TOOL KIT: Best Resources for Running A Lit Journal
Last JOURNAL JOURNAL I posted about Submittable and why it’s essential for lit journals. While Submittable is the best friend an editor has, it’s not the only friend. Here are some other great–and perhaps necessary–resources for a lit journal’s tool kit. Gigantic Sequins would not be what it is today or even be possible without most of them.
Trello is a new addition to the GS tool kit, something we implemented back in November, and at this point, I can’t imagine life without it. Sort of like how intense things were prior to Submittable, how often we rely on Trello now makes me wonder why we never looked for a thing like it to help us stay organized before. You use this shared space to create vertical lists, under which you can place “Cards”, which are sort of like post-it notes that have built-in accessories: checklists, comments, uploading capability, labels, deadlines, members, etc. The thing about Trello is that it may sound overly complex– but it’s not. It’s major advantage is its user-friendliness, despite the amount of capabilities it has. In the past, information–such as contributor names as they should appear in an issue, which bookstores we’re currently stocked at, which pieces we want to archive online from back issues, or what an editor needs to get done before a certain date–was scattered throughout emails, in people’s personal Word files, in various different versions of a forthcoming issue itself, and so on. For example, our Trello “Names” card under our 7.2 Production list is how, if we were publishing a certain 19th century American writer, we would make sure that Edgar Allan Poe wouldn’t appear as “Edgar A. Poe” in his bio and then “Edgar Allan Poe” the whole rest of the issue, for instance–we’d also use this list not just for name versions but name spellings so that Mr. Poe’s middle name would assuredly be Allan and not Allen throughout. And that’s just one card!
Patreon— We use Patreon to keep track of and collect donations from our gracious Friends, who are those who help fund the publication of each of our issues. Patreon is sort of like a perpetual crowd-funding source, there for projects that need ongoing rather than one-time support–like GS. It’s set up like a typical crowd-funding site–there are levels, rewards, a short video that explains what we do (ours is really cute, it’s a bunch of our art telling you about the GS process and why you should donate, put together by Fo Sho and Tell), and a profile page, where all of this is pre-laid out for your cause/project. What makes Patreon unique is that that when our Friends donate, they’re automatically signed up to donate again next time we’re ready to drop an issue. GS comes out every six months, so our Patreon Friends don’t have to worry about sending us their contribution every six months, they’re already registered to do so–and can opt out any time.
Drive—Google Drive itself, sharable file storage attached to a google account, is essential. If we had to find the email in which a file was originally sent every time we wanted to open that file (read: how we used to do things), that would take too long. Giving up becomes easier. But if there’s a shared folder clearly labeled (maybe even folders within that folder!) finding things becomes a lot easier, as does knowing which version is the most recent version of something. If four different emails sent over time contain four different versions of our acknowledgements page and I find the third email/third version I might not know there’s a fourth–but if they’re all in the same folder, it’s obvious the one labeled “version 4” is the most recent.
Docs–Google Docs is great for when information needs to be changed/updated/edited. Our Production Team uses a Doc for our Production Schedule to note when tasks need to happen by, whose job it is to do each, and when it was completed. Any time any of us need to work on the same document, either all at once or over time, using a doc is the best way to go.
Sheets–Sheets are similar to docs in that they’re editable by multiple people, but they’re an excel-type document rather than a word processing one. They’re also good to use as a never-ending sort of table. For instance, we have a master list of all GS contributors that’s a Sheet. Here, it’s easy for each genre editor to locate contributors’ names, twitter handles, websites, which issue they were published in, and any other important notes–for instance, if we published someone under a name they no longer publish under, which name to refer to them as would get noted here for if we’re promoting that person’s book on social media. Another Sheet we update is one that helps us keep track of distribution at bookstores. This is one that needs improving, as there are so many columns that it becomes intimidating for staff to update it correctly– but for now, at the least, it’s an easy reference for me to look at and see how many copies of each issue should be sent to editors who are the contacts and stockists for the local bookstores that carry GS. There’s always room for improving the way we organize things, but meanwhile I’m just glad we have tools that help us keep track of things better than pen and paper.
Hangouts— We have our editorial meetings via Google Hangouts, typically in its videochat form, so that we can see each other face to face, something we don’t have the opportunity to do as a complete group pretty much ever. You USED TO be able to put on fake masks and funny hats and glasses (and monocles? and eyebrows? and floating question marks?… see below…) when you did this, but you can’t anymore, which is sad.
Gmail— Every one of the GS editors has a gmail account, and I’m grateful for this so that everyone has easy access to everything above. GS itself has a gmail account, and I can’t stress how lost we’d be without our labeling system. Just like in Submittable, we have an extensive system of labels that help organize the emails that come in. I am sure there are other great things about Google/Gmail, but labels, labels, labels are what I want to stress before we move on to…
Hootsuite– Especially when multiple people are managing social media, Hootsuite is a user-friendly way to schedule posts so that staff members aren’t posting too close to one another or too similar of posts. Facebook now has a “schedule” option for its pages, so we use Hootsuite to maintain our twitter account. Since many editors rather than one person run the twitter page, it’s a really helpful tool. It’s also a time saver, in a way–tweeting live all the time can be really stressful. There’s a risk to scheduling a tweet rather than posting it live, but it’s a huge time saver. That being said, if you are going to use a program like Hootsuite to schedule tweets, double-check them for veracity (get names right!) and also proofread them before they go live.
Facebook— Some of these are a bit obvious–like, one of the first things a new lit journal in 2016 might make for itself is a Facebook page–so I won’t glorify that too much, especially considering how difficult it can be to get a page’s post any attention without paying Zuckerberg et. al for the privilege. However, the “groups” feature it has is a good way to have some light-hearted fun with a masthead/staff/editorial board, especially if that editorial board is international, like GS’s has been in the past and could well be in the future. Aside from sharing links, news, and announcements, you can also share documents via a facebook group, which can come in handy.
Twitter— See above note about how some of these might be a “bit obvious,” but I want to add: I think GS’s robust twitter presence is part of why we typically get around 1000/1000+ submissions, and growing, per submissions period. #JustSayin
Instagram— Instagram is just FUN. I wouldn’t say this is a necessary feature for a start-up lit journal, but once you have established yourself, Instagram is a great way to keep what you do in people’s minds as they aimlessly scroll. Ours is run by our Assistant Production Editor, meg willing, and she does a great job taking the GS aesthetic and applying it to promotional posts, as well as process and event posts. One noted disadvantage to Instagram is that you can’t post clickable links in the captions/comments, though you *can* in the description and then refer to that link in the comments, which we do and many others who use Insta promotionally do.
Tumblr— We have a tumblr! It’s all the rage! The kids love it. Our CNF Editor, Ian Carlos Crawford, runs it because the rest of us are like “tumbl–what?” Another thing rad about having multiple social media accounts for your mag, especially if you have a diverse staff, is that the personality of the editor/s running it are sure to sneak out in what they choose to post. This means that while our Instagram has a lot of collage/erasure/post-it note art, our tumblr gets a bit Harry Potter/comic book-y at times.
Pinterest— GS does not have an official Pinterest, but I have a board for black & white illustration/art where I pin images often that would be ideally fit with the GS aesthetic. This is a great point of reference for anyone who wants to see what kinds of art we might be looking for, and it’s one of the first places I go when I want to solicit art.
Adobe InDesign— My Production team uses InDesign to put together the journal, and saves the files as PDFs for me to look at. So while I’ve never actually seen the innards of InDesign, I know we couldn’t do what we do without it.
Adobe Acrobat— Speaking of PDFs, where would we be without them? Lost. I’m sure there’s a million ways Acrobat is helpful to us, but here’s something about it I just learned this year: Did you know you can comment on a PDF kind of like you can comment on a Microsoft Word Document? You can. And you don’t even have to pay for the fancy version. This is good for… if you want to make text edits/suggestions/comments on a PDF version of an InDesign file, for instance.
WordPress/Weebly–The GS website was originally a WordPress site, though now it’s a Weebly site and we host our blog on WordPress. I’m not sure, if I could go back in time, what I might change about this situation? Maybe, since we are so integrated in Google, to allow for my editors to have less accounts they have to keep track of, I might have the GS blog be a Blogger blog, which you log into via your Google account. We use Weebly for our official website because its user-friendly, though something else owns our URL. This is the sort of thing that drives me up the wall, so my best recommendation would be to try to use one site for everything rather than multiples: one to host your URL, another for you website, and another for the blog. If you can do something like that all together all in one place, it’s the best choice.
I began to address this above, but it’s worth noting separately: we do use *a lot* of tools to keep GS together and running smoothly, and the more you have, the more things you have to keep track of usernames/passwords/where to go for what. It’s best when things are linked–like how we use Google Chat for our face to face e-meetings rather than having everyone sign up for something like Skype, which would be another account for them to keep track of. Try to streamline or compartmentalize everything in a way that is user-friendly and works for everyone. We link to Google Drive files via Trello and have tried to cut back on sending too many emails/posting anything “important” to the Facebook page now that Trello has become so integral to our process. It is taking some people longer to catch up/get on board than others, which creates some miscommunications, but all in all, the way we do things works, as is evidenced by the print journal we put out every 6 months. I really don’t think, at this point, we’d be able to do it without a majority of these tools at our disposal, and I hope anyone running a journal might benefit from implementing some of them/using tools they already have access/accounts to in a more beneficial way. Also, I am sure there are things I’m missing! Feel free to comment about which tools are essential to YOUR lit journal’s ability to keep on keeping on!