Stockbrokers and art gallery owners take off for half the summer. Maybe bloggers should too. Due to my impending wedding (T minus 4 days), and a busy schedule of traveling and moving (for the second time in three months), I will have to cut back on my blogging for the next month and a half or so, at least until we get settled in Chicago. In the meantime, expect approximately one post per week, and also a more relaxed attitude as befits the time of year. You should try it, too, and maybe we’ll run into each other among the gallery owners and stockbrokers in the Hamptons, on the Vineyard, or in the South of France.
Millions Readers: Max here. When I last wrote in these pages, I was introducing our talented new editor, Lydia Kiesling. Since then, we have added a number of new staff writers (Marie Myung-Ok Lee, Zoë Ruiz, Il’ja Rákoš, Ismail Muhammad, Chigozie Obioma) and a new social media editor (Kirstin Butler). We also have exciting projects in the works that we hope will usher in a new era at The Millions.
As is likely not news to anyone reading this, it is very challenging to maintain an independent, culture-focused online magazine.
Today, we are asking our readers to support the site, not because we are in dire straits but because now, more than ever, we believe it is time for you and us to take our destiny into our own hands as much as is possible. Please visit our new Membership page and sign up now. It’s a very quick and simple process and we have a number of tiers that should be manageable for any budget. The three main tiers are annual recurring donations. There is also a monthly option.
The Millions is a unique place. Over the last nearly 14 years, we have helped launch many great writers, and we have improved the reading lives of many thousands. We have helped countless books, small and large, find their audiences.
The Millions is home to curious, thoughtful, sometimes long and untimely pieces that might not find a home elsewhere but that are important to our readers.
It is likely an accident or an anomaly that The Millions grew to occupy its current role and has survived as other independent sites have failed. One truism that has emerged over the last decade on line is that sites and services that are not supported by readers and users are destined to fail. The Millions has managed to avoid this fate thus far. We have never had a source of outside funding — no quiet benefactor or behind-the-scenes corporate sponsor — nor, before today, have we asked the readers to support the site monetarily in any meaningful way.
Instead, the site has survived on various forms of online advertising, options that seem to grow more constrained by the month, and we have increasingly relied upon Amazon’s affiliate program. And while Amazon’s program has been a good fit for The Millions, many an online business has failed when an online giant changed the rules. It is not inconceivable that Amazon could alter or even eliminate its program without warning. Such an event would effectively shut down The Millions overnight. The bottom line is that The Millions, under its current model, could one day need to shut down unexpectedly. A reader-supported Millions won’t ever have to worry about that.
Rather than ask for your support at some future moment, when The Millions is under duress, it has become clear to us that it makes much more sense to ask for your support now, when we are doing well, producing great work, and hopeful about our big plans for the future.
What will we do with your money? First and foremost we’ll ensure that we can stick around for many years to come. But we’ll also use it to get better. One way to do that is to keep paying our staff writers and make The Millions an attractive place for them to write. Financial stability would also enable The Millions to take more risks and expand what we do.
Some final notes: We have been thinking of taking this step for quite a while, but, frankly, have been nervous about how best to present the idea and execute it. Jason Kottke’s recent decision to go this route helped us shake off some of these concerns and take this step (please read Jason and support him as well!). Also – to be clear – we are not putting the site behind a paywall, nor will we ever.
For those who subscribe, we’ll look at offering site-related updates and perhaps a more robust newsletter at some point down the line, though the plans on that are not firmed up at this time.
Finally, a small number of you have supported us in an ongoing fashion via Paypal. We are going to cancel those “subscriptions” and will email you with instructions for subscribing via this new system, should you be interested.
Please see our updated itineraryOne of the supreme pleasures of reading is the way adventures begun on the page – or on the screen – take on a life of their own. Since posting our revised and expanded “Walking Tour of New York’s Independent Bookstores” last week, we’ve been overwhelmed by great feedback. Now, the siren call of an afternoon of leisurely urban hiking having proven too enticing to resist, we’ve decided to make our hypothetical tour a reality. This May, we’re going to convene the First Annual Millions Walking Tour of New York’s Independent Book Stores. Notwithstanding the tough environment facing indies, we’ll get a chance to celebrate some of New York’s best, to explore what keeps them vital – and to hang out with fellow readers.The details:Time and date: Saturday, May 2nd, 11am (rain date Sunday May 3rd, 11am).Itinerary:While our online tour features 11 stops, for our first attempt in person, we’ve decided to shorten it to a more manageable six stops (and an approximate total distance of 4.5 miles).At 11am, we’ll meet at Three Lives (154 West 10th Street at Waverly Place)From there we’ll venture to Housing Works Used Book Cafe (126 Crosby St. between Prince and Houston), where we’ll try to snag some sort of coffee and snack special for those who like to nosh while they browse.Then it’s around the corner to McNally Jackson (52 Prince St. between Mulberry and Lafayette).Then a few blocks to Bluestockings (172 Allen Street between Stanton and Rivington)The next leg, taking us over the bridge to Brooklyn and to BookCourt (163 Court St. between Pacific and Dean) will be by far the longest (about 3 miles).And we’ll wrap things up at Freebird Books & Goods (123 Columbia St. between Kane & Degraw), which will host a little backyard party with beer and refreshments.With about a half hour at each stop, we anticipate that the whole tour will take three or four hours. We hope that you will join us. Anyone can just show up and come along, but if you RSVP to [email protected], we’ll be able to alert you if we need to postpone due to weather. The whole thing is going to be informal – no tour bus, no red umbrella – and if you want to try to catch up with us partway through, you are welcome to, but the only way to be sure to be with the group is to show up at Three Lives at 11am.Garth and Max will be leading the jaunt and we’ll likely be joined by one or two other Millions regulars. Please join us! If all goes well, perhaps we’ll reassemble in 2010 for another tour, focusing on the uptown venues we’ll be neglecting this time around.
As late summer sets in, I find myself lazy, distracted. Like the stockbrokers and lawmakers who spend August relaxing or taking their “recess,” I, too, will be taking it easy. Expect posting to be lighter than usual in the coming weeks, and try to take things slow, if you can.
Tomorrow, March 11, at 7 p.m., readers who find themselves in or near Brooklyn are invited to come here two of our “Year in Reading” participants, Lydia Millet and Martha Southgate, read at the Pacific Standard Fiction Series. The series (which I host) was just named “Best New Literary Event” of 2008 by New York Magazine, and this latest installment should be outstanding. Hope to see you there. (Pacific Standard is located at 82 4th Avenue in Brooklyn, between Bergen St. and St. Mark’s Place, convenient to most trains).
This Thursday, December 6, Gallery Bar on the Lower East Side will host an opening for A Field Guide to the North American Family: The Exhibition. Co-curated by Mark Batty Publisher and the Humble Arts Foundation, this month-long exhibition will showcase prints of the photographs I selected to illustrate my book. Here’s your chance to see the works of brilliant photographers like Jon Gitelson, Tema Stauffer, and Matt Nighswander in person – and even to take one home, if you’re inclined to purchase.Just as importantly, the opening, which runs from 7 to 12 p.m., should be a rocking party. Wine is free from 7 to 8, and drink specials run all night. I’ll be signing books and getting my social chops back in shape for the holiday season. Hope to see some of you there! For more information, see the Gallery Bar website.Then, on Sunday, it’s back on the Lower East Side. I’ll be reading at Bluestockings Bookstore with Alex Rose, trail-blazing author of The Musical Illusionist, the second release from Akashic’s Hotel St. George Press. I hear that Mr. Rose has a multimedia extravaganza planned to coincide with his reading, so I’ve been hard at work on my own visual aids. The reading’s at 7, and again, it would be great to see some Millions readers in the crowd.