Most literary magazines submission guidelines tell you to read their magazine to see what kind of work they publish.
This can be daunting when you are struggling to find enough time to write, let alone publish.
Furthermore, when you follow their directions and do the reading, it’s hard to decide which magazines to read (there are so many!), and it’s hard to extract their aesthetic. Finally, magazines often have guest editors and their slush pile readers often rotate, so it is certainly not an exact science.
Nevertheless reading broadly is a good idea not just for other writers, but for you. It speaks to the fundamental reason you (we) write. While many of us started to write out of need to hear ourselves, to witness, or to express ourselves, in the end, that can’t be the only impetus or result. It’s like going to a party and monologuing. As satisfying as that might be short term, we are social animals who need to be part of a larger community conversation.
Ultimately, we write as a way of interacting with the world, and reading is an important give and take in that interaction.
So, where to start? I recommend that you go to Poets and Writers’ website, http://www.pw.org, scroll down to “Tools for Writers” and click on Literary Magazines. This is not an exhaustive list,and not all the magazines listed will survive or be well known, but it’s an easy way to browse. You can also Google “Top literary magazines” and get a good list of the most famous ones– the ones that if you get published there will help others taken you more seriously by publishers.
Also, explore some of the many, amazing independent presses. Check out “25 Independent Presses That Prove this is the Golden Age of Indie Publishing.”
Remember, as the editor of Bellevue Literary Press said (publisher of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Tinkers by Paul Harding, if you’re not buying, no one is (especially if Trump has his way and defunds the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities).
With this in mind, I’m starting new Quick Take series. I’ll spot-read issues of various literary magazines and presses that come across my radar, and I’ll write short reviews of pieces which exemplify that magazine’s or press’s aesthetic.
See you around, soon.