Hi Brett. Thanks for your question.
Is there a benefit to getting published? It depends on what your goals are. If you work to get published, you can build a list of writing/publication credits that you can use to…get published again, basically. Some magazines and journals take submissions more seriously when they come from a previously published author. It makes you seem more legitimate.
Sometimes, if the publications are big enough, publishing can earn you some money. Don’t expect more than $50-75 for a piece, at the very most, especially when you’re just starting out. But no matter the fee, getting paid for your work is really nice! It can make you feel like a professional writer. It’s legitimizing and gratifying, in a way.
Publication can also give you exposure to publishing houses, literary agents, editors, and successful writers. If you are published multiple times in several big magazines, like The Paris Review or The New Yorker or Ploughshares or Granta, you stand a much better chance of getting an agent and a book deal. You’ll have the cache of a “legitimate author” whom people have heard of. This can lead to extended writing gigs and speaking & teaching opportunities.
But most of the time? Publication doesn’t make much of a difference. Most lit mags cannot pay you, and they usually want your work to not be previously published. They can offer “exposure” — but the readership of most lit mags is dwindlingly small. Probably no one will recognize or ‘discover’ you because you’ve been printed in a small press lit mag. And if you have a story published in a lit mag, you no longer have exclusive rights to publishing it on your own terms (e.g. on your website).
A successful blog can offer way, wayyyyy more exposure than a ton of small press publication credits. I can speak to this firsthand. Now, I submit to lit mags a lot, because I do want to be a part of that community. I get published sometimes. And I have met some great authors and editors through that process, and even made a tiny bit of money. But I’ve gotten way more feedback, book downloads, and eyeballs on my work by running a blog.