As I wind down the last issue of Hardluck Stories, the question of whether web-zines or a good or bad thing thing for writers is something that I'm still struggling with. On the positive side, having a story published on a zine will give the writer exposure, maybe help in some way in landing an agent or a book deal, or in providing advertising for their books. I know that some industry people--critics, agents, editors, do look at Hardluck. So all that can be good for a writer. But the sad fact is the stories tend to only get 500-1000 hits when they're first published, and maybe another few hundred over their lifetime, so they're not getting the 1000s of readers I would've hoped. Although I did publish one story that receives 1000s of hits--Graham Powell's "Cutting Diamonds". Graham bought advertising on a web-page recommendation site, and another site picked up the link, and the number of hits were amazing.
And now for the thing that has me really struggling over this--Hardluck is a none paying web-zine, but even with the low paying ones--are web-zines doing a crime fiction writer community a disservice by devaluing short fiction? If you're setting the price to $0 or even $25 for a story, that has to be a bad thing for the community, right? At some point that has to bring down the price for stories in print. I know there's a history for literary magazines to pay with contributor copies, but that's hasn't been the history for crime fiction. Anyway, this has been something I've struggling over before deciding to shut Hardluck down (although I have other reasons for doing that) and I'd like to know what other people think.