How do you create a successful literary journal? Today’s art scene is not short of magazines devoted to them. The internet opened the floodgates for a deluge of new ones. The cost to produce a print magazine is staggering. To publish one online, the startup fee is the price of a domain. The secret to staying in the game is a mix of traditional framework and innovative thinking.
Print magazines carry prestige. They’ve earned it. Online magazines, or ezines, must raise the bar with content and design if they hope to play the game. To gain momentum, the vision must be concise. Leave some room to grow and adapt. Teamwork is essential for true inclusion. Do not get mired in ego.
Five years ago The Blue Mountain Review walked into the world. After the Southern Collective Experience gained traction, Peter Ristuccia, an excellent friend of mine, suggested we create a literary journal. He’s the one who name the gorgeous beast. The two of us spoke for hours with an excitement kids enjoy on Christmas morning. That joy of art for itself alone is tantamount to breaking above mediocrity.
Here are 5 suggestions to follow to build a literary magazine that works:
- Ask Yourself, Why am I doing this?: Is this a vanity project, or a desire to elevate the quality of art? Be honest with yourself and check your heart. The intent behind anything eventually rears its head. If a genuine desire for creative inclusion doesn’t exist, the project won’t make it above room temperature.
- Hone Your Vision and Incorporate Teammates: What are you trying to accomplish with your idea? What genres to you plan to incorporate. The wider you cast your net artistically, the greater your potential audience. Choose editors that are experts in their field. Pick people who share your vision, but stay open to their suggestions. When you pull the right folks together for the right reason you’ll rarely hear a bad idea.
- Do Not Budge on Quality: Your magazine will only be as good as the quality of company you keep. If you set the standard, do not dip below it for any reason. When your primary goal is to publish the best, the best will come from all walks of life. It is better to have a few poems of exceptional quality than massive collection of fair-to-middling efforts.
- Do a Line-by-Line Edit: Go through every line before you release the final product. Mistakes happen, but integrity is built on proper grammar. If you strive for perfection, you’ll never get the goods to market. However, rushing creates a hasty end. Sometimes formatting is lost from acceptance of the submission to its arrival on the designer’s desk. Those whose work you accept deserve to have their work displayed as they penned it. It’s your job to see it’s printed that way.
- Put Time into Design: If the design chosen to showcase that work is sloppy it cheapens the overall product. This is where hiring a professional graphic designer is the best call and money spent. Find a designer who, like the editors, sees your endgame. Ask to see examples of their work and a resume. Let their imagination run with your energy. Listen to their aesthetic suggestions.
Creating a successful literary magazine is a titanic endeavor. Patience, people skills, eye for detail, and commitment to your vision are essential tools for this kind of literary construction. We decided to go with Issuu.com because it mimics the tactile experience of reading. Submittable is a great way to generate funding for design. Once you gain traction consider selling advertising.
Our decision to incorporate interviews with creatives from the art world as well as life experience came from adding an innovative spin on a traditional standby. Landscapers are artists. Booksellers are artists. Engineers are artists, and all of these people bring a fresh perspective and inspiration. These interviews reached outside the norm to define the BMR as a “journal of culture”.
I pray that these suggestions help you flesh out your dreams to create a successful literary journal. If you have any questions, please let me know. In the meantime, keep an eye out for the new Blue Mountain Review, and feel free to submit at any time.