First, it is important the journal have an ISBN number, and you or the university have the formula for subsequent ones. Does it have one?
Second, you have to call all of the local bookstores, and see which ones consign. Generally the split is 60 / 40, so you might want to sell copies on consignment at $5, to make sure costs are recouped when you receive 60% of the sales price.
Third, you might consider marketing – scheduling readings at local bookstores, etc. when the journal is issued, so that you can sell copies there and then to the audience.
Unless or until you have a journal distributor (as well as an ISBN and a signed agreement), you can’t distribute in the chain bookstores, unfortunately.
I just got back from AWP, where many local and writing department journals were running booths, their editors were serving on panels, etc. Local ones include Eclipse at Glendale CC.
Painted Bride Quarterly found that online availability of the text didn’t affect sales of their print annual (which was surprising to me), but that they never had had decent library or individual subscriptions.
Is this the type of information you wanted to know?
My name is Peter Balaskas and I am a graduate student at Loyola Marymount University, earning my Master's in English: Creative Writing and Literature. Recently, the Graduate Program provided me with some funding to publish a literary journal, which contains fiction produced by students within the LMU Creative Writing Workshop environment. The journal is called Ex Machina. The Creative Writing Program at LMU is "the machine" that this journal represents.
Presently, copies are being sold at the LMU bookstore for $3.00. All proceeds are being donated to the LMU English Department. The journal received an excellent review in the 3/10/04 edition of the university paper, The Loyolan, which is also on display at the LMU bookstore. The overall feedback of this book has been excellent to say the least.
Unfortunately, book sales at the university have been slim: I only sold 10 out of the 100 copies at the LMU bookstores. However, I have been successful in selling 150 copies off-campus (co-workers and friends). I still have 120 left and I would very much like to try any venue to sell this journal. I asked Paul Harris for his advice and he referred me to you. He told me you have done some poetry readings at various bookstores. Do you have any suggestions on how to promote this book at other venues? Again, all proceeds are being donated to the LMU English Department, so it is for a good cause.
Peter A. Balaskas