Which Kind of Lit Mag Are You?

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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?

      1. 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”?OldFart
      2. 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?images-20
      3. 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?bullies
      4. 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?images-14
      5. 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?images-42
      6. 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?images-23
      7. 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?images-61
      8. 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”?Unknown 5.28.58 PM

 

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.

Winners of the October Issue Readers’ Favorite Contest

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Congratulations to the winners of our October Issue Readers’ Favorite. An astonishing number of votes came in despite the fact that our poll malfunctioned and we had to create a new one. We did tally all votes from both polls together (minus any repeats from same email address). Winners receive cash prizes.

Essay~

Lisette Alonso for “What Your Car Says About You, 1992”

Prose Under 1,000 Words ~

Jesse Sensibar for “One More Reason Not to Sleep with People You Don’t Know Very Well”

Short Story ~

Linda Lenhoff for “Your Call Is Important”

Interior Art ~

Bob McNeil for “Angel”

Poem ~

Jennifer Martelli for “Aphrodisiums”

The Rejection Blues

This week I’ve been afflicted with what I call the rejection blues. I never get much writing done during one of these ‘episodes.’ I have eight stories out (as I’m putting together a collection) and I haven’t gotten an acceptance for a few months. The beginning of this month I was on a streak of promising rejections: The story almost made it, the story is excellent but we don’t publish this type of story, we didn’t take it but would be very pleased to see other work from you. These rejections all came from literary magazines that I highly respect, so this felt pretty good. One of my stories made it through to the next round and now I’m waiting to see. So, I felt like maybe I was breaking through the wall. Or clawing my way further up the ladder.

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And then this week, not so good. One of my dear writing friends received a form rejection letter on a stunning story, much to my sincere shock. She is extremely talented. It made me question whether it is possible to get a really good story in a really good literary magazine if the writer’s bio is not whatever the editors consider impressive. It made me angry also and then depressed. If she can’t get that story noticed, what are my chances?

This was followed by form rejections; which don’t bother me except that it is a rejection. But, one of the rejections I received was an email from Submittable and not the magazine itself telling me there was a change in the status of my story to: Declined. I had submitted to the magazine before and received a rejection email, but this time, they couldn’t even bring themselves to choosing the automatic rejection template so that I would get a form rejection email. This to me reads, we hate your writing, don’t ever submit to us ever again. This was followed by an email that another story was being turned down because the magazine doesn’t have enough staff to read all the submissions. They’ve had the story since July 9th. It is unclear if they actually read my story. They hope I will submit again though. Confusing.

But the worse of all, was that I had a story submitted to an anthology and received two emails from an editor that it was a top pick and I’d for sure be hearing from them. I never did. I had to find out that it wasn’t picked by searching around on the Internet (they host a blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a website) until I found a generic notice that the writers who made it in the anthology had already heard from them, so if you haven’t you didn’t. It is an anthology on “rejection.”

I seem to sink into these blues after an intense period of creativity. I go through these maddening cycles after completion of a lot of work (by completion I mean I think the work is ready to submit) whereby I am on a writing high for a week or so and I think it is possible and I think the work I send out is good enough for publication and in the journal I send it to. And I don’t send work willy-nilly. The story has gone through many revisions, gotten feedback, been revised again. And, I do a lot of research: seeing which journals have calls for submissions, what those journals like to publish (I read at least one story they’ve published), reading interviews with their editors or reviews on their magazine, or I have a subscription and I’ve been reading the magazine. I try to be very very careful and make sure my story would be “a good fit” for them. I think that I mostly get this wrong, but I spend hours on this part of my job as a writer.

And then about a week or so goes by, and I sink into despondency. My writing stinks. My stories all stink. No one is going to want that story or this story. I will be completely rejected. And I spend time in this place, confused. Confused because I usually get positive feedback on my work (from my trusted readers and while in school, from my faculty). I like my stories. Actually, I love my stories because they are a part of me, because I have invested myself so deeply into them.

Dear Editor of Prestigious Literary Magazine,

I have sent my short story titled “Please Give Me a Break” to you in the desperate hopes that you will love this story as much as I do, even if my Bio will not impress the readers of your exclusive and prestigious literary magazine. I read your magazine and my story seems like the kind of story that you publish, but this is really, really hard to tell. You might not think so, but to me, it is. I wouldn’t bother you if I didn’t think my story could be in your magazine. Honest to God.

Sincerely yours,

Justawanna Bea Writer

So how to sink out of this hole that I keep tripping into? I usually “quit” literature for a few days. No, I don’t want to read that stunning new novel by the gorgeous super-writer that everyone keeps talking about as if she lays eggs of gold. I’m going to watch Real Housewives of Beverly Hills instead. I’m going to cook a complicated dinner or scrub the grout in my bathroom. I’m going to put a shot of whiskey in my Michigan apple cider. Leave me alone.

Eventually, though, I focus back on my work. I get my head wrapped back around the creation of work rather than the publication of my work and I wait for some response. I emotionally distance myself from the story. After all, it’s just one story. You can always write another one. Once I get three or four rejections on a story I pull the story back out and see if it needs to be revised and then I revise it. Then I get more feedback. Revise it again. When it is ready again, I send it back out, hoping it will land this time. Often, a story has landed after this exact process.

And what’s the worst thing that can happen? An editor will just say no. It’s not up to that editor if I keep writing or not, it’s up to me. It’s up to me to put my butt in the chair every morning and work hard on all of those words that need to pile up together into a good story. It’s up to me to keep pushing myself in the study of my craft: reading fiction and craft books, listening to the feedback I get, spending time in contemplation of my stories and revising them, again and again. The only person who can stop me from becoming a better writer is me and since a life of letters is what I want, I’m just going to keep at it.

 

Yes, Virginia, There Is a Submission Fee

Yes, VirginiaSubmission fee or no fee that was the question we agonized over. Why, when we are just an online journal? Well, because there are costs involved in producing an online journal. There are costs involved in becoming a non-profit corporation. There is a cost if a journal wants to pay its contributors.

What kind of costs when the journal is online? Web domain fees. Web hosting fees. The Submittable subscription yearly fee. Plus when you charge a submission fee, Submittable keeps over 1/3 rd of what you charge. They keep 99 cents plus 5% of the fee. That’s the gritty truth. It is $400.00 just to apply for 501(3)(c) status. Plus, you must file and pay fees in the State you operate out of.  There are banking fees because we don’t have enough money in our checking account for it to be free. There are office supply costs: stamps for thank you’s to donors, ink for the printer (the printer? Yes! We still have to print certain things), paper, etc. Don’t forget design software to produce the layout for a PDF version of the journal. Don’t forget to pay the accountant to file the tax papers. Oh, and if we hadn’t gotten a wonderful amazing contribution of Web Design Development, I cannot imagine what that would’ve cost. After all, we want the journal to look professional in honor of the work we are grateful to publish. We are, after all, editors and writers, not web site builders and graphic designers.

So, we had to weigh between not charging a submission fee and covering the costs with donation funds OR charging a small submission fee and covering our costs so that we can pay our contributors with the donation funds. We’re writers too. We hardly ever get paid for the work we publish and we pay submission fees. We pay submission fees to journals that don’t pay their contributors. Some of those produce a print magazine and some are online. One reason to start your own literary journal is to do things differently, to try and see if submitting can’t be more of a win for the writer.

We have to have revenue. All enterprises have to generate revenue in some manner. We don’t have a University backing us or a Corporate Sponsor. But if you are one of those and want to jump on board, the first thing we’d eliminate are submission fees.

Our online digital issues will be free. Why free? Because what we hear from writers all of the time is that they want their work to be READ. When their work is published for free on the Internet, everyone reads it – their friends, Dad, Grandma. When their work is produced in a print journal that costs somewhere between 9$ and 20$, considerably fewer people purchase the issue to read their work. We decided not to derive revenue from a PDF digital version of the magazine, so that an author’s fan base can easily and readily access that piece.

And the big elephant in every literary journal is staff salaries. Writers want to be paid. Editors want to be paid. Why? Well, because a bag of groceries costs about $30. Unless you are independently wealthy, you have to somehow pay your bills. We want to pay our staff. We want to pay them at least something for the countless hours they are devoting to our literary journal. We are all just trying to get along in a strained and difficult economy, where the middle class is going extinct as fast as the ice is melting in the Arctic. We want The Tishman Review to be a win-win situation for everyone involved.

We also have the option of an expedited response that provides the author with feedback. Yes, this is to generate revenue. Private editors charge between 50 and 70$ an hour and it seems to take them about two hours to evaluate a manuscript. We will look at the writer’s manuscript and provide feedback for only 6$. Remember the first 3$ goes toward costs (plus $1.29 to Submittable). The extra $1.71 we get helps our journal generate revenue. It is our way of contributing additionally to our own cause.

We organized The Tishman Review to reflect our concerns and our priorities. Pay our writers and artists (cover art!) first. Pay our bills. Pay our staff. Reduce or eliminate submission fees as soon as possible. Pay our writers and artists even more. Operate the venture so that it can survive, grow, and enhance more and more lives.

That’s why we charge submission fees.

But once a month for a day or two, we will offer the option to submit to us for no charge.

Why? Because we want everyone to be able to submit, even those writers struggling to pay submission fees.