The internet is awash in rankings (hi!) of virtually anything and everything you can think of. This, of course, includes literary journals, those wonderfully hopeful, underfunded labors of love that serve as beacons of potential to otherwise benighted short story writers toiling away to become the next Breece D’J Pancake.
And while it’s pretty useful for writers to have handy lists of the 50 to 100 journals they might submit to, Paris-based Belgian writer Brecht De Poortere has taken it *many* steps further. Yes, he has found 1,075 literary journals and ranked them.
De Poortere has created a very transparent system for his rankings, which rely heavily on publicly available information about prizes and anthologies, mostly American. After that, De Poortere uses Twitter followers as a metric. Any ranking system like this will favor older, better-established publications; this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, insofar as when you have a story published, it’s nice if your writer friends have A) heard of the publication and B) can pronounce it. (Don’t worry, I checked, there’s no Bleep Blorp Review on this list, though there is a Splonk.)
Right off the bat, though, one could argue that De Poortere’s number top literary journal isn’t really a literary journal, despite the fact people still diligently send along their poems and short stories in SASE (guys, The New Yorker is a Conde Nast magazine and it’s not going to publish your short story about the time you were sad at camp after you saw a dog get hit by a bus).
Nonetheless, the top 10 makes a lot of sense. In order: The New Yorker, Ploughshares, Granta, Zoetrope, The Paris Review, The Southern Review, ZYZZYVA Magazine, American Short Fiction, and McSweeney’s. These are all successful American literary journals with high-profile contributors and outstanding reputations.
Scrolling down the list, though, and the American bias really shows, as we have great, well-established journals from the rest of the English-speaking world languishing in the mid to high-hundreds—for example: The White Review (#251, UK), The Stinging Fly (#425, Ireland), The Antigonish Review (#815, Canada). This isn’t meant as a criticism of De Poortere’s undertaking, but rather to note how hard it is to come up with any particular set of metrics that might account for what makes a “good” literary journal.
Whatever you make of this list, it is certainly useful to short story writers, and I applaud De Poortere’s effort. At the very least, I now know there’s a journal called Many Nice Donkeys (#723), which might just move me to start writing stories again…