I have been involved in the setting up of 4 literary magazines in the last couple of decades. Two of them worked, two never made it beyond ‘dummy’ issue. Why ?
The first one was GLINT (Gays and Lesbians in Theatre). We did it very much in the ‘do it now’ spirit, not worrying about funding, technical demands etc. It had to happen, even if it was photocopied and stapled together. And it did. And it lasted for two years: 1993-1995. It featured some really good writers: Neil Butler, Dan Rebellato, Cherry Smyth, Maria Esposito to mention just a few.
The second one was GLAM (Gay and Lesbian Arts Magazine) in 1996. This one only made it to dummy issue stage. Why? We were a group of about 6-7 people and everybody wanted to be editor and so we divided the various sectors e.g. theatre, books, music etc, so that each had an area of responsibility but when it came to producing the work, only a couple were prepared to do it! Naturally it couldn’t last. Oh, the allure of titles without any effort…
The third one was JAZBA (passion in Urdu). It was conceived by a friend and me. We gathered a motley crew of potential contributors from poet Patience Agbabi to photographer Tony Lam, we created an impressive manifesto of the ideas running through the magazine, a few sample pages etc but my friend, tired ot running magazines on a shoestring and no funding was not prepared to ‘just do it’ , unless funding was in place. It never happened. We did apply to the Arts Council, which was very supportive initially but in the end suggested that the future was in online magazines and would we consider that option. We wouldn’t. This was 2001.
The fourth one was BRAND, set up in 2006. This was clearly the most successful and longest running: it had both the ‘do it now’ spirit, a strong vision and some initial funding.
Should you want to set up a literary magazine, my advice is, yes naturally, ‘just do it’!