I was thinking about publication the way it used to be. When I say that it’s with the understanding that my first publication came 30 years ago pre-computer, pre-cable television, pre-electronic revolution.
When I was first being published, poetry had a more thriving reputation in the world as did short stories and literary fiction. There were small literary magazines opening every week, closing every week and some getting great word of mouth.
My first publication was a small, just created literary magazine that made me feel wonderful. The next publication was a literary journal that had a little prestige behind it’s name. I read the American Poetry Review religiously and discovered other literary magazines with good reputations and the kind of clout to build a writer’s reputation.
I submitted to those. I was published by them also.
I stopped writing about the time I was dragging my ass to jobs I hated, worrying about money and trying to figure out where I belonged in this world. My poetry career ended with a whimper and just between you and I, it was a sad day when it did. I would never have become Robert Frost but had I stayed on the path, I might have created a name in that field that was known by some.
Years went by of not writing and in the last few years I’ve been writing fiction and looking at the market. And it occurred to me that the e-presses are the literary magazines of yesteryear. If New York is the goal (New York meaning paperback publication with a bona-fide publisher) then are e-presses the current stepping stones?
Back when I was a struggling poet, the fiction market looked the same as the poetry market. There were the 100’s of small magazines where short stories ran, then there were the Samhain’s and Ellora’s Cave of short stories: Playboy and Redbook. To get a short story published in Playboy was literary prestige. Just as Samhain (perhaps Carina will also) be to the new romance writer today.
The e-presses today have literary merit and most are trying to put out product that will sell and also advance their reputation. As a writer I imagine that to look at them as the necessary steps to create a current career and publishing back-list is important. American Poetry Review has been replaced by Samhain. Poetry Magazine is now Cobblestone Press.
People are holding tightly to how things used to be without stopping to recognize that in many ways they remain the same. The face has changed but it's the same business. And there's nothing wrong with recognizing how it runs and what you have to do to be successful in it.