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How to Launch A Lit Journal: Step 2


Last month I posted a typically-sage prescription for launching a literary magazine in which I provided a list of “7 Golden Rules” for doing so. Among the tidal wave of responses was one by a little magazine called The New Yorker. In its pages, Stephen Burt argued that a literary journal “…needs a reason to exist…”

I wholeheartedly concur. Which brings me to Step 2 in my ongoing series, How To Launch A Literary Journal.

I don’t believe in giving away trade secrets, but I’ll make an exception in this case. If you, dear reader, are preparing to launch your own journal – the Homo Sapien Review, let’s call it – you would do well to answer Stephen Burt’s important question. Why should your journal exist?

To help your friends get published, of course! Why else?

There’s no better reason to voyage out into the misty waters of the boutique publishing industry in your proverbial dingy than to provide a place for your cronies, your pals, your retinue, and your entourage to publish their own cramped little writings – their “Odes to a Water Lily” and their “Self Portraits as Herman Cain,” etc etc. Because, really, that’s why literary journals exist in the first place, isn’t it? To serve as promotional tools? Naturally that is why. To expand upon my previous analogy, a rising tide lifts all boats… Or, um, there’s always more fish in the ocean… Or, ahem, as Gandhi said, “Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

And so on. You get the point.

How To Launch A Literary Journal

literary journal cover

Oh precious, darling reader. You’ve accompanied me through thick and thin. For that I owe you a great debt. But I’m afraid, despite our fraternal union, we are both guilty of a gross oversight. In these annals I have cataloged the erudite and informed publications of our day, the journals that we all depend upon for literary insight and inspiration. The Paris Review and The New Yorker, for example. Or The Bellevue Review, Slice, or Electric Literature. Then again, there’s also The Atlas Review, Tin House, and Conjunctions. Ploughshares, A Public Space, and Gettysburg Review. And McSweeneys. And the Iowa and Missouri Reviews. Not to forget Agni, Boulevard, and New England Review. And a few others. And still others. And, actually, others as well. And… others.

So, as you can see, we are now faced with a scarcity of literary journals in this country. There simply aren’t enough of them. And that is why – my loyal, trustworthy reader – we must join forces to launch a brand new journal to address this pathetic shortfall. We begin immediately.

Before our first strategic planning meeting, it would be meet to agree upon a few golden rules. Without further ado, here are 7 Rules For Launching A Literary Journal:

  1. Your “Mission Statement” should be a terrific hodgepodge of vague declarations and general proclamations about “fostering talent” and “exposing the best literature to the world,” etc etc. The broader the better. We wouldn’t want anyone knowing what the journal’s goals actually are.
  2. Be weird. SNARFLEPLORG!
  3. Don’t pay your staff. Paychecks will only give them hope.
  4. Beg for submissions from anyone who will listen. Have no dignity.
  5. Frantically close submissions when your Submittable is carpet-bombed with 100,000 stories about youthful,  yet precocious protagonists surrounded by idiots.
  6. Quickly plan 3 years worth of special “Themed Issues,” because working writers have nothing better to do than put aside their best material in order to pump out half-baked microfiction about Latvian Eco-Terrorists Named Igor.
  7. Pray.

Excellent. It feels good to take stock. Now then. Onward! Our brand new literary journal is still only a fragile seed, yearning for water and sunlight. Before it will germinate, we must provide it with vital nourishment – an aesthetic, and a title.

Did I forget anything in today’s list? Oh dear. Remind me what I’ve forgotten at