What Happens to Your Published Work When the Lit Mag Goes Out of Business?

“When a literary magazine dies,” Christie Taylor asked at Poets & Writers, “what happens to the poems, stories, essays, and artwork that have been published in its pages over the years?” Taylor’s piece profiles The Rookery, “a new digital archive that will house previously published content from defunct print and digital magazines—an ever-growing collection of work that would otherwise be lost.” The enterprise, that launched on June 30th, “will host shuttered magazines in as close to their original form as possible.”

Wow! What an incredible project. Have you ever published a story or poem in a lit mag that subsequently went out of business? What happens to your work? Not much. It’s already been published, so most places won’t take it again. Unless you publish it in a book-length collection or chapbook, the life of your work is over. It’s as if you never wrote it, except for that line on your list of publications.

Check it out for yourself here. Here is the explanation of how it will work to keep old work online:


The Rookery
[digital archive for dying magazines launching 7/30/14]

Dear reader,
This note is regarding a new project we have embarked on: a library on our site for digital journals that are in danger of e-death.

It isn’t cheap to maintain a webspace–and it’s depressing watching year after year as the readership dwindles. We at Literary Orphans know personally the incredible work that goes into each issue. We are wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, friends and suitors–and we are often artists. To sacrifice years devoted to getting exposure for other people, and have it die in the night, doesn’t seem right to us. We at Literary Orphans cannot offer much, but we can offer The Rookery. A place in which we preserve the archives of digital magazines that have been closed to submissions.

If you are a reader that knows of a favorite journal that might lose/has lost it’s archives, click the link below.
If you are an Editor that can’t afford the webspace to maintain your digital archive, click the link below.


How it works is like this–you submit a tip, information on a magazine that has ceased publication and is struggling to keep it’s archives open, and we try and work with the Editor-in-Chief (EIC) of that magazine to get the archives loaded to The Rookery,a library hosted here at Literary Orphans. This is NOT just transferring the stories onto LO, this is transferring the entire journal to our webspace. You click on the link to the journal, and bam, you are looking at the journal as you would have on it’s old server. But we want to do more than that. After a careful talk with the EIC of the magazine, we will work to keep the writing within it alive. This may be done in numerous ways–for instance, Literary Orphans Press would love to help the EIC or their deputy design and print a “Best Of Anthology,” to memorialize their writers in print. Or, if you are interested in someone taking up the mantle, we can offer a call-out and help advertise–be the stone that keeps the site in safekeeping until Arthur comes by. Hell, this could mean reprinting pieces of the magazine in LO to draw attention to the archives, so that even though it’s out of publication, readers still get to read the writing. There are literally so many avenues we can go down, but it’s all up to what we work out with the EIC of the magazine.

While we don’t expect to be flooded with submissions, we do need to offer a disclaimer. Transferring the look and feel of a site over to LO takes time, lots of time. The kind of time we all hate to devote weeks to, but do what needs to be done. As a result of this, we cannot accept all applicants, we will need to talk with the EIC to determine if the process is feasible, and that the look and feel of the magazine can be maintained.

In solidarity,
Mike Joyce
Executive Director, Literary Orphans Press
Editor-in-Chief, Literary Orphans Journal


Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction, Poetry, Publishing, Writing

30 responses to “What Happens to Your Published Work When the Lit Mag Goes Out of Business?

  1. I had a little short story published in a Twilight Zone paperback at the age of seventeen and now I can’t find a copy of that anywhere. Trust me, I’ve looked everywhere. At fifty something, it would be so great to run across it.

  2. SK, I understand that sense of loss. It would be wonderful to find it. Don’t give up looking. Maybe it will end up on the internet after all!

  3. This is such a great project!

  4. What a great service they are providing. SK’s comment made me sad…I hope she finds a copy of her story.
    I love the photo, Luanne!

  5. I read the title with interest as I was expecting to have a story published in a magazine anthology earlier in the year, but it didn’t happen because the magazine appears to be no longer being published. But I hadn’t considered what happens after your work has been published, so this is a great project to keep work for posterity.

  6. What a great thing to do!

  7. That is always a difficult thing to cope with. You submit your story in good faith, they accept your work for publication, then prior to publication they go bust or are taken over by another magazines. No one tells you…so where’s your work, and how can one submit work to another magazine in good faith…

    • Oh, that is a terrible situation. It seems that if the writer makes a good faith attempt to see if the poem isn’t going to be published that it would be ok to send out again?

      • You are left with a dilemma if you post it to another magazine, not knowing whether it has been published or not, you risk the option of upsetting a prospective new magazine, and any future sales are put in jeopardy.

        The only option left to you is to re-write poem or story giving it a new title.

  8. Luanne, it must feel sad! But the fact that it is on your resume (and you have a copy) must be of some comfort. I wouldn’t know except one time one of my shows was listed or reviewed in The Village Voice. To show up on Google. And suddenly Jerry Saltz who writes for The Voice was on my friend list on Facebook! Then I couldn’t trace the actual review/listing. Same sort of lost feeling. I think!

    • How cool is that! Yes! I guess even if it’s something online we ought to make copies for that eventual day when it will disappear. That’s a good way to describe it, as if one has lost something of value.

  9. What a wonderful service The Rookery may provide! Thanks for sharing this, Luanne.

  10. I had a few go out of business BEFORE I got published, which bummed me out; honestly I’m sure some of the ones I did get into went under too, but I never thought too much about it. It’s terrible to say this but I always figured no one was reading those poetry journals anyway…I’ll slink away in shame now for saying that.

    • That’s the problem with a lot of little mags–not enough readers. We all want to be published in them, but how many of us read them if our work isn’t in them? Unfortunately, we have to reciprocate to keep them in business. And I do mean poetry. Obviously there is more of a market for prose.

  11. I haven’t actually thought about this before, Luanne but it’s a very interesting subject. The digital archive is a great idea 😀

  12. Ellen Morris Prewitt

    Isn’t tho interesting? I have a shelf on my bookcase of my published work where I’ve tried to hoard copies of whatever I’ve published, including printed copies of stories/essays published online. I so enjoyed getting the literary journals in the mail and wanted some physical reminder that the online pieces had been published as well. Now I’m glad I did because several of those publications have ceased to exist, and the pieces exist only on my souvenir shelf.

    • Do you ever wonder if libraries keep copies of some of the journals and, if so, at what point they get rid of them or move them to some dusty, moldy storage?

      • Ellen Morris Prewitt

        And there it sits, no longer catalogued, just waiting for someone to wander into the room, blow off the dust, and find the treasures within.

  13. The photo looks like a buckeye tree, but this would not be in your area, I like the fresh new green and the old, wizened dark nut on the tree.This is a great ‘find’ you are sharing here, Luanne! I am excited that there is a “Rookery” and this potential place of storage, but am saddened by the journal that is no longer published. I wish this weren’t the way of the future. I am so glad to read Ellen’s comment, since I feel badly I am way behind in reading your posts…

    • Definite not an Ohio Buckeye ;). I’m not sure what tree this came from. Not a palo verde and mesquite because those are long seed pods, overgrown green bean shape. Haha, I had to laugh at that last comment. No time period, Robin! I don’t close comments! I love that you read my blog 🙂 xoxo. There is never enough time in the day!!!

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