Author, poet, and one-time e-zine editor J. J. Murray examines respected “old school” and “new school” literary magazines.
Years ago, I started my own online literary magazine (or e-zine) called the big lick literary review. It wasn't anything fancy, but I had plenty of people wanting me to publish them. For two years, I published poetry, short stories, photography, and artwork by hundreds of poets, artists, and writers from around the world. I “paid” them by publishing them on my website, their work lasting on the front pages for a month before heading to the archives. Many went on to publish in print and online literary magazines around the world soon after. The bllr, then, was a stepping stone to bigger things. After 18 issues of the bllr, submissions waned, wilted, and in many cases, worsened. I lost heart and sent the big lick literary review to cyberspace heaven.
Recently I found a master list of online literary magazines I had printed out in 2005, and I wondered how many of them were still in action. I Googled all 270+ literary magazines on that list, and only 74 were still alive and kicking in December 2012. Where did they all go? And why? I really thought that online literary magazines were close to extinction, so I went back to Google ... and in a few moments, I was smiling ear-to-ear.
A Literary Magazine Explosion
I discovered over 1,000 literary magazines that were either online or in print. About 400 still have print versions, and around 600 publish exclusively on the Internet. Roughly 100 current literary magazines offer some form of cash payment, around 250 offer copies or subscriptions as payment, and the remaining 650 or so “pay” writers the compliment of accepting their work. Literary magazines aren’t dead—they are thriving in a big way.
Highly Respected "Old School" Names
Old school literary magazines, publications that have been around for over 25 years, have fueled this resurgence. They have shown a new breed of literary magazine editors how to survive in a very tough market.
Those who publish anything in the following highly respected magazines, journals, and reviews have made it to the pinnacle of literary life. If anyone wishes to submit to the following literary magazines, it is extremely important that he or she follow all submission guidelines to the letter. Most require postal (a. k. a. "snail mail") not emailed submissions. After submitting only what they ask for, writers, artists, and photographers should be prepared to wait months—and even years for word on their work. I have listed when these literary magazine giants were first established and where they are currently published. (Note: an asterisk (*) denotes magazines that pay in cash for accepted submissions)
- AGNI* (1972; Boston University, Massachusetts, USA)
- Antioch Review* (1941; Antioch College, Ohio, USA)
- The Beloit Poetry Journal (1950; Farmington, Maine, USA)
- Callaloo (1976; Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA)
- Crazyhorse* (1960; College of Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina, USA)
- The Fiddlehead* (1945; University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada)
- Georgia Review* (1947; University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA)
- Grain* (1973; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada)
- Granta (1889; Cambridge University, Cambridge, England, UK)
- The Kenyon Review (1939; Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio, USA)
- Meanjin (1940; University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia)
- New England Review* (1978; Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vermont, USA)
- Paris Review (1953; New York, New York, USA)
- Ploughshares* (1971; Emerson College, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
- The Southern Review* (1935; Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA)
- Virginia Quarterly Review (1925, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA)
Highly Respected "New School" Literary Magazines
The following literary magazines haven’t been around as long as the titans above, but they have quickly built strong reputations for publishing quality poetry, fiction, and art. Most accept email submissions, but writers should check each magazine’s website to be sure before they submit anything. (Note: an asterisk (*) denotes magazines that pay in cash)
- Barrow Street (1998, New York, New York, USA)
- Beat Scene (1988, Coventry, England, UK)
- The Café Review (1989, Portland, Maine, USA)
- Canteen (2008; Harlem, New York, USA)
- Conjunctions* (1981; Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, USA)
- Ekphrasis (1997; Sacramento, California, USA)
- Eleven Eleven (California College of the Arts, San Francisco, California, USA)
- Five Points (2000; Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA)
- Frequencies (2012, Columbus, Ohio, USA)
- Glimmer Train* (1990; Portland, Oregon, USA)
- Griffith Review (2003; Griffith University, Queensland, Australia)
- The Threepenny Review (1980; Berkeley, California, USA)
- Tin House* (1998; Portland, Oregon, and New York, New York, USA)
- Stone Voices (2011; Brunswick, Maine, USA)
- subTerrain* (1988; Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)
Literary Magazines That Pay
In the old days, literary magazines didn’t pay much, if anything. Writers and poets may have received a copy of the issue where their work appeared or a year's subscription. Today, some literary magazines offer cash payments, most likely to guarantee that they receive important or ground-breaking work.
Many literary magazines have specific deadlines for specific issues, but some accept submissions on a rolling basis throughout the entire year. All 19 of the following literary magazines have online platforms and print editions. As a bonus, each of these magazines allows simultaneous submissions so writers, artists, and photographs could, conceivably, submit the same poems or stories, photographs, or artwork to all of them at the same time. In addition, each accepts email submissions to save postage fees, and each pays in cash—not copies. After each listing is a description of the type of literature each magazine usually looks for.
- The Bad Version (Chicago, Illinois, USA; genres: poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction; sub-genres: autobiography and memoir, cross-genre, experimental, historical, journalism and investigative reporting, literary fiction, narrative nonfiction, pop culture)
- Camera Obscura Journal (Addison, Texas, USA; genre: fiction; sub-genre: literary fiction)
- Carve Magazine (Dallas, Texas, USA; genre: fiction; sub-genres: experimental, flash fiction, LGBT, literary fiction)
- The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review (Johns Hopkins University, Middletown, Maryland, USA; genres: poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction; sub-genres: autobiography/memoir, cross-genre, experimental, feminist, flash fiction, formal, humor, literary fiction, narrative nonfiction, pop culture, prose poetry, translation)
- Empirical Magazine (Chico, California, USA; genres: poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction; sub-genres: flash fiction, journalism and investigative reporting, nature and environmental, political)
- Geist (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; genres: poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction)
- HOOT (Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, USA; prints “magazine” on postcards; 150 words or less; genres: poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction; sub-genres: autobiography and memoir, cross-genre, experimental, flash fiction, formal, graphic and illustrated, literary fiction, micro-poetry, narrative nonfiction, prose poetry, translation)
- Manoa: A Pacific Journal (University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA; focuses on Asia, the Pacific, and the Americas; genres: poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction; sub-genres: autobiography and memoir, literary fiction, narrative nonfiction, nature and environmental, prose poetry)
- The Missouri Review (University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri, USA; genres: poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction)
- Mosaic Literary Magazine (Bronx, New York, USA; focuses on writers of African descent; genres: poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction; sub-genres: autobiography and memoir, commercial fiction, cross-genre, historical, humor, literary fiction, pop culture)
- Narrative Magazine (San Francisco, California, USA; genres: poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction)
- Neon Literary Magazine (Southhampton, England, UK; genres: poetry, fiction; sub-genres: cross-genre, experimental, flash fiction, literary fiction, micro-poetry, prose poetry)
- New Millennium Writings (Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; genres: poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction)
- The Pedestal Magazine (Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; genres: poetry, fiction)
- Poetry Quarterly (South Bend, Indiana, USA; genre: poetry)
- Raleigh Review (Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; genres: poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction)
- scissors and spackle (Los Angeles, California, USA; genres: poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction; sub-genres: autobiography and memoir, experimental, literary fiction, serialized fiction)
- Tin House (Portland, Oregon, USA; genres: poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction; sub-genre: literary fiction)
- Vine Leaves Literary Journal (Athens, Greece; genres: poetry, fiction; sub-genres: autobiography and memoir, commercial fiction, experimental, flash fiction, graphic and illustrated, humor, LGBT, literary fiction, love, micro-poetry, political, prose poetry)
Writers, artists, and photographers must make sure to visit these magazines’ websites to learn specifically what they are currently looking for and how to make submissions. Sometimes these specifics and guidelines change. I especially encourage all to read the current copies of these magazines to see precisely what they are publishing.
With so many possible outlets, it is a great time to be a creative. Writers, photographers, and artists—dust off your best work and submit them to literary magazines today, and you could become published and paid tomorrow.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Liam on July 24, 2017:
Wow...I had always wondered what happened to magaines like Ploughshares and the Paris Review. I used to send out my work to many of the publications and smaller literary journals all the time. I had a little success to but the payment I received was a subscription etc.
Good topic for an article and glad you posted the list. I might look into a few of these, but as someone who enjoys writing, it seems like the internet has put the hobby on hiatus.
Nice style and layout. Well organized and interesting.
I bookmarked this page.
qasim tanveer on December 13, 2016:
i like this
JJ Murray (author) from Roanoke, Virginia on June 03, 2015:
Thank you. I hope they all still exist!
Colin Garrow from Inverbervie, Scotland on June 03, 2015:
Excellent resource JJ - well researched and with sensible advice. There's quite a few here I haven't heard of so I'll have to hit the old Googler asap. Great Hub. Voted up.
Cathy from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri on May 11, 2013:
Wow. Excellent. I love the Paris Review and the Missouri Review, the latter of which Iused to subscribe to because it has great writing in it. I love Paris Review's site--the writing and art is great. This hub is so good, I have to share it. Thumbs up!
Justin W Price from Juneau, Alaska on March 06, 2013:
Nice work. as a literary magazine editor and constant submitter, i think the information in here ws valuable. I submit 2-10 times a day so I get published a lot and rejected a lot. Have you familiarized yourself with duotrope.org?
JJ Murray (author) from Roanoke, Virginia on January 10, 2013:
I saved all my rejections and used them as motivation to keep submitting. Remember: what one literary magazine rejects, another may accept. Keep plugging away!
Ceeej123 on January 09, 2013:
THANK YOU for writing this article. You have given some great guidance, provided resources that would have taken me countless hours to gather, and given me renewed hope that someday I will find the right avenue to publish my work. I appreciate the section which answered the questions I had rising concerning duplicate submissions and what type of work some of these publications were printing. I see several on the list which will certainly be receiving submissions from me! A few years ago I set out to be published and after sending in a few things, waiting not-so-patiently, and then suffering one "NO" after another...I lost my confidence and set my works back on the shelf. Thank you for the information!