October 27

The Covers of Literary Magazines

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Long time readers of this blog may remember a couple of posts I wrote last year about the front covers of literary magazines.

One, written for Burlesque Press, and a follow up, on this blog — Do Literary Magazines Want to Be Popular? — responded to Calvin Hennick’s original article on The Grub Daily (which currently seems not to be available).

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At the time, I missed Lee Gutkind’s take on the situation. Although he essentially agrees with Hennick, he also takes aim at perhaps an even more basic question: what is a front cover? Does it still matter? Can it be art?

Lee Gutkind, “Creating a Cover Story–With The Cover“:

Hennick is not saying that literary magazines should revert to hucksterism to gain readers—although a bit more commercialism wouldn’t hurt their reputations or their budgetary bottom lines. But his point is that it is time for literary magazine publishers and editors to understand that they are not above attempting to make a connection to their readers and to catch up with modern times.

In the “old days,” let’s say as recently as 20 years ago, great art was a valuable bonus feature of literary magazines because fine precision printing and quality paper was an art in itself, and because the works of master artists were not so accessible through the Internet, as they are now.

And let’s face it. It makes sense for a magazine to visually represent on the cover the contents of the issue inside.  The traditional practice of listing the author names on the cover of the journal only serves to narrow readership to the people who would have purchased the magazine no matter whose name was plastered on the front.  Whether you are a playwright or poet, you probably have more of an interest in great sex for life than an obscure author.

You can read the rest of Lee’s thoughts about magazine covers on his blog.


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