Author Beware: New Lit Mags

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Join a writers’ forum and it won’t take more than a week or two before it happens: the post about how so-and-so has just launched their new online lit mag and they are actively looking for submissions for whatever genre and length. “Check out our official submissions guidelines for more info” they’ll say, at which point, you follow the link and see if any of your pieces fit the bill. It’s all the same stuff you’ve seen a million times: simultaneous submissions discouraged, the magazine gets first publication rights, let them know if your story gets picked up elsewhere, etc. It almost reads like a form letter you’ve seen it so many times, and perhaps it’s because these new online lit mags are a dime a dozen. The one you’re scoping out today isn’t that different from the one that will crop up next week, and it makes me wonder why so many aspiring authors get caught up in the honeymoon phase of these start-up mags.

Why Do We Fall For It?

Flashback to your teenage years—that era of high school in which social pressure and a yearning to grow up too fast dictated you indulge in moments of non-sobriety. You’d approach an oversized trash barrel containing the keg and watery ice, not really caring what was on tap. Whether it was Bud or Miller Light or Keystone didn’t matter because you had no standards, no refinement of the palate. It was easy, accessible, and it got the job done.

For a lot of new writers, a publication is a publication, and a brand new lit mag is the pony keg of the party. It’s an easy credential.

For a lot of new writers, a publication is a publication, and a brand new lit mag is the pony keg of the party. It’s an easy credential. In an industry where the adage of “publish and publish often” is repeated ad nauseam, here we have a virgin circular begging to be thrown a bone. Meanwhile, PANK and The Paris Review continue to swat away your advances. Ploughshares can’t even be bothered to send you a rejection. Perhaps this is why so many authors decide the new lit mag is the way to go: they’re sick of rejection, or maybe they’re still searching for that first acceptance. Whatever the reason, you send in your story knowing that even though this new mag isn’t your first choice, at least you’ll see your work in print. You can add another endorsement to the resume, albeit a small one that might not even exist in a year. It’s too easy to pass up. It gets the job done.

So how can publication be a bad idea? Let’s count the red flags.

They Pay in “Notoriety”

You’ve probably seen this little gem more times than you can remember. At the bottom of the mag’s submission guidelines, they say something along the lines of: “Unfortunately, we can only afford to pay in notoriety at this time.”

My response to that is: What notoriety? Isn’t this a brand new lit mag? What notoriety can they possibly have if they’re brand new? Are they referring to the fifty or so “likes” and followers they picked up over the weekend (most of which are writers looking to get their names in print)?

“Notoriety,” unfortunately, is a term that gets thrown around all too loosely in the publishing world. It’s also something that anyone can claim to have when they really don’t. Let’s look at Monkeybicycle for a moment: over 2,000 “likes” on Facebook and over 5,000 followers on Twitter. If you publish with them, you can be assured that a sizeable audience is going to see your story. They’re established and they’ve got the numbers to back it. I’m okay with them playing the “notoriety” card if they want. They’ve earned it.

The new lit mag, on the other hand, uses the term “notoriety” more in the vein of a lofty prediction. They don’t have the numbers. They don’t have a history in publishing. They’re counting on the author(s) to provide them with the notoriety they claim to provide. If you decide to publish with a brand new outfit, do so with the understanding that you’re being utilized to expand their audience—not the other way around.

Lit Mag Tip: Pay something. Anything. Even if it’s as little as $5 per story on a temporary/promotional basis. This would automatically put you head and shoulders about the “notoriety-only” outfits. Also, maybe you didn’t know this, but authors love getting paid for their work.

A New Lit Mag Usually Means No Experience

I’ve seen new lit mags crop up that are run by people who’ve earned their stripes in the industry, either by publishing a novel(s) or branching off from a publication in pursuit of their own vision. They’ll usually detail their experience in the “About Us” section of their site, listing their accomplishments and mission statement so that you, the author, can feel comfortable hopping into bed with this person. This section does not refer to that demographic.

If you decide to publish with a brand new outfit, do so with the understanding that you’re being utilized to expand their audience—not the other way around.

I’m talking about the never-done-this-before not-one-sliver-of-experience outfit. This goes out to the “I’m still learning Wordpress” crowd. Here’s the reality: anyone can register a domain and designate it as a lit mag. Anyone. As you’re reading this, keep in mind that your siblings, your parents and grandparents—they could start a lit mag and open it for submissions. They don’t need any experience or background in publishing. No credentials. A few mouse clicks and keystrokes is all that separates them from the endeavor. As an author, that should make you wary, but all too often I see a vehement rush of authors tossing away their work like old Halloween candy upon reading the words “now open for submissions.”

If you’re a writer, I’m going to go out on a limb and assume you take a little bit of pride in your work. The story is your baby, so it confuses me when authors hand over custody to the first willing party. If you’re hiring someone to paint your house, do you go with the person who just started painting houses that week? Or is it a better idea to shop around for someone who’s got some experience in the field?

The point here is that “new” doesn’t equate to good or better or even acceptable. It usually means: “we’re still figuring things out” and “expect missteps.” A large percentage of new businesses fail within the first year, and lit mags are no different. There are tons of them that have shut down their doors for a myriad of reasons, so be careful of whom you give possession of your story to. As an author, learn to equate the word “new” with “high risk.” That’s usually what it is.

Lit Mag Tip: If you’re going to start up a lit mag, please, for the love of God, try to bring a credential or two to the table. Have some kind of a resume that shows us you published something or edited something. Don’t make your authors feel like guinea pigs in your little experiment.

This Publication Might Not Even Count

Roxane Gay, whom I deeply respect, wrote something in a recent article of PANK that caught my eye:

We love cover letters but they have no bearing on the editorial process. Why? Because we don’t give a good goddamn where a writer has been published and we don’t care about your being a finalist in that one contest and honestly we don’t recognize 60% of the magazine names writers list so your saying you’ve been published in Fraggle Rock Review means very little. (By the way, congratulations on all of that.)

Consider that excerpt a moment. Is Roxane coming off bitchy? Or is she telling it like it is? Because if some author jumps into the whoring thread to brag about how he just got published in Barbie Queef Quarterly, and I have no idea what that is, it doesn’t register quite as high as The Missouri Review or The Atlantic. To extrapolate on what Roxane said, a brand new or barely established lit mag carries very little weight…so little it might not even count.

Remember that before you toss your work to a lit mag that is just breaking into the fold, that even though your work is technically available for public consumption (published), to industry professionals like Roxane it “means very little.” I don’t take that as her trying to be a dreamkiller or anything, but that’s the harsh reality of the game. There are so many damn start-ups making their debuts on the daily, to be “published” on one doesn’t exactly beef up an author’s resume. Focus your efforts on the ones that will actually count.

Lit Mag Tip: Accept the fact that just because you’re in a position to publish people doesn’t immediately give you sway in this industry. You have to earn it. You have to regularly put out exceptional content on a consistent basis for many years before you can even begin to touch the competition.

Conclusion

I’ve already accepted the fact that anyone at the helm of a new lit mag is probably going to be pissed off by this column. I’m okay with that. The column isn’t about you, it’s about authors not pissing away their work and being made aware of the red flags. If you don’t like being called out on having no notoriety or experience, that’s your cue to go out and earn it.

Too many authors, myself included, have practically gifted away their work simply because it looked too easy to pass up. They compromised because it had been too long since they had something new to plug on Facebook and Twitter. Stop doing that and aim higher. Turn away from the keg beer and seek out a better experience in publishing. If you want your resume to count, you’re going to have to tackle the noteworthy venues of the industry.

For any of you running lit mags, feel free to state your counterpoints in the comments section. Authors, go ahead and chime in with any experiences (good or bad) that you may have had. We want to hear from you on what makes for a successful or trainwreck of a lit mag.

Image via Every Writer's Resource

Image of Ayiti
Author: Roxane Gay
Price: $9.00
Publisher: Artistically Declined Press (2011)
Binding: Paperback, 126 pages

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Comments

Alex Kane's picture
Alex Kane from west-central Illinois is reading Dark Orbit February 26, 2013 - 9:57am

Excellent article, Brandon. Seconded on all counts.

ScottBryant's picture
ScottBryant February 26, 2013 - 11:01am

It's reasonable enough (if also obvious) to point out that some start-up lit mag doesn't have the same status as The Paris Review. I doubt anyone would trade publication there for some fledgling startup.

That said, what if an author can't place a piece in such a prestigious publication. Is he or she supposed to consign the story to the shredder?

All lit mags had to start somewhere. They don't spontaneously generate from old rags, prestige in place. Somewhere along the way, almost all such mags "counted on the author(s) to provide them with the notoriety they claim to provide." (The same goes for publishing companies too; do you think Random House has been around since the beginning of time?) If everyone followed your advice, then no one would have submitted to Monkeybicycle, and it would never have "earned" anything. They made it because someone took a chance on them--long before they got "2000 likes on Facebook" (and what exactly that counts for, I'm not really sure). 

I also take issue with your plea for lit mags to pay something--anything--even it's only $5. This, I suppose, is for "the principle of the thing"? "The principle of the thing" will get you a cup of coffee and not much else. Is it really so grand to tell everyone on Facebook that you earned $5 for your story?

I happen to know someone who started up a lit mag a few years ago. He had a few small publications to his name, but little reputation in the literary world. With a lot of hard work, he's managed to make the publication such that he receives hundreds of submissions, many from well-established writers. He hasn't paid anything yet, though, and you know why? Because he's either lost money or broken even with every issue. And yet the audience builds each time. One day he may be able to pay, but if writers had followed your advice, this lit mag would have died some time back. 

Again, it's fine to say publishing in one of these startups won't do much for your reputation, and you should know that going in. But writers and lit mags both have to start somewhere, and some start at the entry level. 

 

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this February 26, 2013 - 11:02am

Good points all around, Brandon.

This is part of a larger issue, too--writers who want to earn a little extra scratch and think "I'll start a lit mag" or "I'll open an editing service" or "I'll work as a consultant even though I haven't published/have 20 Twitter followers".

It's hard to monetize any kind of writing, and starting a business is not really the right answer. Sometimes it's borderline predatory, because people who don't know better will dunk their time/money into your stuff, when they could be out working with someone who will actually help them/better their careers. 

All that said, I am not ashamed of my piece in The Barbie Queef Quarterly. 

ScottBryant's picture
ScottBryant February 26, 2013 - 11:40am

And what exactly is this Port Cities Review? The link you provided takes you to indiegogo, where the founder is trying to launch by raising $45,000, of which he's so far only raised $170--though they do have 1,000 Facebook likes, which will buy them, um, er . . . exactly nothing.

What about prestige? "My name is Mark Vanderpool and for ten years I've been helping writers to develop better skills and to launch or improve careers in creative writing. I've done much of this work in online environments such as chuckpalahniuk.net and LitReactor.com."

Mr. Vanderpool may be a fine fellow, but George Plimpton he ain't. 

None of which is to say that Port Cities Review won't turn out to be a great mag. I hope it succeeds and becomes a source for terrific writing. But it does seem like exactly the kind of operation you spent however many words warning authors against. 

 

jdeez's picture
jdeez February 26, 2013 - 11:44am

Great points. In undergrad, there were always announcements of new lit magazines, and even ones for the official magazine of the school (that only accepted submissions from undergrads) 

I always had this in mind and never submitted to any of the start up lit mags or the couple at my university for this reason. 

 

Also, there are plenty of good lit mags between Paris Review and startup lit mag with a wordpress template. 

Scott, I don't think the "startup" the article writer had envisioned was one with credibility. If it's a startup, where the editors and staff maybe used to run or participated in another lit mag, that is a different situation. They have some credibility. There are just far too many fly by night lit mags, just going on duotrope you can see this easily. 

Scott, there is no need to consign it to the shredder. Myself, I keep my stories for awhile, then go back to them, extend them, rework them. Then try to publish them again. I just don't see the point in "publishing" in some small time lit mag. If I wanted to do that It would take me about 30 minutes to have a basic wordpress site with template installed up and running and post 10 of my own stories. 

Alex Kane's picture
Alex Kane from west-central Illinois is reading Dark Orbit February 26, 2013 - 11:49am

Port Cities Review can be found here.

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like February 26, 2013 - 1:11pm

Good points. I've looked at a lot of fledgling markets and haven't felt even a little bit excited at the idea of submitting there. This is not only because they're new and without notoriety, but also (and mainly) because they seem ultimately redundant. Why start a mag which is nearly indistinguishable from dozens of others? Do something different, or at least have a clear niche which might have a real draw. Otherwise I have no reason to read it over the many mags and books and sites which I already know will provide me with worthwhile material; and the only reason to submit there would be because I think I might have a better chance of getting in, which hasn't inspired me so far.

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books February 26, 2013 - 2:51pm

I think you make fair points. There are exceptions, of course, and I think those are what a lot of people will cling to.

When I am scouring the depths of Duotrope to find places to submit to, I look at a lot of things, and the fledgling listings don't get my attention very often. I actually just had a TERRIBLE experience with a fledgling mag (semi-pro pay, though), on the other hand, if I look at a fledgling mag and I like what they are doing, I can get excited by their vision, and it looks like they know what they are doing, I may send my stuff over. 

It's important to realize the flip of this is also true though, a mag might have 100 issues and be shit. If they're an easy market to get into, they'll always have stuff to publish.

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break February 26, 2013 - 5:19pm

That said, what if an author can't place a piece in such a prestigious publication. Is he or she supposed to consign the story to the shredder?

Never. You rewrite or submit elsewhere. You can always salvage.

All lit mags had to start somewhere. They don't spontaneously generate from old rags, prestige in place. Somewhere along the way, almost all such mags "counted on the author(s) to provide them with the notoriety they claim to provide." (The same goes for publishing companies too; do you think Random House has been around since the beginning of time?) If everyone followed your advice, then no one would have submitted to Monkeybicycle, and it would never have "earned" anything. They made it because someone took a chance on them--long before they got "2000 likes on Facebook" (and what exactly that counts for, I'm not really sure).

Yes, the ol' "we all had to start somewhere card." I knew it would be played. Yes, The Paris Review and Random House had a starting point, and they were both started by individuals who had the appropriate background in publishing and/or an understanding of running a business. These guys at least had some idea of what they were doing (obviously). 

You can't really compare that to all those Wordpress and Blogspot startups who are run by people who have little to no idea what they've gotten themselves into. As I said, literally anyone with Internet access can start a lit mag now if they want, and because there's no exclusivity, that should at least make you somewhat wary of who you hand your work over to.   Exercise caution. Maybe this hasn't happened to you before, but new lit mags fold just as fast as they crop up. That's why seeking out the established is never going to be a negative.

Yes, we all have to start somewhere, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't seek out the highest grade of publication you can swing.

I also take issue with your plea for lit mags to pay something--anything--even it's only $5.

Get paid in notoriety enough times, you'll start to want more.

 

I happen to know someone who started up a lit mag a few years ago. He had a few small publications to his name, but little reputation in the literary world. With a lot of hard work, he's managed to make the publication such that he receives hundreds of submissions, many from well-established writers.

You should plug this. If this person truly has your endorsement and is an example of how things should be done, I'm surpised you didn't take the opportunity to link it. 

And what exactly is this Port Cities Review?

Run by Mark Vanderpool who was Director of Education for chuckpalahniuk.net and litreactor, which means he basically ran workshop and taught classes on top of it (for many years), and he's got an MFA on top of it if I'm not mistaken. Looks like he skimped on his own bio. 

Also, there are plenty of good lit mags between Paris Review and startup lit mag with a wordpress template.

Yes! I think the thing that was lost in translation was this perception that I was saying, "Paris Review or nothing," but that's not the case. The lit mags that have been open two or more years should be your bread and butter until you can snag the big ones. My issue with startups is aligned with was Roxane said, that they basically don't equate to shit. I know Scott is playing the "we all have to start somewhere" card, but that doesn't mean we should be tossing our work to a publication that means nothing in the here and now.

It's important to realize the flip of this is also true though, a mag might have 100 issues and be shit. If they're an easy market to get into, they'll always have stuff to publish.

Totally. You can put out nothing but shit and still pass the test of time, all because so many authors are looking for a quick credential. That's why you should always read the mag you're submitting to. You should always do your homework before signing away your story rights. In this age of various scams and whatnot, every author should be extra cautious.

 

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs February 26, 2013 - 6:24pm

I don't think online lit mags should need to pay, but it would be nice of them to do. Print mags should always give contributors a token payment (or more) considering people buy the issue (unless it's given away for free). Although if an online lit mag is making money somehow (like advertising), they should pay.

The vast majority of online lit mags don't pay. And most submissions to the places that don't will be from new authors. $5 won't really increase the quality of submissions. It's just a nice gesture (although I suppose when a new mag offers $5, it shows that the editor is taking their endeavor seriously). It takes more money to get more experienced authors to send their best work.

Now what's up with those online places that publish a different story each day? Back when I edited a lit mag, I could barely find enough stories to publish 2 issues a year. Sites like that must be dreadful.

I just remembered I wrote an article in this vein about my experiences editing the Bradley Sands is a Dick PDF anthology: http://bizarrocentral.com/2012/12/27/im-a-dick/

Nick's picture
Nick from Toronto is reading A Million Little Fibers by Steven McTowelie February 26, 2013 - 6:29pm

say what you will about Barbie Queef Quarterly, at least they have a response time of under six months.

Also: I would like to offer a piece of advice to any fledgling writers regarding submissions:  don't aim too low, at least not til you've been rejected by a bunch of half-decent places. I made the mistake of sending a story to a rather Mickey Mouse publication who jumped on it, when it also drew interest from some not-too-shabby pubs. i.e. I sold myself short because I felt antsy to get my work out there.

 

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this February 26, 2013 - 6:54pm

@Nick, you're absolutely right. I always submit to The New Yorker and The Paris Review first. And I get rejected. Which is fine. Then I work my way down the aisle. Patience is a virtue, said somebody, once. 

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break February 26, 2013 - 7:02pm

The domain for Barbie Queef Quarterly is still available. Just sayin'.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs February 26, 2013 - 7:58pm

A writer I know was planning on starting a print journal called The Crack Hooker Review, but he never went through with it.

Nick's picture
Nick from Toronto is reading A Million Little Fibers by Steven McTowelie February 26, 2013 - 10:18pm

addendum to my last post:

The age of social media and myriad forms of instant gratification have created a need for many of us to seek approval before it's truly earned or deserved. As soon as someone finishes a story, they want to see it posted ASAP so maybe a dozen people will read it--the adult version of putting your homework on the fridge. This leads to premature submissions.

I don't imagine great writers have tended to seek fame the instant they finish anything. They probably put it on a shelf for weeks or months or years before it saw the light of day.

Personally I'm keeping my output high and my publishing credits low for the time being. If and when my stuff is ever good enough to get read by anyone that matters, I won't need to say I built my fanbase in low, desperate places.

Carly Berg's picture
Carly Berg from USA is reading Story Prompts That Work by Carly Berg is now available at Amazon February 27, 2013 - 7:49am

I think also that writers on a forum tend to be at a level higher than average. Some e-zines we'd cringe at, but someone out there might be grinning ear to ear and calling all his/her relatives, thrilled at the great event of being published. :)  Beginner level e-zine can be just right for beginner level writers, imo. Not all will progress but they can still enjoy. But yeah, definitely have to be careful.

Like probably most e-zine owners, I don't make any money from the stories I publish. I donate several hours of my time every week so that other writers can get published. If the writers thought that wasn't enough, I'd just shut it down and spend the time on my own writing, that's all. Now if we made money and didn't share it, that would be different.

Carly Berg's picture
Carly Berg from USA is reading Story Prompts That Work by Carly Berg is now available at Amazon February 27, 2013 - 6:14am

P.S. I've read a lot of Roxane Gay's work online. She really is amazing.

ScottBryant's picture
ScottBryant February 27, 2013 - 7:15am

Brandon,

Of course your sights should be aimed high. But how is that revelatory? 

Basically your message can be summed up as "do your homework," but you undermine your message both in your column and in the comments. You say, avoid startup lit mags, but then you link to Port Cities Review indiegogo page where they've so far raised $170 out of a desired $45,000 (I see you changed that link, by the way). Someone says that lit mags that have been around for 100 issues may be just as bad, and you say "totally." 

So your argument is basically based on a straw man--some guy or gal in his mom's basement setting up a Wordpress site and calling it a lit mag. Avoid that, you say. There are some people with startup mags who are doing it right, you say, like my pal here (oh and please consider donating!). And there are lots of mags who have been around a long time that you shouldn't submit to either.

Well, thanks for that. 

The fact is you can get a raw deal anywhere, and you take a risk no matter where you go, especially these days when the magazine industry is having such a hard time. Some outstanding university presses and journals have gone online or shuttered their doors. A place that's been around for 100 years might be gone tomorrow.

Aim high. Do your homework. Maybe you'll crack through at The New Yorker. Or maybe you'll find a fledgling lit mag, take a chance, and grow together. Be careful. But find your own way.

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break February 27, 2013 - 8:15am

Basically your message can be summed up as "do your homework..."

If you take anything away from this it should be exactly that. Also, recognizing signs of high risk vs. low risk.

Someone says that lit mags that have been around for 100 issues may be just as bad, and you say "totally."

I maintain that point. Although 100 issues is certainly a lower risk than 0 issues, it's completely possible that they put out nothing but shit. However, my definition and your definition of "shit" may completely differ...and alas, we get into semantics about what and what is not shit in regards to the website's look, its content, its functionality, etc. 

So your argument is basically based on a straw man--some guy or gal in his mom's basement setting up a Wordpress site and calling it a lit mag. Avoid that, you say. There are some people with startup mags who are doing it right, you say, like my pal here (oh and please consider donating!). And there are lots of mags who have been around a long time that you shouldn't submit to either.

I recommended Mr. Vanderpool because he's established in this arena and he pays for content. With as many startup mags that crop up on the daily, you're lucky to get one of those things let alone both. If the link went directly to indiegogo that means Mark temporarily made it so the site redirected to that, because I never changed the link and it appears to be working fine.  

Beyond Port Cities Review, I can give another example of a new publication that I feel meets the criteria of a low risk startup. It's a quarterly anthology called Spark:authors are paid for their stories, and stories appear in print. 

The fact is you can get a raw deal anywhere, and you take a risk no matter where you go, especially these days when the magazine industry is having such a hard time. Some outstanding university presses and journals have gone online or shuttered their doors. A place that's been around for 100 years might be gone tomorrow.

I agree with this. It's completely possible that you can get a raw deal anywhere. The focus of the column is that your chances of getting a raw deal with a startup mag are more likely, and then it proceeds to explain how lack of experience, lack of audience, and lack of real reward (paying in notoriety when little to none exists) equate to high risk.

Of course your sights should be aimed high. But how is that revelatory?

Again, some writers still think a publication is a publication. In their mind, something like PANK is the exact same as any of the numerous startup mags that have debuted this week. This is why I refer to what Roxane said and how these credentials "mean very little." I don't know if you're familiar with her, but if she's saying that a story in the startup mag basically doesn't count, it'd be wise to listen. 

Oh, and Scott, I'm still waiting on that link to that mag you mentioned. I'd be interested in checking it out.

The age of social media and myriad forms of instant gratification have created a need for many of us to seek approval before it's truly earned or deserved. As soon as someone finishes a story, they want to see it posted ASAP so maybe a dozen people will read it--the adult version of putting your homework on the fridge. This leads to premature submissions.

 

I don't imagine great writers have tended to seek fame the instant they finish anything. They probably put it on a shelf for weeks or months or years before it saw the light of day.

Personally I'm keeping my output high and my publishing credits low for the time being. If and when my stuff is ever good enough to get read by anyone that matters, I won't need to say I built my fanbase in low, desperate places.

Loved this...especially that last sentence.

I think writers and magazines do a fairly good job of finding each other on their matching levels. A less advanced writer is not likely to get accepted by a top market, and a lesser market is not likely to get many submissions by higher level writers. Some we'd cringe at, but that doesn't mean someone out there isn't grinning ear to ear and calling all his/her relatives, thrilled at the great event of being published.

I liked this response, Carly. Writers should publish at the highest level they can achieve...and to follow up with what Rob said, that should entail shooting high and working your way down. 

ScottBryant's picture
ScottBryant February 27, 2013 - 9:01am

I didn't name my friend's mag because I didn't want to drag him into this.

Look, I think we're all agreed that publishing in Jackhole Quarterly Online, which disappears one week after its first "issue," isn't going to open a lot of doors for you. But as for what "counts" and what doesn't, it all depends. 

Maybe someone in New York isn't going to be impressed by publishing in Jerkwater Magazine. But it's also possible that you might make contacts at Jerkwater who leads to more contacts, and they eventually leads you to much bigger things. It's happened before; it's happening to some people I know right now.

My main criticism is just that I thought you painted with too broad a brush, though you since qualified some of your remarks in the comments. There's a huge range of zines and mags out there--some with business savvy but who are total jerks, some with their hearts in the right place but who don't know what they're doing, others who are completely clueless, and others who are out to take advantage of you. And some of the bigger, established places may have a change in editorial and/or ownership whereupon they go straight into the toilet. So you have to do your homework, and sometimes you may even have to take a chance. But there are many paths to success.

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters February 27, 2013 - 9:57am

I think a lot of it depends on your goal.  If this is your fun hobby and your only goal is to be published (PUBLISHED!!!) then by all means submit to whatever mag crops up.  Some people are going to choose the quantity over quality route, and that’s for them to decide. 

I personally want my name out there, but not by any means necessary.  That’s my goal.  I look at a lot (possibly too many) factors before I submit.  I like to check out the look of the publication, not just the content.  I like to know the experience of the staff/editor, and I want to know if they pay.  Knowing other writers at my level is awesome because I can check past issues for names I recognize and ask friends about their experiences. 

I pretty much agree with the article here.  I put more thought into submitting to a fledgling publication.  I would hate for my story to make it and then the site disappear a month later.  Or for the site to take a turn and what was last week a lit mag suddenly now features hardcore porn…and my story!
 

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break February 27, 2013 - 11:22am

I would hate for my story to make it and then the site disappear a month later.  Or for the site to take a turn and what was last week a lit mag suddenly now features hardcore porn…and my story!

This actually happens more than people realize, and the only time you become aware of it is when someone shares thier horror story or when it happens to you personally (which sucks). Personally, I've had three of my stories just up and disappear from the Internet simply due to the fact that the people running it decided to let their domain registration expire. Have that happen a few times and you get a little bit more selective about who you send your stories to.

Websites that don't exist anymore don't count as a credential.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs February 27, 2013 - 3:54pm

I think submitting to lit mags is a good way to motivate new writers to get writing done, but it doesn't necessarily serve another purpose besides that. Most lit mags just aren't very well read, but they're useful if an author needs a push.

Katherine Lopez's picture
Katherine Lopez February 28, 2013 - 12:42pm

I'm an associate editor with Shadow Road Quarterly.  Yes, we are a new venue, less than a year old, and yes, we only pay with our undying gratitude.  All of the editors are associated with Scribophile, the largest writing site on the Internet; we read massive amounts of work both at Scrib and through subs to SRQ.  I think we have a pretty good eye for what's good and worth publishing, and so far we have been blessed with high quality offerings.  I'm told by the managing editor that Duotrope has listed us as one of the more "personable" publications out there, maybe because we respond quickly (three week turnaround), and we attach personal comments from at least three associate editors whenever we turn away work. 

I think perhaps it is less the length of time a lit mag has been around and more what they can offer an author.  We strive to be a venue any author would be proud to list on their bio.

Sam Beasley's picture
Sam Beasley from Miami, FL is reading Haunted March 7, 2013 - 4:21pm

Hi everyone, I'm an editor at L'Allure des Mots. We've been around for about two years, published quarterly, so we don't have that many past issues just yet.

My partner and I (there are just two of us here) don't have a huge amount of experience in the publishing game, but we knew what we wanted to do and the kind of work we liked (both of the literary and visual arts variety), and put that message out into the world hoping someone shared the same interests in style.

We were lucky; we've gotten a great response from some excellent writers, artists, and fashion photographers from the very beginning.

We too can only pay in ways other than monetary. I'm hesitant to say "We're giving you exposure!" As a photographer, I've gotten plenty of requests for work from people looking to get it for free. What I am hoping we're doing is bringing great artists together to make something beautiful.

153351's picture
153351 January 13, 2014 - 4:18pm

As a founder of a BRAND NEW LIT MAG, with just one issue under our belts, I can't help but agree. But I knew this going in and did it anyway. Why? Because we wanted to. We also have the resumes and know the industry, but neither of those are important as the first reason.

I'm glad you used MonkeyBicycle as an example; they had a slow start those ten years ago. Everyone's got to start somewhere.

As for notoriety, you're underestimating how important that is to someone who's never been published ANWYHERE. Maybe PANK doesn't care about where you've been published online, but nearly everyone else does. Maybe PANK doesn't know the rest of the online journals you've been in, but nearly everyone else does. Welcome to 2014. I hope a hundred new lit mags start tomorrow.

Why don't you write an "author beware" about Tumblr, where writers post only for "notoriety" and don't get the resume. That's a place that NO ONE cares about, PANK or anyone else.