Thanks, Carol, for letting me know of a lively and relevant discussion that’s going on right now at the Eratosphere. It focuses on an article by Sandra Beasley in the latest Poets & Writers, “From Page to Pixils,” which you’d think might have been the inspiration for yesterday’s post, but I actually hadn’t seen it yet. Beasley offers an insightful rehash of the reasons why poets shouldn’t be afraid to publish online.
Good stuff, and I want to respond to a lot of it — but I’m out of underwear, and need to spend the next couple hours reading submissions at the laundromat. So rather than a proper follow-up post, I’m going to throw down some random thoughts, bullet style:
<< As a response to just the first sentence of Carlin’s comment: I was hoping folks would write in and let me know about journals that are doing interesting things online that I’m not familiar with. I’m looking forward to checking out Open Loop Press and HarperStudio, thanks for sharing that. Also, I have to say I regret not mentioning No Tell Motel as an online magazine that does poetry right. They publish daily, five times a week, and focus on one poet per week. So not only do you get your daily dose of poetry, but you also get to build a mini-relationship, a little fling, with one particular author (hence the clever title). It’s really a great setup, and Reb publishes good work, too.
Both Beasley and (oops) [T]he Eratosphere folks imagine an editor being unfamiliar with a poet they’re trying to decide to publish, and then Googling them to see what else they’ve written. This idea is just baffling to me — if I’m looking at a particular poem, what do I care what other poems that poet has written? How on earth does it matter to the experience our readers will potentially have with that poem? Seriously, I’m asking…
<< That said, I think what comes up when you Google a poet is very important — “managing that virtual dimension,” as Beasley puts it. When I started writing, I was writing junk. I never worried about my reputation or a career. Writing was a hobby, publishing poems was fun. So I published a lot of junk. The funny thing is, junk in print disappears — tiny magazines are read once, by a couple hundred people, and never read again. Junk online lasts forever. If you Google my name, you can still find poems that I wish I hadn’t published. When I started taking poetry more seriously, I realized that I had to do a better job of putting good work online, and I made a conscious effort to send some of my best poems to the e-zines I read. Which is why a poem like “After Hopper” appears in Pedestal Magazine.
<< I don’t know a lot about web traffic or circulation figures, so I’m always very interested to hear other editors dropping insights into how large their audience is. Several months ago, also in Poets & Writers, I learned that Rattle’s circulation is higher than Iowa Review and Georgia Review. I probably mention this far too often, but, quite frankly, it made my day. The same thing just happened online. Beasley quotes the editor of Coconut: “”A new issue of Coconut gets about ten thousand unique page views in its first two weeks.” Rattle.com receives 10,000 unique page views on a single bad week. When things are going good, it’s 10,000 a day.
<< While I’m harping, try this: Go to Alexa.com and see if you can find any literary magazine that has a higher traffic ranking than Rattle.com. If you find anything, let me know.
<< Since every poem we print appears online, publishing with us means that your work will see not only one of the top 10 (at least) print circulations of any literary venue in the country, but you’ll also find more web readers than any online magazine can offer. We don’t pay our authors in dollars, unfortunately, but that’s not a bad reward.
<< And still Rattle gets very little publicity. Beasley lists dozens of magazines in her article, and seems to interview several editors. I can think of one time Rattle has been mentioned in Poets & Writers, a few sentences in an article about contests. Another year has gone by with no Pushcart Prizes or BAP reprints. I could whine on, but I won’t. Instead I’ll ask Beasley to take the Google challenge. Type “Theories of Falling,” her very good debut collection, into a search engine. What literary journals come up on the first page? Iowa Review? AGNI? Anti-? Nope. But Rattle’s review of the book is there.
<< Okay, sorry for that tangent. In the article, Sven Bikerts of AGNI says: “”Philosophically, I’m of two minds about this. Proliferation is what every author is after. Yet too much proliferation undermines the authority and prestige of the printed material, as the poem becomes part of a flow—a generalized cultural avalanche.” I love AGNI and I love Sven, but I have no idea what he could possibly mean here. Authority and prestige? Is that what poets are really after? Not an intimate and memorable connection between the writer and a large audience? Not having a positive effect on social lives? You want the ivory tower? Huh…
<< Over on the Eratosphere, Mark Allinson says: “I don’t bother submitting to them anymore. Mainly because I am convinced that only submitting poets and their immediate families will ever read them.” I beg to differ (see above).
<< Kate Benedict of Umbrella says that she would put audio poetry onto her e-zine, but that it would cost too much time and bandwidth. The audio mixing software I bought cost $25, adding audio to a poem takes about 5 minutes, and with a hundred of mp3s in our archive and a lot of traffic, we’ve never come close to going over bandwidth. I think our hosting costs $112/year; it’s not like we have an extensive plan. Kate, if you see this and want some help, shoot me an email.
Well, I’d like to add more — some interesting discussion about how to engage readers, whether or not there’s a publishing ladder, and so on — but my roll of quarters calls.