Monday, May 21, 2012

What I Look for in an Online Journal

I'm sure you've noticed, as I have, the demise of a number of print journals or their transition to an online format. At the same time, I've also noticed the proliferation of online journals. There are several factors contributing to this proliferation—money, ease of building and maintaining, the ability to reach a wider audience, ability to respond in a timelier manner, and so on. But because anybody can create an online journal—even for free—not all of these journals are of equal quality. Because I believe that it's a good idea for a poet to have both a print and an online presence, I've been gathering a list of online journals I like.

But first I want to share with you the criteria I used in assembling my list:

1. No blogs masquerading as websites. The blog format doesn't have the feel of commitment and permanence that a real website has.

2. Absolutely no scrolling down in order to find the next poet and his / her poems. Each poet must have his / her own page. Scrolling is one problem frequently found in the blog masquerading as a journal.

3. Looks matter. Must have aesthetic appeal. Good design.

4. No black background. This is horrible. Initially, it makes a strong impact, but turns out to be really annoying to read.

5. No image behind poems. Completely distracting. Why would any editor do this? And yet some do.

6. Easy to read. No fancy font stuff going on. No weird stuff with colored fonts. Nothing that jumps up and down such as a typewriter with moving keys.

7. Don't want a bunch of messages on the front page. Don't make me jump through hoops to get to the poems.

8. Don't want a lot of busy stuff in sidebars, stuff that distracts my attention from the poems.

9. Appreciate the Contents on each page but not smashed up next to the poems. Very distracting. The poem feels squashed.

10. Ease of navigation—return link to home page, previous, next. Don't make me use my Back Button. Don't make me have to return to the Contents page to get to the next poem / poet. It's annoying to have to keep starting over.

11. All of one poet's poems together or at least with a forward button.

12. No pdf format. Some editors think this is a cool format as it sort of mimics a book, but it's more annoying than cool.

13. Bio note with poems. Prefer not to have to go somewhere else to find that information.

14. Must notify of either acceptance or rejection. Big fat zero to those editors who don't notify for rejections. Insufferably rude.

15. No complicated, idiosyncratic guidelines—I always read and heed but don't want to spend huge amounts of time figuring them out.

16. Share Buttons for each poet's page. This is a great way to expand the journal's / poet's / poem's reach. It is really foolish not to include these. Really.

In a few days check back here for the list of online journals I like. In the meantime, you might want to check out The Benefits of Publishing Online.


  1. One of the best is the Cortland Review. I believe it meets all of Diane's Criteria.

  2. I sure agree about the black background. No matter how good the content, I just cannot read that format.

  3. I think there's been scientific research documenting that our eyes don't comfortably read bright text on a dark background.

  4. Sometimes it's just a matter of knowing what works and what doesn't. I agree--why send to a journal that doesn't showcase your work in an attractive way?


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