Starting an online lit mag?
March 8, 2005 1:11 PM   Subscribe

A cohort and I are starting an online literary magazine with a very specific vibe and mission. We have experience in writing and editing, but we've never actually run one of these crazy things before. What would be the best resources for us to learn the ins and outs before we jump right in? Does anyone have any informed advice or dire warnings?
posted by Sticherbeast to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The book Zine Scene, by a fiction and non-fiction author, covers copyright issues, how to establish yourself as legitimate, how much income to expect, and such. One caveat: it's geared toward print zines.

Do you want some resources geared toward bloggers? Many principles can be applied to both.

Also, have you read many online zines and gotten a feel for their styles and successes? You may even want to e-mail the makers of small online zines.

I don't want to hijack with a list of online zines, but do tell if such a list would help you.
posted by NickDouglas at 1:20 PM on March 8, 2005

Build up material in advance; don't just make sure that you have enough good stuff for the first issue.

And if at all possible, get a fresh pair of eyes to copy-edit everything before it gets posted. Nothing sucks more than spending hours getting a piece just right and then realizing that you mad esome bleary-eyed their/they're mistake.
posted by COBRA! at 1:21 PM on March 8, 2005

You might find this interview of editors, managing editors and founders of lit journals from the Emerging Writer's Forum has some useful information available for gleaning.
posted by jodic at 1:29 PM on March 8, 2005

COBRA! writes, "Build up material in advance; don't just make sure that you have enough good stuff for the first issue. "

Let that your mantra. If I had a nickel for every zine that stopped publishing stuff after a month or so, I'd quit my job.

A gap in publishing is the beginning of a self-perpetuating downward spiral. It's very easy to lose readership through lack of updates. It's almost impossible to get it back.
posted by mkultra at 1:55 PM on March 8, 2005

I co-edit a literary mag - we've been around for a year+ and recently was shortlisted for an award, so I feel like we're on the right track. We learned mostly by trial and error, but here's my two cents:

Solicit submissions from *many* established writers for the first issue and beyond. Even if it's not that writer's best work -- it probably won't be unless you are friends with them -- it helps for people who are considering submitting to your mag to know that they will be in good company. Having the names is less important as you go forward. I hear what people are saying about having enough material for the first few issues, but if you are a literary mag, you WILL get submissions after an issue or two. This becomes quite time consuming, going through everything, and can be frustrating because so much of it will be horrible, but if you keep it up, the percentage of quality submissions will increase.

Be VERY patient. It took a couple of issues before we generated a good body of submissions. Also, be patient with the people who contribute. You'll get all ranges of talent and experience, best to be polite and timely with everybody.

Be maleable with your mission/policy - at least for us, at the beginning, it was necessary for us to be flexible since people weren't beating down our doors to submit stuff. That has changed somewhat, so we are considering being more rigid with our mission and editorial statement.

Be maleable with each other - when you have more than one person involved in a creative pursuit, opinions can be strong, so best to remember that your goal is to keep your mag going for as long as possible so that you get better and better writing submitted.

A good design goes a long way in people's opinion of your journal.

Attend AWP's annual conference ( if you can, and meet other editors. Make flyers and drop them everywhere. Getting a table is probably too much at this point, but attending and seeing what everybody else is doing is a great way to learn. This isnt necessary by any means, but if you're a writer it can be an interesting conference.

Meet the editors of the other magazines in your hometown - a GREAT way to do this is to organize a group reading somewhere, or ask to be included in a reading. This worked wonders for us. I met all the editors of the literary magazines in my town, and in others, by organizing, or being a part of, readings.

Link to every magazine on the planet on your website and email other mags to do the same back to you.

Get listed in the Novel/Short Story Writers market. I don't have a copy handy, but I think they have a website.

If you're in a town with a couple of universities, flyer the English department, flyer the grad office, flyer the student union. Same with bookstores, coffee shops, etc.

Oh yes, this is a labor of love. You might need to sink some money into it at first, although publishing online is pretty cheap (except for the time you will spend working on it.)

If you want, email me (dangerousrobot at and I can try and answer any other questions you might have.

Good luck!
posted by drobot at 2:50 PM on March 8, 2005

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