“Electric Literature” Gets It Right

Imagine you’re starting a literary journal. You tried your hand as a drug dealer at BYU, you paid for a poetry MFA primarily through student loans. It’s clear you like a challenge, especially a Sisyphean one.

So you work your connections, beg, borrow, and steal, and manage to get a few decent submissions for a debut issue. Of course, no matter how good the writing is, you’re working from a massive disadvantage: nobody reads literary journals. In the American Directory of Niche Audiences, readers of literary journals rank right around Dentists with the DTs.

Most give up. But some intrepid souls soldier on. I’m not talking about n+1, which reads like old-world-publishing fetishism. I’m talking about the brand new Electric Literature. Why do I think they just might make it?

electric literature

  1. Their debut issue is available as an ebook and an iPhone app. This is such a no-brainer I can’t believe others haven’t done the same.
  2. They are creating pretty beautiful, cheap short films for each story. See Michael Cunningham’s below, and the rest here.
  3. They’ve at least got a great eye for design, which goes a long way. (Just ask McSweeney’s.) If your print object isn’t beautiful aesthetically, I’ll be less likely to pick it up.
  4. They’re on the Facebooks. You know, for the kids. Say what you will, but they have a 1,000+ people they can reach out to now with each new issue or event. They can also let everyone know about the little things, like a Paper Cuts mention.

When you add all these up, you get a pretty auspicious start. Good luck, guys. I’ll be reading you on my iPhone on the commute home.

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