A Glimpse into the Life of a Literary Magazine
It’s messy. It’s hectic. It’s a labor of love.
Running a literary magazine is a rewarding experience. We get to curate the works of hundreds of new and unique voices and artists and present them to the world.
Whenever we mention our magazine to friends, family, and other creatives, they ask about the inner workings of creating a magazine. We get questions like: how do you choose the stories you publish, and how do you layout the magazine, and how do you look so damn good while you do it all?
We thought it would be fun to share our process, so grab a cup of your favorite poison, and let's talk about magazine creation!
Submissions are the essential first step in getting a magazine issue up and running. Some of our submissions come from writing databases like Duotrope and Poets and Writers, but nothing beats a call to arm to get the submissions flowing. There are several groups for magazines to put out calls for submissions on Facebook and Instagram. Remind the writers of the world that you exist and watch the uptick in submissions.
Once we have a sizable amount of submissions to read through, we fire up our laptops and read each piece together. We tend to read through the filter of what works for our magazine instead of what we think is good or bad. We view Loud Coffee Press as an escape from the anxiety and fear that permeates mass media, so while we might love a poem about the hot topic of the day, we will most likely pass over it for publication. It's hard for us to pinpoint what we look for in a poem, story, or piece of art, but we know it when we read/see it. We tend to accept work that sticks with us long after reading.
Creating a magazine isn't only about words; it's also about filling the pages with the perfect accompanying imagery. It's about choosing cover pieces - both back and front. Art is an interesting piece of literary magazines - it's a place where we often struggle with submissions. Whereas writers likely consider us for submissions, we (writer-focused magazines) may not be first in the artist's mind to submit their work.
Simultaneously, a wonderful and sad, sometimes heartbreaking part of our job is sending out submission acceptance and rejection letters. We'll say this - it's never personal. Most of the submissions that we don't accept are great; they just don't fit what we are seeking for a particular issue. We mean what we say - "we appreciate the opportunity to read your work," because honestly, we do. We would not exist without submissions. Second, this is one of the most time-consuming aspects of keeping the machine running. Letters get personalization, and it can take about an hour to send 15 - 20 letters.
Once an acceptance gets sent, the writer/artist has to agree to the terms of the magazine! This isn't always a guarantee. While not ideal, things happen. Writers forget about simultaneous submissions. Inboxes fill up. It's our editorial responsibility to makes sure we fulfill a contractual obligation, cross the i's, and dot the t's. <--"things happen."
Putting it All Together
We use several digital programs to compile the magazine, but we do the baseline work the old-fashioned way--in MS Word. First, we print each written piece and spread them out on the floor to be arranged and re-ordered in a way that makes the issue flow like a story. Specifically, each issue of Loud Coffee Press ends up reading in as close to story format as we can show! We don't set out to theme our issues, but themes tend to emerge, and we have a theory about this - are submissions reflections of current events? Feelings of the time? Seasonal? It's a fascinating thing to witness.
Once we arrange the fiction and poetry, it's merged with the art that we've accepted for the issue and uploaded into our design program (Affinity Publisher). From there, we arrange the written submissions with art in a way that we find aesthetically pleasing. Finally, we write the Letter From the Editors, add the bios, and create the advertisements.
Once we complete the first draft, we send out proof copies to all of the contributors to review how we've presented their work and allow them to make last-minute changes. Once we receive all of the changes, we complete the issue and export the issue for publication.
We always announce a newly minted magazine on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. We send out an email to our subscribers. We encourage all of the people whose work we've published to spread the word to their fans, friends, and family!
Finally, when the day is done, we retreat into our offices, drink a glass(es) of wine, and start the process all over!
Speaking of magazines, be sure to check out the Loud Coffee Press Volume 2, Issue 2 release this Friday, April 30th!
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