With thousands of literary magazines currently accepting submissions and publishing new work, it would seem like the last thing anybody needs is another online literary magazine. But that’s not true. All over the world, there are so many talented writers putting out wildly creative, experimental, and brilliant work, and that work deserves to be read by more readers. For me, there are few things more exciting than stumbling upon a new, high-quality literary magazine and trying to figure out if I have a piece that might fit the aesthetic they’re looking for. So if you’re thinking about creating a new online literary magazine, take a look at my following tips. Since this whole twenty-first-century online writer thing isn’t very lucrative or glamorous, these are the little things that get me pumped to submit to new magazines.
Tip #1: Publish the best work. Obviously, the most important way to build an audience for your magazine is to publish the best work. But in order to get writers to submit their best work to your new, unproven magazine, you’re going to have to make it worth their while. The easiest way to do this is to pay for accepted work. But since it’s difficult to sustain a magazine over the long term when paying for work, don’t worry about that right now. We’ll come back to this later.
Tip #2: Make your website beautiful. Through whatever means you choose to do this, whether it be minimal or maximal, with commissioned artwork or no artwork at all, you’ll attract more readers and submitters if your website is beautiful and professional. And that doesn’t mean expensive. Nor does that mean your site has to be conventionally beautiful. But it does have to be a site writers will be proud to see their work published on, and a site readers will want to read. And most important of all, the website cannot have ads. So pay the one-hundred dollars per year to remove all ads. Because no writer wants the three paragraphs of their flash piece to be sliced apart by two ads for DoorDash.
Tip #3: Give each piece its own, individual page. These days, a writer’s website acts as both their resume, and the first point of contact with potential customers, so it’s essential that each piece published in your new literary journal has its own page. That way the writer can add a direct link to the story to their author website, which gives readers a chance to sample the writer’s work before buying a book. With how difficult it is to get anyone to read anything these days, you can’t expect a potential reader to scroll to page fifty-nine of your digital Issuu issue or your ninety-nine-page PDF.
Tip #4: Accept simultaneous submissions. Unless your response time is five days or fewer, allow writers to simultaneously submit. (They’re going to do it anyway without telling you, so you should just make it official.)
Tip #5: Try to pay writers for accepted work, but don’t bankrupt the magazine to do so. As I mentioned before, this is probably the best way to get writers to submit to your new magazine. But I put this near the bottom of the list because it’s something not everyone will be able to do. If you do have the means to pay, make sure you have enough money to continue operating the magazine for multiple years into the future. Because receiving a twenty-five-dollar honorarium alongside an acceptance is a great feeling, but I’d gladly give up that money to make sure my story still exists on the web five years from now.
Tip #6: Support your contributors on social media. Even if you haven’t yet built a big social media presence, try to support each new publication as much as you can on social media. If the writer has a Twitter profile, tag them in the post so readers can easily find their profile and their author website. Remember, you want to remove as many roadblocks as possible that stand in the way of more eyeballs reaching your magazine and the work of your contributors.
Tip #7: Get weird, be yourself, and have fun. The days of the strict, condescending, stick-up-the-ass gatekeepers are over. (And if they’re not, they should be.) Put your own personal mark on your magazine. If you want to have a submission call for poetry inspired by the movies of Arnold Schwarzenegger, do it. If you want to create an entire journal dedicated to micro fiction related to birds, it’s your world. None of this stuff is that serious anyway, so get weird, be yourself, and have fun.