If you are reading this, you are in a very small minority of people who read genre short fiction (I assume you read short fiction if you are reading this column on a genre short fiction website). You are probably in a slightly smaller minority of people who write short fiction, if the rumors about who reads short fiction are true and I suspect they’re more true than not. And what’s more, you’re in the tiniest of tiny minorities, people who read genre short fiction online.
I don’t know what the reader count is for a magazine like Fantasy, and anyway it’s hard to measure online statistics in any concrete manner, but we can make some guesses about the size of the current active short fiction audience by looking at a few things. At Worldcon, Sheila Williams of Asimov’s said something along the lines of advertisers count every magazine subscription as 2.5 readers for the purpose of estimating reader count. Analog has roughly 22,000 subscribers and a couple thousand newsstand sales. So let’s be generous and say 3 people for each copy of the magazine. Why not? That’s 72,000 readers for the largest of the SF/F magazines. Escape Pod, the internet’s largest genre short fiction podcast, has according to the last figures I can find, 18,000 downloads an episode. Let’s be generous and say that there are 3 listeners to each download say that’s another 54,000 reader-listeners. That brings us to a generous estimate of 126,000 readers a month–mostly just U.S. readers probably, and the number is certainly larger in the whole English-speaking world. The math is highly suspect, but let pretend it’s accurate for a bit.
Let’s compare those numbers to a few popular blog RSS feed subscribers. Yes, blogs are free, etc, but I just want to make a point here about the number of people involved in doing what you’re doing. Techcrunch has around 986,000 feed subscribers. BoingBoing has 536,000 or so subscribers. Let’s be generous and triple those numbers too, because not everyone reads websites by RSS feed, right? Some of the biggest websites on the internet have ten times as many readers as there people reading short fiction in total.