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How can I Start my Own Literary Magazine?

Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco

If you have always dreamt of starting your own literary magazine, there are many factors to keep in mind. Besides the obvious steps of choosing a title and deciding on a format, you also need to consider the business side, including the possibility of having to pay taxes on it.

When designing a literary magazine, starts with the basics. Decide if you will do a print-only, a web-only, or a double magazine. If you are on a tight budget, the Internet may be your best option, as it costs next to nothing to set up a basic website. If you have decided on a print format, however, you need to address basic issues such as format, length, design (color or black and white), and quality. A literary magazine printed on glossy paper will not cost you the same as one made with recycled pages.

Literary magazines may publish lesser-known works of poetry.
Literary magazines may publish lesser-known works of poetry.

A perfectly bound literary magazine has the look and feel of a real book, but also a similar price tag. Once you have a good idea of what you want in a literary magazine, you can start calling local printers or doing online searches to find price quotes. Companies like allow you to print one copy at a time, which can be a lifesaver if you don't have the money for a large print run.

The next step in creating a literary magazine is to choose an angle. Do you want to publish poetry, fiction, or a combination of both? What about artwork or photography? Who will be your contributors? If you are planning on posting an open call for submissions, you should create a tip list for potential writers, and decide how to make it publicly available.

If you plan on publishing a literary magazine for the long run, you should consider getting an ISSN, the magazine version of the ISBN. ISSNs are available for free and can be obtained by mail after presenting an official form and a copy, or mock-up, of the magazine. Having an ISSN will allow you to sell your literary magazine through online retailers and to have it placed in a library's catalog.

Discussion Comments


Sneakers 41- I just wanted to say that I saw a literary magazine published on the web called “Fringe” that was really interesting.

The contributing writers featured were from all over the world which I think added more prestige to the magazine. They had a lot of poems and short stories that were really interesting.

They also offer guidelines for submissions regarding blogs, critiques, art entries, poetry, fiction and nonfiction entries.

I think featuring the writers with a small bio helps the readers learn more about them and connect their writing with a face. It really personalizes the experience.


Oh that does sound like fun. I wanted to add that you can also go to your local SCORE chapter and they can help you set up your business.

SCORE is a nonprofit organization made up be retired business executives and entrepreneurs that mentor other would be entrepreneurs.

The business counselors have various areas of specialty and you could find many that have experience with publishing.

They also offer seminars and classes to help you with your business. Also take a look at how other literary magazines are formatted to see how you would like yours to look like.


Pencil- That sounds exciting. If you need information on setting up a corporation you should go to Legal Zoom. They will help you set up a corporation in no time and I think it will only cost you a few hundred dollars.

When I set up an LLC once they only charged like $200. I also think that a great way to draw attention to your online literary magazine is to run different literary magazine contests.

This way you can develop buzz for your magazine and at the same time you can discover and reward some talented writers as well. Good luck, it sounds like you are going to have a lot of fun.


We are planning on starting an online and print literary publication (pretty much on a shoestring). Do we need to set up some sort of corporation (expensive)? There is a good deal of info on copyright....but nothing on the business aspect of corporations.

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    • Literary magazines may publish lesser-known works of poetry.
      By: Africa Studio
      Literary magazines may publish lesser-known works of poetry.