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Online Literary Journals: The Cutting Edge Of Traditional Publishing

With the advent of online literary journals, writers seeking reputable and well-known venues to publish their work are no longer confined to print. Online literary magazines are beginning to coexist with (and often take the place of) print magazines, and the result is good news for writers of short stories, essays, and poems.

The Historical Stigma Against Online Publications

In the early days of the Internet, online publications of short prose and poetry were considered lesser publications than print journals. However, now that the Internet has come of age, publishing your writing in reputable online journals and other venues no longer carries a negative stigma. Many publishing industry experts believe that traditional literary magazines will convert increasingly to online-only models.

So get ready, writers! It’s time to start being proud of your online publications and listing them in your cover and query letters alongside your print publications.

Why Many Literary Magazines Have Already Gone Online

If you’re regularly submitting your writing to literary magazines, you know this much is true: There isn’t a lot of money to be made in short stories and poetry, because literary magazines often operate on a very limited budget.

The recent recession has only made the situation more difficult; many, many literary magazines have closed their doors over the last 18 months. At Writer’s Relief we are also tracking an alarming number of literary magazines that are “on hiatus” or “indefinitely closed for submissions.”

Print magazines that were under financial duress during the economic downturn had a choice: adapt or fail. To cut costs, editors who chose to persevere turned to the final frontier in publishing: the Internet. Without the high costs of printing, binding, and mailing, literary magazines can operate on a smaller budget.

For that reason, there are more reputable literary magazines online now than have ever been online before. And, of course, there are fewer print journals than there were 18 months ago.

Writers who have been trained over the years to respect only print publications may find it difficult to believe that online publications and print publications are at equal value. Some writers may prefer to hold a physical publication in their hands. However, just as literary magazines have had to adapt, writers (and companies that assist writers with the submission process) will need to adapt as well. The practical benefits of publishing online may outweigh any lingering emotional reservations.

Top Five Ways Publishing With Reputable Online Venues Can Help Your Career

1. Searchability. Writers who are hoping their publications in literary journals will eventually lead them to bigger and better things are writers who are hoping to build a platform. Literary agents, editors, and industry professionals (not to mention friends and family) will Google you if they are interested in your work. You’ll want to have something substantial online to show them. Lack of an online presence isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, but it certainly doesn’t help either.

2. Connecting with readers via your website. By publishing your writing online, you can create a centralized directory of your work that is easily accessible to readers. List your publications with links to the appropriate magazines (or to your published writing). If you are publishing ONLY in print magazines, you cannot easily create an interactive resource, and readers may find it more difficult to acquire and read your work.

3. Circulation/Print runs. Mid-level print magazines reach an average of a few hundred subscribers. Online publications, however, are not restricted by printing fees and can, therefore, reach a larger audience.

4. Longevity. Poems and stories that are published on the Internet are generally available online for a very long time. Literary magazines will often archive their older editions. For that reason, your online publications will be a resource that you can direct readers to indefinitely. But your old print publications lose much of their potential to reach new readers when they start to collect dust on your shelf.

5. Online submissions. When you submit to an online literary magazine, you don’t have to pay for paper and postage. And you can even make your submissions in your pajamas by submitting your writing to literary agents and editors via email or via submission manager. If you need help making online submissions, check out our video tutorials.

Writer’s Relief has been helping our clients stay in touch with changes in the publishing industry since 1994; our commitment to excellence demands that we advise our clients to pay increasing attention to the importance of the Internet for burgeoning writing careers. Click to learn more about Writer’s Relief.

5 Responses to Online Literary Journals: The Cutting Edge Of Traditional Publishing

  1. An interesting artile, but the title is surely a non-sequitur. Whatever online literary journals are, it is quite clear that they are not traditional publishing. They cannot therefore be its leading edge.

  2. Dear Furry Canary, Glad you liked the article! Let us explain our thinking with the title: We said online literary journals are “traditional” not because of the medium but because of the business model. And as for “cutting-edge,” that pertains to publishers branching into new technologies.

  3. You refer to “reputable” online journals several times. Do you have any advice for identifying the reputable vs. non-reputable journals? This seems particularly tricky considering many of the online journals don’t have a reputation built on a print history.

  4. Steve, Excellent question. Yes, it can be hard to discern the quality and reputation of a literary journal.

    We have two articles that will help you make a determination:

    For online journals: http://www.writersrelief.com/blog/2010/04/online-literary-journals-how-to-determine-quality-and-reputation/

    For print journals: http://www.writersrelief.com/blog/2010/12/how-to-determine-the-quality-reputation-and-desirability-of-a-print-literary-journal/

    Hope this helps!

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