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How To Pitch Essays To BuzzFeed READER

Interested in pitching personal essays or cultural criticism? Here's how.

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What is BuzzFeed READER?

READER is BuzzFeed News’s home for cultural criticism, personal essays, fiction, and poetry, as well as BuzzFeed’s Emerging Writer Fellowship. Since we launched in March 2016, we have published new poetry from National Book Award-winning authors like Robin Coste Lewis and Mark Doty, as well as work from emerging poets such as Solmaz Sharif, Danez Smith, and Donika Kelly, whom we’re confident you will be reading for years to come.

We have also published excerpts from some of the most talked-about recent novels, from Brit Bennet’s The Mothers to Michael Chabon’s Moonglow, and commissioned original short fiction, including stories by Etgar Keret, Alice Sola Kim and Lindsay Hunter. Alongside essays and features from READER’s staff writers, we’ve published nonfiction from contributors including Jesmyn Ward, Mira Jacob, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah and Eileen Myles.


Do you take pitches from freelance writers?

Yes! We’re thrilled to work with and publish celebrated authors, but that’s only part of the story. READER’s editors also eagerly welcome incisive, beautiful essays — both personal and critical — from freelance contributors. If you’re a writer interested in submitting or pitching yours, here’s what we’re interested to see:

1. Personal Essays

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With personal essays, we’re looking for writing with a strong voice that doesn’t just describe your own experience, but builds on it to create something deeply valuable and compelling to readers. There’s more than one way to do that. It might be writing about something other people haven’t experienced and will be fascinated to understand better, or a discussion of something tough or taboo that isn’t talked about enough, or an aspect of your own life that sheds light on a current news story. Whatever that experience is, it should offer insight into an ongoing and relevant cultural conversation for readers.

Personal essays can deal with almost any topic; some to think about are money, family, food, religion, sexuality, relationships, disability, illness (mental or physical), hormones, race, body image, drugs, travel. The bottom line is that you should know why you’re writing about whatever you’re writing about. What did you learn from your experience? What should we learn? What does it illuminate about humans and the world we live in? Not every personal essay needs to have a tidy ending. And writing doesn’t have to be sad to be profound; funny is great! But the piece should crystallize a clear main idea that feels really fresh and meaningful.

Examples:


2. Cultural Criticism

A critical essay could be “about” almost anything — books, technology, sports, entertainment, celebrities, politics, fashion — or it can connect the dots between examples in multiple categories. But “criticism” doesn’t translate to having an opinion about whether something is good or bad. At its heart, a critical essay should make an informed, clear-eyed argument about what a particular person or artifact or trend shows us about the way our culture functions today.

Whatever you’re writing about, it should be something that matters to people right now, or something that will matter to them forever, or both. If it doesn’t have an obvious news peg, make sure it’s clear why your idea is important right now. Your piece should both take into account the conversation that’s already going on around the topic and advance it in a significant way.

Examples:


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What if my essay doesn't clearly fit either category?

Some of the best essays don’t fall neatly into either of these two genres; you can feel free to pitch or submit a piece that blends the personal and critical, or one that involves original reporting or more extensive research, as long as it’s still anchored by a strong thesis. We’re also open to comics, visual and photo essays, or other creative formats.

Examples:


How long should my essay be?

For personal essays, 1500-2500 words is a good range to aim for; cultural criticism pieces tend to run a little longer, around 2000-4000 words. At the end of the day, quality matters more than word count, and length can vary depending on the piece.


Do you pay?

Yes! We pay competitive rates.


How should I submit my essay or pitch?

Please email reader.pitches@buzzfeed.com with a concise note that explains the core of your idea, how you’ll support it, and why it matters — or, even better (particularly for personal essays), send a full first draft of your piece. Please attach drafts as Word files or Google docs, rather than pasting the text in the body of the email.

Ultimately, we want you to say something we haven’t heard before, and make sure your piece has clear stakes. Consider: What would happen if you tell this story? What would happen if this story doesn’t get told? And to that, why are you the only writer uniquely equipped to tell the story? Links to your past work that’s similar or relevant are helpful, too.

Due to the volume of submissions, we’re not able to respond to all emails individually. But if we’re interested, we will usually get back to you within 2 weeks. If something is truly time-sensitive and you need a response sooner, please note that in the subject line.


Rachel Sanders is the deputy culture editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Rachel Sanders at rachel.sanders@buzzfeed.com.

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