Written by Emily Harstone April 24th, 2013

Print Versus Online Journals

Slide08Print journals have been around for a very long time, you can submit to journals that are going into their sixth decade, and have published many famous poets, dead and alive. Online journals are clearly a much more recent establishment. Blackbird, one of the first online literary journals, just celebrated their 11th anniversary.  There are advantages and disadvantages that are associated with both forms of publishing. Below I will offer my personal opinion.

Print Journals

The advantage to being published in print journals is that they are generally more established. They can really help your overall reputation as a writer. The most established, respected journals are all currently print.

Also with print publication you often you get a free contributor’s copy. So you get to see your work in print. Often it is well bound with a nice cover. If a journal is made well, receiving it in the mail is a thoroughly wonderful experience. It can then go on a shelf with all your other printed work, giving you an occasional ego boost.

Print journals are also more likely to pay, although they do this mostly through free contributors copies or subscriptions to the journal.

The disadvantage to print journals is that less people read your work. This is more a theory then something I can concretely prove. Some journals do have a very large circulation and a large group of consistent readers, but others do not.

People generally seem more open to reading poems for free, online, then seeking them out in print or subscribing to journals. All the feedback I have received from readers that I didn’t know has been regarding poems that were published online.

Sometimes you have to pay in order to read a copy of  the journal that your work is in. Sometimes there will not even be a discount for contributors. I think it is unfair that the writer should have to pay to see their own work in print.

Print journals often have slower response times. Sometimes it will take over a year to hear if your work is accepted or rejected.  It can also take up to a year after that in order for the journal to be printed.

Online Journals

There are many great things about online journals. Sometimes they have a large established group of readers who read the journal regularly. Because nothing tends to be hidden behind a pay wall, there are a lot of great poems out there that people can access for free.

It is also easy to share poems that are published online with friends and acquaintances because you can link to it through Facebook, Twitter, or email.

Online journals can have audio and visual options that are not as easy for print journals to offer. They also tend to respond to your submission a lot faster, and often it is posted online within months. So you don’t have to wait years to see your work out in the world.

Of course publishing in online journals also has its disadvantages. Most online journals are not taken as seriously as print journals. Although this is changing. Even within the last two years online journals have become more respected. This is partially due to the fact that they tend to have a larger, more vocal, group of readers.

Once a piece is printed online you have fewer options open to you in terms of getting a journal to reprint it. Also you don’t get to feel the joy having a journal arrive free in the mail, with your poem in it. Instead it is a link to your work that arrives in your inbox.

In Conclusion:

These are pretty general statements because when you go too far into the specifics there are often exceptions. I have submitted my work extensively to both. For a while last year I  submitted only to print journals, however rewarding that was, after a while I missed the accessibility and visibility of online publications, so now I am once again submitting to both.


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