Like Chicken Little, a lot of people are running around shouting that the publishing world is going under. This allegedly inevitable transformation to digital is going to delete jobs, while journals and magazines that don’t keep up and reformat for iPad will go extinct. Literary journals are traditionally characterized as small and underfunded. Basically, they’re doomed.
Personally, I didn’t worry about it until I got a rejection letter from a literary agent (Fall 2010) explaining that due to the combination of a poor economy and the “state of the industry,” they couldn’t consider any queries at the time. I read it once. Twice. Followed it up with a minor panic attack.
However, once the panic attack resided, I realized that the reality and the future of publishing is more complex than the popular “the end is coming” opinion and we should explore all the angles of the discussion before having any more panic attacks. Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, for example, argues that it will be generations before print sales are bypassed by digital sales. Even then, he promises that print magazines will always be available for those who want them. Do you think Wenner’s opinion is defined by the fact that he is part of an older generation and, therefore, that he’s totally wrong in his belief? I definitely agree with him that magazines are chained to reader demand. If readers want it in print, the magazine better continue to provide it. For example, magazines geared towards older, less iPad-happy demographics, such as Real Simple aren’t going to jump into the digital market anytime soon because the average 30-45-year-old doesn’t own an iPad. They aren’t the appropriate market for digital magazines yet. Do you think creative writers and literary journal subscribers will cling desperately to their paper reading materials in a similar way? Or do you think all creative writers and readers will abandon the format in favor of e-readers? Which do you prefer to read?
Then there’s the whole issue with trusting the publication. As writers, how comfortable do you feel submitting your short stories to an online literary journal? I admit I’m kind of traditional. I trust ink on paper and associations with respectable MFA programs. I’m rather proud and protective of my short stories. The chances of someone copying, pasting, and plagiarizing my short story online gives me nightmares. The existence of content farms don’t let me rest very easy, either. It’s a difficult position to have, too, because many print literary journals are harder to get published in because submissions are so high. As emerging writers, do we have to submit to newer, less established, online journals for a better chance at getting published?
What do you think? Are you comfortable getting published in online literary journals? Are there any in particular you trust? How do you decide they’re trustworthy?
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2 thoughts on “Choices: Do New Writers Have to Submit to Online Literary Journals?”
I think there are a lot of really good online journals out there, and many of the print ones have an online version. Basically I figure out their trustworthiness by reputation – have friends or people I know published in them? How professional looking is the site? Is it attached to a university? What kind of press has it gotten?
You’re correct that many folks of my generation haven’t switched to e-readers, but I think we spend as much time at our computers as anyone else because of the way our culture does our work – electronically, at a desk. So I think you’ll get a lot more exposure in an online journal as opposed to print. That said, its still important for a young writer starting out to publish in the older, super reputable print journals, “Tin House” and “The Missouri Review” for example.
So I guess my two cents is that you should try to publish in both media. As much as possible. Which I know you will because you are awesome. The end.
Dear Professor Lawrence,
I am a fan of journals that have both a print and online presence. I agree that it’s hard to trust a literary journal that doesn’t have a pretty decently designed website, so I guess that’s a new qualification for trust. It’s a good think Watershed has a website now!
My only problem is that I don’t know anybody going out there and getting published. So it’s hard to get recommendations for journals. Lame. Do you have any particular recommendations?
And good point about more exposure via online. I’ve never really thought about that. Here at NYU everybody keeps talking about how they actually prefer online clips for job interviews, etc. which is kind of interesting. I guess there’s multiple levels of benefits with online publishing.
And dear super reputable print journals: please accept my writing or offer me a job. I would love to contribute to your publication in anyway possible. Love, Hannah.