Dave Eggers and the wisdom of the readers…November 12, 2007
I met Dave Eggers for the first time in 1994 right after he published Might magazine which I have selected in that year as one of the most notable launches of 1994. I was so impressed (and still is) by the magazine that folded after a year or so for lack of funding. Dave tried his best to secure funding for the magazine, including sending a letter to John Mack Carter at Hearst (who was publishing my Guide at that year) asking for Hearst to be involved with Might. The response from John was negative and Dave, in a very smart move, published the letter from John in Might.
Well, times have changed and as fate will have it, Dave’s odds in book and magazine publishing have changed and he is in no need to write letters to big companies asking for help in funding his great magazine ideas. He can do it on his own (or with his wife) and in a completely different way. In the November 2007 issue of The Progressive Dave is interviewed in depth about his books, organizations and magazines. One paragraph caught my attention from that interview. It was the one dealing with Might, McSweeney’s and The Believer. Nina Siegal asked him whether he fears the corrupting influence of the mass market. Here is part of his answer (which works also as a great response to all the naysayers who continue to spread the word that no one can start a magazine in this day and age):
“With Might, we did it the dumb way. We thought we had to do 100,000 circulation and we had to have all this advertising, and it was never going to happen and no one got paid, we were all perpetually disappointed, and it folded. We found out that wasn’t the way to do it.
With McSweeny’s and The Believer we decided to do the math better, to depend on the readers, not on advertisers or anyone else. If the readers think it’s good, it will keep growing. That way, there’s no compromise. The Believer ahs a circulation of 17,000 to 20,000 and I don’t know if it will ever surpass that. And get this: Because of reader support, McSweeney’s, the literary quarterly, is able to subsidize some of the more eccentric projects we take on. It’s bizarre but it can work if you depend on the wisdom of your readers.