In my deluded state-of-mind, the career plan I would like to follow is this: fill a bookshelf of my own work (literary journals, magazines, etc.) before submitting to online publications. Now, both print and online places have their own strengths and weaknesses:
Print — durable and prestigious medium, yet low circulation figures (often around 1,000 or less).
Online — generally less prestigious and liable to disappear, yet views can be hundreds if not thousands per year.
Other factors to consider are these:
Literary agents subscribe to the top print journals (One Story, The Paris Review, The Southern Review, Gulf Coast, etc.) in hopes of finding new talent. Indeed, in the last few years several dozen authors have got book deals in that way. For example, Miroslav Penkov, a young author who published “Buying Lenin” in The Southern Review — and later reprinted in The Best American Short Stories 2008 — was found by a top agent.
The availability of online journals, especially good ones like Blackbird, are also a resource for agents. Therefore if one is to go this route, I would suggest sending them your best work (although this might sometimes seem like a waste) as many online journals will be around for a long time and will contain your story even years down the line when an agent or fan Googles your name.
For me personally, I’m sticking to print for the time being. I love the tactile feel of a book or magazine, the smell of the paper and the portability the medium affords. Although, as a society, we’re now past online publications being meaningless (“Anybody can set a website up!”), they’re still only a secondary choice for me at the current time. Once I have a book, though, I think an online presence, and a mention of its title and publisher in the contributor bio., might generate further interest and perhaps a sale or two.
Well first I’m going to have to finish my novel before I ever try to enact my marketing strategies!
Note: I am sending some scholarly work to some online academic journals. That topic, though, will be covered in another post.