Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Challenges of Setting Up Literary Magazine Subscriptions for Success

One of my goals for this year is to read more literary magazines, but I haven't really gotten far on this yet. Since April is National Poetry Month, it's an opportune time to start, which I would like to do by subscribing to at least one literary magazine.

First, there are a few challenges to consider. One, which literary magazine to pick? I took a look at this list of the top 50 literary magazines, which is a little overwhelming! I've read issues of The Missouri Review, Ploughshares, McSweeney's, and more in the past, but I don't know that I have a clear preference (also McSweeney's does something very different from more traditional literary magazines). I also want to consider supporting the arts locally, which means I might not pick one of the "top 50" so that I can support poetry in my community.

I used to subscribe to #1 on the list above, The New Yorker, but I discontinued my subscription for a few reasons. First of all, I don't live in New York City, so a lot of the events on the first several pages were meaningless to me; interesting to look at the first few times, but finally it was just depressing that there were all these cool events I couldn't go to! Second of all, I didn't find myself connecting with a lot of the articles, poetry, or cartoons. There ended up being just one or two articles in each issue that I really cared about, and I didn't feel that was worth continuing. Third of all though, it was just too much! When I got an issue every week, they were piling up unread and felt like a huge burden. When I canceled my subscription, I gave myself permission to pick out a couple issues that looked interesting and toss the rest. I could not keep up with a weekly subscription, which brings me to another challenge with a new literary magazine subscription.

How often do I want to get a magazine? I've already established that I can't keep up with a weekly subscription, but I'm not sure I could keep up with a monthly subscription either. The only magazine I currently subscribe to, Conde Nast Traveler, comes bimonthly, and for a while, I was having trouble keeping up with those. I finally told myself that I was either going to make an effort to read every issue when it came or cancel the subscription, and while I totally thought I was going to go the latter route, I found that I have made time since then to get in my bimonthly read. (I do get other bimonthly magazines that I'm not as good with, like alumni magazines, but I didn't request or pay for those.) I think I need to pick a literary magazine that is at least bimonthly or maybe quarterly; I've looked at a few that only publish two issues a year and that looks tempting but also feels like not quite enough if I'm going to pay for it...

And, of course, a third challenge is cost. I don't have a ton of discretionary income, so subscribing to a literary magazine represents a modest splurge, and I would like to make an investment that's worthwhile both for myself and for the artistic community that I want to support. Looking at the prices though, they are more reasonable than I thought and than I remember from a couple years back (does anyone know if there's been a change?). A couple of more local literary journals, Little Patuxent Review and The Potomac Review are each $24 a year for two issues. Ploughshares is $35 a year for three print issues or $20 for a digital subscription, which is an option with my new ereader. The Missouri Review is $30 for four print issues or $24 for four digital issues. Digital looks like the best deal, but do I want to hold it in my hands or save the space/stress of copies piling up...

I am setting myself the goal of subscribing to at least one literary magazine in April, so I will have to make a decision by the end of the month.

Does anyone have thoughts or suggestions? What literary magazines do you subscribe to and why (or why not?)

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