Are Literary Magazines the Right Choice For You? And Other Routes You Want to Consider
Last week I wrote about the pros and cons of submitting to literary magazines. Something I realized as I was preparing for that is that there's a lot of articles about why one should submit to literary magazines but nothing about the downsides of it. They made it seem like magazines publications are the only way to get your short fiction and poetry out there other than through a big publication. And that's not true.
The other 3 other ways I recommend for getting your work and name out there.
My first suggestion is actually only for poets.
1. Perform at Open Mike Nights
If you're a college student like me, your university probably has some sort of open mike night where anyone can perform in front of an audience. If you’re not a college student, try to get in touch with your local arts scene. Ask around, research on the Internet, you might be surprised. Spoken word and poetry communities are out there. They're just very far underground. Sometimes bars, restaurants, and even bookstores will have opportunities to recite poetry.
I know that for some of you reciting your poetry for people is terrifying—it terrifies me too—but it's a great way to connect with other poets, share your work, and even gauge the quality of your work by how the audience responds to it. If you have any interest at all, I encourage you to try it out—a few times at least. The first time, you're going to be very nervous, so it might affect your performance negatively. But with some practice you’ll get better and more comfortable. If this becomes something you do regularly, you'll become better known in your local arts scene, which is a great starting point.
My next suggestion can work for all types of writers:
2. Posting on Wattpad and Similar Online Communities
With this, you’re basically cutting out the middle man of literary magazines to self-publish work to a community that’s already been formed. On Wattpad, you can post short stories and even individual chapters of a novel. I’m not sure about poetry since I’ve never done it myself, but you probably can. Then there’s also some similar sites solely for poetry like Allpoetry.com.
Once you post your writing, it’ll be placed where everyone can read it, and odds are a few people will click on it. It does take work, and it might take some time to get noticed. But if you post consistently and write well, you should get some traction. Then, you can also receive useful feedback from other members and maybe make some new friends.
But my first two suggestions are really steps contributing to my last way you can get your writing out there, and that is:
3. Building an Author Platform.
An author platform is a place online where your readers or potential readers can discover you, find out what you’re working on, and connect with you. This can be your website, a YouTube channel, social media accounts, sites like Wattpad, or even a podcast. The choice is yours. You can publish your writing on these places to easily share with others. And you can use my previous two suggestions as a way to meet people to point toward your author platform.
One of my cons for submitting to literary magazines was that it takes a lot of time, but do not misunderstand me when I say that building an author platform also takes a ton of time. You're not getting off easy either way. If you want to get your name out there, you have to put in the time and the effort. It’s really just a matter of which way do you prefer. Would you rather submit to literary magazines that will handle the publication for you and already have a readership in place, or would you rather bypass the gatekeepers, publish your work, and build a readership yourself?
Nowadays, there tends to be two main types of writers: ones that pursue traditional publishing and ones that pursue self-publishing.
I, myself, have decided to pursue self-publishing.
I used to submit to literary magazines, but I recently stopped because I wanted to try to build an author platform instead. I feel that it's more beneficial for me to share my work now to build an audience rather than waiting for a magazine to publish it. Self-publishing also appeals to me because I get to have 100% say with what I do with my work and I don't have to deal with gatekeepers.
Literary magazines are going to have more appeal to people pursuing traditional publishing. Publications are after all a way to draw the eye of agents and publishers. They also won't mind dealing with the gatekeepers as much. And the long waiting periods and the process of submitting will help prepare them for publishing a book later.
On the other hand, writers pursuing self-publishing are going to want to build an author platform anyway. It is absolutely crucial for success as a self-published author. Sharing your work online is a great way to start building a following, but you can't do that if you're submitting to literary magazines because then they’ll consider your work to have been previously published and won’t accept it. And oftentimes people don't have time to both submit to magazines and build an author platform.
Now both types of authors can benefit from either path. Already having an author platform will make it more likely that a traditional publisher will sign on with you. It's a safer bet for them because they know for certain that there are readers who will buy your book that they're considering investing money in to publish. Then, for independent authors, a magazine publication is a great way to reach a bigger audience and is something to add to your resume.
The Internet has changed everything.
Writers have more options now for sharing their work than they have ever had before. Literary magazines are a tried and true method, but don't feel like you can't try anything else. One path isn't going to work for everyone. Consider your own goals, what you like to do, and then figure out which path you should take and do it. I believe in you. Now, go and pursue your dreams.