Top Twelve Online Literary Journals

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Here are the top twelve online literary journals, at least according to the number of Million Writers Award nominations each journal has received in the last five years.

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  1. Just one man’s take, but I think that AGNI doesn’t count because like many other print journals (Iowa Review, Kenyon Review, Conjunctions) it has created an online supplement that is equal to, but not independent of the print version. Also, I can think of several prominent online journals off the top of my head that I think are better (or certainly as good as) the journals listed above: 3:am Magazine may be the best online journal there is, and is definitely one of the most respected and international one out there. Identity Theory, despite its self-conscious hipness has some great writing (and interviews, for that matter). Failbetter + Fringe Magazine both have some fantastic writing too, as do Doubledoor. Word Riot, Pindeldyboz + Narrative are all fantastic journals.

  2. Yes, a lot of people are up in arms about what counts as a online literary journal. If you just started an online section of your famous literary journal, does that count?
    What if you started an online section of your famous literary journal, and endowed it with its own aesthetic preferences and identity, does that count?
    Many people are angry at Narrative for one reason or another, which I don’t fully get, but it’s pretty obvious that they’re the best example of an online literary journal. They’re blazing the trail.
    Failbetter is excellent, 3:am is hit and miss, and I’m not familiar with Identity Theory but I’ll check it out.

  3. What I love about 3:am is that I can find writing that I love + I can also find something that appeals to a non literary-fiction writer too, which is rare for virtually all literary journals these days with the exception of Fiction International, Harper’s or the Boston Review. I agree with you on one thing: I think Narrative has some really good writing in it. My only issue is that there is only one month in which submissions are free, otherwise you have to pay a reading fee. Unless they’ve changed their editorial policy, I think that’s a crime. Other than that, I think Narrative has done more to establish the legitimacy of the online journal than almost any other.

  4. Because they didn’t get enough Million Writer Award nominations during the last five years.
    Perhaps if it was a more subjective list, Night Train would have made it.

  5. I’m the publisher of a quality online journal who doesn’t think this Award (and others)is a yardstick of excellent writing. Many publishers/editors don’t nominate their contributors for awards. I’m haphazard about such nominations, as I don’t have the time or inclination to devote to best of the best type of awards.

  6. Carol,
    But why wouldn’t publishers nominate their contributors for awards? This is their responsibility — as former editor of a literary journal, I viewed it as imperative to nominate fiction and poetry for Pushcarts every year, and to tell the authors that I did so.
    Your authors would probably be aghast that you don’t have the time or inclination to promote their careers in this particular way.
    Also, I just have to note, that you aren’t familiar with the prize — there aren’t nominations per se for the Millions Award, but they ask ten or twenty well-read authors in the online literary world to make suggestions for the year.
    Now you could argue that those selecting the Millions Award don’t like the type of literature that you publish and prefer, but this is a “problem” with every award — there is a particular (and necessarily limited) aesthetic to the prize. It’s not a reason to discredit awards. It’s just an endemic limitation. If we’re aware of it, then the proper place of awards can be realized.

  7. I’ve been asked to nominate contributors for the Millions Award. But why should I or my authors care about an Award that has exhibited a far more mainstream sensibility than my journal’s? Same with the Pushcarts. My contributors have never asked me to consider nominating them for the Millions or Pushcart Awards. When I’ve done so, I don’t advertise my journal’s nominations, as most other journals do, as I feel that every author I publish is equally superlative and it’s tactless and otherwise insulting and demeaning to single out a some over others.
    I do not agree that every publisher should nominate authors for Pushcarts. Many of the fine journals that have published my own writings don’t nominate their contributors, as far as I can tell. And what of other awards? There are the Dzanc “bests” and the Sundress “bests,” to name two.
    Again, I think the Millions Award nominations are an unreasonable yardstick on which to base a list of “bests.” What about, eg, Diagram, Otoliths, Octopus, Exquisite Corpse, 5_trope, and Drunken Boat? From another aesthetic, these journals are definitely superior to (and far more original than) several of those on your list.
    So why bother creating a list based on an Award that bases nominations on a “limited aesthetic,” as you’ve stated? It’s meaningless.

  8. I have to agree with Carol here that million writers award is a bad one to rank online lit mags on. I honestly don’t know any writers who take that award very seriously. The voting system/methodology makes it pretty pointless. I truly mean no offense here, but Eclectica as the best online lit mag? If you wanted to rank based on an award, I think Dzanc’s Best of the Web has a better reputation.

  9. Yeah, no kidding. Why isn’t Night Train on this list? 😉
    One of the many ways in which I love the interwebs is that everybody can read these journals and make their own decisions, unlike print journals, which are generally far less accessible. And it’s not as if fame and fortune arrive when you’re nominated or even if you win, right? Or wait. . .

  10. Thank you for this very useful list! I used to, for years and years, submit my work to the print journals, but thought I would revisit the idea of their online cousins. It is interesting to discover your list in 2010 (you wrote it in 2008) and to find that several of these sites are now closed down! I wonder why they close down and whether it is difficult to make one succeed, and what kind of the traffic they get… Do you think it helps a writer to appear in one of these?! Well, maybe I will find out!
    Bernadette Joolen, Seattle; author of 3 books, 2 blogs.

  11. Hate to say it, but the quality of the website design obviously wasn’t taken into account when making this list. The color theme and layout of Storyglossia’s website is TERRIBLE and really not creative, making you wonder about it’s literary content, too. Also, it looks like their website hasn’t been updated since 2012, so I guess this journal isn’t even in operation anymore?

  12. Thanks so much for this and your other lists. They’ve shaped my decisions as to which journals to approach, and my publishing credits reflect it. E.g.: Your Top 50 Literary Journals list made being published in (or placing in literary competitions by) Glimmer Train, Zoetrope, ZYZZYVA, Mississippi Review and other specific publications a goal that I worked hard to achieve – and this list introduced me to Eclectica. (I respect that journal too, for its purity and quality, and am about to be published there as well.) You rock sir. And, I daresay, you roll.