There are so many online lit mags now that sometimes I wonder if anyone is reading them. It’s hard enough to keep up with reading print lit mags and new novels.
The best print journals, like Tin House and Ploughshares, have loyal subscribers who presumably read most or all of the content in each issue. However, I have a hard time believing that people read online journals in the same way. Perhaps the very best online journals like Word Riot and PANK do have regular readers. But is anyone actually reading every issue of some tiny, random lit mag?
This might seem discouraging, but it is not intended to be. I often read random pieces of writing in online mags I’ve never heard of. But the way I come across these stories is not by reading every single issue of a journal. Instead, I visit these journals when they have published the work of a particular writer I’m interested in.
Usually, if I like a writer’s work, I will search for that person online to read more of their stories. There will be several links on the first two pages of the search that lead to examples of their work. Tech-savvy writers make this even easier by having a page on their website where you can click through all their stories in different online journals. If I really like someone, I don’t care where the work has been published. It’s not about the particular journal. In this sense, the journal really is acting as an online “home” for the story, a place where the story lives so that readers can find it through searching.
This is quite different from the way people read traditional print journals. With print, it’s a lot harder to find a bunch of one author’s stories in different journals all at once. Your only hope of doing that is by reading a published collection of stories.
I enjoy this new online literary ecosystem. It’s fun to click from one online journal to the next in the process of exploring one writer’s work. It feels a lot more free than reading print journals. It feels like there’s more to discover. It plays into the immediacy that we have come to expect in an online age.
My online reading style has also affected how I submit to journals. I aim for journals that get good Google results. Before submitting, I Google a few of their authors to see if the journal’s website appears in the first 1-2 pages of the search. If it does, then I consider it a “good” journal. If the piece doesn’t make it into a traditional print journal, it might as well live where people will actually be able to find it.