UPDATE: See the 2014 Rankings here.
It is time once again to present the annual Perpetual Folly Pushcart Prize Rankings for Literary Magazines. I’ll be rolling these out over the next three days, beginning with the Fiction ranking, which is below. (Nonfiction Rankings are here and Poetry rankings are here.).
For comparison purposes, see the 2012 Fiction ranking here.
I feel compelled every year to offer a disclaimer for the list. I originally created it in order to aid my own efforts at targeting my submissions of short stories to literary magazines. I used the Pushcart Prize because I felt that it represented the broadest range of magazines among the annual prizes (including Best American Short Stories and the O. Henry Awards).
My method is straightforward. I use a ten-year rolling database and award points to magazines for the prizes awarded and fewer points for each special mention. I don’t go further back than ten years because it seems to me that what is relevant is the current success of the magazines, not their storied past. Also, the further back we go, the more defunct magazines we find, and that’s not terribly helpful. Some have argued that a five-year period should be chosen instead. That seems too small a sample. When only 19 or 20 prizes are awarded in fiction each year, I think ten years provides a clearer picture of a magazine’s success.
Some people don’t like rankings at all, and I understand that. This ranking, however, is as objective as I can make it. The Pushcart Prize itself is subjective, of course, but that’s an entirely different question.
A note on symbols. I have marked magazines that I believe to have ceased publication with ©. Several magazines have a (?) by their name which means I can’t find a website for them. Please leave any corrections or updates in the comments.
What is notable about this year’s list? Here are some observations:
- The gap between Ploughshares and the rest of the pack has closed a bit, with Conjunctions and Tin House tied for second, just 20 points back.
- One Story continues to climb the charts. It’s up to #6 this year.
- Triquarterly and Shenandoah both were shut out of Prizes and Special Mentions this year and drop down a few spots on the list. Is this punishment for their move online?
- Wigleaf, a wonderful online journal of flash fictions, debuts on the list at #68, winning its first-ever Pushcart Prize.
If you find this list useful, consider making a donation to help support this website. Thank you.
Fiction Rankings for 2013:
This is greaaaaaaaaaaaaat! Thank you. You’re doing such a service here for all us writers.
Not sure who Mark is, but you’re welcome.
Once again, you’ve out done yourself and compiled a wonderful list.
I’ve taken a step back from doing similar lists for BASS because the Best American series has made the contributor info available online. Hopefully the Pushcart will one day follow.
The new website for The Pinch is http://www.thepinchjournal.com/.
StoryQuarterly can be found at http://storyquarterly.camden.rutgers.edu/
I appreciate your effort with these lists, Cliff, but Pushcart is becoming a laughing stock. Most literary magazines are now online, and a great deal of the best contemporary writing appears in these online magazines. Bill Henderson’s anti-Internet jihad is ridiculous, and his refusal to allow online material into Pushcart is making it less relevant with each succeeding issue.
Robert, I disagree with your premise, and also with your conclusion. While “most literary magazines are now online,” may be a true statement, it says nothing about quality. I would argue that most good literary magazines are still in print form. Certainly, there are online magazines that are quite good, and the number is growing. And I agree that Pushcart is slow to recognize this. But there are more online magazines represented in the Pushcart Prize volume each year, so it seems silly to call Henderson’s bias a jihad. At any rate, his bias seems to be slipping. Furthermore, there are no viable alternatives that recognize online magazines. Dzanc’s Best of the Web appears to be dead. storySouth’s Million Writers Award is kind of a joke/popularity contest. There’s something called Best of the Net, but it’s limited and languishes in obscurity.
If Pushcart is a laughing stock, is BASS? Is O.Henry? For my money, the best magazines, including online magazines, are still the ones that are recognized by these annual prizes.
First, Cliff, thanks for the hard work. It’s very helpful.
Second, your post got me scouring the net for online journal awards. I found Wigleaf’s list of the top 50 flash fiction stories published online in 2011: http://wigleaf.com/12top50main.htm
Their list was updated in May 2012, so hopefully we’ll get a 2012 edition soon.
If there is such a thing as a definitive list of the best literary magazines, Cliff Garstang’s is it. Every serious writer owes him more than a debt of gratitude.
Don’t quote me, but I believe I recently read somewhere, that “Night Train” has ceased publication.
You’re right. I need to add the (c) to Night Train (especially after hanging out with the former editors last week at AWP)
Cliff, I’m glad I ran across this list via The Review Review. Thanks for compiling; I’ll keep for future reference–until the next one!
Just a short note to notify you that publication of Northwest Review has been suspended. Thanks for the great work on this page.
Thanks for the list Cliff. This is something every beginning writer needs. I’ll be sharing this link with my writer group.
Congratulations on making the MWA 2013 longlist! Not your first literary honor, by any means, but one’s cap can never have too many feathers.
These are interesting lists, but may I point out a small flaw in your methodology? You write, “This ranking, however, is as objective as I can make it.” I disagree. You still need to normalize the number of prizes won by the number of total stories, essays, or poems printed by each journal. If, say, a journal is very selective with the non-fiction they publish, then they may publish only one essay per issue, limiting their prize potential. But that one essay may be fantastic. In other words, a journal may publish ten essays per issue but all but nine may be crap. Yet this particular journal will tie with the journal that publishes only one great essay per issue. Normalization is a tedious data-driven process, but it would make your results much more reliable. At least it would put your results into context. To add a concrete example to my complaint, take the Georgia Review. A quick click to its Web site shows that it published five or six non-fiction essays in its latest issue. That’s more than double most journals. The American Scholar publishes a quantity of essays well into the double digits each year. Surely some of these will win awards. But divide by the number of total essays they publish a year, and these journals probably fall back into the pack. The rankings you provide, taken out of their normalized context, can be misleading.
Thanks for your suggestion. Note, though, that each journal can nominate only a total of 6 pieces each year. For most journals that publish in all three genres, that means they can nominate 2 stories, 2 essays, and 2 poems. (There are also contributing editors that nominate as well.) So even though some journals publish a lot of essays, they can only nominate so many.
Beyond that, what you’re suggesting is a monumental task. Be my guest!
Fair enough. But many journals publish only two non-fiction pieces per issue, and for bi-annual publications that amounts to a total of four pieces from which to choose. OTOH, journals like this clearly don’t focus on non-fiction and probably shouldn’t be ranked high on this fact, alone.
Yes, a monumental task to get into this in more depth. Thanks for your current efforts!
Nice effort Cliff. But making the Pushcart the “objective” standard for anything is questionable. They are still heavily biased against online mags — this list you complied proves that. Hearing their editor talk about online mags reminds me about hearing Donald Trump talk about Mexicans. He’s a bigot and a total idiot. Besides which, no one reads the Pushcart. Ever. It doesn’t deserve to be in any serious lit discussion.
I’m not sure that there is one award out there that you can use to measure the best mag. I think you’ll have to actually read a few of the mags yourself, and come to your own conclusions. I’d trust your judgement far more than I’d trust the judgement of that crackpot who runs the Pushcart.
Thank you for your comment. I didn’t say that the Pushcart Prize is objective–prizes themselves never are. But the ranking model is objective in that it doesn’t introduce my own biases for one kind of literature over another, or other factors that I myself might consider important. Readers and writers should make that judgment for themselves, as you say. My ranking is just one tool.