Demystifying Literary Magazines
by Emily Jaeger, Features Editor
In 2008, Becky Tuch, the founder of The Review Review, felt like she had hit a publishing wall: “I stopped submitting to literary magazines. As a fiction writer, trying to get my work published felt as futile and inconsequential as trying to write my name on a snowflake.” Tuch, like many of her writer peers, knew that it was important to be published in literary magazines, especially “the right ones.” This seemed like the main path toward recognition as a writer and finding agents for future, larger projects. The problem was, she and her peers not only didn’t have a sense of “who published what,” but few, if any of them, even read literary magazines.
After some reflection, Tuch decided to immerse herself in the arena of literary magazines (there are over 2,000) and share her results. She hoped to portray different journals’ aesthetics—not as a substitute for reading the magazines, but rather, as a tool for choosing which magazines to support with subscriptions and submissions. Since 2008, the website has grown to include a team of three editorial assistants and over 250 volunteer reviewers.
The website contains five main categories in the menu bar: reviews, magazines, interviews, blog, and classifieds, where magazines can pay to advertise their calls for submissions. “Reviews” contains hundreds of long-form reviews of literary magazines written mostly by volunteers who span the literary community. The reviews are easily searchable by magazine, reviewer, and keywords such as “women focus,” “quirky,” or “academic.” “Interviews” focuses more on the editors’ than on the writers’ perspective, on their magazine’s aesthetics, goals, and tips for authors.
One place where The Review Review stands apart is the breadth of emerging journals listed on the site. “Magazines” is an alphabetic list of hundreds of literary magazines. Each listing includes important information about submission periods, reading fees, compensation, etc. They also provide a short paragraph, usually written by the editors themselves, about the magazine’s mission. While similar information is available on Poets & Writers, the eligibility of sites to be listed there is based on longevity. Presumably, the only requirement for inclusion in The Review Review is filling out the contact form (although, the site does admit to becoming more discerning as the number of literary magazines across the Web increases). The listings are also paired with a sidebar of links to the long-form reviews when available.
Another helpful feature in “Magazines” is a search sidebar with an extensive set of filters (format, genre, payment, response time, etc). This filtered search parallels similar search features on Duotrope. However, on The Review Review all of these resources are available free of charge. My only quibble with The Review Review search is that viewing the results can be a bit time consuming. The reader must click on each letter of the alphabet to see if, for example, any journals beginning with the letter J are accepting submissions in March.
The Review Review doesn’t shy away from provocative conversations: the (sometimes rocky) relationship between writers and editors or national politic’s effect on literary magazines. The site’s blog features guest posts spanning concerns and resources for literary publishing. For example, a recent post “When Lit Mags Behave Badly” by Amy Bernstein recounts a frustrating incident of an editor who corresponded with Bernstein for a year before ultimately rejecting her piece. Readers and Tuch herself took to the comments to respond to Bernstein’s experience.
Ultimately, Tuch believes her site will foster greater connection between writers and editors so that both can support each other. She writes, “This site, I hope, can give much-deserved feedback to editors. Through the interviews, editors can also have an opportunity to talk a little about their journals. Thus the entire process can feel less like community service and more like an actual community.” The Review Review is an essential tool for any writer looking to participate in literary publishing, any editor hoping to expand their readership, and all literary lovers just trying to find the perfect journal to read on the way to work.
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