Improve Your Literary Market Research — and Your Chances of Getting Your Fiction Published
With this impressive, free online resource from a killer author
Erika Krouse is a killer author not only because she writes feisty, action-driven fiction, but because she knocks herself out to help other writers. An award-winning author in many respects, she teaches the craft of writing compelling stories at Denver’s Lighthouse Writers Workshop. And she provides invaluable ratings of literary journals in her free “Ranking of 500 Literary Magazines for Short Fiction.”
The eight tiers
Erika breaks her list into tiers 1–8, with top contenders in the first few tiers. Each journal is given a score based on the number of prizes it’s won through the years. This takes into consideration stories from that publication that have gone on to be included in Best American Short Stories or won Pushcart Prizes or O. Henry Awards. So if you want to focus on such literary journals, look for the higher scores in the first few tiers.
While payment and circulation also contribute to a publication’s ranking, so do more subjective features, such as the way a publication treats authors. A slow average response time plus a very high submission fee, for example, will bump a publication to the lower rungs of a tier. Those that don’t consider simultaneous submissions are in their own subgroup within Tier 5.
Tier 1: Elite GLOSSIES: career makers, circulation above 100K, prizewinning, professional payment. This top tier includes only four dream publications, The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic, and Esquire (two of which have published Erika’s work).
Tier 2: Elite litmags with HIGHER circulation: career changers, circulation above 5K, prizewinning, good payment. This tier of about a dozen listings includes Paris Review, Zoetrope, and McSweeney’s.
Tier 3: Elite litmags with SMALLER circulation: prizewinning, circulation under 5K, usually decent payment. The 15 publications in this tier include New England Review, Southern Review, Yale Review, and Iowa Review as well as American Short Fiction and Subtropics.
Tier 4: Highly respected: small circulation, prizewinning, most of them pay. The 15 publications in this tier include Colorado Review, Harvard Review, Witness, and StoryQuarterly.
Tier 5 is broken into three subgroups:
5(a): Notable ONLINE-ONLY litmags (or online-only offshoots of print litmags) with HIGHER monthly visits to site. Nearly 30 publications, including Granta, Shenandoah, and Fence.
5(b): Highly respected but NO simultaneous submissions. Five publications: Conjunctions, Epoch, Threepenny Review, Prairie Schooner, Hudson Review.
5(c): Very respected: small circulation, prizewinning, many of them pay. Nearly 30 publications, including Gulf Coast, New Letters, and Massachusetts Review.
Tier 6: Respected: small circulation, honorable mentions for prizes, some of them pay. More than 80 publications, including North American Review, Crab Orchard Review, Post Road, and Prime Number.
Tier 7: Very good: small circulation, 1–3 prize mentions, some of them pay. More than 80 publications, including Mid-American Review, Beloit Fiction Journal, Brooklyn Rail, Minnesota Review, and Third Coast.
Tier 8: Good: small circulation, no prizes, some of them pay. More than 200 publications, including New Haven Review, Rosebud, and Descant.
If you find the idea of wading through a list of hundreds of potential markets overwhelming, Erika offers insights on that as well on her Submission Strategies page.
Keep in Mind
Erika doesn’t promise that her list of nearly 500 publications is completely accurate and invites others to let her know of any discrepancies or updates. And while she strives to update the entire list annually, that task must be incredibly daunting and difficult to do on a regular schedule. The current list notes that at least two publications were due to stop publishing in 2019, and the number of publications that have stopped accepting submissions or newly entered the fray surely fluctuates every year.
That being said, Erika’s “Ranking of 500 Literary Magazines for Short Fiction” can be put to great use by writers who use it as a springboard in their market research. As I noted in “How to Track Your Literary Submissions,” detailed information on literary journals can be found throughout the web, especially on publications’ own sites. By cross-referencing such resources with Erika’s unique and insightful list, you can come up with your own collection of top potential outlets for your work.
I write fiction, poetry, and nonfiction when I’m not working as a copy editor. Author of the novel One Sister’s Song.