How to Start a Literary Magazine

in Resources for Writers

How to Start a Literary Magazine

Do you want know how to start a literary magazine? Many people have a passion for writing. One of the best ways to connect yourself to writers and meet artists is to become an editor of a literary magazine. There are many ways to do this. Some ways are better than others. So here are some things to think about when you are beginning a magazine. I have been the editor of 2 magazines and of course, this site EWR. My first online literary venture was Drunk Duck, in 1999. The magazine ran for 2 years and was very successful. When it closed it was receiving about 15,000 unique visits a month. I was getting about 1000 submissions a month, and it’s success is one of the reasons I had to close the magazine. It was so labor intensive that I simply got overwhelmed and gave up. This article is meant as a step by step on how to start a literary magazine. It is also meant to give you some things to think about, tell you mistakes that I made, and advise you on new developments that will help you.

This is the first article in a series of articles: “How to Build a Successful Money-Making Literary Magazine.” All the articles will be online, but you can only get the complete series by signing up for our mailing list. It’s 100% free, just sign up, and you’ll get all of these steps and more explained in full. For instance, should you go with a blog or a website? What technical skills and tricks will help you. It’s not answered here, but you can find out all you need by signing up.

Step 1

Brainstorm a domain name, magazine name, and mission of your magazine. It is very important to get this right when you start. The name Drunk Duck, believe it or not, was very offensive to some people. I used to get emails, a few a week, telling me that if it wasn’t for the name people would submit their work. Honestly, I didn’t give the name a lot of thought when I started. It was an inside joke between me and a friend, and I thought what the heck. Because of the name I attracted a certain type of writer. Some writers were out there looking for the “New England Journal of Something Something,” or “The Very Serious Review” didn’t want to have Drunk Duck among their publication credits, and that’s understandable. Many writers won’t care, but some will. It’s just something to think about. If you publish high quality work, it won’t matter in the long run, but when you are starting out, your name says a lot about what you think of writing.

One other thing to think about is your magazine’s name will have a great deal of impact on search engine placement. I know it seems unimportant to some, but when you are sitting there checking your email day after day and no one is submitting their work, or visiting your site it will eventually occur to you that maybe the name has something to do with it. This isn’t a gimmick. Pick a name you like and represents what you feel about writing, but remember 2 things. I search engines placement saves you on promotion (I’ll talk about that later) and 2 if you ever plan for some one to read your magazine on their cell phone you might not want the url to be 100 character long.

Step 2

Pick a domain host. This is one of the most important things you will do during this process. If you don’t work on the web right now, you won’t have any clue about domain hosting, and you most likely you won’t care. When I ran Drunk Duck I started on a free site and quickly found that very few people took me seriously. I then switched to a paid host. Switching was a pain again. That host started out cheap and then blew up their prices. I then had to switch again. I have been on domains hosts that have closed before too. It’s not fun. EWR started as the free site everylitmag. It was a tripod site, and I had so much trouble with them. They are expensive, and their features are horrible. I looked at 3 things when I changed the last time to Host Monster.(Disclosure: we are compensated for our review of Hostmonster). 1. Stability 2. Price 3. Options. Stability: You don’t want a company that is always changing or about to close down. 2. You want one that is affordable, of course, 3. You want one that works for you and gives you options.

  1. Put some money into your site. You will save a ton of headache if you just do it right the first time. Don’t go with a free site. If you ever plan on making any money from the site, which you should in, order to keep it running. Buy a domain. In the long run it will save you a lot more.
  2. Do some research and find what will work for you best.
  3. My recommendation is that you go with Host Monster. (Disclosure: we are compensated for our review of Hostmonster). Do your research and I think you will find they are always listed among the top. I love them. They have a ton of free scripts you can use, and it is very easy to use. You can sign up for about 5 or 6$ a month, and their customer support is outstanding. You can live chat with them any time or you can call them if you have a problem. I know They will give you domain name and emails when you site up.

Step 3

Represent your self like a business. I’m bad at this sometimes, but the best way to be taken seriously and start getting traffic and submissions is to be professional. Use a domain name email, set up a newsletter, and develop a missions statement and a statement on how you deal with the works that you will publish. Most literary magazines take first time rights, but with everyone publishing their work on their own sites like twitter, facebooks and blogs you have to decide if you are going to take previously published works, works published on personal sites, and so on. It takes a great deal of thought, but you’ll get these questions. You’ll find that authors will be much more likely to publish their work with you if they don’t know how it will be treated.

Step 4

Design and design. You want to design a logo, at very least to start. You most likely have some idea at this point as to what you want your site to look like, maybe not. For design you can use a whole slew of programs Photoshop is the best.

In the old day we would have used programs like Dreamweaver or even the ancient Microsoft FrontPage. Now however a good amount of the work we do on the web is through software. Much of the time it’s the platform we are creating in. So you may use html5 or drupal, but most of the time people are using WordPress for their site. It’s another reason I like Hostmonster they have a one click WordPress install. So if you want to use the platform everyone else is using, it’s quick and easy.

Step 5 Start building

There is a lot to think about here. If this is the first time you have considered starting a literary magazine or website, sit back and think about what you want before you get into it. If you have already been thinking about it and have made the decision to start, I’ve given you the basics for getting started. Get an idea, get a domain, get program and get started! Good luck.

Or Step 6

Or start a blog. It’s different and the same, but there is a lot you need to know. You can either check out how to build a successful writers blog OR For more info on starting a literary magazine, read our follow up article how to build your literary magazine for success.

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Richard Edwards has a BFA in Creative Writing and Journalism from Bowling Green State University and an M.S. in Education from the University of Akron. Managing editor of Drunk Duck, poetry editor for Prairie Margins, reporter for Miscellany, Akron Journal, Lorain Journal...check our About Us page for more. Also here is info on our On Classic Articles

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