So You Want To Start Your Own On-Line Literary Journal. . .
If you’ve ever thought about editing your own on-line literary journal, it’s never been easier.
A forum thread recently came up regarding a Scribber who wanted experience as a slush editor. My recommendation was for her to start her own journal, just as I had done myself. I’d always wanted to be an editor of a literary journal and the ease and functionality of The Internet made pursuing this dream a breeze. So I thought it might be worthwhile to share that information with everyone, in case there were any other budding editor-in-chiefs lurking my blogosphere. The steps in creating your own on-line literary journal are mind-numbingly simple and the end product can be a marvel.
First, you’ll need to think of a focus for your magazine. Will your magazine be a showcase for genres like Fantasy? Science Fiction? Romance? The beauty here is you get to publish your passion. On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with keeping your options open and accepting any genre and focusing on a certain type of writing. Will you publish only poetry? Flash fiction? Longer stories? Haiku? Also, how frequently will you publish? Quarterly? Bi-monthly? Whenever you get around to it? These decisions must be made before you move forward.
Secondly, create a name for your journal. For the two literary journals I edited, the name was reflective of the journal’s focus and of my own editorial philosophies. The journal that published flash fiction and short poetry was called LITSNACK, implying that it wouldn’t take very long for the reader to come by the site and snack on a piece of literature. My other website FLASH PARTY, was intended for short pieces of prose (250 words and under) and meshed nicely with the then-new idea of Flash Mobs. The idea of writers getting together in one place and exhibiting their work like a literary Flash Mob was very appealing to me. The key here is that each site had an editorial philosophy and an overall vision of what I was trying to accomplish. LITSNACK even had a motto: “Easy in, Easy Out. Nobody Gets Hurt.” If you’re interested in checking them out, you can find links to both magazines on my profile page.
Third, create an e-mail account where writers can send submissions. I prefer G-mail, but you can use Hotmail or Yahoo as well. Try to include the name of the journal in the address you sign-up for but, depending on name availability, you may have to alter or abbreviate it slightly.
Fourth, use that e-mail address to sign up for one of the two major (and free) create-your-own-website programs: Weebly.com or Webs.com. I’ve used both programs, but I prefer Weebly because of the ease of use and navigation. Both programs use a simple drag-and-drop interface where even someone with my limited technical skills can create a professional looking website. And the best part is that it’s completely free! On Weebly, in fact, you’re allowed to create two separate websites with one e-mail address, so you can create your own literary journal and still create another site for your own writing or other professional or personal pursuits.
At this point, you'll need to decide what kind of pages to include. I've always used the blog interface on Weebly so that each new piece that I publish is its own post, but there are other options. I would also recommend that you include the standard pages you see on other journals--submission guidelines, staff, links to other publications, that sort of thing. It's important to note, however, that there is a point where the site becomes too busy, so be careful.
Next, advertise for submissions. I posted notices in various writer’s forums, contacted writer friends, read other journals and hijacked their contributors list by e-mailing their best writers and soliciting submissions, and was eventually picked up by the literary journal digest, Duotrope. Getting listed with Duotrope is critical if you want to receive submissions. I confess here that, to get my journals off the ground, I posted several of my own pieces under various pseudonyms as “seed” literature to make it look as if the enterprise was underway. I think this helped legitimize my publication faster.
The second-to-last-step is to know what you’re looking for. When the subs start rolling in, you should already have a pretty good idea of the level of quality you’re willing to accept and what kind of pieces you had in mind when you envisioned the site. This helps speed up the acceptance/rejection procedure.
Finally, once your journal is underway and you have something to show for your efforts, it’s time to advertise. Place links in writer’s forums again, make an announcement here in Scribophile, and don’t forget to scream it from your Facebook status update and/or Twitter feed. Tell everyone. After all, you’ve become an editor.
Make no mistake, though. Editing an on-line literary journal is strictly a labor of love. There’s no money, glory, or power. But if you do it right, you just may add a little piece of art to the world and, sometimes, that’s reward enough.