From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Monday, February 7, 2011

How do you assess a literary magazine?

I've been wondering. I counted up yesterday, and with all my poetry, non-fiction and short stories, my work is submitted to a total of 29 different magazines. So this is something I really need to understand better. How do you assess a literary magazine?

How do you judge the quality of a magazine? The only real litmus test that I know is whether or not a magazine has been anthologized in Best American. Those are some obvious ones, like The New Yorker, McSweeney's, Ploughshares, Black Warrior Review, Granta, etc. What are some other tests? How do you tell if a magazine is considered a "high quality" magazine or not? I believe there are certain awards out there that one could use, but I'm not too aware of what those are.

How do you tell if your work would be a good fit in a magazine? The best answer is to read it, but even then, it is nearly impossible to be objective about ones own work, so even if you read a magazine cover to cover it might still be difficult to judge whether your work is what they are looking for. So how do you tell? Is there a poor persons answer for people who can't afford to buy the magazine, and so can't read it?

I would really appreciate some of your ideas. What are the criteria you use? What seems to work best for you?

Sarah Allen


  1. Oooh boy. Wish I could help you out on this, but I haven't look at the lit mags in years. I write novels and only rarely dabble in short stories. But I think it's awesome that you've got your work submitted to 29 different places. Way to go!!!

  2. I'm not an expert in this area:
    back in college, I had a short list that included some of the titles you included:
    how wonderfully ambitious, and well-organized you are!
    Someone with good advice WILL post here,
    but what I would think is:
    1. Send your work to all of them,
    2. Post your poem or story on your blog, and then e-mail a contact at each literary journal & invite them to check it out here ...?
    3. Check those magazines' web sites; surely they give some guidelines as to what they're looking for.
    (On the other hand, I tend toward -- just send it to 'em -- because they may not know what they want to publish next until they see it.

  3. Thank you both for your kind words and advice! Melissa, I really appreciate the encouragement. And Carson, I wish I actually was more organized :) I've got plenty of ambition, but it takes cooperation from many different sources to succeed in this business, so I'll need some luck too. As well as kind words, advice and encouragement which you both have given me, so thank you!



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