Since that time, even though I never even got the tiniest of emails from them in response, I have been watching changes take shape. This is a recent snapshot of their website, which shows you the difference. Now Dark Discoveries' cover art gives recognition to excellent horror fiction authors, which was the whole reason I had subscribed to their magazine in the first place.
When I sent my complaint, I attached this sample of their recent cover images from their website to them as Exhibit A -- look at the contrast! 2 years worth of issues with nothing but centerfold models on the cover.
Before I sent the email, I spent a few months being annoyed about my decision to stop subscribing -- I really liked the magazine otherwise. But then it occurred to me that it might be useful for from a marketing viewpoint for the publisher to know why I cancelled even though I enjoyed the writing in the magazine, and the quality of the format.
And so I sent my rant: "I don't understand why you guys feel the need to limit yourself to putting a pretty lady on your cover every month when it has nothing to do with the content of the magazine. Seriously! There are amazing horror artists out there capable of creating original art that would suit the content much better.
"Maybe you gain subscriptions from guys who like to have these out on their coffee tables? I don't know. But as a serious horror fan, this is a real stumbling block to me, and it seems like a holdout from the days when newsstand sales were the bread and butter of the magazine business, when getting someone to grab a magazine at the counter and buy it on impulse was the main goal.
"You guys have an interesting and skilled stable of authors writing for you. Why not highlight their work in your unique publication instead of throwing some centerfold on the cover? I feel like I'm not taken seriously as a horror reader when confronted with that design choice -- why do you have this unrelated visual content dominating your packaging?
"I'm sure you guys don't intend your readers to take this stuff personally, but when it came time to renew, that was the sticking point for me. As a business owner, I thought perhaps you might find it useful to know why a whole segment of your niche demographic is refusing to pick up on your otherwise excellent product."
I also pledged to them that if they changed their format, I would let people know. Since that time, they have put out 3 issues. Every single one of them had an excellent horror author on the cover. No more titty ladies (if you will pardon the expression). I renewed my subscription after the first one appeared, true to another pledge I made them in that email.
To this day I have never heard back from any of the editors or from the publisher. But would like to I think that my email, added to other sources of feedback that they were hearing from, encouraged them to finally make the change to a format that reflected the truly excellent content of the magazine instead of the softcore trash pulp as which it seemed to be masquerading. On their Facebook page late 2015, this message appeared:
Dark Discoveries is making some changes:Clearly our voices came through loud and clear, and the change is positive and permanent. So please -- if you are a horror fan who really enjoys reading new and excellent horror fiction, pick up an issue of Dark Discoveries. You will not be disappointed -- I know I NEVER am.
I have heard several opinions over the last couple of years about our recent cover style. While opinions might vary, I have decided to make a change, and more importantly a commitment. My commitment to customers is this, for the complete years of 2016 and 2017 we will be placing authors on our covers. The pop-tart, bubble gum, pinup, etc. etc. covers will be shelved, for two years, which equates to 8 issues. So everyone out there that stood up and voiced there desire, it will be so.
Now, in return, we need a commitment from you. Sign up, subscribe, renew. We have received a great new fan base with our previous covers, and we need to keep that stream flowing in - and hopefully even expand it. For the record Dark Discoveries has never made a profit, in total or on any one issue. It is a passion of mine more than anything. It was started by James Beach and carried on by Aaron J. French, our current managing editor, and everyone who works on the magazine does it more out of love for the genre than a big payday. We pay 6 cents a word for short stories and all of our issues are full color and 100 pages at a minimum - ranging up to 140 plus pages.
Additionally we will be bringing on Laird Barron and Mike Davis (Lovecraft Ezine) as new columnists. Laird Barron will actually be on the cover of our upcoming issue - #33. Unless we can talk Laird into putting on a bikini I think the cover will pass everyone's standards.
One additional commitment on our part. We will be sure to include at least one HWA member in every upcoming issue during the 2016 and 2017 years. We will not be accepting open submissions, but if you have a story contact Aaron directly - he didn't know I was going to say that - and he will give it a shot. Sorry Aaron. :)
So, we will continue to bring you the great content that we have in the past, now packaged with a cover you can leave on the coffee table without having to explain 'it really is a horror magazine' but we NEED your support. Subscribe, renew, sign up, give us your support.
There are going to be some more announcements upcoming, so keep an eye out. We have some great ideas planned for the next couple of years.