Chill Subs—A Fun New Resource for Writers

February 27, 2023 § 18 Comments


By Andrea A. Firth

In January of 2022, Karina Kupp, 26, a writer and web developer, launched the website and database—Chill Subs, where you can find places to submit your writing, share your work, learn about residencies, contests, presses and other resources, track submissions, connect with other writers and more. Think Duotrope 2.0 but cooler and free. A couple months later, Benjamin Davis, 33, a writer and editor, joined Karina to help manage and grow the project. Brevity Blog editor, Andrea A. Firth, talked with Karina and Benjamin about Chill Subs and their work-in-progress.

Andrea A. Firth: How and why did Chill Subs get started?

Karina Kupp

Karina Kupp: At the end of 2021, I was researching places to submit my writing, poems and essays. I created a spreadsheet of journals I liked, but the process felt overwhelming. I wanted it to be more fun. At its core, Chill Subs is a convenient, humane database that has great tools that make the submission and publishing process easier and less exhausting. I’m the creator and engineer. Ben handles content and the day-to-day management.

Benjamin Davis: I write and publish poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. I also maintained a huge spreadsheet of literary magazines and thought there could be a better way, better tools. Then I saw an interview that Karina did with Becky Tuch at Lit Mag News Roundup after Chill Subs launched, and I was blown away. The website, the tone of it, everything was exactly what I felt was missing. I sent Karina a gigantic message with ideas I had to support the project. She responded with more ideas. We kept up the exchange and found we were really in sync. We want Chill Subs to have a strong human connection. Humor too.

AAF: Can you expand on what you mean by a “humane” database?

KK: We’ve tried to create a warm, personable space. Journal editors are people that want to read your work. They have names. You have names. We’re a community. We include lots of details about the magazines and the submission process to make it feel less cold and scary. We continually add new features, like user profiles where writers can list all their publications and other services they provide. We have examples of cover letters to use and blog articles on a range of submission and writing topics. The calendar function shows all the open calls and deadlines. We keep adding.

BD: People are drawn to Chill Subs for the database and the useful tools. But there’s a big learning curve to the publication process. Putting yourself out there can be lonely and confusing. Sometimes it hurts. Submitting and sharing your work should be fun. We want to create a supportive community, and a place that’s both useful and welcoming.

AAF: How has Chill Subs grown over its first year?

KK: Over 7,000 writers have created user profiles on the site and subscribed to our weekly newsletter. Right now, we have 2,100 journals in the database, and we’ll reach 3,000 by mid-March. We source and input that information, but editors can create their journal listing directly on the website too. We verify all the data. Plus, we have a list of over 1,200 contests and track submissions too. We recently hit 20,000 tracked submission and rolled out acceptance rates and response time stats for all of our listings.

BB: We’re always looking for creative ways to be more than just a database—to integrate all of the information about the magazines, presses, contests, and residencies with the writers who are contributing. We also want to create a space where a writer’s work doesn’t die once it’s published, which I think is a huge pain point in the industry. For example, when Chill Subs users put their publications in their profiles, that connects to the journal listings too. So, when you search a journal, you will see examples of published work from other writers in our community

Benjamin Davis

AAF: In the midst of the changes at Twitter, you launched something called [ugh]. What is it?

BD: For context, Karina and are not big social media people. But we got feedback from Chill Subs users who wanted a new space where they could interact with each other. When I explored the available options, it felt like more of the same self-promotional, follow for follow, sort of thing, which was what we didn’t really like about social media. Our reaction was, “ugh,” thus the name. In response, we created a “writerly social media element” on our site where writers and editors can post. Again, we want it to be fun. The interactions have been very positive.

AAF: How do you plan to keep Chill Subs sustainable?

KK: The database and the resources currently on the website will always be free. To financially support the project, we’ll be adding some advertising, but not those ugly banner ads that distract you. We’re exploring sponsorships and some fee-based features. We want to be fully transparent, so we’ll be posting a page about our financials on the website too.

AAF: Sounds like it’s been a lot of work. Are you having fun? What’s next?

KK: So much fun. It’s been really nice to brainstorm and work with Ben. The community response has been very positive. We’ve got some major things planned for 2023 that we think people will love–but first we need to max out our database and get through a big redesign.

BD: I love it—the constant exchange of cool ideas, creating these tools and sharing them with thousands of others. Next? More magazines. More contests, resources, indie presses. More tools for writers and editors. And, most importantly, more fun to be had. Of course, we have some major goals in mind, but we like to surprise people.


Karina Kupp is a writer, musician, web developer, and creator of Chill Subs. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in North Dakota Quarterly, BULLSHIT LIT, The Daily Drunk and Corvus Review. She can often be found creating yet another Spotify playlist, taking a spontaneous trip to the other side of the world, or thinking about her next startup idea. Follow her on Instagram.

Benjamin Davis is a traveling word salesman, recovering fintech journalist and free-range columnist with a book of poems, a radio play, a few zines, comics, and short works appearing in Booth, Hobart, Maudlin House, Better than Starbucks, Five on the Fifth and elsewhere. When he is not ghost writing for clients or writing for pleasure, he runs Chill Subs with his friend Karina.

Andrea A. Firth is a writer and educator. She is an editor for Brevity Blog and the co-founder of Diablo Writers’ Workshop. Learn more at her website. Follow her on Instagram.

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