2020 Literary Magazine Rankings

2020 Pushcart Prize Anthology

Below are links to the 2020 Perpetual Folly Literary Magazine Rankings for Fiction, Poetry, and Non-Fiction. Scroll down for a discussion of the rationale and methodology behind the lists.

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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 or early December. 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 and contributing editors, 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 a few 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 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. Not all of the publications on the lists are magazines. The Pushcart Press considers nominations of works included in books published by small presses, and a handful of those presses are recognized each year for inclusion in the anthology.

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.

10 thoughts on “2020 Literary Magazine Rankings”

  1. Thank you, Clifford. I saw this on the QU MFA FB site and appreciate the rankings, a helpful tool to writers. I’m a QU alum in Non-fiction and you can check out my website and podcast, TreeHouseLetter.com and podcast available on all major platforms. Tree House Letter Podcast.

  2. Some corrections to your very useful list: The following three journals are ranked on your fiction list, but their current web sites say that they don’t accept fiction:
    Brick
    Sweet
    Seneca Review

    Thanks again for putting it together.

    1. Thank you. The rankings are based on what has happened over the last ten years. While I do try to indicate (when I have firm information) that a magazine has ceased publication completely and permanently, I don’t make a note of submission guidelines. Each of the three magazines you name has published fiction in the past and might do so again, despite what the current guidelines say. (Note, also, that Brick says they don’t accept unsolicited fiction submissions, which doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t publish solicited fiction if they feel moved to do so.) But you raise a good point and I should probably remind readers of the list to always look carefully at the magazines’ submission guidelines.

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