Traditional Literary Journals and the Web

Traditional literary journals learn slowly, and The New Quarterly is one of them.

Often lit journals have web sites that are little more than poorly designed pamphlets. The largest frustration is that they give no samples of the writing they carry. This situation will lead any web surfer to ask, “What’s the point?” as there’s so much free stuff out there.

I know of only one lit mag, The Danforth Review, that really “gets” the web. Their site not only covers the traditional fields of fiction, and until recently, poetry, but it acts as a literary portal to other journals, articles and writerly resources.

The New Quarterly (TNQ), which is a fine publication with a good eye for quality Canadian writing, could have taken a few cues from The Danforth Review, but it didn’t. With the recent launch of it’s new site, the journal continues to wallow in e-pamphlet land. While the current-issue page contains some pull-quotes from works within, these teasers aren’t enough. Why not provide a whole story, or a few poems or some flash fiction? My suspicion is that TNQ policy is you can only see if you pay.

If it’s hard to sell a book in Canada, selling a literary journal is beyond difficult. When I ran a humble lit mag during my undergrad years, I would freak if I found someone had bought a copy from a local shop. While sales are precious, I have to question TNQ’s hoarding of content. Is holding out for sales more precious than making an author’s work available? Even if the editors feel that they can’t give new stuff out for free, why are they sitting on roughly 80 unavailable-to-the-public back issues? Is there a copyright thing I’m missing? Isn’t it more important simply to be read?

My advice then, to TNQ, is give me something from your current issue to read. Show me what you’ve published in the past. Make yourself relevant on the web.

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