Magazine fiction budget calculator

(Originally created in September 2003; updated in January 2011.)

To determine the amount of money required to pay for a weekly magazine's fiction, enter the relevant data above the line, and click the Calculate button. Results appear below the line. (Don't enter numbers below the line.) For comparison purposes, the approximate numbers for Strange Horizons for 2003 and 2010 are provided in the right-hand columns.

I threw this calculator together in a hurry; it doesn't have nice features like error-checking or letting you specify a budget and having it calculate other numbers. The intent is to let you play with various scenarios and see how they affect budget. It should be flexible enough to use for a variety of magazine models, especially if you ignore terms like “weeks” in the field labels. You can even simulate a flat rate for reprints by pretending that all reprints are the same length.

    SH 2003 SH 2010
Weeks of original fiction 49 51
Avg. words per week (originals) 3850 3570
Pay rate per word (originals) .04 .05
Weeks of reprints 3 0
Avg. words per week (reprints) 3850 0
Pay rate per word (reprints) .04 .03

Total budget required: $8008 $9100
Total weeks of fiction: 52 51


I created this in 2003, when we at Strange Horizons were contemplating raising our pay rate for fiction. Various people in the community were saying things to the effect that raising pay rates was trivially easy and inexpensive; the goal of this calculator was to demonstrate that there are tradeoffs, especially when the vast majority of your shoestring budget already goes to paying for fiction.

Raising the pay rate was the right thing to do. But it meant that we couldn’t afford to buy as many words of fiction as we previously had.