People, I have a confession to make. The luster of the lit mag world seems duller than ever. I’m disillusioned. I drown in an ocean of magazines. Finding just one I actually want to send my work to is exhausting. There are thousands of magazines out there. I’m willing to do the work to find just those few I actually want to submit to, but even then, the problems I’m seeing are systemic and infect them just the same.
My work just isn’t the right style for many of the big name lit mags, and even if it were, I’m not sure I’d want to send it in because of the long response time, lack of feedback, possibly even the lack of any response at all. At the same time, I don’t want to send my work to a lit mag with a staff of one and a sloppy website with typos in the submission guidelines just because they accept my style/genre and might actually respond.
I’m tired of the gimmie nature of publishing, the “what can I get out of this?” attitude of writers and publishers. Writers wanting to get published so they can check the box before moving on, clawing for credits from dark corners illuminated only by the light of the screen, little Gollums consumed by the precious “yes.” Publishers only wanting what’s trendy, either topically or stylistically, because that’s what will make them more popular, and they want it from established writers only, please. It’s a great rat race of market strategy and circulation size is the cheese.
I understand that magazines exist to award the best of the best, but it would be nice to see some that are actually invested in the process of writing rather than just the end product. I’m let down by magazines that shout they publish only the finest writers, but don’t provide writers with resources to make their finest even better. They’re the professor who tests you on obscure material and then shrugs when you complain about your poor grade. Where’s the love of the craft?
It’s all so bleak.
I’m ready for an overhaul in the lit mag world. I’m ready for a community of creators to replace this coliseum of competitors. Don’t you want to submit to magazines that you personally identify with rather than those with a big name that you have to sell your creative soul to before submitting? Wouldn’t it be nice if all magazines had human beings on the other end of the submission engine, humans who give you actual feedback? Isn’t it divine when you not only want to be published in a magazine, but you also want to read the rest of the magazine rather than just count it as a notch on your publishing credit bedpost?
We here at Embers Igniting are trying to create this community. We’re human beings—check out our staff page. Ask us a question on social media or via email, and you’ll get a response. We give feedback to everyone who submits; you can even ask for specific feedback. We discuss the process of writing and the highs and lows of the creative life (see our blog and podcast). We want to engage with our readers, support our contributors, and be a part of their success stories. Because that’s what community is all about. Won’t you join us?
By Madeleine Mozley