A Model for Writers and Editors at Shoestring Online Magazines

When head honcho Dan Zeevi asked me to write occasional posts on editing, my first thought was to begin with titles. After all, those are the first words on the page. It took some reflection/procrastination to realize it was better to begin by introducing our model.

The Long and Short

For the magazine, the blockbuster posts are read tens of thousands of times, and even the lowliest article might attract 1000 sets of eyes. In its best months, DashBurst has seen up to 600,000 unique views. That’s not bad for an online magazine on a shoestring budget. Go(d)ogle knows, there’s a lot of competition.

The writers deserve most the credit for the growing readership, though DashBurst does attract and develop those writers. “How?” you ask. Read on.

Job Number Two…

My main job at DashBurst is to copyedit. It’s nitty-gritty, time-consuming stuff. By my second job is to instruct, to help the writers improve. This second job, though less time-consuming, is more important.

As you may have guessed, our pockets over here at DashBurst are not fat. Many of the writers start as unpaid interns. Why would they want to write for DashBurst? The trade-off is this: they are free to cover what interests them or what they think will interest readers. The writers are the curators. Plus, they build portfolios and followings. And we help them improve their writing. Most of this model isn’t unique to DashBurst, though my sense is DashBurst provides far more feedback to its writers than is typical. The writing improves, and many of the writers stick around to work for the company.

Behind the scenes, the writers and I carry on a conversation about what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes this takes the form of grammar lessons or editing strategies. Other times, we discuss leads and last lines, editing blockquotes, staying engaged with the material. It’s this conversation that my posts on blog.dashburst will share.
But does good writing help attract more readers? That’s a question I’ll leave to you.
Up next: titles.

Featured image by Horla Varlan / CC BY 2.0

Daniel Malakoff

By Daniel Malakoff

Daniel is a senior editor at DashBurst, writes fiction and teaches writing at the University of Pittsburgh.