Friday 15 March 2019

Subscribing to litmags

Years ago, when I posted England's literary magazines, 1985-2012, I subscribed to many magazines. Now I only subscribe to "Under the Radar", "The Dark Horse", "Acumen", "Stand", "Flash" (Chester Univ) and "Orbis" because many of the magazines I used to subscribe to no longer exist. I try to rotate subscriptions nowadays, my choices rather affected by which magazines accept my work, though I've never been in "The Dark Horse" - it's 5 years since I even submitted.

I read occasional issues of many other magazines - "PN Review", "Poetry Review", "Poetry", etc. I'm less good at reading online magazines - I never read them cover to cover, though I regularly browse Antiphon, Spelk, and Jellyfish Review.

How much longer will paper literary magazines last? A couple of years ago MsLexia led with an article by Debbie Taylor which considered the plight of litmags. She wrote that a "combination of passion and (relative, if not outright) poverty is typical of the vast majority of souls working in the litmag sector", that in 2016 about a third of mags were print only, a third were online-only, and the rest were mixes of various proportions, and that the editors' own work often suffers because of time constraints. She pointed out that Granta and The London Magazine had private backing.

The situation's worsened since then, the souls working in the litmag sector getting older each year. On the bright side -

  • The magazines still surviving presumably pick up a few subscribers from demised ones. I suspect the ones that do the best are tied into a press, have launches, run competitions, and have a social media presence.
  • New paper-based magazines continue to appear, often with high production values.


  1. I've never subscribed to any poetry magazine. Not in forty years. I've certainly bought enough and often because their submission guidelines said I should to see if my poetry might be a good fit but I never once found that helpful; no one seems to write poetry like me. There were magazines who took my work on a regular basis and so I amassed a few of them but I can't say I've ever sat and read any poetry magazine from cover to cover. That kinda disappointed me now I think about it.

    Of course the cynic in me never imagined anyone reading any poetry magazine. Not even poets. We want to see our work in print to prove to ourselves we're good enough but I never pictured any contributor reading my stuff or anyone else's after they'd checked their own poems for typos. It was enough to be published. And after a while of appearing in print on a fairly regular basis I lost interest in that. I'd proved myself to myself and that was that.

    Online was a new challenge but, again, who was reading the stuff? I certainly wasn't. Apart from Ink, Sweat and Tears; I liked the daily poem format. I wish more sites would do that. They might have more success. Every one of us is burdened by too much of everything these days. A poem a day's manageable. It might even be considered a treat.

  2. I too wonder how many people read mags cover to cover.
    I send to mags partly because I see that as a stepping stone towards pamphlet/book publication, and partly because I don't like the idea of other poets worse than me getting published just because I didn't submit.