What publications really want from freelance pitches (according to them)
A detailed list of 15 publications' pitching guidelines
Pitching is more of an art than a science.
While there are central tenants common to all good pitches, different publications and editors have specific things they're looking for and certain ways they want to receive pitches. Lots of publications also have a very clear idea of what they don't want. Finding this information, however, can be as time-consuming as writing the pitches themselves.
Over the last few weeks, I've noticed a couple of publications publish fresh guidelines for how to pitch them, as well as recirculate their existing ones. These guidelines are gold dust – advice direct from the source about what to include in a pitch and how to send it to them. So I thought I'd start collecting these guides together in one place.
The following is a list of 15 pitching guides I’ve found from specific publications, all written by the editors themselves. Some are more up-to-date than others, but all are for paying opportunities.
Narratively: The immersive longform site is very clear that are three key factors essential to every Narratively story: untold, human and narrative. They don't take op-eds, hot takes or essays on over-done subjects.
Guardian US (features): The Guardian US' features editor (Hi, Jess!) wants stories about: unforgettable central characters, subcultures, crime, class in America, profiles, gut-punch essays, American values, and more. She also asks for fleshed-out pitches of 5–8 paragraphs "showing you have thought about who to reach out to and how, with some pre-reporting if applicable".
Huck: The British counterculture magazine publishes news, profiles, interviews, reportage and photo essays. They want to see short pitches that nail the who, what, why, when and how in a single paragraph. They do not want to see articles sent on spec.
Bustle: The women's interest site has a pitching guide that explains how they want to see pitches laid out, who to send them to, gives examples of successful pitches and also details the specific topics they are covering in the coming months.
The Verge: Like Bustle, this guide covers absolutely everything you could possibly need to know about pitching stories to the Verge – from emails of actual editors to examples of stuff they really like. My freelancer's dream is that more publications write guides like these.
Deadspin: The sports' sites pitching guide is a long list of examples of actual pitches they received and then went on to commission, with notes about why they worked. Even if you don't cover sports, read this guide!
Buzzfeed Reader: The site's cultural criticism and personal essays section takes freelance work. For criticism pieces, they want a concise note that explains the core of the idea, how you’ll support it, and why it matters. For personal essays, they want to ideally see a full first draft of the piece.
New Yorker (poetry): The New Yorker takes original, unpublished (this includes on your own website) poetry submissions on a rolling basis. You can send up to six poems per submission. Be warned: the response time is six months.
Longreads: The longform site accepts original work, as well as curating published work. They take reported pieces, cultural criticism, memoir pieces, book reviews, bookish essays and illustrations. Unlike many other publications, they don't mind if you pitch your story elsewhere concurrently but ask that you tell them that in your email.
Positive News: The British magazine publishes "constructive journalism", pieces that showcase the best examples of progress and possibility anywhere in the world. They want pitches of a few paragraphs that demonstrate how the story disrupts the conventional narrative around an issue.
The New Statesman: The current affairs magazine and website, doesn't take a whole lot of freelance pieces but the ones they do accept must be "timely, well-written contributions that bring a new angle to topics within the New Statesman’s remit."
WIRED UK: The culture and technology publication takes long, meaty reported features for its magazine from freelancers. They also want pieces that can be illustrated with photography or graphics for the magazine. What they don't want: stories on general themes or new devices and consoles without a broader narrative.
EATER: The foodie website wants "stories where food and restaurants intersect with, illuminate, or are illuminated by other subjects: business, technology, history, science, politics, society, activism, identity, the arts, pop culture, etc." They do not want recipes or pieces about home cooking.
Atlas Obscura: The quirky travel site's Stories section publishes pieces with a focus on place. They also have themed weeks, which they detail in their guide. They don't want stories about New York, first-person essays or travelogues.
New Scientist: Most of the science publication's features are written by freelancers. They want exclusives that their editors or reporters won't have spotted, and that haven’t been covered by the mainstream media in the UK, the US or Australia.
And finally, a couple of pro tips from me: where there's a generic email address listed in the guidelines above, figure out the actual human doing the commissioning and find their email address. Also, as ALL of the guides themselves say: read 👏 the 👏 actual 👏 publication 👏 before 👏 pitching 👏 to 👏 it.
Let me know if this list is useful; I’ll keep updating it and will send it out periodically. And if you do pitch any of these places and end up landing a commission, I'd love to hear from you.
Upcoming FJ&Co events
Female Freelance Journalist Meetup: The next FJ&Co event is a free meetup for female freelance journalists. It’s on May 16 at the Ace Hotel and is free to attend. Just make sure you’ve signed up here first as there will be a guest list on the door.
Here’s Ralph, listening to This American Life in the car
Calls for pitches
Huck’s associate editor Niall Flynn has been in touch to ask for pitches for the forthcoming issue of Huck:
We’re exploring how a lot of people are feeling right now: tired, angry, ready for change. That could mean social movements who are fed up with the status quo, environmental activists fighting for our future, fatigue, apathy, the work-play balance, growing older ... and more! Specifically, we’re after reportage on emerging subcultures/scenes (first-person access is important!) or colourful characters for shortish profiles (800-1000 words).
We’re looking to gather pitches over the next fortnight or so. It’d be for print – specifically our summer issue – so all ideas need to have a certain agelessness to them. Pitches are best sent to myself (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Cian, Huck’s Acting Editor (email@example.com).
The #FairPayForFreelancers campaign got a mention in this piece on how freelancers are working multiple jobs. Can you ever really grow up if you outsource everything? A short story about creative differences. Adam Grant on how to bounce back from rejection. Lots of the guides above are for pitching personal essays, if you need inspiration read this moving story about what happened when a brain injury changed a partner’s personality.
Anita Bhagwandas: Just wanted to say how great the newsletter is - feel like it’s saying what’s in my head!!
The Professional Freelancer is written by Anna Codrea-Rado, illustrations are by Léo Hamelin. It’s a production of FJ&Co, a platform that gives freelance journalists the tools, resources and community support they need to make a sustainable self-employed living
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