6 Reasons To Work For A Literary Magazine

By Julia Dunn on July 18, 2016

Many universities across the country are home to small presses and creative writing journals. These organizations are all about preserving the beauty of print media and maintaining its existence in an increasingly digitized world.

You may think books have become irrelevant in the internet age, but there are several reasons to keep them around. Learning to create a literary magazine (or “lit mag”) teaches students incredibly useful (and employable) skills they can exercise while in college and out of college. Here are six reasons to work for a literary magazine on your campus.

1. Sharpen your editing skills

Choosing student work to publish in your college’s literary magazine is all up to the folks who run the organization. If you’re a staff editor, you’ll get really great at choosing strong pieces to include in your publication, and you’ll become better at editing creative writing, including poetry, fiction, and more.

Beyond making line edits and fixing formatting, you may even work with the submitter of a creative piece to develop it further. Working with authors is great experience, allowing an editor to practice reading work for consistency in both content and form.

Image via Pixabay

2. Learn graphic design

Creating a book relies heavily on layout and graphic design. Once you’ve chosen the collection of student work you want to publish, you have to figure out as a staff how you want the book to look when it comes back from the printers.

Working at a literary magazine will allow you access to students who can teach you graphic and book design through programs like InDesign and Photoshop. These skills can give you the upper hand later on as a job applicant after graduation, since you can add them to your resume and let potential employers know you are proficient in widely-used software.

3. Become financially savvy

It costs money to print a book. Depending on the number of copies you order, it can cost a few thousand dollars. Some student organizations are funded through a measure using student fees, while others must fund-raise in other ways such as asking different campus departments for funds.

Working at a literary magazine will teach you to think critically about how to raise and allocate your organization’s money to be able to produce your publication on time and in full. You can expect to learn a lot of financial processes involved in gathering your money, and you may even learn some “elevator-speech” type speaking skills if you end up presenting your literary organization to a funding body on campus.

Going to certain lengths to obtain money for your literary magazine will also teach students the real value of money and the importance of keeping track of it.

4. Work with a diverse team

A successful literary magazine cannot be produced without a diverse team of students with different skills. Some students may be great at reviewing submitted work, others may run production of the magazine, and others may have a strong handle on designing page layout. You can learn all sorts of tricks from the different people on your staff and widen your scope of knowledge in the process of making a book.

As a staff, you will likely have to make large decisions via consensus, and this can follow extensive discussions between different staff members with contrasting ideas. Ultimately, working on a literary magazine will expose you to students who know things you don’t know (but want to learn) about publishing and editing.

5. Gain leadership experience

Whether your organization calls the highest leadership position “editor-in-chief,” “signer,” or something else (maybe nothing at all), working at a literary magazine for more than one year can ultimately place you in a position of leadership. You’ll learn to manage a team of students, coordinate meetings, double check that your deadlines will be in line, and represent your literary magazine at campus events along with your fellow staff members.

Leadership experience is extremely useful, as students know, and can train you for even more professional work you may engage in for careers and future internships.

6. Enjoy distributing the book in your college community

Especially if your magazine publishes annually, it’s extremely rewarding to see the finished product after so many months of hard work as a team. Many student literary magazines are distributed all over campus and in town and are available for free. You’ll feel so accomplished holding a tangible representation of your year-long efforts, and all of your readers will be excited to grab their copies.

Working at a literary magazine is even more satisfying when you understand that publishing student-submitted work is a form of affirming student voice, autonomy and representation of your campus. Submitters will be able to say they were published in a literary journal that you co-created with other students who love print media and want to keep it around.

See if your campus has a student-run literary magazine (or multiple) and find out how to join staff today! Students of any major can benefit from experience at a literary magazine.

By Julia Dunn

Uloop Writer
A writer, editor and educator based in Northern California.

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