Monday, May 21, 2012

The Writer and the Magazine

The relationship between the writer and the magazine warrants discussion. From November of 2010 through January of 2011, I shared much of my experience as a fiction editor in my “The Short Story for the Editor” series. In short, that entire series was designed to help writers go from their initial drafts to a publishable story and acceptance letters. Again, this series was my reflections as editor. I hope it gave you insight and good sound advice.

One year later, November of 2011, in my “Pursuit of Publication” series, I discussed the other end, the writer's end of the relationship. In this series, it is organization and planning that are big keys. Obviously, success as a writer is more than just good writing, you must get your work read.

So why should I belabor this relationship between writer and magazine again? Well, I find it strange that so many writers' whole goal is publication and most publications' whole goal is great content and larger readerships. Without writers, there are no magazines. Without magazines, there is no readership, and so why would a writer bother? It is a relationship, and perhaps that's the real discussion today.

I can assure you that the literary magazine community is very small. It's amazing that there are so many publications, thousands in fact, and there seems to be a nearly countable amount of writers and editors (often the same) contributing to this literary scene. Spend a few days looking through online archives of magazines and you'll see just how small this community is. And still, there is room, everyday, for more. There is room for more writers, more magazines, and hopefully, more readers.

The goal as a writer may very well be the goal to get as many publications as possible. So, what happens when magazine x picks up and runs writer y's story “z”? The writer tells a few friends or colleagues and puts a mention of publication on the ol' C.V. Good enough, right? Maybe. What else can the writer do?

Here's the relationship:

The magazine who accepted the writer's work has just given that writer the gift of readership. That's it, readership. The magazine distributed no (or very little, in some cases) money. The magazine has a limited run if in print, or has limited time as current front page exposure if online. So, seemingly, this is a short relationship. Generally speaking, a literary magazine will run a writer only once.

This is what the magazine does: 1) gives exposure. This helps with career building. 2) may really propel the writer, if the magazine contributes to anthologies or Pushcart. 3) introduces that writer to other writers who have involvement as editors or contributors of other magazines.

This is what the writer should do for the magazine: 1) thank them by promotion. Yes, tell everyone you know, even those who may not care. Tell everyone you know to subscribe to that publication, not just the one issue where you've been showcased. 2) continue to promote that magazine long after the issue you were in is archived, sold out or otherwise vanished. You can add links to these publications on your C.V. For instance, the contributors from Umbrella Factory Magazine who add a link to our magazine on their websites generate a sizable amount of traffic for us. I'm grateful for that, as an editor I know I'm dealing with a professional when I see these links. 3) the longer you promote these literary magazines, the longer they can continue doing what they do. What a great day it will be when everyone is reading literary magazines.

Now, as I said, the literary magazine community is small. Very small. An editor at magazine x today, may be the editor-in-chief at magazine y tomorrow and the owner of publishing house z next week. People working in this industry seem to linger in this industry. As a writer, be professional, be kind. Remember, if you aren't getting a paycheck for your published flash fiction piece, know that the editor of that magazine isn't getting paid either. If you're respectful of an editor's time, if you treat the editor and their magazine in a professional manner, that editor will remember you. And likewise if you come to a magazine with weird hang-ups and a less than professional manner, that magazine will also remember you. It reminds of a submitter we once had who was so nasty that the entire staff knew that writer's name. Any time that writer submitted, we rejected the work without even reading the submission. From our side, who needs that kind of frustration? Of our staff, both former members and current members, we have worked on several magazines, and of these several magazines, there is a staff of editors there too. Do you see how easily a name can be circulated? If a writer gets blacklisted in this community, it is the doing of that writer.

Be kind. Be professional. Learn about the magazines where you submit and learn more about them once you contribute. Promote them as much as they promote you. It's a relationship, and with all relationships, it takes work.  

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