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From Page to Pixels: The Evolution of Online Journals

I've started to appreciate that publishing online isn't just an issue of picking sides within the industry. It's an opportunity to grow your readership on a grassroots level, to reach people who have never bought a small press book or a literary journal in their life. From undergraduate to graduate teaching assistant, GTA to professor, professor to chair of the visiting writer series—sometimes an opportunity snakes upward like Jack's vine, sprung loose from the tiniest bean.

Once you're open to publishing with online journals, you can learn promotional techniques from the journals themselves. Steven D. Schroeder, editor of Anti-, sees social networking as a natural extension of the Web's potential. "Since the journal is online, most of my marketing is online as well," he says. "I have a personal blog where I post frequent updates on the journal and a Facebook group of several hundred people, which I update whenever there's new content at Anti-."

A critical advantage on the Internet is your ability to foster seamless flow from site to site. Placing teasers for your Web site in the contributor-bio section of a print journal can look a little strange, but including a link in an online biographical note is a smart move that places the purchase of your book only a click away. And many writers use blogs to centralize links to online work—a kind of digital curriculum vitae.

The barriers are coming down. Selections from online magazines are now regularly included in the Best American Series of annual anthologies. Online editors can nominate their contributors for the Pushcart Prize. The National Endowment for the Arts permits up to half of one's qualifying publishing credits to be from online journals (though that stipulation has a "separate but equal" quality that, I hope, earmarks it as a transitional phase on the way toward unconditional acceptance).

“Once you're open to publishing with online journals, you can learn promotional techniques from the journals themselves.”

Reader Comments

  • Jendi Reiter says...

    Great article. As the publisher of a web-only resource (WinningWriters.com) I'm very happy to see online publication getting more respect. The poetry and prose of our contest winners reach 25,000+ subscribers through our e-newsletter; not a lot of print mags can say that. Though I do like the poetry book as an art object, a web presence seems crucial to building readership.

  • LaLoren says...

    A little slow in coming, but I'm glad online is finally getting some recognition. Yes, great publications have been around for well over a decade, and the downside of this is now that the "venerables" are coming online, they will again overshadow those original online only journals that brought respect to the medium. I started editing for my first online publication in 1999, and, yes, back then I still saw publishing online as a second choice. However, about 5 years ago I started working to get all the stories I'd originally published in print that were now sitting in contributor's copies in the back of my closet (with the rest probably in a dump somewhere), published online. Those stories now enjoy ever lasting life and every now and then a complete stranger will e-mail me about having just discovered one of them.

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