Thursday, January 20, 2022

14 Paying Markets for Narrative Journalism, Essays, Personal Essays, and Cultural Criticism

Updated 10/22/23

In most cases, not only is nonfiction easier to publish than fiction, it's lucrative. Professional rates of several hundred dollars up to a thousand for features are not unusual. And some magazines with substantial circulations, like Cosmopolitan, are willing to accept pitches from freelancers.

If you are a fiction writer, don't be discouraged. Personal essays are well within your grasp. They have the same structure as short fiction - a beginning, a middle, and an end. If you can write short fiction, you can write a personal essay.

For more nonfiction publishing opportunities see:

The New York Times Wants Your Personal Essays - Paying market

27 Magazines that Publish Freelance Book Reviews - Paying markets

Freelancing: Getting Paid to Write Nonfiction Articles

(Image: Flickr)


Cosmopolitan is looking for personal essays, reported pieces, and cultural criticism for the opinion section. From the editor: "Your pitch should center on an opinion that you’ll justify with thoughtful reasoning, insightful facts, and strong resources that support your viewpoint. Show me how your piece will help readers make sense of and better understand people, events, ideas, trends, or culture. Topics can range from irreverent pop culture rants to nuanced takes on public policy. Whether it's niche or mainstream, beloved or unpopular, timely or random, I’m down as long as you’ve got a clear opinion and a strong, thoughtful argument to back it up." 

Payment: Rates typically start between $250-$350 and can scale up depending on the scope and requirements of each piece. Ideal word count typically ranges from 600-900. Send an email to patrice dot peck at hearst dot com. In the subject line, write PITCH: [A Possible Headline For Your Piece]. Include the projected word count and a feasible deadline. Several pitches in one email is fine as long as they each have the info above. And if you’ve already written the piece, feel free to include it. 

Read more here.


Insider and Business Insider 

Insider and Business Insider are publications looking for journalistic articles with "heat." 

"We at Insider want great, heat-seeking narrative journalism. Ambitious pieces with character, color, tension, and drama. Stories that trace an obsession, unlock a secret, or expose some WTF-level insight about how power works. Ripping yarns, stories of true crime, of loves lost and won. Rivalries in sports, tech, and entertainment. Chronicles of dreams realized and broken. Politics, entertainment, business, international intrigue. We're into all of it."

Payment: Who Pays Writers reports payment of between 20 and 35 cents a word.  


Bitch Magazine

"Our definition of culture is broad, encompassing cultural attitudes and myths, phenomena of the popular imagination, and social trends as well as movies, TV shows, web series, books, internet subcultures, and the like. For Bitch, culture also includes politics, science, health, and life, including food, parenting, chronic illness, relationships, religion, activism, education, climate change, and different elements of our lives that we all consider as we decide who we are as feminists."

Payment: $700-$1000 for features, $350 for dispatches, and between $250-$700 for culture stories.


Air Canada En Route Magazine

"What makes an Air Canada enRoute story? We engage our audience through intelligent writing, insight, humour and spot‑on service journalism. Our stories exemplify narrative journalism at its best, exploring the world through first‑hand, highly experiential pieces. We look for articles with unique, unexpected angles and for subjects that will remain fresh during our four‑to‑six‑month lead time. Air Canada enRoute commissions stories that focus on everything from food and drink, design and architecture to style, arts and culture, technology, social trends and sports, all told through the lens of travel."

Payment: Who Pays Writers reports payment of $1 a word. 



"Longreads is dedicated to publishing and sharing the best longform nonfiction storytelling on the web. Personal/Critical Essays and Columns These pieces typically run between 2,000 and 6,000 words, but can be longer or broken up into a series depending on the length and subject matter.  Personal essays should be submitted on spec. We look for smart, original angles and fresh, unique voices." 

Payment: $500 per essay or column.


Global Comment

"We welcome pitches from people at all levels of experience from all over the world. Our goal is to promote conversations and diverse media.

We don’t like neo-Nazis. Or terrorists. We strive to publish a variety of opinions on this site, but we do have a strong view as to what is and isn’t acceptable discourse. We lean towards progressive voices and oppose populism; if you read the existing writing on the site, you will probably have a good idea of whether or not your work is right for us. If you aren’t sure, ask!"

What they are looking for:
  • Well-informed essays on a topic you are fascinated by or passionate about
  • Well-researched opinion or comment pieces on a topic you feel strongly about
  • Reviews of films, TV, books, music or theatre that’s at a national or international level.
Payment: $50


"Lyrical essays, researched essays, creative non-fiction, analytical pieces – we publish them all. We like new and creative ideas, and we like you, the writer. Don’t be afraid to let yourself shine through in your writing. Griffith Review is not an academic journal (although academics may be able to obtain research credits for their writing), and while we often tackle complex ideas, we are committed to giving our writers space for their own voice. Give us your provocations and opinions, so long as they are considered and backed up." Pieces generally range from 2,000 to up to 5,000 words, unless previously negotiated with the editors. They publish some fiction as well.

Payment: Negotiated.


"The Point is a magazine of philosophical writing that embodies two distinct but complementary convictions: on the one hand, that humanistic thinking has relevance for contemporary life; on the other, that our lives are full of experiences worth thinking about. We welcome submissions for our print journal, which is published three times a year, and for our website, which is updated continuously. 

Each issue of the magazine has three main sections: ESSAYS, SYMPOSIUM and REVIEWS. Our essays blend memoir, criticism and journalism to examine the ideas and beliefs that shape our world. The symposium is a collection of responses to a question chosen by the editors (e.g., What is protest for? What is marriage for? What is privacy for?). Reviews can be about pretty much anything at all. Print essays run between 3,000 and 6,000 words; reviews and symposium articles are of medium length (1,500-3,000 words). We also accept ideas-driven reported pieces for our CORRESPONDENCE section (3,000-5,000 words). The website runs articles of any length but preferably of about 1,500-3,000 words."

Payment: "Contributors whose articles appear in the print journal will be compensated." 


The Audacity

THE AUDACITY features an emerging writer twice a month. (An emerging writer is someone with fewer than three article/essay/short story publications and no published books or book contracts.)

"Please submit your best nonfiction and nonfiction only. I am interested in literary essays and memoir. Please submit only one essay at a time. Essays should be between 1500 and 3000 words. I am interested in thoughtful essays, beautiful, intelligent writing, deep explorations, timelessness, and challenging conventional thinking without being cheap and lazy. We may take up to eight weeks to respond but we will respond to all submissions."

Payment: All essays are paid a flat fee of $2,000.


"We are primarily interested in publishing short, left-leaning political satire, non-political comedy that speaks to the current moment, and earnest non-comedic essays from a Leftist perspective. We typically don’t publish pieces over 1,200 words unless it’s REALLY interesting. Is your piece really that interesting? If you’re wondering, it’s probably not." Pitches only.

Payment: $50.


"We publish first-person essays on life in the Rust Belt and northern Midwest that resonate with a regional audience. We’re looking for work that expresses what reporting can’t, that narrates an experience, event, or aspect of life in a personal way. We publish original reportage in the range of 1,200-3,000 words—though we’ll bend those numbers for the right piece. We’re partial to stories with a compelling narrative and a strong sense of voice (don’t be shy about using the first person)." Belt also publishes poetry, and photo essays.

PaymentFeatures $300-$1k+; Personal essays $100-$200; Poetry $25-$50; Photo Essays $250+.


Long-form narrative nonfiction. "We want stories people want to read to the very last word, propulsive can't-put-them-down stories, stories people want to recount to their friends. We want surprises, adventure, intrigue, nuance, and above all humanity. We’re looking for stories that need to be longer than a typical magazine feature, anywhere from 8,000 to 30,000 words. Payment rates vary by project. We offer a story fee plus, if applicable, a budget for expenses. 

Payment: "Our baseline story fee is $6,000. We guarantee 25 percent payment for all assigned stories, because that’s the equivalent of our kill fee." 


The Yale Review accepts pitches on a rolling basis for essays and criticism on a wide range of subjects, from literature, art, history, and politics to film, television, music, and internet subcultures. "We’re seeking diverse, sharp, intelligent voices driven by curiosity and verve—writers who take apart and reconstruct their subject in surprising ways, who unravel the inner workings of a reader’s mind, who deal with strong characters and complex questions, and who are unafraid to lean into unexpected juxtapositions and discover new connections."

Payment: Between $500 and $1,500 for print nonfiction (around 3,000–5,000 words), between $200 and $500 for online pieces (around 1,000–3,000 words), and $75 for poems online or in print.


The Daily Beast’s Obsessed is always looking for reactions, explainers, interviews, reviews, and opinion pieces. We cover everything that’s happening in pop culture that you—and we—can’t stop loving, hating, and thinking about. We focus on TV, movies, music, celebs, and internet culture—but if you’re passionate about something, the likelihood is that we might be, too.

We pride ourselves on publishing work with fun, fresh, unique points of view. The pieces that fit best with our style, and that set us apart from other publications, are the ones that are rooted in emotion. Our goal is to give writers the space to be passionate—extremely funny, irreverent, and goofy when that’s warranted, or angry, spicy, and unapologetic when that’s the angle.

Payment: Rates start at $250.

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