The Cost Of (Literary) Art

First, my sincere thanks to everyone who helped spread the word and became a fan of Hint Fiction on Facebook. We're already up to 190 fans, and that number grows every hour (or at least I hope that's the case; it's difficult to say as the thing just launched Saturday). Anyway, to call back to this post where I talked about literary journals and who really reads them, I was reminded about that back section of each Best American Short Stories. After the stories, after the contributors' notes, after the 100 other distinguished stories of that year (notice how that number is just 100, and not 500 or more like some other year best anthologies -- a marketing scam that I won't get into at the moment), you'll find the editorial addresses of American and Canadian magazines publishing short stories.

Now if you're familiar with this section, there are hundreds and hundreds of magazines listed, ranging from The New Yorker to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine to journals like Kalliope (the journal of Florida Community College). Listed with almost all of the addresses and editor names is a dollar amount, some going as high as $40, some going as low as $9.95. These are the costs of a yearly subscription. Keep in mind that some magazines publish more frequently than others. Some put out twelve issues a year, while some put out two issues a year, or even just one issue.

Curious, I went through the most recent edition I have (2008, the one edited by Salman Rushdie) and tallied up all those subscription costs. Here's the grand total:


Pretty costly, huh? And that's just the magazines that are listed. That doesn't include publications many of us are familiar with -- PANK and The Los Angeles Review and Space and Time and Monkeybicycle -- and magazines from other countries (not to mention anthologies). And that was just from two years ago; there may even be more listed in the 2009 edition, or maybe there's less.

Now even if someone had the extra cash to subscribe to all those magazines, there is absolutely no way he or she could read every story in every publication. It's just not possible. And even if they could read every single story in every publication, what about the online journals? What about the magazines published in other countries?

(But wait, you say. Obviously someone is reading all those stories in all those publications if they're listed. To which I say, Yes, Heidi Pitlor as series editor probably does go through every publication listed there, but I highly doubt she's reading every single story from beginning to end. Just like an editor will only read the first page or paragraph of a story in the slush pile, I'm fairly certain Ms. Pitlor only reads the first couple paragraphs of each story, and if they don't grab her immediately, she skips to the next one.)

Sometimes I feel I'm way too pessimistic with my posts, and I apologize for that. In case you haven't noticed, I can be rather cynical at times. Most importantly, I try to be realistic about the business of writing. Because it's a tough business, and oftentimes it's not fair, no matter how hard you try and how talented you are. And then when you look at that grand total, and think about all those hundreds and hundreds of magazines that you probably have never read or seen or even heard of, well, you might start to wonder just what is the point.