Publishing Non Fiction Essays

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Meghan

I frequently receive e-mails from people looking for places to publish their personal essays. Fiction and nonfiction writers alike all have a great story about the time Aunt Harriet came for dinner and left on the back of a horse, or the time the cat disappeared and returned six years later, or the time they had an epiphany about the meaning of life while walking through the woods at dusk. But where can you submit that funny, poignant, life-changing essay that’s gathering virtual dust in a folder on your computer? Who will publish it? And who will pay? Here are 20 newspapers, magazines, literary journals, and anthologies to help you begin your search:

1. New York Times Modern Love—Start by reading a lot of Modern Love columns to get an idea of what they’re looking for. You may even want to buy this Modern Love collection. Don’t miss the Media Bistro article on how to turn your Modern Love column into a book, and be sure to visit the Modern Love Facebook Page for submission tips from the editor, Daniel Jones.

2. New York Times Lives—TheNew York Times Magazine Lives column is another great place to get published. The best way to submit to any large publication is to have someone put you in touch with the editor of the column. The rest of us can e-mail our essays to the Lives section at lives (at) nytimes (dot) com.

3. Newsweek My Turn—Start by reading “How To Get a My Turn Essay Published in Newsweek Magazine.” Then read some of the past essays that have been published to get a good idea of what they are looking for and what’s already been done. UPDATE: Submit My Turn essays to editorial (at) thedailybeast (dot) com.

4. Christian Science Monitor Home Forum—The Christian Science Monitor is a highly respected international newspaper and is not religious-based. It’s Home Forum page includes a personal essay that can run from 400 to 800 words. After you read the Monitor’s contributor guidelines, check out this article for advice on how to beat the odds of getting your essay published.

5. The Sun—A monthly magazine, The Sun pays from $300 to $2,000 for essays and interviews. They receive a thousand submissions (including fiction and poetry) for every issue, so don’t be surprised if you have to wait six months for a response.

6. The Smithsonian Magazine—The Last Page of The Smithsonian is a humor column running 500 to 650 words and pays $1000. For more information, read the submission guidelines.

7. Salon—From what I’ve read, the pay is low for Salon essays ($150?), but it’s better than nothing and a great way to get exposure. Check out this list, and then click around the different departments (Life, Sex, Poetry, etc.) to see what they’re publishing. Finally, see their submission guidelines, which aren’t all that helpful.

8. Slate—Slate publishes some essays, but I was so distracted by their targeted banner ads (Camping gear! Children’s outdoor play equipment!) that I gave up on my search before I got very far.

9. The Rumpus—An online culture magazine, The Rumpus “[tries] to maintain high standards even though we don’t have any money and can’t pay for writing.” For details on submitting essays or book reviews, see their writer’s guidelines.

10. 7×7—Another West Coast publication, 7×7 has an Urban Ledger column for which readers can pitch their personal essays. They pay $1 a word, and their essays run about 1000 words. For more information, contact the editorial department.

11. Skirt—An online women’s magazine, Skirt accepts submissions up to 1500 words, but—like most online publications—does not pay. For more info, read their contributor guidelines.

12. Granta—A British literary magazine, Granta publishes original memoir pieces between 3000 and 6000 words. They do not accept e-mail submissions. Read a few copies of the journal (you can find most journals at a library) and then read their guidelines.

13. Tin House—A literary journal, Tin House accepts essays as well as poetry and fiction from Sept. 1 to May 31. The suggested deadline for their Spring 2012 issue, themed Weird Science, is Oct. 1. The real deadline is Nov. 1. Click here for submission guidelines.

14. Zyzzyva—You have to live on the West Coast to publish in Zyzzyva, but it’s another literary journal that accepts personal essays. The best way to learn what any publication is looking for is to read several issues of that publication, and Zyzzyva is no exception. Start by buying a copy. Then read the submission guidelines.

15. Traveler’s TalesTraveler’s Tales is currently accepting submissions in the women’s travel humor and travel humor categories. Visit their website for submission details. The deadline is TODAY (Sept. 21) for their Fifth Annual Solas Awards, so get it in fast if you have something ready. Otherwise, you can submit year-round and your submission will be held for the following competition.

16. Literary Mama—An online literary magazine “for the maternally inclined,” Literary Mama is looking for “revelation so stark that it hurts. Pathos can reveal, but so can humor and joy; superior craft (clarity, concrete details, strong narrative development); and ambiguity, complexity, depth, thoughtfulness, delicacy, humor, irreverence, lyricism, sincerity; the elegant and the raw.” View their submission guidelines for more info.

17. Brain, Child—The magazine for thinking mothers (as opposed to literary mamas), publishes essays between 800 and 4500 words, which are “the signature pieces of the magazine.” They pay “as much as we can, although our fees are still modest for now.” View their writers’ guidelines.

18. Chicken Soup for the Soul—It doesn’t seem like there’s anything left to publish in this series, but there is! There is! And here are the submission guidelines.

19. Seal Press Anthologies—Seal Press publishes books “By Women. For Women.” They aren’t currently accepting submissions, but check back periodically for upcoming books.

20. Adams Media books—Adams publishes nonfiction books, including some anthologies. Right now they’re taking parodies of Jane Austen writing for an anthology titled Bad Austen.

In addition to those listed above, there is a plethora of other literary journals that publish personal essays. NewPages.com provides an extensive list with descriptions. Writer’s Digest also has a great article called Tips to Help You Publish Your Personal Essays. They also publish the trusted Writer’s Market directory, which you can access online.

Do you have any publications to add to the list, or details/tips about any of those listed above?

They’re all over your Facebook feed, and for good reason. Personal essays by popular authors and novices alike are relatable, engrossing reads.

Sometimes, their heart-wrenching reflections stay with you for days.

For reporters or academics, it can be hard to step back from research rituals and write from personal experience. But a personal essay can endear you to an audience, bring attention to an issue, or simply provide comfort to a reader who’s “been there.”

“Writing nonfiction is not about telling your story,” says Ashley C. Ford, an essayist who emphasized the importance of creating a clear connection between your personal experience and universal topics. “It’s about telling interesting and worthy stories about the human condition using examples from your life.”

But don’t worry if your life doesn’t seem exciting or heart-wrenching enough to expound upon; think of it as writing through yourself, instead of about yourself. “There are few heroes and even fewer villains in real life,” she said. “If you’re going to write about your human experience, write the truth. It’s worth it to write what’s real.”

Where to submit your personal essays

Once you’ve penned your essay, which publications should you contact? We’ve all heard of — and likely submitted to — The New York Times’ Modern Love column, but that’s not the only outlet that accepts personal narratives.

“Submit to the places you love that publish work like yours,” Ford advises, but don’t get caught up in the size of the publication. And “recognize that at small publications you’re way more likely to find someone with the time to really help you edit a piece.

To help you find the right fit, we’ve compiled a list of 20 publications that accept essay submissions, as well as tips on how to pitch the editor, who to contact and, whenever possible, how much the outlet pays.

We’d love to make this list even more useful, so if you have additional ideas or details for these publications or others, please leave them below in the comments!

1. Boston Globe

The Boston Globe Magazine Connections section seeks 650-word first-person essays on relationships of any kind. It pays, though how much is unclear. Submit to magazine@globe.com with “query” in the subject line.

Must-read personal essay: “Duel of the Airplane-Boarding Dawdlers,” by Art Sesnovich

2. Extra Crispy

Send your pitches about breakfast, brunch, or the culture of mornings to submissions@extracrispy.com or the editor of the section you’re pitching. Pay appears to be around 40 cents per word.

Must-read personal essay: Gina Vaynshteyn’s “When Dumplings Are Resistance”

3. Dame Magazine

This publication is aimed at women over 30. “We aim to entertain, inform, and inspire,” the editors note, “But mostly entertain.” Send your pitch to editorial@damemagazine.com. Pay varies.

Must-read personal essay:“I Donated My Dead Body to Give My Life Purpose,” By Ann Votaw

4. Full Grown People

Essays — 4,000 words max — should have a “literary quality.” Include your work in the body of your email to make it easy for the editor to review, and send to submissions@fullgrownpeople.com. No pay.

Must-read personal essay:“Call My Name” by Gina Easley.

5. Kveller

Want to write for this Jewish parenting site? To submit, email info@kveller.com with “submission” somewhere in the subject line. Include a brief bio, contact information, and your complete original blog post of 700 words max. Suggested word count is 500-700 words. The site pays $25 per post.

Must-read personal essay: B.J. Epstein’s “How I’m Trying to Teach Charity to My Toddler”

6. Luna Luna

A progressive, feminist magazine that welcomes all genders to submit content. Email your pitch or full submission. There’s no pay, but it’s a supportive place for a first-time essayist.

Must-read personal essay: “My Body Dysmorphia, Myself” by Joanna C. Valente

7. New Statesman

This U.K. magazine has a helpful contributor’s guide. Unsolicited submissions, while rarely accepted, are paid; if an editor likes your pitch, you’ll hear back in 24 hours.

Must-read personal essay: “The Long Ride to Riyadh,” by Dave Eggers

8. The New York Times

The popular Modern Love feature accepts submissions of 1,700 words max at modernlove@nytimes.com. Include a Word attachment, but also paste the text into your message. Consult the Times’ page on pitching first, and like Modern Love on Facebook for even more insight. Rumor has it that a successful submission will earn you $250. (Correction added Oct. 9, 2014: Payment is $300, The New York Times writes on its Facebook page.)

Amy Sutherland’s column, “What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage,” which ran in 2006, landed her a book contract with Random House and a movie deal with Lionsgate, which is in preproduction. “I never saw either coming,” Sutherland said.

Another option is the Lives column in the New York Times Magazine. To submit, email lives@nytimes.com.

Must-read personal essay: “When a Couch is More Than a Couch” by Nina Riggs

9. Salon

Salon accepts articles and story pitches to the appropriate section with “Editorial Submission” in the subject line and the query/submission in the body of the email. Include your writing background or qualifications, along with links to three or four clips.

“I was compensated $150 for my essay,” says Alexis Grant, founder of The Write Life, “but that was several years ago. All in all, working with the editor there was a great experience.” Who Pays Writers reports average pay of about 10 cents per word.

Must-read personal essay: “I Fell in Love with a Megachurch,” by Alexis Grant

10. Slate

Indicate the section you’re pitching and “article submission” in your subject line, and send to slateoffice@slate.com. Average reported pay is about 23 cents per word.

Must-read personal essay: Justin Peters’ “I Sold Bill Murray a Beer at Wrigley Field”

11. Slice

Each print issue has a specific cultural theme and welcomes both fiction and nonfiction. Stories and essays of 5,000 words max earn up to $250. Review periods are limited, so check their submission guidelines to make sure your work will be read with the next issue in mind. Submit online.

Must-read personal essay: “Fire Island,” by Christopher Locke

12. The Billfold

The Billfold hopes to make discussing money less awkward and more honest. Send your pitch to notes@thebillfold.com. Who Pays Writers notes a  rate of about 3 cents per word, but this writer would consider the experience and exposure to be worth the low pay.

Must-read personal essay: “The Story of a F*** Off Fund,” by Paulette Perhach

13. Motherwell

Motherwell seeks parenting-related personal essay submissions of up to 1200 words. Submit a full piece; all contributors are paid.

Must-read personal essay: “The Length of the Pause” by Tanya Mozias Slavin

14. The Bold Italic

This publication focuses on California’s Bay Area. Strong POV and a compelling personal writing style are key. Pay varies. Email info@thebolditalic.com.

Must-read personal essay: “The San Francisco Preschool Popularity Contest,” by Rhea St. Julien

15. Bustle

Submit essays of 800-2000 words to this lifestyle site geared toward women. Pay averages about 5 cents per word.

Must-read personal essay: “Is Picky Eating An Eating Disorder?” by Kaleigh Roberts

16. The Rumpus

Focuses on essays that “intersect culture.” Submit finished essays online in the category that fits best. Wait three months before following up.

Must-read personal essay: “Not a Widow” by Michelle Miller

17. The Penny Hoarder

This personal-finance website welcomes submissions that discuss ways to make or save money. Read the guidelines before emailing your submission. Pay varies.

Must-read personal essay: “This Family’s Drastic Decision Will Help Them Pay Off $100K in Debt in 5 Years” by Maggie Moore

18. Tin House

Submit a story or essay of 10,000 words max in either September or March. Wait six days before emailing to check the status of your submission. Cover letters should include a word count and indicate whether the submission is fiction, nonfiction, or poetry.

Pay varies.

Must-read personal essay: “More with Less,” by Rachel Yoder

19. Narratively

Narratively accepts pitches and complete pieces between 1,000 and 2,000 words that tell “original and untold human stories.” Pay averages 6 cents per word.

Must-read personal essay: “What Does a Therapist Do When She Has Turmoil of Her Own?” by Sherry Amatenstein

Still looking for ideas? Meghan Ward’s blog post, “20 Great Places to Publish Personal Essays,” is worth perusing. MediaBistro also offers a section called How to Pitch as part of their AvantGuild subscription, which has an annual fee of $55.

This post originally ran in October 2014. We updated it in December 2016.

Have other ideas or details to add? Share with us in the comments!

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