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July 15, 2011 11:25 AM   Subscribe

What is it like editing a literary magazine in the age of the internet?

Question: What it is like editing a literary magazine now? How has the internet (and things like duotrope and submishmash) changed the way you receive submissions? How many more do you receive now, as opposed to ten years ago, and has the quality of the work changed? Is it easy or hard to make decisions about what goes in?

If you are part of a regional or focused magazine (in a specific school of poetry, or GLBTQ writers, or something like that), do you get a lot of things outside your scope? Or, in general, do you get more pieces that are good, but not in line with what you publish? Do you accept simultaneous submissions (since communicating with authors is easier), and how has that changed your approach to editing? Any other thoughts?

Background: In the early to mid 2000s, I was one of two poetry editors of a small literary magazine. We were quarterly, associated with a college, and published 3 - 5 prose pieces, and maybe 8 - 12 poems in each issue. We weren't a huge deal magazine, by any stretch, but we occasionally got some big names (well, big names in the writing world), and a few things we published were nominationed for a Pushcart Prize, or smaller, regional awards, or were anthologized in other books.

When I was editor, I was generally impressed with the quality of work that we received. Sure, we got a number of bad pieces each submission cycle (high school drama, awkwardly rhyming religious things, the dude who included a naked picture of himself, etc), for the most part, we got good work from people who kept up with contemporary lit, or had some sort of background in writing. It was often difficult to decide what went in and what didn't.

We also didn't receive a huge number of submissions; we weren't exactly the New Yorker. I think the most we ever received was 90 submission, across all forms; usually it was closer to 40 or 50. So we had about a 30% acceptance rate. Most of the material we received came from writers in our geographic region; same with our subscribers.

But this was a decade ago. Our magazine had a page on the University's website, but it was a print only publication and other than that one informational webpage, we didn't have an online presense. We eventually, toward the end of my tenure, started accepting submissions via e-mail, but we primarily received them through postal mail. We had a no simultaneous submissions policy. We were listed in CLMP, but there was no online clearing house of literary magazines (a la dutrope) at the time. Unless you were particularly interested in magazines in general, or from our region, I don't think you would have just come across our magazine the way you can stumble across something online today. I'm curious how things have changed in this time.
posted by Ideal Impulse to Writing & Language (2 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Send me a MeMail. I'm friends with two editors of literary mags. One is housed at a university and affiliated with it and is a top five (in my opinion) journal for new fiction and poetry. The other is a national magazine with a regional focus and routinely publishes new and more established names. I could put you in touch with them both.
posted by mrfuga0 at 1:09 PM on July 15, 2011

It sounds to me like you're looking for a response from someone who made the editorial transition from pre to post-Internet. I can't help you with that -- my own experiences are squarely on either side of that fence, and the latter with an independent -- but along with Duotrope and submishmash (and P&W), you might want to look through Luna Park, Fictionaut, and NewPages, if you're not aware of them already.
posted by gnomeloaf at 10:16 PM on July 15, 2011

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