Which Kind of Lit Mag Are You?
A list by P.T. Butler and L.M.Henke
Recent [loosely based, highly unscientific] studies have shown that there are nine definitive types of literary magazines publishing today. Which kind of literary magazine are you?
- Old Fart—You do it old school. You are a secret literati society. Some of you only publish stream of consciousness pieces but don’t make this public knowledge. Some of you don’t publish stories that rely on scene, but mum’s the word. You repeatedly ask writers to submit then have parties to laugh about all the writers who submit that have no chance in hell of ever appearing in your pages. You have a well‐defined expectation of what comprises the literary, and this is never going to change. Writers love your journal and subscribe even when they don’t understand anything in it. Signs that you might be an Old Fart: Do your submissions number in the thousands each month? Do you accept about .0001% of them? Have you ever posted an apology stating “because of the lack of quality submissions, we cannot publish anything in [genre] this issue”?
- Cool Kid—You have millions of Twitter followers and everyone desperately wants to be your friend. Your editors are always published by the editors of other journals desperate to belong to the Cool Kid pack. You are the beautiful hipsters and draw in writers like moths to a flashlight. You are so cool you can skip copy editing the work in your pages. It doesn’t matter what’s inside when you have a super awesome! cover and a super awesome! website. Signs you might be a Cool Kid: Can you do no wrong in the lit world? Do you notice that submissions to your magazine simply explode three months before AWP? Do you have the best parties?
- Cerberus—You believe in only one way of doing things, and every other way is Immoral. You release from his cage your hyper‐aggressive, possibly white, possibly male editor, to scare the piss out of the Immoral ones. Your scary editor will chastise on social media using put‐downs and sarcasm. Writers fawn over you, feeling accomplished by your approval but also a little dirty about it. Signs you might be a Cerberus: Are you having a hard time finding another journal to share your booth at AWP? Have you ever had to stop using social media for a few days to “let things cool off”? Do you adore Professor Snape?
- Newbie—You have less than three issues under your belt. You still think publishing a literary magazine is “fun” and will “really pay off someday”. You put out calls for submissions nearly every day and decline everything in three days or less, sometimes in eight minutes. You re‐tweet all tweets by your favorite literati and have five page, single‐spaced, submission guidelines. Signs you might be a Newbie: Are you enraptured by impressive writer bios? Do you eat graham crackers as a mid‐morning snack? Are you sharing your AWP table with four other journals?
- Happy Happy Joy Joy—You love everyone and you tweet constant encouragement to all the dejected and declined writers everywhere. Send to us! We love you! There is no global warming! We love all the other journals! Especially you Cool Kids! Signs you might be a Happy Happy Joy Joy: Have you ever written on your website “Our New Issue is Out and Everyone LOVES It!” Do you post cute pics of adorable kittens or puppies on social media? Are your lenses rose‐colored?
- Wild One—You publish everything: disenchanted robots, philosophical aliens, naked vampires, cannibals in love, you name it. Let’s bring it all out, no matter how moldy or dusty or trendy. It’s all literary! Your submission guidelines confuse just about everyone. You want pieces that speak to the tips of the sky and the molten lava at the core of the earth. You also love being a conundrum. Signs you might be a Wild One: Have you accepted a submission that might really be a recipe, or a list, or a children’s crayon drawing? Do you often feel misunderstood? Do you like feeling misunderstood?
- Uber Journal—You’ve clawed your way to the top, and you wave your battered and bloodied flag everywhere. You only publish major award winners and, of course, your friends. You can do whatever you want. Writers are desperate to be published in your pages and will do whatever it takes: hand‐jobs, second‐mortgage submission fees, ass wiping on social media, etc. Signs that you might be an Uber Journal: Do your submissions number in the tens of thousands on a monthly basis? When you go to AWP, is your booth over‐run by the literati? Do you only drink Kosta Browne?
- Every [Wo]man Mag: You are practically perfect in every way. You publish an impeccable balance of new, emerging, and established writers and have a broad spectrum of readers that Tweet, Tumbler, Instagram, FB, and Whisper the crap out of everything you do. You don’t even have to advertise! You have a great sense of humor, a great sense of style, charge just the right price for everything and anything, and give away free cookies at your table at AWP. Signs you might be an Every [Wo]man Mag include: Do you have a lamp in your satchel? Do you hum Broadway tunes? Do you say things in rhyme, like “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun”?
Disclaimer: This article is not intended as a substitute for the actual labeling advice of a professional. Readers should regularly consult each other in matters relating to labeling and particularly with respect to any habits that may require concise diagnosis as to which one of the said above labels applies to you. In addition, any resemblance to actual persons or groups of people, living or dead, or actual events, imaginary or real, is purely coincidental. Write on.