After a deluge of notifications for the Kickstarter project of a book entitled Sherlock Holmes is Everywhere, I started to wonder: Is the book of essay collections replacing the journal as a prime place for Sherlockian non-fiction to be published? (I have to use the word "non-fiction" loosely here, because when one writes about how many times Watson gave someone brandy, it could fall into either camp.)
Once upon a time, a journal was the place to get your article published. It hasn't even been that long since The Baker Street Journal has advertised itself as "the journal of record," emphasizing its old role of being the place to get your work seen. The book collecting many articles by many hands, however, is trending pretty hard of late, however, and as I find myself in the role of journal editor for the John H. Watson Society's The Watsonian this summer, that trend's blip is definitely growing larger on my radar.
The article collection book has been an annual event with at least one publisher, at which point it could almost be defined as a "periodical." (Sherlock Holmes started life in an annual periodical, one may recall.) And yet there remains a few definite distinctions between the two that may give the article collection a definite advantage.
Themes, for one. Getting a listing on Amazon, for another. Fitting nicely on a bookshelf, for a third. (We do like our books.) Periodicals of all sorts have definitely suffered at the hands of the internet, where the latest info hits readers faster than paper-and-ink ever could. But a book is usually built with a more timeless goal in mind.
So where do we go with the journal at this point? Do we just depend upon the loyalty of Sherlockian traditionalists, who just like having things as they've always been? How do we make the not-insubstantial investment of a year's subscription worth a newer Sherlockian's money? And what writers do we serve in helping get there ideas in print? That last question might actually be the key.
The journal is still probably the best place for a new Sherlockian writer to see something published, because a.) You get to invite yourself, and b.) You can write the what you want to write. A good journal doesn't box itself in too tightly with expected content, it welcomes the thing that no one saw coming. A decent editor can help you improve your work, if there was some bit you might have overlooked. (Not saying I'm a decent editor, but I've had some good ones along the way.)
Any print publishing is still a waiting game, in a world where blogging and AO3 can put your stuff out there instantly . . . a luxury I've come to love far too much . . . but if you've got the patience to get your work placed in a printed collection that we know collectors and archives are going to hang on to for as long as they can, the Sherlockian journal is a great way to go.
All that said, here's the details on The Watsonian, a very fine journal that is looking for articles right now. The new editor might still be figuring some things out, so there might be a little patience required there as well, but as it's currently in its seventh year, there is some evidence that this thing has a little longevity going for it. Give it a try, with whatever your special Sherlockian talent might be!