The Sun responds:
These letters are in response to our fundraising appeal, which we’re printing for the third and last time in this issue. It’s generated money, and controversy, and we’d like to know what you think. Should we raise the price of THE SUN? Please write.
Thanks to those who have given generously. We’ve received more than 100 new subscriptions, and many gifts, ranging from an anonymously-sent five dollar bill to a $500 gift accompanied by these encouraging words: “Here’s hoping you continue. Perceiving the sun in the midst of rain; ladling out clear water from the depths of the fire.”
There’s no need to couch an appeal for badly-needed funds in terms of “love” and “friendship.” It would have been better, I think, to say something like, “Hey, we’re broke. Our long-term survival necessitates more capital than we’re presently capable of generating. If you like what we do and wish for this venture to flourish, please donate any amount you think we deserve.”
That could, of course, be expanded, but that’s the tone I feel comfortable with. It’s a little hard to consider myself a friend to people whom I know only through their offsetted writings. Likewise, I much appreciate your publication, but can I “love” it like the people in my house? Anyhow, “love” and “friendship” are among those badly abused words which can mean almost as many things as there are people who use them. In my mind, love and friendship require direct interaction between human beings. Sending away a check to people never seen or spoken to, so as to help assure continued delivery to my doorstep of printed matter from the same people, has little to do with those qualities.
The enclosed check was inspired, not by the tone of your appeal, but by an unusual quality in what you publish. It’s one of the better uses of felled trees that I’ve stumbled across. Few publications, lefty and new agey ones included, ever bother to regularly challenge people to think; yours is one of the few. It’s nice, now and again, to learn something besides facts. No petrified ideological frameworks either. Remarkable. Just intelligent thoughts from generally caring humans, whose minds are not so blocked by the dominating cultural values.
I am sending you $12 — the current price of a one-year subscription — in response to your plea for assistance. I’d like to add, however, that I feel you should raise your subscription rates and do what you need to do to support your business.
Since I had such a strong reaction to your request (my contribution is sent more “in spite of” than because of your plea), I’d like to share with you some of that reaction:
Yes! Publishing a magazine of ideas makes “sense.” And you are a business — I can’t see any reason why you should not allow yourself to be guided by good business sense. Also, you seem to imply that living simply means being poor and I wholeheartedly disagree with this assumption. I also feel there is a very basic error in your assumption that “money will come when we’re doing the right thing.” (Who will set the criteria for what is the “right thing”?) I couldn’t follow your logic that raising the rates on THE SUN would add to the confusion about money — all I got from that was a sense that you are confused about money.
The entire tone of your plea is one of frustration and desperation and I even hesitated to make a contribution because you left me with such a strong sense that I’d just be pouring it into an already sinking ship (that’s basically why I didn’t send more). Since you obviously wanted to convey the message that you were feeling desperate, you might as well have gone ahead and put it into the first paragraph instead of sort of “sneaking” it into the last paragraph. If you believe you don’t have to plead with friends, why are you pleading?
I really love THE SUN! I read it cover to cover, take it home for my roommate to read (he loves it too) and share special articles with friends. The magazine is very unique and makes a valuable contribution. I’d like to see you state your needs simply and clearly, operate with good business management, and do what you do well (different from trying to do it “right”) — do it because you really enjoy it and genuinely believe in what you’re doing. I personally think that you will find the resources, financial or otherwise, to continue on that basis.
P.S. I’m one of those people who likes to “make everything nice” and hardly ever criticizes anybody for anything! But I wrote this letter because I really care about you and the future of THE SUN. I hope you can hear the criticism and feel the love at the same time.
Thinking about your appeal and looking back at our experience at Rain, the best advice I’ve heard is from the folks at Fine Woodworking:
Do the best job you can — on content and costs — and then charge what is necessary to cover it. Then you know if the world really wants what is offered. I think more and more that we did a disservice to put Rain out at a price subsidized by us — it intimidates others from charging their full costs, prevents people from being accustomed to what things should and really do cost, and builds an unhealthy sense of martyrdom and self-righteousness.
Pay yourselves what you consider a fair wage. Track your costs. Make it all public and charge accordingly. If you want to donate part of your salary to the magazine or give subsidized subscriptions, fine — but keep it out of the real cost of production.
We have to realize what it costs to produce a magazine — and learn from that how much advertisers contribute and influence some publications. It seems better that we each support a few full-cost publications and let (and push) them to go deep and strong into their subject than to feed a lot of superficial and boring publications.
Charge what it costs, then make it worth its price. Open the gates and push for the best. I consider Fine Woodworking a bargain at $3/issue — it contains more value per dollar than any other building/craft magazine I’ve seen. THE SUN can too. Increase the price, and increase the content more. That’s not inflation.
You drive me crazy. Put the price up. Three dollars a year more won’t drive off current subscribers. (That’s the price of one movie.) You can’t run a business by taking in less than you spend. (Well, you can, but you’ll burn out someday.) Although the flow of love in and out of THE SUN office is tremendous, the flow of money needs to be big too. Nothing to be ashamed of! It’s okay to break even!
In any event, I love you. Would it be possible/sensible/realistic/etc. for us to start distributing it again? How about sending us 100 of the next issue and let’s see what happens. I’m sure willing to try.