Unlike many magazines, Creative Nonfiction draws heavily from unsolicited submissions. Our editors believe that providing a platform for emerging writers and helping them find readers is an essential role of literary magazines, and it’s been our privilege to work with many fine writers early in their careers. A typical issue of CNF contains at least one essay by a previously unpublished writer.
We’re open to all types of creative nonfiction, from immersion reportage to personal essay to memoir. Our editors tend to gravitate toward submissions structured around narratives, but we’re always happy to be pleasantly surprised by work that breaks outside this general mold. Above all, we’re most interested in writing that blends style with substance, and reaches beyond the personal to tell us something new about the world. We firmly believe that great writing can make any subject interesting to a general audience.
Creative Nonfiction typically accepts submissions via regular mail and online through Submittable. Please read specific calls for submissions carefully.
We try to respond to all submissions as soon as possible. If you submit by regular mail, you will receive an email from us (typically within a week of your manuscript’s arrival in our office), confirming we have received your manuscript. If you submit online, you will receive a confirmation email from Submittable.
We read year-round, but it is not uncommon for a decision to take up to 6 months; unfortunately, this is especially true of work we like. If you have not heard from us since the initial confirmation email, please assume your manuscript is still under consideration.
Please follow the links below for more information about:
A Note About Fact-checking
Essays accepted for publication in Creative Nonfiction undergo a fairly rigorous fact-checking process. To the extent your essay draws on research and/or reportage (and ideally, it should, to some degree), CNF editors will ask you to send documentation of your sources and to help with the fact-checking process. We do not require that citations be submitted with essays, but you may find it helpful to keep a file of your essay that includes footnotes and/or a bibliography.
Current Submission Calls
For a special issue of Creative Nonfiction magazine, we’re seeking true stories about finding—or, perhaps, coming to terms with losing—your place in the world. Deadline: May 21, 2018Complete guidelines »
LET'S TALK ABOUT SEX!
For a special contest and issue of Creative Nonfiction magazine, we’re seeking true stories about doing it—whether you’re straight, gay, or other; alone, in a couple, or in a crowd; doing it for the first time or the last, or not doing it at all. Deadline: July 16, 2018Complete guidelines »
Submissions for our monthly mini-magazine should be between 5,000 and 10,000 words long, on any subject, in any style. Surprise us! The only rules are that all work submitted must be nonfiction and original to the author, and we will not consider previously published work. Now ReadingComplete guidelines »
PITCH US A COLUMN
Have an idea for a literary timeline? An opinion on essential texts for readers and/or writers? An in-depth, working knowledge of a specific type of nonfiction? Pitch us your ideas; Creative Nonfiction is now accepting query letters for several sections of the magazine. Accepted Year-Round. Complete guidelines »
TINY TRUTH CONTESTS
Can you tell a true story in 140 characters (or fewer)? Think you could write one hundred CNF-worthy micro essays a day? Go for it. We dare you. There's no limit. Simply follow Creative Nonfiction on Twitter (@cnfonline) and tag your tiny truths with the trending topic #cnftweet. That's it. We re-tweet winners daily and republish ~20 winning tweets in every issue of Creative Nonfiction. Not sure what we're looking for? Check out this roundtable discussion about the art of micro-essaying with some of the more prolific #cnftweet-ers.
Previous Submission Calls
THE DIALOGUE BETWEEN SCIENCE AND RELIGION
Closed: December 12, 2016
Issue now available.
DANGEROUS CREATIONS: REAL-LIFE FRANKENSTEIN STORIES
Closed: April 17, 2017
Look for this themed issue as our Spring 2018 release.
Closed: June 19, 2017
We are actively reading the submissions received and expect to be able to update submitters on the status of their work in fall 2017. Look for this themed issue as our Spring 2018 release.
EXPLORING THE BOUNDARIES
Closed: September 11, 2017
We are actively reading the submissions received and expect to be able to update submitters on the status of their work in spring 2018.
Closed: November 6, 2017
We are actively reading the submissions received and expect to be able to update submitters on the status of their work in summer 2018.
Closed: February 26, 2018
We are actively reading the submissions received and expect to be able to update submitters on the status of their work in fall 2018.
WRITING PITTSBURGH BOOK PRIZE
Closed: November 20, 2017
We are actively reading the submissions received and expect to be able to update submitters on the status of their work in summer 2018.
A Note About Reading Fees
Here at Creative Nonfiction, we are always reading, searching for excellent new work to showcase in our various publications. At any given time, we usually have several submission portals open (see above calls for submissions), many of which require writers to pay a reading fee to submit their work.
Why we charge reading fees.
- We publish between 70-100 writers every year, and we pay every single one of those writers; reading fees help offset that expense.
- We like to pay writers more when we can, so we often run essay contests (with prizes ranging from $1,000-$10,000 per winning piece); reading fees help us offset that expense.
- Online submission is incredibly convenient for writers, but in some cases, it can be too convenient. Charging a nominal fee helps eliminate spam submitters--and it helps offset the administrative expenses of processing submissions.
How to avoid paying the reading fees.
- For books and other non-contest submission categories, send a hard-copy submission through the mail. The only cost is in ink and postage.
- Participate in our ongoing micro-essay experiment on Twitter! We publish 22 "Tiny Truths" in every issue… and we pay these writers with copies of the magazine.
- Subscribe to Creative Nonfiction and/or True Story.
How buying a subscription to CNF eliminate the cost of a reading fee.
We recently adopted a new policy: no active subscriber to CNF will ever have to pay a reading fee of any type. Ever. Subscribers can submit as many times, to as many calls for submissions as they like, as long as their subscription is current. This is our way of supporting the readers who are supporting us.
Ways to become a subscriber (or renew a lapsed subscription) to CNF.
- Submit your work. Many of our calls for submissions offer a submit-and-subscribe option—the price of which is about 25% less than the cost of the regular subscription.*
- Join our email list. Joining our list is another way to stay up-to-date for all of our current calls and news. Once you've signed up, you'll be offered a chance to subscribe for $10 less than the regular price.**
- Subscribe. You can always purchase a subscription at the regular price at any time from anywhere.
* Offer valid for U.S. subscribers only. We regret the limitation, but it’s incredibly expensive to send magazines overseas.
** Again, U.S. residents only.
How much do you pay for a published essay?
For essays published in Creative Nonfiction magazine, we typically pay a $50 flat fee + $10/printed page, plus a copy of the magazine. For essays published in an In Fact Books anthology, we typically pay a flat fee between $100 and $150.
My essay is over your word limit. Will you still consider it for publication?
We’re very sorry, but we have to draw the line somewhere.
Do you always charge a reading fee?
No: you can always submit non-themed essays for consideration without a reading fee, if you send a hard copy via regular mail. Like many other magazines, we charge a $3 convenience fee to submit essays online through Submittable. In the case of contests, reading fees generally offset the costs associated with those issues, as well as (in most cases) the prize money; or, for a small additional cost, you can become a subscriber, which also helps keep the lights on at CNF.
Will you consider excerpts from longer pieces?
We are happy to read excerpts from longer pieces, though in our experience it rarely works to pull 4,500 words from a longer piece and call it an essay. Rather, we suggest you consider adapting part of your longer piece so that it can truly stand alone.
Does something posted on a blog count as previously published?
If your blog is shared with the public, we do consider its writing published. If you significantly re-write or expand a piece that is posted on your blog, though, we will be able to consider it for any of our calls for submissions.
Can I change the names or distinguishing characteristics of the people in my story to protect their privacy?
We typically prefer that you not do this, and would argue that, in most cases, there are better ways to approach this type of challenge. That said, in some cases—for example, if you’re a doctor writing about your work with patients—sometimes this may be appropriate. Regardless, we’re big fans of transparency, and greatly appreciate a note in the cover letter or perhaps even footnoted in the manuscript itself, if you’ve taken this type of liberty.
Will you give feedback on the essay I submitted?
Unfortunately, due to the high volume of submissions we receive (in the neighborhood of 100+ essays per month), we can’t send detailed feedback or responses. If you are interested in having a professional editor review your manuscript, we encourage you to check out CNF’s mentoring program and online courses.
Can I submit an essay I wrote in one of CNF’s online courses or in the mentoring program?
Sorry, no. But we do wish you the best of luck placing such work elsewhere, and hope you’ll keep in touch with your teacher or mentor and let us know about any successes!
What are CNF’s copyright requirements?
CNF typically considers only unpublished work and seeks first publication rights. After publication, CNF typically retains certain reprint rights, and some other rights revert to the author. We find that when people ask this question, they usually mean, “I’m submitting a chapter from a book I’m writing, and I need to have the rights to it.” Please know that we absolutely do not retain any rights that would interfere with your ability to publish your work in your own book.
Can I make changes to my essay once I submit it online?
The work you submit for consideration should be the final proofread and edited version of your essay. We do understand that mistakes happen, however, so in the event that you submitted the wrong file, realized that your essay was a poem, or some other obvious oversight, we do allow editing of submitted essays within a limited set of parameters--usually within two weeks of the original submission date or up until a contest deadline. After the essay has been assigned to a reader, changing files can cause a lot of confusion and may result in our not giving your work our best attention.
I found a typo in my submission. What should I do?
While your essay should be carefully proofread, a small typo will not influence the overall evaluation of your submission. In the event that we accept your essay for publication, it will go through a careful editorial process, and you will have plenty of opportunities to review it carefully.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 email@example.com. No pay.
Must-read personal essay:“Call My Name” by Gina Easley.
Want to write for this Jewish parenting site? To submit, email firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Must-read personal essay: “When a Couch is More Than a Couch” by Nina Riggs
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
Indicate the section you’re pitching and “article submission” in your subject line, and send to email@example.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”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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
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 email@example.com.
Must-read personal essay: “The San Francisco Preschool Popularity Contest,” by Rhea St. Julien
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.
Must-read personal essay: “More with Less,” by Rachel Yoder
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!