Literary journals always have been and always will be a staple of the writing community. While there are currently hundreds of journals, both online and in print, at Writer’s Relief, we’re reminded of what Toni Morrison famously said: “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” The same applies to literary journals!
If you’re thinking about starting a literary journal, here are a few things to consider:
Decisions To Make Before Starting Your Literary Journal
The journal’s name: This may seem obvious, but coming up with a good name can be hard! Established literary journal names range from classic (The Alabama Literary Review) to eccentric (Monkey Bicycle), so feel free to flex your creative muscles!
Your mission statement: This can be as simple as “We want to publish creative writing,” or something much more specific: publishing only a particular form of poetry; or prose of a specified length; or only a certain genre. Hash out this detail early on so you can use it to guide you in everything from designing your website to knowing how to advertise your journal so you can start receiving submissions! (About that—you’ll need to decide on submission guidelines too.)
Your budget: Starting a literary journal doesn’t have to be expensive, but there will be some costs: hosting a website; printing and distributing (if you decide to offer your journal in print—which is another big decision!); advertising (placing sponsored ads on social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter, listing your journal with sites like NewPages or Duotrope); offering an honorarium to contributors and/or staff members (if you can!); and possibly using a submission service. Speaking of which…
The submission service you will use (if any): The simplest way to receive submissions for your new journal is to create an email address (email@example.com). Using a server like Gmail is basic and completely free. These days, though, even the smallest literary journals are choosing to use Submittable software to receive, sort, accept/reject submissions, and more.
The number of staff members: Many literary journals are DIY operations run by one person wearing many hats—whether it’s a start-up or a journal that has been around for years.
However, if you’re short on time or unsure about judging poetry, designing a website, or managing social media, you may want to bring on board other friends, colleagues, or even mentors who share your vision. (Hint: If you don’t know any other writers, try searching our list of writing groups!)
Once You’ve Started Your Literary Journal
Once your fledgling literary journal’s website is live—advertise, advertise, advertise! Spread the word about your journal by placing ads, starting social media platforms, and asking your writer-friends to share the news.
Remember, while there are many journals, there are even more writers who want to get published. Finding publishable submissions is just a matter of making sure you reach the right writers!
A Final Consideration Before You Take The Plunge
Remember that running a literary journal is a lot of work—and a big commitment. Many journals go defunct after a few years (or even a few months) when the editors simply can’t keep up with the demands. If you’re not sure you want to take on so much responsibility, consider smaller steps, such as volunteering with an already established journal or putting out a onetime anthology. Both can give you a taste of the work required to run your own journal. And if you decide it truly is for you—good luck!