- 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.