be reaaaally cynical, I might say that even though there are blank spaces marked "Banner ad" which are generating zero revenue, there are still Google ads generating money every time prospective writers (or detractors) visit those pages. I wonder how much money we made them just in the past few hours.

    But I'm not that cynical. I'll just say I'd really like to hear someone explain this business model, because my puny brain doesn't understand how it works.

    And Izz, come on! Those cars run forever, and if it's only second-hand, you get all the maintenance records and manuals. The ones built in the nineties aren't nearly as reliable, even if they are newer. (But you're right, I didn't exactly Bluebook it, hehe.)



  6. #6
    Mushroom Polenth's Avatar
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    Three out of the four stories on 'The Written Word' appear on this author's site (Trixie Bayn/Jennifer Simmonds), but they're posted under different names on the magazine's site (one as Jennifer Simmonds... the others as Joseph Thomas and Alana Frek). I thought it was interesting from the point of view of whether any of the names on the site are real names. In this case, one of the names used is the author's pen name. The others appear to have been made-up for the magazine.

    (I assume the stories are there with permission, as the author displays a Kasma Magazine logo on her site and her boyfriend/fiance happens to be called Alex.)
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  7. #7
    I clicked the first link before fully reading the post, and got a shock to see "LightSpeed SF" on the list, not at first realising it was a different mag. Which, of course, is their intent.

    Low, real low.

  8. #8
    Inappropriate Charmer Saanen's Avatar
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    Duotrope is showing a 2-day acceptance to one of the magazines, Atomic Chipmunk. Of course, there's no way to tell if that's an acceptance at pro rates or as a no-pay display story. Seems to me that a magazine trying to get people to drop a lot of money on an unknown quality issue would want to showcase the cream of the crop as a teaser story, not a story that no one got paid for. I wouldn't send them my good stuff for nothing.
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  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Saanen View Post
    Duotrope is showing a 2-day acceptance to one of the magazines, Atomic Chipmunk. Of course, there's no way to tell if that's an acceptance at pro rates or as a no-pay display story. Seems to me that a magazine trying to get people to drop a lot of money on an unknown quality issue would want to showcase the cream of the crop as a teaser story, not a story that no one got paid for. I wouldn't send them my good stuff for nothing.
    I saw the acceptance on the Recent Responses page, but the Atomic Chipmunk page still shows a 0.00 % acceptance rate. How does that happen?

  10. #10
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    I would avoid any "publication" with a website like that, especially when there is also no visible presence of an editor. It's all smoke and mirrors, and that's probably an insult to skilled thieves and liars. Haha.

    We all saw what happened with the Richard Ridyard nonsense from earlier in the year (if you don't know what this refers to, click here). There's a lot that can be done with the work of other writers.

    My suggestion would be to avoid everything that has to do with Astra Publications.
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  11. #11
    Kiss me, I'm a prince! Keffington's Avatar
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    I agree about avoiding. Things have gone from "red flag" to "I really can't see a way this is for anything BUT scamming authors."

    I'm going to post a link over here on the Kasma thread, just so that in case somebody ended up there without seeing this, they would have some warning. I haven't seen bad news about that magazine, but the association with this ridiculous situation makes me worried about it as well.

    There is also a tenth magazine up now: "Athena's Flower is a classically influence publication."
    Last edited by Keffington; 08-29-2010 at 09:56 PM.
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  12. #12
    I write novels
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    Agreed with all the warnings.

    The "publisher" has posted a half dozen or so stories on the various 'zines, but of those, half are public domain, the other half are from his girlfriend's free fiction site. (One of them even appeared twice.) He didn't even do her the favor of fixing the typos and grammar mistakes.

    Maybe he's not a scammer, but he's definitely clueless. I'd avoid them.

  13. #13
    Mushroom Polenth's Avatar
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    They seem to be holding at ten and have removed the part about contacting them to start your own 'zine. Also, the story credited to Jennifer Simmonds is now credited to Jennifer Kessels.

    The changes do seem focused on the things said in the thread. So for the sake of Astra Publications lurkers, I'll point out I didn't find the stories by Googling the bylines. You haven't removed the connection... you've just hidden it behind more smoke and mirrors, and that looks very suspicious. Had it not been for the Kasma/Alex K connection of the original author, the logical conclusion would be that the stories were stolen.

    Honesty is the best policy here. If all your starter stories are by the same author, be honest about it. It also wouldn't hurt to be upfront about the business plan for the operation.
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  14. #14
    Inappropriate Charmer Saanen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by beezle View Post
    I saw the acceptance on the Recent Responses page, but the Atomic Chipmunk page still shows a 0.00 % acceptance rate. How does that happen?
    If your acceptance/rejection ratio is over a certain amount, Duotrope will assume you're only reporting acceptances and will disregard your responses until your ratio drops again. The ratio has to be really high. Nth Dimension is still showing 0% acceptances despite two being listed on the response page; my guess is that the people/person reporting these acceptances has some kind of connection to the publisher and is making it look like they're accepting stories. That's just a guess, though, since Atomic Chipmunk is showing a 2.63% acceptance rate (also with two acceptances on the response page).

    The Astra publication Futura Machine is a new listing today on Duotrope, at 2.5 cents a word rates instead of 5 cents a word.

    Not to beat a dead horse here, since others have posted the same thing, but this whole setup looks fishy. I don't want to flat out say it's a scam--the publisher may well be sincere in his desire to publish ten anthologies in the next year at pro/semipro rates--but it sure looks like a way to generate donations and sales of self-published books.
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  15. #15
    Hapless Virago IceCreamEmpress's Avatar
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    Whether it's an honest attempt by someone without the resources to make their unrealistically big plans happen, or a scam, is largely irrelevant to people looking for places to submit their work.

    This is not a place that can provide you with meaningful exposure to potential readers or significant financial compensation. You, the writer, can do better.


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  16. #16
    Horror Writer onipar's Avatar
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    A fellow writer pointed me to this thread after he found out I had submitted to two of the Astra publications (Atomic Chipmunk and Desert Rose). I received rejections for both and actually submitted different stories to both before seeing this thread.

    There is one peculiar thing I noticed from my rejection. Now, I'm not saying this necessarily means anything, but if you look at the Desert Rose website, it names the editor as "Jasmine F."

    On my rejection, she signed as "Jasmine H."

    I was ready to pass it off as a typo until I read this thread...

    Otherwise, both rejections were form letters.

    EDIT: Also, just as an update, Atomic Chipmunk now has three acceptances listed on Duotrope, and Desert Rose has one.
    Last edited by onipar; 09-04-2010 at 03:07 AM.

  17. #17
    Benefactor Member Manuel Royal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keffington View Post
    The fiction posted on one of the magazines, Fragment Fiction, consists entirely of reprints from dead (and sometimes hilariously misspelled) authors:

    http://fragmentfiction.astrapublicat...m/browndog.htm
    That's a great story. I'll have to read more from Stepahn Crane. (And his deceased, public-domain colleagues.)

    Just got my weekly email from Duotrope. When it listed four new paying markets that were all Astra Publications, I headed right here.

    I submitted to Kasma once and got a polite rejection in a couple of weeks. Now I'm of two minds about these new publications. They'd be about five or six down on my list of markets to try for a given story.
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  18. #18
    Horror Writer onipar's Avatar
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    Yeah, I saw those four new markets listed too. I'm still unsure of what all this means. I'm very curious to hear if authors actually get paid for the work that is accepted and to see what the publications look like once they are released. *If* the are released?

    Anyway, one last thing. The editor from Atomic Chipmunk signed as Conrad Taylor on my rejection. I googled the name and came up empty on any prior publications or fiction under that name. The name sound familiar to any one?

    And of course it'd be pretty hard to find anything about Jasmine F. (or H.).

  19. #19
    Doing the Space Operatic Izz's Avatar
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    Hmm-- it appears as if Desert Rose is gone from the Astra Publications homepage, and it looks as if the site has been taken down as well. Not sure what that means, exactly, but it brings the Astra stable down to 8, 5 of which are asking for SF.
    Last edited by Izz; 09-05-2010 at 04:29 AM.

  20. #20
    Mushroom Polenth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Izz View Post
    Hmm-- it appears as if Desert Rose is gone from the Astra Publications homepage, and it looks as if the site has been taken down as well. Not sure what that means, exactly, but it brings the Astra stable down to 8, 5 of which are asking for SF.
    It's a little more complicated... three magazines are gone (Desert Rose, Lightspeed SF and Athena's Flower). One was added (Live Magazine), which has announced an upcoming story by Jennifer Simmonds.
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  21. #21
    An Author in Search of a Plot Catadmin's Avatar
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    "My, my, Alice. That is curious."

    To misquote Mr. Lewis. @=)
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  22. #22
    Doing the Space Operatic Izz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Catadmin View Post
    "My, my, Alice. That is curious."
    Yup.

    Confusingly so.

  23. #23
    Horror Writer onipar's Avatar
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    Not looking good.

  24. #24
    Kiss me, I'm a prince! Keffington's Avatar
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    Jennifer Simmonds... I would perhaps guess that it is the same Jennifer Simmonds who already wrote three out of the other four stories.

    "Burning Emotions" seems to have originally been Sims 2 fanfiction: http://webcache.googleusercontent.co...ient=firefox-a

    That's a google cache of the tripod page. It was taken down no sooner than August 6. So... Live Magazine is a market for already published numbers-shaved-off fanfiction?

    The story's up at Live now: http://live-magazine.astrapublicatio...onspartone.htm
    Last edited by Keffington; 09-05-2010 at 10:53 AM. Reason: more info to add
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  25. #25
    Doing the Space Operatic Izz's Avatar
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    That's some impressive Google-fu, Keffington.
    Last edited by Izz; 09-05-2010 at 11:51 AM.

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