August 22, 2009
Submission to Literary Magazines, A Necessary Evil?
The Elephant in the Room of course is that there are 100 times as many people sending out submissions to literary magazines than there are people buying those magazines. That’s why the lit mags had to set up the prizes to survive. There are not enough universities supporting these mags. Hayden’s Ferry Review is my favorite literary magazine right now and has been for a while. It’s beautiful, but it isn’t over the top expensive like Black Clock, it publishes great work, but it isn’t exclusive like Hudson Review or Zyzzva which are exclusive on opposite ends of the spectrum. It’s just a great variety of discoveries of all kinds of good writing which is what you read a lit mag for, you want to be surprised. That’s part of the reason I like Hayden’s, it’s edited by the brilliant MFA students at ASU’s creative writing program and they pick cool edgy stuff. When you read the work, you are surprised, pleased, amazed.
Writers often get angry at the literary magazines for rejecting their work, but what they forget is that most literary magazines have no money, no staff, no support or very little and most of the people sending in work do not support the magazine or subscribe to it. If everyone sending out work decided to not send out work to literary magazines unless they were a subscriber, this whole thing would work better. Writers would send out less work and there wouldn’t be so much to shuffle through so there would be more chance good work could make it to the top of the pile. But if we get too angry at lit mags and they all close, then where are we? Birch bark? Papryus? I don’t know. Maybe, we need to shift to online lit mags and let the print journals keep closing. If no one buys them and no one reads them, clearly they are out dated. Newspapers are becoming a thing of the past because people would rather use their Iphone or Blackberry to log onto Huff Post. And why not? News at your fingertips.
Some people say the lit mag stage is a necessary evil, but then so is dating, ask any male peacock and he’ll tell you he wishes he didn’t have to carry that big tail around, but somebody has to do it to get you from Point A (you/me with manuscript in drawer) to Point B (you/me with book in hand)
If there is a way to leap this stage in a single bound like Superman, I want to know.