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Posts in "literary journals" tag

Amazon Wades Into the Literary Journal World

The Kenyon Review just revealed that Amazon's funding their short story competition:

The Kenyon Review is one of a diverse range of not-for-profit author and publisher groups receiving support from Amazon.com for programs dedicated to developing new voices and new books, including the Council for Literary Magazines and Presses, Lambda Literary Foundation, Poets & WritersOne Story, Ledig House, The Loft, Hedgebrook, Copper Canyon Press, The Moth, Seattle Arts & Lectures, Richard Hugo House, Milkweed Editions, Artist Trust, Voice of Witness, Open Letter, Archipelago Books, Pen American Center, Words Without Borders, the Association of Writers & Writing Programs, and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. All of these organizations share Amazon.com’s obsession with fostering the creation, discussion, and publication of new authors and new work.

Call me cynical, but I see this as part of Amazon's overall strategy to gain market share and shut out publishers. If they can control the process from literary journals to publishers to marketing to distribution to sales, then they truly control the entire chain of production.

Although many people noticed Amazon trying to replace publishers with their Kindle Publishing Program, I just don't think anyone foresaw them reaching this far into the primordial muck of writing to fund literary journals. (If you notice, One Story is also among the journals receiving funding from Amazon).

As a literary journal editor, though, you can hardly be picky about your source of funding, because there's so little to go around. And to be slightly less cynical, I highly doubt that the funding will significantly affect editorial standards. However, it might affect the ability of bloggers to critique Amazon's less altruistic moves, such as their head-stomping of Macmillan.

Seattle Review Overhaul

Seattle Review  The Seattle Review is overhauling their entire journal, swinging from very short stories (all stories had to be under 4,000 words), to novellas (if it's not more than 40 pages, they don't want to see it).

They haven't posted anything on their submissions page yet, but I'll repost what they mailed me:

"The editors of The Seattle Review are pleased to announce that, starting with our forthcoming Fall 2010 issue, The Seattle Review will publish, and will only publish, long poems and novellas."

It's a bold strategy, and one that really gives them a niche in the literary journal sphere. No journals I know of concentrate exclusively on the long form.

It's also a good move because when I spoke to a former editor at The Seattle Review (who shall remain unnamed), they said that virtually all material was solicited, and that they only took a single story from the slush pile a year. You expect those kinds of odds for The Paris Review, but you hope regional journals like The Seattle Review could be a bit friendlier to slush pile submitters. Hopefully, this change opens up the field. 

New Platforms for Literary Journals

Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and smart phones are not merely new avenues of disseminating fiction. They create new parameters and challenges for fiction to utilize. The medium matters — there is no such thing as a "neutral" medium. 

The main mistake readers make is believing that the content is transferable between mediums — that a story on Twitter is the same as a story on Facebook or on a blog or a cellphone. The printed word, though we're grown accustomed (comfortable!) to reading it between bound sheaves (a codex), was formerly read and written differently when in a long, continuous sheet (a scroll).

So what will fiction look like when explored in new electronic formats?

New literary journals are trying to show us.

Shape of a Box, on youtube, is a type of spoken word/image-enhanced literary journal. It only publishes on youtube — no other medium — which I think is crucial for journals trying to hone in on the heartbeat of a particular genre.

Cell Stories, designed only for reading on your cell phone.

And though it's not exclusively published on Twitter, don't forget Electric Literature's experiment with Rick Moody's Twitter-specific story. 140-character bursts, from the alpha to the omega. It's doesn't take much of a soothsayer to predict a full fledged lit journal only publishing Twitter stories in the future. The constraints only make it seem more enticing. 

[Update: The always wise comments section has alerted me to Nanoism, which publishes Twitter fiction. @nanoism.]

And though this post has mainly focused on new technologies, how about springing for the old? Abe's Penny serializes short stories on four postcards. That's right — through snail mail. They call it "micro-publication," but I call it cool.

And The Facebook Review started a few years ago. It's hoary and venerable now. Online journals don't age in dog years, they age in flea years. Three years is geriatric. Anyways, The Facebook Review publishes, markets, and edits all within the confines of facebook. 

Journals Accepting Novellas

The market for publishing novellas is much slimmer than for short stories, but it’s not non-existent. Below are some markets to send that novella or novelette. Many are literary journals and some are contests. Since I get asked all the time about literary journals that allow you to submit novellas, I hope this helps.

AWP Journals

So these are the journals I got my grubby fingers on and humped back to California in my carry-on backpack. 

Total # of journals: 18

Total # of pounds lost while carrying them through airport: Unknown, but likely substantial

  • The Sun
  • Blue Mesa Review
  • Crab Orchard Review
  • The Gettysburg Review
  • Third Coast
  • Colorado Review
  • Nimrod International Journal
  • Ninth Letter
  • The Missouri Review
  • Willow Springs
  • PEN America
  • Ruminate
  • Open City
  • Fence
  • Fugue
  • Black Warrior Review
  • Florida Review

Ninth Letter 1  Out of all these journals, my favorite is Ninth Letter. It is such a beautiful journal, with innovative design and edgy graphics, and the stories, like "Man of Steel," are killer. I got a 2009 issue, not the most recent, but I have to say, it wins my Best Journal of the AWP Conference Award. No, this award does not have a history and I just made it up, but still. Get a subscription.

Literary Journals Segregating Fiction

In the last few years, many prestigious literary journals have moved to a two-tier model for publishing: they maintain their print journal for the big-name authors, and create an online space to publish emerging authors. 

Granta now has their "New Voices" program, started last year, which publishes new authors online every month. American Short Fiction has began to publish a story a month online. Kenyon Review has done likewise, publishing a number of stories in an online format. Zoetrope has long published their contest winner in on online-only format. And of course AGNI might be the longest-running example, with its AGNI online section. Even the glossies have begun to glom onto a similar strategy: Atlantic Monthly attempted to sell (overpriced) short stories via an iTunes model.

These bifurcated fiction offerings accomplish a number of goals:

  • It allows the journal to highlight up-and-coming authors that wouldn't make it into the print issue.
  • Maximizes the potential revenue from the print journal (Big names sell mags)
  • Provides fresh content online, driving traffic to the website
  • Helps the biggest journals appear hip and relevant by launching burgeoning authors, rather than only publishing established authors.

I think it's telling that many of the journals that have adopted this model have been the top in the industry. Also, the top journals have the most sharply demarcated lines between established/print and emerging/online.

But this type of system has a number of problems, as well:

  • Perpetuates the stereotype that print is prestigious and online is second-grade.
  • Divides the journal brand, where some authors put in their bios "Famous Journal X" and others have to add an additional caveat, "Famous Journal X online." It's a false dichotomy — if you wrote an online piece for Esquire, you would just put Esquire in your bio, not Esquire Online.
  • Creates less of an incentive for journals to invest in a young writer, to stand behind them strongly enough to publish them in a print journal. Instead, younger writers can reliably be shuffled to the (cheaper and safer) online spaces.

I'm guessing this model of original content in both print and online capacities will slowly erode the current dominant model of Print as primary, with a website as the second-tier source of bulletin board and excerpts. Perhaps this is actually a transitional stage: we've seen virtually all literary journals ramp up their online presences in the last five years, and now we're entering a stage where journals are starting to blend their print/online production, and in the future we might see another shift.

Yes, I know about all the online literary journals out there, probably screaming at the screen right now that they've led the way. And Electric Literature and Narrative have plowed a road into that frontier as well. 

But five years ago, big literary journals were still staunchly sticking to print. I wonder if in 2015, how many big literary journals will have shifted to online only. More importantly, how many of them will be able to maintain their prestige (e.g. when you shift online, don't pull a TriQuarterly and fire all your paid staff).

Ted Genoways Screed in Mother Jones

Ted Genoways, editor of VQR, wrote an impassioned call for action in Mother Jones. Essentially, he laments the decline of the literary journal and the explosion of creative writing programs and writers who don't read.

About those writers who don't read:

"Last summer, Louis Menand tabulated that there were 822 creative writing programs. Consider this for a moment: If those programs admit even 5 to 10 new students per year, then they will cumulatively produce some 60,000 new writers in the coming decade. Yet the average literary magazine now prints fewer than 1,500 copies. In short, no one is reading all this newly produced literature—not even the writers themselves."

The flaw in this thinking is that writers are either reading literary journals or not reading at all. "Newly produced literature" is a malleable term. As a writer, I read "newly produced" collections every year — a lot of them (20, 30). But I read few journals because I need more of a winnowing process. 

There's a winnowing process — from unpublished manuscripts to literary journals, and from literary journals to Pushcart/BASS/Collections. I've read the unpublished manuscripts in slush piles, and I've read literary journals, and I tend to prefer collections (even more than Pushcart and BASS). 

Why? Because for one, many stories in literary journals don't make it to collections. That winnowing process allows me to access a better bank of literature. Two, I like reading numerous stories by a single author, because the stories connect more than many journals.

And three, because pragmatically, I have far too much to read (no, really — it's impossible to keep up). Everyone has far too much to read. Not only because we're bombarded with all sorts of flashy doohickeys like Twitter and DVR and Netflix and computer games and video games, but because the sheer amount of fiction produced each year is overwhelming.

In other words, while Genoways notes quite correctly the proliferation of creative writing programs and writers, he fails to take into account the impact of the proliferation of words. We're drowning. And we cope with that drowning by moving up the ladder: by choosing to read books, which offer a further winnowing process than literary journals.

I'm not saying that I don't like or read literary journals — I do. I'm just trying to trampoline off Genoways argument to show how and why things are the way they are. And I'm not saying it's right, just that this has been the pragmatic route many have slipped into.

I don't know the solution. But as the era of e-books dawns, I suspect that ten years from now, Genoways and other literary editors will be looking back on the '00s as the good old days. Because if you can't get anyone to subscribe or read journals now, just wait until there's an infinite amount of stories, novels and nonfiction available for free on e-readers. 

TriQuarterly Shuts Down

Okay, so let's get the order of events correct.

First, Cliff at Perpetual Folly tipped me off to Evanston Now, a local online news source in the Northwestern area (where TriQuarterly is published). Evanston Now reported that the Northwestern University Press, which publishes TriQuarterly, would be scaling back a number of its operations. Mentioned in the article is the idea that TriQuarterly would move to an online venue rather than print.

Okay. That didn't sound disastrous to me. A number of new journals have used the online format rather than print. Plus, two powerhouses are now in the online arena — Electric Literature and Narrative. I think they lend a lot of credibility to the medium.

Is it a shame to all us print-and-ink nostalgiacs that TriQuarterly has to stop printing after 45 years? Absolutely. But does it ruin the literary journal? Not at all. In fact, I think that in the future the hierarchies will be reversed, and online publication will be more highly prized than print.

But then Hannah Tinti of One Story tipped me off to this new post on Work In Progress, which says TriQuarterly isn't moving online, it's being shut down. Apparently, "moving online" was a euphemism for cutting all paid editorial positions and giving some open-source software to students. Bleh.

Apparently, associate editor Ian Morris apparently sent out this email:

"After terminating TriQuarterly’s print operation and our editorial positions next April, Northwestern University will be giving the name TriQuarterly to an online “open source” student-run journal in the university’s department of continuing studies."

I'd like to wait and see what shape this new journal with the old name takes, but cutting all the funding virtually guaruntees a plunge in quality.

The real question on everyone's minds: Which literary journal will be next to fall?

Top 100 Journals Accepting Online Submissions

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As of July 2015, 80 of the top 100 journals accept online submissions.

Of those 80, 43 charge reading fees.

I would strongly advise you to submit first to the journals without submission fees, submit reluctantly to those that charge fees, and never submit to anyone that charges more than $3 (unless it’s a contest where the prize is $1000 or greater).

I hope this list makes submitting to literary magazines a little easier.

Lastly, look below this article to find some other lists here at Bookfox which might be interesting.

If you know a journal that isn’t mentioned here, please leave it in the comments section.

The journals are listed in a rough order from the heavy-hitters down to the indie.

Top Journals Accepting Online Submissions

Flash Fiction