Everyone knows that launching a website is generally a whole lot easier (and cheaper) than launching something, anything that has to be laid out, put on decent-looking paper, and distributed enough so that the people who are supposed to be reading it can even find it to begin with. It's a fact that's at the root of the most spectacular (and spectacularly awful) things the internet has to offer. But launching a site that actually looks good, pays for itself and, puts out content that people are willing to spend time reading? It's a pretty different ballgame. We all know plenty of nice, smart people with nice, smart ideas who slow down, quietly stop posting altogether, and leave behind a shell of a site that hasn't been touched since a half-hearted "We're back, we promise!" post from, say, 2009.
For the version of this story that ends well, though, we talked to our friends over at Full-Stop, whose literary criticism model of "Reviews, Interviews, and Marginalia" has grown exponentially since its launch in January 2011, allowing the site not only to expand its reach, but to gain a real foothold in the lit community and pay its contributors real money for their work. This is no small feat for a fledgling site not tied to any kind of larger publishing entity. Just in time for their 2nd birthday, we asked co-founder and Editor-in-Chief Alex Shephard some friendly, invasive questions about what, exactly they do with their money.
So, it's January 2011 and you want to start a lit site. How much money do you need, and where does it come from? How do you even determine that?
It cost very, very little to start Full Stop. We originally tried to buy a slightly snazzier domain name, but after its owner asked for some ridiculous amount ($25,000, I believe) we went with http://www.full-stop.net, which cost something like $10. We use WordPress, as well as a hosting service, which is also cheap —- a very small monthly fee. We have technical problems occasionally but Eric Jett, our web editor, does a really phenomenal job.
The running costs of the bare bones site are very, very low, to the point of being insubstantial. In December of 2010 and January of 2011 the five founding editors split these very small costs and I think I spent something like $80 of my own money on books. When the site started, all the writing, editorial, and design work was done by people we were friends with, and we all worked pro bono —- we did most of the work before and after the day jobs most of us had. All told, we spent no more than $200 (and probably a lot less than that) to launch, so we didn’t have to ask anyone for financial support.