14 October 2013

connectivity: challenging the online literary journal stigma

Connectivity: Benefits of Online Literary Journals
Once upon a time in the publishing industry, online literary journals were considered the ugly ducklings of publication options. They were often seen as the “last resort” option for those simply desperate to be published somewhere … anywhere. Often hosted on personal blogs, online journaling venues, and so forth, many publishers weren't willing to take them seriously, and many authors were afraid to give them their support.

Fortunately, things changed, thanks largely to two factors: the growing place of the internet in society, and the dwindling monetary support for print journals. With literary journals and magazines operating on smaller and smaller budgets, many big name journals began offering less space in print and more space on their blogs or other online counterparts. Some switched to offering one print edition and multiple online editions. Some made the switch to online only. And suddenly, what was seen as a literary pariah became something of a literary standard.

Some writers—you may even be one of them—still hold online journals as the “lesser” option among print journals. If you’re still debating the merit of online literary journals, here are some points to hopefully tip you a little further in their favor!

1. maximize your exposure

One major benefit of online journal publication is a maximized exposure to you and your work. With print publications, you typically have to rely on other writers or literary supporters buying a subscription to see your work. With online publications, you have the added audience of … anyone with an internet connection. All someone has to do is look up the title of the publication, or your name … or the title of your work … or a phrase that appears in your work. With your work online, readers and future fans are more likely to stumble upon your work.

2. let me google that for you

Added bonus: future publishers can Google you. You might think a publisher doesn’t care about how visible you are online … but we’re in a digital age. Visibility and public exposure have always been an ally of aspiring writers, and publishers are looking for writers who know how to maximize that exposure: not just for the writers themselves, but also for the publisher. The more visible you are, the more other publishers are (sometimes—not always) willing to consider adding your name to their list of published authors!

3. how much is that postage again

With online submissions, postage is free. Forget about having to run to the store for paper, printer ink, envelopes, and stamps. Now you can simply sit at your computer in your jammies and reach out to the wide world of editors. And bonus: response times to online submissions are generally faster than snail mail.

4. and your words lived happily ever after … forever

I recently had a friend move and give away a ton of his literary journals. I have other writer friends who only keep a journal until the next edition comes out. Just think: if this is how writers keep journals, what do you think folks who aren’t huge supporters of literary journals do with them? The fact is, most print journals end up in the recycling bin before they’re a year old. With online journals, you can point readers to your work almost indefinitely. Even if a journal folds and stops publishing, we are in an age of digital “caches” of information (think of the last time you couldn’t access a site regularly but were able to cache an old version of the site). This means your words are out there, if not forever, at least for a very, very long time!

5. “internetional” interactions

Last year I was surprised (and amused) to learn that a large number of viewers for Our Lost Jungle were coming from Europe. When you have an online presence, you’re not just reaching your neighbors. You’re not even limited to people in the same country. An online presence means international exposure, and what I call “internetional” interaction capability: through the internet, you can reach that international audience and engage with them across social, language, and watery borders. Publishing online allows you to create a directory of your writing to share with readers, who can then comment on your work and share it with their friends no matter where they are.

Your Turn: What are your thoughts on online journals? What is your favorite thing about being able to complete the submission process online? Share your thoughts on the benefits—and even drawbacks—of online literary journals and submissions in the comments to continue the conversation!

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