Monday, December 15, 2008
Online Journals: What I Want
I begin above with a little visual joke—Bird on a Wire, or Bird on a Line, as an entry into today's topic which is online journals.
There has been a great proliferation of online journals; some are excellent and some are not. Because of a discussion on the Wompo listserv, I've been visiting a number of these journals. Some I was familiar with and some were new to me. I've been asking this question: What makes an online journal worth visiting and revisiting—and worth submitting to?
Here are some of the qualities I look for in an online journal:
1. I want a real website, not a blog posing as a journal. There are some blogs engaging in cool projects, but they don't seem journal-like to me. Just too easy to set up the blog kind. To my eye, they lack a professional, authentic feel. Usually.
2. Ease of navigation around the site. Don't make me jump through hoops to get to the poems. I like a Table of Contents that's no more than one page in. I want it to be easy and quick to get to what I want to see. I want to be able to move on easily from there. I dislike it when I have to use my back button to return to the main menu. I don't want to have to keep starting over.
3. No scrolling down to get to the next poet. Should be a link to take me there.
4. No menu with only picture links that I have to click in order to find out where they go to.
5. Menu on each page, at top or bottom or sidebar—and plain, not distracting.
6. No pdf download required. I want the material right there, in the journal.
7. I like it when a journal puts all of one poet's poems together or at least gives me a forward button. I want to read, not spend my time pushing buttons and hunting for things.
8. Bios with the poems or with a link to Contributors' Notes.
9. Authors' links in the bios. Just in case I want more of a particular poet. But I don't want a plethora of links which can get like flies at my eyes.
10. Archives. One of the benefits of publishing in an online journal is the long-term availability of the work. I think a journal should capitalize on that.
11. Inclusion of some reviews. A nice addition and a great way to promote books.
12. Eye appeal. It has to be good-looking. I like some images and I like some colors. Maybe this shouldn't matter, but it does.
13. Easy to read. No pale gray type in small font size. I dislike small text boxes. Too busy and crowded-looking.
14. Freedom from annoying ads. Sorry, but I just can't stand it when the journal is burdened by cheesy ads, especially if they do things like light on and off or move across the screen. More flies.
15. Good submission information. If submissions are now closed, I'd like to know when the doors will be open again.
16. I don't like it when the editor selects favorites from among the poems. That seems like implicit dumping on the others.
17. The editor should not publish in the journal. Exception for reviews and essays.
18. I like a mixture of poets familiar to me and ones who are new to me.
19. Of course, the poems should be wonderful and varied. Long poems are always a hard sell, perhaps more so online.
20. An audio element is nice. It's one benefit that the online journal has over the print one.
Next time I'll list some of the online journals that I especially like.