If you’re planning to submit your writing to online venues in order to stay current in the publishing industry, you’ll need a system to help you determine whether or not an online literary magazine is reputable. Online publishers of poetry, short stories, and essays can appear and disappear overnight, so it’s important to know whether or not a publication is reputable and appropriate before you upload your writing and click Send.
Use these criteria to help you determine whether or not an online literary magazine is a good publication for your writing. Note: Don’t depend on one or two of these characteristics to indicate quality; look for a mix of strong attributes.
Quality of Work. Look for high-quality writing. Also, scan for the names of familiar and established writers. If well-known writers are publishing in a particular online literary magazine, the publication is probably reputable. If you don’t recognize the names of any writers, Google a few.
Parent Print Magazines. If the online literary magazine is an offshoot of a reputable print journal, the online literary magazine likely maintains the quality established by its parent magazine.
Masthead Information. Look to see who is editing the online journal. If you Google the editors’ names, what do you find? The biographies of established and well-published writers? The more experienced the editor, the more likely the online journal is reputable.
Nominations and Awards. Literary magazines must meet certain criteria to nominate their writers for Best New American Voices and The Pushcart Prize. If you see that a magazine is making such nominations, it’s likely that it meets the criteria of those organizations.
Copyright Dates. Don’t assume that the existence of a website means that the journals are active. Check for the most recent issue, calls for submissions, or if in doubt, send an email to confirm that the journal is still publishing.
Issue Format. Look for eye-pleasing publications that feel like print literary magazines. Issues of an online literary magazine are often compiled the same way that print literary magazines are compiled: with multiple authors or works in each issue. If a website posts one poem or story at a time, it is probably not a true literary magazine; it’s a blog. (Editor’s note: Of course, blogs dedicated to creative writing should not be dismissed by default. Many reputable literary magazines also have reputable blogs.)
Calendar of Publications. Look for publications that publish on a regular schedule.
Reputable Affiliations. Look for online literary magazines that are affiliated with colleges and universities. Check to see if the online publication in question is funded by reputable government, state, or scholarly grants. CLMP (Council of Literary Magazines and Presses) icons indicate that the magazine is a member of the trade organization for literary journals.
Governing Organizations. If the online literary magazine is a publication of a specific local writing group that publishes only the work of its own members, then it’s probably not a widely known literary publication.
Good Page Layout. Look for a clean, easy-to-read page layout. Be suspicious if you see junk ads, pop-ups, typos, and broken links.
Number of Published Issues. How long has the online magazine been around? Because some literary magazines open and fold so quickly, you’ll want to be sure you’re submitting to a literary magazine that is going to be around for a while.
Mission Statement. If the mission statement says, “I wanted to create a magazine for my friends and me to showcase our work—oh, and other writers can submit as well,” then you are probably not looking at a magazine that is highly reputable in the literary community.
Print Editions. Occasionally, online journals will print anthologized editions of their best online publications. If the online magazine is putting out an occasional print publication, it may work in your favor.
Guidelines. If you’re submitting regularly, you know what typical submission guidelines look like. Submission guidelines are meant to help writers, so they should be clear and above-board. Watch out for magazines that charge reading fees.
The Writer’s Relief database contains many online literary magazines, as well as print journals. To take advantage of our research, visit Writer’s Relief Overview.
QUESTION: Online literary journals are changing the entire publishing industry. What do you think is the biggest impact that online publishing has had on traditional publishing?