Lessons learned

In January 2021 I chose to relaunch a blog I had been running for two years as a literary magazine. Now, in October 2021, I have released three full issues digitally and the submissions for the fourth and final issue of this year will open on Saturday 9th October. I always knew there would be joy in this endeavour. There would be joy in the reading and publishing of other peoples’ work. There would be joy in the reception of each issue. And there would be joy in the learning I needed to do in order to successfully run a literary magazine.

This endeavour is still a solo project and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. I love working this way (call me a control freak) as when I have a vision, I’m determined to see it through and I relish the reward which comes with doing this alone. But, the learning curves are steep. Perhaps, not even curves at times. In choosing to relaunch the blog, I’ve had to improve my organisation to have a year-long plan, I’ve had to learn how to format better, edit better, market the magazine and distance myself at times from the work submitted, to ensure my own personal tastes never impact an issue’s quality.

There has been joy, however, in the slow and steady realisation of how capable we can be when we are willing to learn.

Without further ado, here are five lessons I’ve learned this year as an Editor-in-chief:

  1. Personalised acceptances and rejections take longer to write but have the biggest impact; you remind every contributor they are valued while encouraging those whose work has been rejected that you remain a safe space for them to submit to in the future.

  2. Know your audience’s tastes and prefer them to your own. At times I have considered rejecting work but when I interrogate this wish, I realise it is because the piece is not for me, not because of its quality.

  3. Do not be afraid to change things, whether it be a logo, style or the way you do things. For too long I felt intimidated by magazines which appeared to have it all figured out with pristine grids on social media etc,. In time, I’ve realised we all get there somehow, it is okay to evolve and it be a little messy – you do not need to hide this.

  4. Study the field. While not being intimidated by other magazines, it is important to know what they are doing and how. Through this study, I’ve learned about print opportunities, how to word emails and guidelines, websites to use for formatting and creation, and become aware of when magazines are releasing issues so my releases do not clash. Learning from the ‘competition’ is incredibly valuable.

  5. Celebrate your contributors beyond the issue their work features in. The relationships I have with several contributors are some of the most fulfilling relationships I have — there is something truly special about a writer touching base with you about what they have been up to because they know you value their work. Follow your contributors, share their work and their projects where possible; your relationship with them need not end once the issue they feature in has been released.

And, a bonus lesson — take your time, be patient with yourself, and be prepared for everything to take longer than expected.