The debut issue of quip literary review is now available online. Cofounders/coeditors Sarah Bailey and Anna Blake Keeley (formerly of The Greensboro Review staff) discuss how they got started, what sets quip apart, and what they hope to do next.
GR: What other publications did you have in mind as you launched quip literary review–which lit mags or other platforms influenced how you shaped your own creation?
We had several other publications in mind when creating quip. We were both big fans of Tin House (RIP) and I think that influenced some of quip in terms of the kinds of work we like to read, how we want to create something that has an aesthetic, and that feels special when you read it. And of course, working together on The Greensboro Review taught us so much about running and editing a journal.
GR: How would you describe the quip aesthetic and approach? What type of decisions did you have to make around medium, images, content, appearance, etc.? What sets you apart from other publications?
I think the word that best sums us up is millennial. This not only applies to our aesthetic and audience, but almost every decision we end up making. What does it mean to be of this generation? What are the ways our audience likes to communicate and interact? Where is our time best spent?
We wanted a clean, easy-to-read look but with specifically millennial elements (notice the pink color and font choices.) Our medium is the website, which makes it fairly accessible. We don’t have a paywall and or subscriptions. We just want as many people to read quip as possible. We’re trying to find ways to bring down submission costs to make submitting more accessible as well, and we’re brainstorming ways to pay contributors. It’s a challenge but we’re committed to it.
We made decisions on every single aspect of this magazine, seen and unseen. From the amount of margin space on the PDF issues (we like room for notes and thumbs!) to the way the dropdown menus are organized to the way we format certain words, we thought about everything.
As far as what sets us apart, I think the feedback we’ve had from authors is how collaborative we are compared to other mags. We want to make sure the stories reflect their intent and be as great as they can be. We’re also one of the few online magazines with print capability. We have our stories formatted in two different ways—on webpages and in a downloadable PDF. This PDF allows the issue to be read on other devices, with or without internet access, and it can be printed in a more traditional and easy-to-read format should someone choose to. It prevents lots of extra printing on our end, but can still give readers the tactile experience if wanted.
GR: What does your behind-the-scenes work as editors look like? How do you tend to divide the work, and how do you juggle quip tasks with your other non-lit mag jobs/responsibilities?
I’m not going to lie, it’s tough! Lit magazines are a ton of work, even small ones like ours. Just when you think you have a handle on the workload, something else comes up or there’s one element you didn’t think about that’s suddenly a problem. Anna Blake and I both work full time marketing jobs, which take up a lot of our time. Unfortunately, quip isn’t a profitable endeavor, so we’re really in it for the love of stories and editing. We divide the work pretty evenly. AB tackles most of our social media and I handle website posting and any coding we need. We both read each story that comes in and vote through Submittable and we both edit each story. We start by splitting up the stories, then making our suggestions, then switching and reviewing and editing the other stories, before sending off to the authors. It’s a really collaborative process from all sides.
GR: How long did it take from first conception of quip to the fall 2019 issue? What did you ultimately need to get this first issue of quip off the ground (e.g., in terms of any physical resources, connections, your own skills/experience/emotional bandwidth)?
It took us a little over a year and a half, I think, from conception to publication. We had the idea during the final semester at UNCG, and then we both had hectic summers moving and starting new jobs, but by the fall of 2018 we were pretty committed to starting it. So we had to make a plan and come up with a name and buy a domain and decide on a content management system. We knew printing wasn’t going to be a possibility just because of cost—we aren’t independently wealthy or tied to an institution, so it’s difficult to start a print magazine without a lot of capital up front.
There are a lot of small infrastructural decisions that you have to make before you can even begin accepting submissions. Which is why it took us so long to get the issue out. We wanted to make sure it was professional and authors felt comfortable submitting their work to us. New lit magazines start up every day and last an issue or fail before launch. We see it constantly on social media.
GR: What do you hope to do in future issues of quip?
I think the first thing we’re looking to do is to start paying contributors. We want to do it without pulling more from our own pockets—the magazine needs to be relatively self-sustaining to a certain degree. But stories are valuable and we want to show authors appreciate their work. So we’re brainstorming a few different ideas.
GR: What advice would you share with those interested in starting a lit mag or other publication of their own?
Don’t start a magazine with people you’re friends with unless you’re also of similar editorial minds! There are tons of friends whose opinions we respect, whose work we admire, and whom we would never want to run a lit magazine with. You have to both want the same kinds of work and see similar fixes within stories and have the same editorial mission. You’re not always going to agree on everything, or someone will miss something that the other will catch, but there’s such an element of trust that you have to have or the magazine just won’t work.
I’d also say, get some of your own work published first. It’s so helpful to know what it’s like on the other side, but publishing also provides you with several different approaches to the process. How much developmental editing do you want to do? What kinds of publication agreements are out there? How often should you be in communication with authors? How do you want to inform them of acceptance? There are so many different ways to move through the process, and just knowing about the ways other literary magazines do things can give you invaluable perspective.