- University affiliated? Although relationships with their sponsoring universities differed, some magazines preferred the freedom of only answering to themselves. They also cautioned that academic affiliations don't give as much funding as it might seem to outsiders. However, the benefits of affiliation seemed clear: a reputation and audience overnight, some funding and administrative assistance, and a steady volunteer stream.
- Print or online? While most journals have been increasingly answering both to this question, new journals must consider whether it's cost-effective to fund a print publication, which necessarily has a smaller circulation than an online-only mag. Against online-only journals, panelists said two things: first, it's great for Kickstarters and other campaigns to have a print product--although you should offer more than "just" your product as rewards--second, there's the undeniable joy of having created a physical object.
- Multimedia or more traditional? Against the wave of new media pairings and presentation is the unfun reality of hosting costs. If you host a lot of video content, you must have somewhere to store it--and if you intend to archive it electronically forever, you have to keep increasing storage space, which can add to the already-high costs of having a web presence.
- Professional design and tech support, or DIY approach? Some drew the line at potentially causing more harm than good; others saw it as cool that running a lit mag forced them to develop a jack-of-all-trades skillset. However, all the panelists insisted that once you know your personal limits, it's best to have professionals step in if you can't deliver an acceptable standard of quality. Even if the professional is your best friend that you've wheedled into a bit of pro-bono work.
- Paying for submissions or unpaid? While most agreed that submissions should be free, others held that paying even $1 for something makes people more cautious about whether their work is ready to send or not. Most agreed that trying to find and diversify income streams is a good idea in any case.
- Submittable? There are undeniable benefits to using a submission manager, but even Submittable's steep discount for lit mags still puts the price at a premium for most new lit mags. All of the people with a lit mag startup I met at AWP agreed that some capital was necessary to begin the lit mag. However, it's perfectly acceptable for new magazines to just have an email address for submissions. Again, this one probably depends on how much money you can spend on upfront costs, and where to allocate those costs.
Last week, I wrote about tips I'd learned at AWP on starting a lit mag. I distilled what I considered universal knowledge from the panelists in the sessions I'd attended. Today, I'm going to talk about some of the binary choices they made, and some decisions that were not unanimous.
I received some fantastic advice from the AWP panels I attended on starting a literary magazine, which inspired me to found Hapax. Because panel talks lend well to sharing experiences, the lit mag founders that spoke at the panel had some contradictory opinions. But there were some common threads:
The bottom line is to deliver a great experience to everyone: the submitter, the reader, the sponsor, the partners. If you can do that, you can stand out and get to a critical growth point in order to become the lit mag of your dreams.
After the Oscar fiasco this year, Asian-Americans from all walks of life and ethnicities gathered to discuss their outrage and sadness that pop culture couldn't do better. The years since the success of Amy Tan's Joy-Luck Club--and the reception to that novel--have seen an increase in the usage of Asian-Americans in writing, art, and film. Even if Joy-Luck Club has flaws, it--like the visibility of Kristi Yamaguchi that Nicole Chung wrote about so wonderfully--offered the first 'real' media attention and acknowledgement that many Asian-Americans, even adopted ones like Chung and myself, craved.
Growing up, I had similar feelings to Chung's about whiteness and my lack thereof. I saw it as a physical flaw that I wasn't white. My home city and schools had almost no ethnic variance; there was one 'black girl' in my entire first grade cohort, and a few Hispanic children. When Pocahontas came out in my elementary school years, the children in my school found an obvious parallel: the woman whom I resembled the most. Unsurprisingly, when a local Native American shopkeeper came to present to my second-grade class, I fell into a love of crystals, leather pouches, and dream-catchers that expressed a longing more rooted in fantasy than fact.
Michelle Kwan was one of the first Asian girls that I encountered around which there was a positive feeling, and whom I could look at and acknowledge a heritage I barely understood. I still feel like an impostor in Asian and Asian-American circles, which is why it was hard for me to even go to the Asian-American panels at AWP.
But, I did go.
I went because inclusion isn't about the exclusion of people. Sure, there will always be some side-eye from people who don't think that you belong. But, it's good to see people from other backgrounds at these events, because the point is not only to create a safe space to discuss issues and trends, but also to try to communicate those with a larger audience. I came away from the panels with new groups to support, new markets to submit to, and new ideas for my own writing. Since I intend to keep writing and being more open about race, I feel inspired knowing that my experiences aren't mine alone, in a universal sense.