Ranking Lit Mags, Ranking Writing
By Rachel Peterson
People want to know what is the best---the best use of their time, the best forum for their art. And, they want to know what will earn the the highest respect from their peers. It is human to categorize, to rank, to classify. It allows us to make sense out of a rather chaotic jumble of information.
But remember, rankings and awards are no guarantee of greatness, only of recognition by the wider, writerly community. What's more, acclaims will only come as a result of the work and time, time, time.
Below you'll find a list of some of the most popular rankings. Many of these ranking sprung into being when different folks were trying to figure out a system to deal with their own submissions and decided to share the results.
Clifford Garstang's Pushcart Prize Rankings. Here Garstang does the incredible work of listing which magazines feature work in each year's Pushcart Prize Anthology (in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction), and how many times such magazines appear.
Every Writers' Resource Top 50 Literary Magazines. From the site's editors: "The purpose of this list is to help writers find a place to publish their writing that will get them some recognition. We feel when a magazine is published over a long period of time and is recognized nationally we feel it gives the authors more opportunity for exposure. Also these magazines tend to have a very good name in literary circles. We know that many will not agree fully, and some will feel we’ve left a good or great publication off the list. That’s okay."
Jeffrey Bahr's Lit Mag Rankings. Says Bahr: "This ranking system attempts impose an order on the "difficulty" of a particular literary journal -- that is, the degree of likelihood that a given poem, submitted by a reasonably accomplished poet, will be accepted for publication. The system is based upon a mix of objective and subjective criteria."
John Fox's Best American Short Story Rankings. Says lFox: "I’ve become disenchanted with the whole notion of ranking literary journals, but I don’t want to delete this page entirely and disappoint the many readers who come here daily to discover new literary journals to read and submit to. So instead, I’m radically changing the system. [This list] arranges literary journals in order of how many times they’ve had a story or special mention in the last six years (2007 – 2012) in the Best American Short Stories (BASS)."
Poetry Journal Rankings. Says list-complier M.E. Silverman: "I am trying to create a ranking list (yes, one that is far from perfect!) that will rate the magazine as a whole and not just the number of big names. I think Pushcarts is a good factor over other more biased anthologies, but even then the big names factor into more than it should. In “ranking” these magazines, I am taking into consideration if the magazine gives out an award and if it is a pleasure to read. While this requires subscriptions to these magazines, I am only human so thus I am limited to the number I can read; however, I subscribe to 25-50 journals per year and rotate out more than half every year!"
The Rankings. Lists of "literary markets ranked by award anthologies."
Wendy Wimmer's Top Five BASS Markets for Women Writers. Here Wimmer does thorough research and data-gathering to let readers know which magazines' stories appear frequently in BASS, and the gender representation in the anthology.
And, of course, there are the "Best of..." anthologies:
Know of any other ranking lists? Do share them with us!
Born in Bloody Harlan, Kentucky, Rachel teaches college near Springfield, Ohio. Her academic adventures have led to an MFA in Poetry and MA in Religion. She also has had the good fortune to travel widely and participate in service work both in the US and abroad. A poem from manuscript is featured in Literary Imagination. More poems can be found in Arsenic Lobster, Midwestern Gothic, and The Los Angeles Review. “Elegy of the Gun,” published by LAR, was just nominated for Best New Poets.