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Gigi Will Know: Where can I find a publication’s submission guidelines?

And why are they so hard to find?

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How does one find submission guidelines for nonfiction magazines? I’ve been looking up specific magazines online and can only find information about how to subscribe. (I am new at this.)

—Foot in the Door

Dear Foot in the Door,

You say you’re new at this, so I’m going to assume that you don’t have the verbiage of this business down pat yet, either. Reading between the lines of your query, when you say “nonfiction magazines,” you mean “consumer magazines,” like you might find on the newsstands. Think Newsweek, The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, and GQ. These are also the publications whose guidelines are most likely to be difficult to find, which might explain your confusion. And – you’re right! Some of these publications are also not likely to even post their guidelines.

Back in the day, you’d write to the magazine with a self-addressed stamped envelope, and the publication would reply to you with a sheet of guidelines. We did it this way because, back in the day, there wasn’t so much content available for free from these very publications online, so folks weren’t as likely to know what to submit for consideration without paying for an issue or three. Now, you can access articles from nearly all of the publications I’ve listed above for free, which makes it easier to know what to pitch.

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In terms of how to pitch, many of these publications will list the email address or the email protocol of the section editors. I’d start there. Figure out which section you want to write for. Then determine what ideas you have that might work for those sections. Then craft a good query and send it off. 

Be smart. Target the right section. Understand what comprises a good query letter. You can also leverage tools like Sonia Weiser’s wonderful Opportunities of the Week newsletter, which lists publications and editors looking for stories and freelancers. (This is a paid newsletter, with good reason: Weiser works hard to collect and gather these opportunities. Twitter is free, though, and you may find editors looking for pitches there, too. Follow the editors of your favorite publications and keep an eye out for their calls for submissions.)

On the off-chance that you’re actually looking for magazines that publish essays and creative nonfiction (Creative Nonfiction, The Paris Review, Sweet, Brevity), these guidelines are readily available at places like Submittable or on the magazines’ websites.

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But before you do any of that, I’d nail down the lingo. “Nonfiction” magazines don’t really exist. Consumer magazines that publish reportage and essays do, and so do literary magazines that publish memoir and creative nonfiction. “Submission guidelines” for the glossy magazines are slippery, but looking up “editorial guidelines” and “write for” might get you further.

Google loves you,

—Gigi

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