Amanda Meadows—just recently named to PW’s Star Watch 2015 list– is the co-publisher of the hilarious comedy magazine The Devastator and the driving force behind the Con Exhibitor Survey which we co-sponsored last year (2015 edition coming!) She is certainly a star to watch, but on the Devastator tumblr yesterday she announced that the magazine will be shutting down after five years. The entire post runs down the reasons why a magazine in the hallowed tradition of National Lampoon or Spy (ask your parents)—even with contributions from staffers for The Onion, the Daily Show, Adult Swim, Marvel and more—is a non-starter these days. You should read it all for a history of an idealistic and talented publishing company that adapted with the times, but here are two nut graphs:
Subscriptions: We never had enough total subscribers. We’d get a new batch at conventions every year, but because the series released so infrequently (2-3/year), people didn’t feel compelled to renew. We didn’t have a system for auto-renewal, either. (Since the books released on an unusual schedule, automated payment was too tricky to set-up.) As a magazine, which is what we were calling ourselves then, this was a huge problem. Our advertisers were happy with the creative content of our ads, but those ads never met enough eyeballs to make a difference with their business. They all dropped out, one by one.
Reverse Books: Our subscription numbers weren’t growing fast enough, but we were selling through copies a lot faster at conventions. This was in large part due to the attention-grabbing back covers – which we put more time and effort into – like “400 Reasons to Get Married… to Your Cat,” “Brent Spiner’s Tok-Warz,” and “Oh the Flesh You Will Eat!” People liked and understood these. They would buy a copy on the strength of the back cover alone.
Given that people don’t want to buy a magazine…but they do want to buy that magazine when it looks like a book, The Devastator team is not going away! Instead they are remaining as a full on book publisher, and have just announced the Skull and Books Society, a subscription service for the books they plan to publish. For $10 a month you get
Once a month, you will receive a new funny book from The Devastator in the mail or a book by one of our noble contributors. You will also have access to The Vault of Vaults, where you can read every book we’ve ever made in digital format, DRM free. Delve deeper inside The Vault of Vaults for a monthly Skull and Books audio newsletter that takes you behind the scenes at Devastator HQ.
Only 50 members are being accepted for this top secret society so get in line!
The Devastator has already published a bunch of standalones including:
• The Enemies of Twenty-Something Mega Man featured across the podcast-o-sphere, on shows like The Biggest Problem in the Universe and Jordan Jesse Go!
• Wizards of Cockblock Forest was the first (and only?) “Special Late Night RPG Event” of San Diego Comic-Con.
• We made a sticker book where you put dicks on presidents!
Given their track record, The Devastator’s new plan seems a cunning one, and I’m pretty sure the laughs will continue to flow. The announcement of the change is a great read for anyone with a business of their own. As Meadows writes:
Talent, dedication, and hard work are not enough for a creative enterprise to survive.
There are so many intangibles and disruptions in all creative fields now. Flexibility is the key to survival.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.