When Naperville resident Rachel Halpern set out to create “Inscription,” she wanted it to be more that just another online literary magazine. She wanted to publish short stories that are as diverse as the teens who read them.
Thanks in large part to positive word-of-mouth in social media, Halpern was raised enough money to operate the magazine a little more than a year. And she hopes that the combination of advertising and sales revenue will be enough to keep it going for years to come.
Halpern is no stranger to publishing. While studying at Grinnell College, she served as a co-editor-in-chief for the college’s book publishing group, and she interned with book and magazine publishing companies. While working on staff for Alpha, a writing workshop for teens, Halpern realized there weren’t many short stories aimed at that particular age group. She decided to use her editorial experience to launch a magazine of her own.
“Inscription” was always intended to be a digital publication. That way, teens would be able to get its stories anywhere, any time. The 2008 Naperville North High School graduate also wanted something to address what she saw as the lack of diversity in young adult fiction, in terms of both the authors and the characters.
According to Malinda Lo, the co-founder of Diversity in YA blog, while there are signs of progress, YA fiction still has room for improvement.
“Last year we analyzed diversity in Publishers Weekly’s bestselling young adult titles, and we discovered that 15.6 percent of those titles did include characters who were of color, disabled or LGBT,” she said. “That’s better than we expected, but today when half of the U.S. population under 5 is non-white, YA needs to do better or risk losing its readership.”
As Halpern saw it, a magazine offered a great way to include a diverse range of voices.
“(I) realized that a magazine might be a great way to address that, because it’s a chance for so many distinct voices to speak,” she said.
From the get-go, Halpern wanted Inscription to publish at least one story a month on its website. The stories would then get collected into magazine-like e-books, which would be sold individually and through subscription. The Inscription website would also feature a community forum and a blog that would talk about YA fiction news, minority representation and the magazine’s editorial process.
Halpern wanted to pay the writers, designers and website developers. She turned to Indiegogo, an online fundraising tool. Halpern set the fundraising goal at $5,000 — just enough to keep the magazine going for a year. Ultimately, she raised $6,760.
Halpern said the feedback she got while fundraising has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Many of our donors and commentators have said how much they wished this had existed when they were young; some great authors have wished me luck and helped to spread the word,” she said.
Halpern plans to launch the website later in January, and she aims to release Inscription’s first short story by the end of February.
Halpern said the combination of online ads, profits generated from e-book sales and subscriptions, as well as sale of Inscription magazine merchandise will be enough to keep the publication afloat.
Ultimately, Halpern wants Inscription to get to the point where it can publish one story a week, hire more employees and organize contests.
Halpern isn’t ruling out a print version someday — but that’s not a priority.
“One of the goals of Inscription is to make the stories accessible to everyone, and while the Internet isn’t perfect, it does get around to a much wider audience,” she said. “A print collection, though, would be very exciting, and we haven’t ruled it out yet!”