Writing is a solitary act, but the importance of sharing your work can’t be overlooked. 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.”
Journalists might find it difficult to steer away from research rituals to talk about themselves, but think of it this way:
“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.”
When writing personal essays, imagine you’re writing through yourself, instead of about yourself — worry less about writing something that seems thrilling or heart-wrenching, and more about your truth and human experience. Believe it or not, someone out there needs your story more than you know. “It’s worth it to write what’s real,” says Ford.
Plus, there’s a bonus: You can get paid to publish your personal essay.
Where to submit your personal essays
Once you’ve read other personal narrative examples and penned your essay, which publications should you contact? Where should you try to sell that personal essay?
“You might be tempted to focus only on magazines, but there are some great websites that run essays,” writes essayist Amy Paturel, who has taught an online personal essay writing course for a decade. To help her students get published, she compiled a list of 130+ editors who accept (and pay for!) personal stories.
We’ve all heard of The New York Times’ personal essay column — submit to Modern Love is probably already on your to-do list — but there are lots of other publications that publish personal essays.
To help you find the right fit, we’ve compiled a list of 22 publications that will consider your personal narrative essay, as well as tips on how to pitch the editor, who to contact and, whenever possible, how much the outlet pays.
Here are 22 places to submit your personal essay.
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 [email protected] with “query” in the subject line.
You can also submit to Boston Globe Ideas, which accepts pitches and submissions for first-person essays ranging from 650 to 1,000 words. All pitches and submissions should be sent to [email protected]
2. Extra Crispy
Must-read personal essay: Gina Vaynshteyn’s “When Dumplings Are Resistance”
“For women who know better. Smart, fast-paced news and opinions on what matters most in our lives — That’s DAME.”
If you’re up for the challenge, send your pitch to [email protected] Aimed at women in their 30s, the publication covers politics, race, civil rights, disability, class, gender, sex, reproductive rights, LGBTQ issues and much more. Rates are based on type of features, but they typically pay $200 for essays.
Must-read personal essay: “I Wanted Joan Didion’s Heart to Be Messy” by Lauren Sandler
Have an upbeat personal essay between 400 and 800 words on everyday life, like travel, parenting, home, family, gardening, neighborhood, or community?
Submit to The CS Monitor’s Home Forum. Send your completed essays to [email protected]. They accept essays on a wide variety of subjects (and encourage timely, newsy topics), but steer clear of topics like death, aging and disease.
Must-read personal essay: “Two Crises, Two Gardens” by Perdita Buchan
Want to write for this Jewish parenting site? To submit, email [email protected] with “submission” somewhere in the subject line. Include a brief bio, contact information, and your complete original blog post — you can either attach it as a Word document or paste it into the body of the email. Suggested word count: 500-800. Per a well-loved private Facebook group for freelance writers, pay is about $50.
Must-read personal essay: Faith Gabby-Kalson’s “I’m a Black and Jewish Woman. My Identity Matters.”
Publications in The Sun Magazine have won Pushcart Prizes and been selected for Best American Essays — so if your story gets chosen, you’ll be in good company. And since the editors “tend to favor personal writing,” that I-driven nonfiction essay might just be the perfect fit. (Fiction and poetry are also accepted.)
Pay ranges from $300 all the way up to $2,000 for accepted personal stories and fiction prose. The easiest way to send your story is online through Submittable, but check the guidelines first before submitting.
Must-read personal essay: “The Ramshackle Garden Of Affection” by Ross Gay and Noah Davis (Editor’s note: The Sun puts its stories behind a paywall…which is why they can afford to pay their writers so handsomely!)
This U.K. magazine has a helpful contributor’s guide that explains, among many other things, what they’re looking for: Great writing and original reporting that explains and analyses the world today. Unsolicited submissions, while rarely accepted, are paid; if an editor likes your pitch, you’ll hear back in 24 hours. Email [email protected] to get started.
Must-read personal essay: “Personal Story: How to Lose Your Head” by Emily Bottle
The popular Modern Love feature accepts submissions of 1,500 to 1,700 words at [email protected] Include a Word attachment, but also paste the text into your message. Consult the Times’ page on pitching first (and note that submissions during July and August aren’t considered!), and “like” Modern Love on Facebook for even more insight. Payment is $300, The New York Times writes on its Facebook page.
This column is famous for helping writers get book or even film contracts. One example is Amy Krouse Rosenthal, whose essay, “You May Want to Marry My Husband” ran in 2017 and prompted a lucrative film rights bidding war ultimately won by Universal Pictures.
Want to up your chances of getting your submission selected? Check out these Modern Love Column submission tips.
Must-read personal essay: “Relationships Move Fast on a Slow Cargo Ship” by Dev Aujla
One unique aspect to Creative Nonfiction Magazine is their high acceptance rate of unsolicited pitches. It’s a great stop for blossoming writers, as well as those with more experience.
To submit online, a $3 reading fee is charged to non-subscribers (and the magazine no longer accepts paper submissions). The fee ensures you will be paid if your work is accepted, which typically adds up to a $125 flat rate plus $10 per printed page. Plus, they often run essay contests with prizes ranging from $1,000-$10,000 per winning entry, and reading fees help offset that expense. Read over their submission calls before pitching since each issue sticks to a theme and may have different guidelines.
Must-read personal essay: “The Dark Month” by Christopher Collins
“Slate,” according to its own submission guidelines, “is known for making smart, witty, persuasive statements.” So if you’ve got something to say, email your pitch (not a vague, one- or two-sentence pitch either) to the appropriate section editor, which are all listed for you on the submission guidelines page.
Must-read personal essay: Andrea Silenzi’s “My Decade in Online Dating”
Each print issue has a specific cultural theme and welcomes both fiction and nonfiction — and even poetry! Stories and essays of 5,000 words max earn up to $400. Review periods are limited, so check their submission guidelines to make sure your work will be read with the next issue in mind. The easiest way to send in your work is through Submittable.
Must-read personal essay: “Fire Island,” by Christopher Locke
Motherwell is a publication that aims to tell all sides of the parenting story. They seek evocative parenting-related personal essay submissions of up to 1,200 words, and all contributors are paid.
Must-read personal essay: “The Irrational Hope of An Infertile Woman” by Amy Gallo Ryan
13. The Bold Italic
This publication focuses on California’s Bay Area, and it’s deeply interested in the people who keep San Francisco going. Strong POV and a compelling personal writing style are key. Typical pay is $50 per article, though higher rates can be negotiated for “complex” pieces.
Send your personal essays that will make these editors weep, cry, laugh or want to eat a burrito to [email protected] with the subject line “Pitch: [Name], [Article Title].”
Must-read personal essay: “How I Came to Respect Chinese Food — and My Heritage” by Eric He
Submit essays about health, mental health, relationships, and identity to the appropriate editor at this lifestyle site geared toward women.
For lifestyle pitches, email [email protected]; for fashion and beauty pitches, email [email protected]; for entertainment pitches, email [email protected]. And note that the editors only want pitches, not full drafts. Pay averages about 12 cents per word.
Must-read personal essay: “How My Chronic Eczema Tore Down & Built Up My Self-Esteem” by Tori Zhou
15. The Rumpus
Focuses on essays that “intersect culture.” Submit finished essays online in the category that fits best, but wait at least three months before following up.
Payment is lean, but possible: Eligible contributors can opt in to receive an even share of the $300 budget the publication sets aside monthly.
Note the regular reading periods for essays: September 1 through October 31, January 1 through February 28, and June 1 through July 31. Timely essays can be sent to [email protected]; all other essays should be sent through Submittable during open reading periods.
Must-read personal essay: “Dancing Separate, Together” by Russel Janzen
This personal-finance website welcomes submissions that discuss ways to make or save money. Read the guidelines before emailing your submission to learn what kind of stories they typically look for — human interest stories, success stories and unique job ideas, or your stories of eating, traveling and doing life on a budget. Articles should be between 700-900 words, and an editor will discuss payment with you if your pitch is accepted.
Must-read personal essay: “How This Woman Bought Her Dream Home While Making Less Than $60K” by Jen Smith
They are open to a variety of topics, but claim past success with pieces on parenting, relationships, money, identity, mental health, and job/workplace issues — “but we’re always looking for new topics to cover, so if you have a pitch that doesn’t fall into any of these categories, don’t let that stop you from sending it along.” Pay varies.
Must-read personal essay: “Black Kids Are Watching This Moment. What Will It Teach Them?” by Kelly Glass
Narratively accepts pitches and complete pieces that tell “original and untold human stories.” In your story, there should be a “clear narrative arc that shows you developing a new or different perspective by the end of the piece.” Submit online in the category that most closely fits your essay, which should be between 1,500 and 4,000 words. Pay averages 9 cents per word.
Must-read personal essay: “My Father, the QAnon Conspiracy Theorist” by Reed Ryley Grable
19. Mask Magazine
Mask Magazine is an “experimental publication in the age of late capitalist world-weariness and discontent.” The story you pitch and submit should be expressive and about an experience, adventure, or tribulation that you learned from, and you don’t have to worry about restricting your creativity to a word count. For pitching, they only accept full submissions — feel free to send a pitch, but you won’t get the greenlight until editors see an early or complete first draft. Pay is between $50 and $200.
Must-read personal essay: “Fevered Reading” by Ryan Richardson
20. The Smart Set
A journal of arts and culture, The Smart Set accepts submissions and pitches on a rolling basis. Pitch your personal essay of 1500 and 3500 words to [email protected] — don’t forget to format your submission as a Word document with Times New Roman 12-point font, double-spaced. The last reported rate for The Smart Set was 20 cents per word.
Must-read personal essay: “White Chapel” by Eric Bryan
21. PULP Magazine
Before you pitch this magazine, ask yourself: How does this relate to sex or one’s personal/societal perception of sexuality and/or reproductive rights? A “multimedia sex, sexuality, and reproductive rights publication celebrating this human coil hurtling through time and space,” PULP only accepts fully written pieces via Submittable, and they pay $250 for original content. Heads up: Because they’re a small pub that wants to pay their writers, there’s a $3 reading fee to submit your work. If you can’t swing the cost, let them know ([email protected] and [email protected]) and they’ll work something out with you.
Must-read personal essay: “Not a “Real” Survivor: The Price Of Opinions In The Anti-Trafficking Movement” by Laura LeMoon
The VQR strives to publish the best writing we can find, whether it be from accomplished and award-winning authors or emerging writers. They’re looking for essay submissions that “look out on the world, rather than within the self,” between 3,500–9,000 words. The pay for prose is generally 25 cents per word, depending on length, and they only accept submissions via Submittable. Note that they read unsolicited fiction, poetry, and nonfiction submissions from July 1 to 31.
Must-read personal essay: Hananah Zaheer’s “After the Old City”
A final word of advice on where to publish personal essays
Find yourself sending pitch after pitch only to never get published? Make sure you’re not making one of these mistakes with your essay.
“Submit to the places you love that publish work like yours,” essayist 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.”
The original version of this story was written by Lisa Rowan. We updated the post so it’s more useful for our readers.
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