[Note: To see the 2020 Literary Magazine Rankings, go here.]
Below are links to the 2019 Perpetual Folly Literary Magazine Rankings for Fiction, Poetry, and Non-Fiction. Scroll down for a discussion of the rationale and methodology behind the lists.
If you find the lists useful, please consider making a donation to support this site.
Literary Magazine Ranking — Fiction
Literary Magazine Ranking — Poetry
Literary Magazine Ranking — Non-Fiction
Rationale for the rankings. Years ago, when I was first submitting short stories to literary magazines, I wanted a way to tier my submissions. I believe in simultaneous submissions, but I didn’t want to submit a story to a great magazine and a not-so-great magazine at the same time because of the risk of multiple acceptances. (If the not-so-great magazine accepted first, it would pain me to withdraw the story from the great magazine.) Developing a ranking of literary magazines allowed me to submit only to those magazines in roughly the same tier. I began sharing the list on my blog because I knew other writers used the same tiered approach to submissions. Eventually, I added poetry and non-fiction rankings and also links to magazine websites.
Basis for the rankings. I base the rankings on the annual Pushcart Prize anthology that comes out in November. That anthology includes fiction, poetry, and non-fiction and excludes the magazines of general circulation like The New Yorker, Atlantic, Harper’s, and so on. Other anthologies, like the Best American series and the O.Henry Prize Stories are excellent books, but their approach to assembling their winners is different. As these things go, the Pushcart Prize anthology draws from a wide range of nominating magazines, which makes it the best choice for these rankings. One criticism of the Pushcart Prizes is that they have a print-publication bias. Although there are an increasing number of online publications earning recognition in the anthology, that bias is probably real. There are some fine online magazines that won’t appear on these lists, unfortunately.
Methodology. After several years of making these lists, I made a change two years ago that I have retained. Originally, I based the rankings on a ten-year rolling score that assigned a constant value for Pushcart Prizes earned over that period and a lower value for Special Mentions. Some readers suggested that a five-year rolling score would be better because it would result in newer publications rising in the rankings sooner. But reputations take years to develop, and I didn’t like the shorter period, while acknowledging the validity of the point. So last year I compromised. Now the formula assigns one value for Prizes and Special Mentions received in the most recent five years and half that value for Prizes received in the preceding five years.
Symbols. You’ll notice a few symbols next to the names of some magazines on the lists. (c) indicates a closed magazine; (w) indicates a broken link for a live magazine; and (?) indicates some question about the magazine or an unknown link.
Feedback and Support. I welcome your feedback. Let me know if you find a broken or incorrect link, either by leaving a comment or contacting me through this website. I don’t mind hearing criticism of my approach, either, if that’s what you want to share. (Praise is also welcome.) And if you find the lists at all useful, please consider making a donation to support the site. You’ll find a Donation button above and on each of the ranking pages.
Your wording is a bit vague. You “base the rankings on the annual Pushcart Prize anthology that comes out in November.” So, you base rankings on the number of appearances in this anthology?
The methodology paragraph should answer your question.
I’m not convinced that we writers should surrender our own judgment to whoever selects Pushcart Prizes. Maybe it would be better to let them decide who gets the prizes, and let each writer decide where to send her or his own writing. For personal reasons, each of us might prefer to be published in one particular journal rather than one that has more Pushcart winners.
I would hope that PoC lead magazines would also be included. Kweli Journal had a notable in BAE and a Pushcart winner this past year. While these spaces are very well-known the fact that ones that do have more pocs and other marginalized folks as a primary staff/audience are not being recognized at all here.
Many thanks for your good work! Very helpful.
Just a question about Ontario Review. I believe it has not been published since 2008. If so why is it on this list?
This is an excellent question that highlights the long lead time for the Pushcart Prize. OR received a Special Mention in the 2010 volume of the Pushcart Prize Anthology. That volume was published in the fall of 2009 and recognized work that was published in calendar 2008, which indeed was the last year of OR’s publication. Next year when the list is compiled, the 2010 prizes and special mentions will rotate off the list, and OR will disappear.
Cliff – Thanks for putting together this list. In response to comments, of course this list is just one of many factors to be considered – each of us as a writer needs to do our own research. But it is VERY helpful to have the list and I know that putting it together represents a lot of work. Thank you!
Thank you and happy birthday
Thank you very much, Mr.Garstang. This is so helpful. Bravo!
Hey, Cliff. This is pretty cool. Thank you for your work. I’m actually building a data visualization tools for writers based on literary journals that have won awards (Best of the Net, Pushcart, Best American Poetry, and maybe O. Henry Prize) over the last 10 years. I’ve compiled Best of the Net so far. I have a part of the framework complete for the data visualization tool, but I have such limited data at the moment. I’m using a different methodology. It’s purely based on the number of selections a journal has had across these prizes (which is why more data would help, and why I’m only keeping active journals on the list). Would you be interested in sharing any raw data that you have for the Pushcart? Or, alternatively, would you be interested in me building a visualization tool for your data that you can share on your website? Right now it’s clickable bar charts that would allow writers to select a specific range: 1 year, 5 year, 10 year, online or print, number of years the publication has been active. The idea is that it’s a tool that could help writers choose where to submit. What do you think? Send me an e-mail ASAP.
Many thanks! It’s a great resource, and I appreciate that you’ve made it available.