I'm going to leave this question very open-ended. What should I be aware of if I want to start an online journal?
I'm not an editor, so I can't really be insightful here but expect a giant back log of submissions, especially if your magazine is searchable through duotrope.com.
Also, be prepared to dedicate a lot of time to it. And, if you want the magazine to stand out, you will be spending a shiny penny on it too.
Know your game plan and do your research before you jump in is my advice.
You ought to hire a web designer, to set the look of your site apart from others. And get custom graphic design done.
Have a presence on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc.
Buy polished, well constructed stories (and poems).
Offer advertising for books, other fiction-related websites, and so forth.
Everything Dakota said, for sure. Lots of time and effort will go into it. As Hunter S. Thompson said, "If it's a thing worth doing, it's worth doing right."
You'll want a dedicated, qualified staff of passionate folks.
It can be tough. Getting off the ground is quite hard, when you have little in the way of content onboard it can be difficult to make yourself stand out against more established places.
The trick is to stick with it. Rome wasn't built in a day, and any new litmag is gonna have to make it's way with baby steps, picking up a couple new readers here and there. You snag an awesome content post from an established writer when you can and you try as hard as you can to make sure you have something fun to post at least once a month as most likely that's all it'll take for causal viewers to forget about you.
Don't get upset if you have a tough week with no submissions and few page views. Learn to enjoy the work involved (this is possible, honestly) and what might seem like a chore begins to yield rewards. Parts of it become good fun.
Prepare to give quite a lot of time over to the project. Get a partner on board, it always helps to have someone to bounce your ideas off.
Here is the site I co-edit. It's been up for over eighteen months now, and I think we're doing okay.
Keep in mind that not all of your readers have the same social networks. I don't have a Facebook so there's an unsightly block on a lot of sites I frequent that looks like a coding error, but is really a Facebook error message saying "You must be logged in to view this content."
Don't do the work if there's any possibility that your time will be limited soon. I contributed about twenty hours a week to getting a magazine off the ground that we had to close down because my internet was cut off for over a month. I easily could have seen it coming but ignored it and wound up spending time I could have spent writing on a magazine that may or may not be resurrected.
When we were working, I spent probably three hours a week just looking at other magazines. Seeing what looked good and what didn't, what worked and what should be cut, how it should be structured, how I could set myself apart by including what I thought was missing from other sites.
Be unique. Don't create just another magazine, fill a need that isn't being met.
Let's all post some stand-out examples of online mags who 'do it right'. I'd love to see what other people think of as good examples of online mags. Not just lit either, but genre, ya, et al.
Later I'll post some things I like to see as a reader, and a writer, when I come across an online mag.
A few of my favorites and what's so special about them:
ThunderDome Magazine -- great layout. I can't stress that enough. It's one of the major reasons it's in my top three. I've never been a big fan of scroll-over-to-highlight type layouts, but this one is tasteful and great. Plus, they publish a wide variety and have strong standards. (In the interest of full disclosure, they also recently accepted one of my stories -- but this is, like, the fourth entry. I can't stress enough how high on my list they were when it came to places to submit. I've always been a huge fan.)
JukePop Serials -- Not technically a magazine, but it stands as a good example of a website doing the right thing. Very creative and unique; they filled a fairly empty niche in a great way. They have a great layout and, even better, a very intuitive and user-friendly design. Its best quality is the interactivity.
Fwriction Review -- They're one of my favorites simply because of the variety. I'm not a big genre fan, so it's hard to find magazines that not only fit my preferences but also has a high standard and isn't pretentious. That's hard to find in literary magazines. Genre magazines don't hide behind a pretense; literary ones often do, but Fwriction seems like a magazine that just wants to please its readers.
Likes: submittable, duotrope lisitng
Dislike: blogger subdomains, pdf downloads vs html version
Likes: Easily read, decent font size, obvious call-to-actions
Dislike: Bad editing, 'Theme' issues (unless I really like the theme), too much self-promotion
What are your goals with it? That would really change what you should be doing with it.
Once one of my stories is on the site, I can't get enough promotion from them. I want them to bother the shit out of everyone and submit stuff to awards and all that jazz. Having a lot of promotions makes me want to submit.
I prefer online mags which publish new stuff several (2+) times per week over those who release "issues." I strongly prefer a site which looks good in a browser over one which attempts to emulate a print mag. I'd probably be cool with e-issues if I had a tablet and could read them vertically, (like a traditional magazine,) but a widescreen laptop just sucks for reading long text unless it's formatted and designed for a window.
Don't say you "pay in notoriety."
New lit mags have little to no notoriety, and therefore, should either pay actual money or not use that phrasing.
Yes. Either pay or be straightforward about it.
ETA: There's nothing wrong with being low-pay, either. I'd probably be more likely to send my work to a quality publication that paid only $20.00 per story than one that paid nothing at all.
Whatever you decide, make sure it's in your submissions guidelines.
Agreed with Brandon & Alex.
And looking back, with J.Y. too. I prefer regular updates, online litmags are good for impulse reads and grabbing a bedtime story here or there, or sneaking a quick read in your lunch break. Too many times I have never finished an issue of a monthly magazine, always meaning to get back to those last couple of stories but never managing to.
Recently we've been lucky enough to be keeping an one-update-per-week schedule at Solarcide, seems a nice pace to be working at. From our point of view, another bonus is it lets each update sit at the top of the page for a while, lets each new story 'breathe' as it were.
Alex, thanks for throwing that out there.
Yes, ANY money is better than no money. Even if it's something stupid like $5. You'd be surprised how people will flock if you are offering any sort of cash compensation.
I for one would like to read an online literary magazine I know isn't read primarily by writers hoping to get their work published in said magazine.
• A great look (slick, clean and professional, easy to navigate, with a dedicated URL.)
• A solid focus (what kind of writing will you publish and promote?)
• Pay your authors, even if it's .01 a word. Professional pay is only .05 a word. So a 4,000 word story would only be $40 at .01. But it's something.
• Promote across all media, have a presence: FB, Twitter, G+, Goodreads, etc.
• Even though you're online, strongly consider print (such as an anthology).
• Quality writing. Be very picky and don't just publish your friends. Get big names if possible.
Richard hit a point that means a lot to me as a writer: Consider a print anthology. If I know a site has anthologies (especially Yearly Best of), I will submit the hell out of them. Even if it's only on the kindle, if I have a chance to be in an anthology, I'm in.
But a print anthology is really special and something I've been dying to get in. I want to be in print.
Yeah, Richard said it.
I'm fascinated by the idea of a print antho. Has anyone here done one, or priced it out? I'm in the beginning stages of starting up a web-based magazine (what is the industry standard name for that? magazine? webzine? something else?)
I also plan to use (because I enjoy using) the Submittable service (http://www.submittable.com/). Anyone like/dislike that service? Is anyone using it from a publishers end?
i don't think it's that hard to do a POD (print-on-demand) title via Lightening Source or somebody. talk to Pela Via she did the WARMED AND BOUND that way. very little up front cost, maybe some set up fees, an ISBN, a bit of mail costs for proofs, that's it. not hard to do an eBook either. i've never done one myself, POD. i did an eSingle for Amazon, "Victimized" and it wasn't hard.
i love Submittable as far as sending in my work. a lot of journals, magazines and websites use them. ask just about any editor out there, if you want more information.
submittable is my favorite way to submit. It's simple and easy to keep track of.
Createspace and Amazon are probably the easiest way to get print stuff out, no?
I am looking into doing something with those in the next few months sometime. They have useful little tools like templates for setting manuscripts up in standard book sizes.
Gordon Highland used them. He could probably answer any questions about them.
I don't like CS or Lulu, they tend to do average to crappy work. I like Lightening Source, they do really nice work, from what I've seen.