In the first issue of Heat, the magazine's editor, Ivor Indyk, complained about the current state of literary quarterlies, arguing that the academy 'has drawn off [the quarterly's] vitality and restricted its function imposing its own priorities, and its own professional modes of discourse on the form.' Aware of market forces, Indyk hoped that Heat would fill the gap he saw between academic and mainstream writing, providing a place for writers to publish their works without such external influences.
Attempting to avoid the appearance of other quarterlies and assert its divergence from the traditional Australian quarterly, Indyk designed Heat to look more like a book. In 1998, when he announced that Heat would be issued three times a year, he suggested that the subsequent increase in page size would provide the 'feel, and the authority, of a book'. Despite hopes that the form would attract sufficient readers to make the magazine a viable economic proposition, circulation did not rise beyond 1200 copies. Plans to market the magazine internationally with the assistance of the Harvill Press fell through and the magazine's closure was announced in the fourteenth issue.
Contributors to Heat were drawn from within Australia and overseas in attempt to give the magazine an international orientation. Writers from countries such as France, Germany, Denmark, Ireland, Nicaragua and the United States have appeared in Heat as well as many of Australia's best writers. The most frequent Australian contributors have included Nicholas Jose, Peter Skrzynecki, Peter Boyle, Robert Adamson, Dorothy Porter, David Malouf, Jennifer Maiden, Antigone Kefala, and Geoff Page. Other Australian contributors included John Kinsella, Brian Castro, Alan Wearne, Les Murray, Peter Porter, John Forbes, Dorothy Hewett, and Eric Beach.
In 2001, a new series of Heat was begun after Indyk took up a position at the University of Newcastle and support was received from the Sydney Grammar School and government grants. Produced bi-annually, this new series continues the approach of the first, attempting to bring overseas writers to the attention of Australian readers and to provide a medium for Australian readers to achieve greater international exposure.
Issue 24 2010 was the last issue of Heat in print form. 'After fourteen years of continuous publication the sheer physical intractability of the magazine, and its limited circulation, weigh heavily upon its publisher, especially at a time when the electronic medium beckons, with its heavenly promise of weightlessness and omnipresence.' Ivor Indyk.