Looking for a good literary magazine...
May 25, 2013 5:53 PM   Subscribe

I want to submit my short story to the kind of literary magazine that I'd actually enjoy reading. Do you have any suggestions?

I wrote a short story (9500 words). I like it and I'd like other people to read it. I've submitted it to the usual short-fiction suspects (Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, etc.) as well as to some slightly lesser known but similar mags, almost all of which are housed by universities and staffed by professors and MFA students. It's been rejected from pretty much all of these places, but almost always with some sort of encouraging note (we liked X, this one's not for us but please submit again, etc.) It's still out at McSweeney's.

For that reason (and because, hey, a little bit of healthy arrogance never hurt anyone) I'm going to assume that the story is being rejected not because it's fatally flawed but because I am looking in the wrong places. The more I think about it, the more true this seems - the story is a longish, plot-driven ghost story - it's not really like the stories in those other magazines. And the truth is, while I am an avid, obsessive reader, I don't read a lot of finely crafted literary short stories, so it's not a surprise that I haven't written one. I have read, and liked, short story collections by everyone from Stephen King to Chimamanda Adichie, so I'm not entirely unfamiliar with the form, but it always seems like I'm reading novelists who occasionally produce a short story, instead of people who actually devote themselves to the form.

Here is my specific question: can you think of a literary magazine where my story (call it literary horror, for lack of a better term) would fit? I would be interested in any place that publishes plot-driven, solidly written but not overtly experimental stories. I don't know if the story would quite fit into a 'genre' magazine, but if you read one of those magazines and can enthusiastically endorse it, I'd give it a shot.

I don't need to get paid, I just need some readers. Ideally, this would also be something I could cite when I start shopping my novel around - so it won't be just some rando's personal website - but that's not a requirement.

Here is a more general question: Do you actually read and enjoy any literary magazines? If so, which ones? When I started this search, I had no idea of the huge numbers of literary magazines out there; now, having seen so many, I'm legitimately curious about who subscribes to them and who reads them, and I'd love some good recommendations from people who are legitimately enthused about the magazines they read. Recommendations for online magazines are particularly welcome.

Thank you!
posted by pretentious illiterate to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Just throwing these literary horror / horror genre magazines out there for consideration, based on Ellen Datlow's mention of them in the year's best horror anthology: Black Static; Midnight Echo; and Shadows & Tall Trees.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 6:23 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Christopher Coake is probably the best person I know in the small genre of "short stories that work like horror stories but are written in a style that despite all the reasons this is a poor choice of nomenclature is conventionally called literary." According to this page, "The stories [in his first collection] previously appeared in journals such as Five Points, Epoch, Gettysburg Review and The Southern Review." Did you try those places?
posted by escabeche at 6:52 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Apex, maybe?

9500 words might be a little hard to place--most of the lit mags I'm familiar with want 5000 words or less.

Right now my favorite lit mag is Shimmer.
posted by tan_coul at 6:58 PM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh, and once you've found a magazine that you think fits well with the style of your writing, look at the contributor bios in a few issues and see where else they've published their work. Odds some of those mags will be a good fit for you as well.
posted by tan_coul at 7:05 PM on May 25, 2013

I'd start opposite of tan_coul's suggestion: seek out work similar to yours, or authors who've influenced you, and find out what journals are publishing it/them, then submit there. I'd also suggest favoring web publications over print for something as long as 9500 words, since placing a story in a print magazine is hard enough as it is (there are far fewer stories in print journals than, say, poems: you can fit fifteen or twenty poems in the space one story takes up!). Plus you'll have far more readers.
posted by tapir-whorf at 9:22 PM on May 25, 2013

Yeah, genre mags. Apex and Shimmer definitely. Maybe also Fantasy, Ideomancer, and Strange Horizons. Lady Chuchill's Rosebud Wristlet, if you don't mind waiting around 9 months for a response.

I subscribed to literary magazines back when I was submitting the, and I think this is the case more often than one would think. It was pretty rare that I found stories I enjoyed, and they seemed to be by the same people over and over again--Genevieve Valentine and Cat Rambo and Willow Fagan and Kij Johnson. I've had more luck with best of anthologies.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:40 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: This is wonderful. I'm going to add all these to my spreadsheet and start working, and try not to get too distracted by reading all the good stories I'm sure I'll come across while doing so. I can tell just from the level of interest I feel clicking through the magazines you've suggested that I'm on the right track.

Escabeche - more than almost anyone working today, Christopher Coake is the kind of writer I aspire to be. It was because of him that I sent my story out to the Gettysburg Review (they lost it) and Epoch (they rejected it) but I'll keep trying the others! I actually read in an interview with him that he had his first collection published before he had managed to place all the individual stories, in a large part -he suspected- because of the length.

Thanks everyone!
posted by pretentious illiterate at 7:04 AM on May 26, 2013

Unstuck, but they aren't open for submissions at the moment. A journal called New Genre, but you have to figure out how to submit to them, they're elusive.

My general impression is that very few people read conventional university-based litmags besides the writers who are submitting to them. Genre mags may have a bit more of a reader base ... but actually most people don't read short fiction, period. Which isn't to say that those of us who do read it don't value it very highly! Heck, send me your story (MeMail me), I'll read it.
posted by brianconn at 7:14 AM on May 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Not a lit mag but a compendium of lit mags: Duotrope.
posted by notyou at 9:30 AM on May 26, 2013

I'm a big fan of Narrative.
posted by thinkpiece at 10:16 AM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am partial to Armchair/Shotgun. Partly because I know some of the folks who publish it. But also because the have an anonymous submission protocol, and wind up with really good work - from both known and unknown contributors. They've gotten some good press.
posted by entropone at 11:32 AM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Sun?
posted by Stewriffic at 11:42 AM on May 26, 2013

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