Where Does Your Fiction Belong?


BookFox notes an interesting pattern:

“In the last few years, many prestigious literary journals have moved to a two-tier model for publishing: they maintain their print journal for the big-name authors, and create an online space to publish emerging authors.”

This seems to be a no-brainer for traditional journals. They can publish riskier stories while maintaining their print journal as their publication of record. They can attract a broader audience, who may then purchase print. They can tap into the social networks of new writers while staying safe from stodgy critics who might not like stories that branch out from the norm.

But, as BookFox points out, there’s a few big downsides to this, the most important of which is the fact that it allows these journals to seem like they are supporting emerging writers without putting their full weight behind them.

And, while I can’t get inside these editors brains, I have a feeling that this might be the way some of them look at it. But what the big traditional journals may or may not yet understand is that their online content just might affect the way people view their journal, at least in the long term, much more than their print publication.

Obviously, I don’t have access to their pageview stats, and I only have limited access to circulation numbers, but estimating with a few quick glances at Alexa, it’d be my guess that many, many more people read their online stories than read their print publications, including many friends of the author and people bored at work who don’t ordinarily read fiction but may be open to doing so in the future. Most importantly, these are also most likely younger people, people who will be vital to ensuring the future success of these journals. If they are really “shuffl(ing)” “younger writers” online in order to be able to distance themselves from riskier venchers, they are actually putting what they see as their most dangerous foot forward.

But you know what? In the long run, that might just save traditional journals. And authors who publish online may end up with bigger followings, too.

Seth Fischer’s writing has twice been listed as notable in The Best American Essays and has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize by several publications, including Guernica. He was the founding Sunday editor at The Rumpus and is the current nonfiction editor at The Nervous Breakdown. He is a Dornsife PhD Fellow at USC and been awarded fellowships and residencies by Ucross, Lambda Literary, Jentel, Ragdale, and elsewhere, and he teaches at the UCLA-Extension Writer’s Program and Antioch University, where he received his MFA. More from this author →