Looking to the Literary World

A Career in Literary Publishing: Why Should We Pursue It?

By Melanie A. Wilson

Putting together a literary magazine comes with a lot of hard work with very little monetary pay, whether it be a print or an online magazine. Many magazines thrive solely on a base of volunteers because many cannot afford to pay every staff member. Contributors are lucky to find a magazine that can pay them for their work because many of them can only pay a few contributors or sometimes none at all. If there is a minuscule chance to get rich in this industry, then why are there so many literary magazines out there and why are there so many writers? 

The editor of Rattle, Timothy Green, referred to literary magazines as “social benefit organizations.” A literary press spends a bunch of money in order to put together a literary magazine by paying for printing, postage, advertising, distribution, website domains, staff (maybe), and more. Most literary magazines do not sell all of the printed copies and do not pay all of the contributors for their work. As a literary press, the magazine that is created is done for the benefit of society. We create the magazine and give people something to read and enjoy. We also give the writers the satisfaction of having their work printed in a book or online. After the issue has been put out, what does the literary press get out of it? 

There will always be someone wanting to tell their story so there will always be a need for a publishing platform. As a publishing press, we can publish as many writers as we can and help them get recognition for their work that they are striving towards. We provide that service to the writers and the readers that want to read their stories and poems. As volunteers and staff members of a literary press, we want the same thing. We want to read those stories and poems. We want to know that we are helping out a fellow writer because we all hope that one day, they will do the same for us. 

Working for a literary magazine is not the most glamorous job and if you are looking for a career where you can make the big bucks, you should probably be looking elsewhere, but if your love for writing and reading is strong, working for a literary magazine is one of the best jobs out there. As a student, I have spent countless hours reading submissions, editing works, and debating with my peers on which piece is worthy of our magazine. I received class credit for these hours, but even after I took the class, I kept coming back as a volunteer. My love for the writing world is satisfaction enough for me to want to be in this career field. At Arkana, we look for mysteries and marginalized voices, and finding those makes the work even more rewarding. So next time you read a literary magazine, know that the passion of writers and the press fueled that creation.


Melanie A. Wilson is an avid reader, fiction writer, and lover of Dungeons & Dragons. She is a first-year MFA student at the University of Central Arkansas and currently resides in Conway.

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