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June 18, 2011 1:47 AM   Subscribe

Where would be the best place to submit non-fiction essays?

Hi! I'm not an established writer at all, and I would like to try and get some writing out there. I want to write and publish non-fiction primarily, probably focussing on opinion and analysis essays. I was wondering how I should go about this.

Maybe my question is bit broader than it seems. I guess first of all I'm wondering where would be best to start submitting content to. Like I say, I don't know how this process works. I don't know if it's best to just start a blog and go for it, or to look for a publication of some kind with editorial support. I don't know if this means trying to become an internet figure and tweeting and blogging and reblogging and all that. I don't know what you do before money starts to appear.

I was looking at a site called Thought Catalog which I thought looked great. But I don't know the site that well or if it has much reputation or prominence. Also TC doesn't pay for content - you do it for personal and professional development, not money. I have no problem with this except that it would be great to be able to help support myself through writing and publication. This might sound pretentious, but I think that if I take the right steps this is possible for me. However I am uncertain of the process to take.

Hmm. I should mention that money is by no means my only motive for or definition of success. But it is figurative of success, and I think it is a good way to structure goals in an otherwise ill-defined career process. I am also looking to develop my writing, develop my thinking, and hey, hopefully even develop a reputation : ) I think editorship is an important part of this process of development, and a good editor is an invaluable asset - especially in this world, where the margins have changed so dramatically and so rapidly for modes of publication, expected audiences, and possible subjects, and so much else.

I think it might help define what I'm looking for if I mention that I really like the New Yorker and greatly admire its discursive writing, but it's not the style I'm interested in. New Yorker essays are usually pretty long and tend to go for poignant, subtle, ambiguous, unexpected and startling topics. Not to say I don't want to include these elements in my writing, but I feel like I more enjoy thinking about and coming up with opinions on social changes and historical developments and the significance of modern culture and that sort of stuff. I guess more focussed and analytical, and almost certainly a lot shorter than the New Yorker - not to say that New Yorker stuff isn't brilliant!

So yeah, if anyone has any ideas I'd love to hear them! Hope I'm not blowing my own trumpet here either : )
posted by schmichael to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I think your best bet is to start your own blog and develop a bit of a reputation through that. If you're any good and keep it up people will soon start to notice. You need to be very good though, everything thinks they can write.
posted by joannemullen at 2:14 AM on June 18, 2011

I think Thought Catalog is perfect for something like this, although I really doubt that anyone with the power to further your career actually reads Thought Catalog. Nevertheless, it has a much larger audience than you'll ever find on a personal blog unless you're really amazing or have a lot of well-connected friends, and you'll definitely get comments which may or may not help improve your writing. However keep in mind that Thought Catalog is really tragically edited. They publish so many similar, mediocre, navel-gazing essays that everything becomes less quirky, less profound, or less shocking by association.
posted by acidic at 4:16 AM on June 18, 2011

How about the Metafilter Magazine?
posted by barnacles at 4:58 AM on June 18, 2011

In a word: marketing. Specifically, how you market yourself. If your essay is about global warming, then look for publications that focus on this topic. If it's about the civil war, look for American history magazines. A good way to get a sense of which publications are currently active is to go to a mega bookstore or university library and check out all those specialized publications. You may not be a specialist in your field yet but if you've just written about an obscure topic with authority then you're off to a good start.

Alternately, if your essay is about current events and you are editorializing, see if your city has an alternative newspaper (usually free), and approach them. In this instance your writing will need to be written in the style of the magazine, or at the very least in a unique way, and it must be accessible but also smart.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 7:06 AM on June 18, 2011

One more thing: if you are going to seriously begin a career in pitching ideas to editors, then become an expert in the art of pitching. Address editors by name. Make your pitch pithy and sharp. There are resources on the internet about this topic.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 7:08 AM on June 18, 2011

Wow, thanks guys. These are exactly the sort of suggestions I was hoping for - surprising stuff I hadn't even thought of!
posted by schmichael at 7:12 AM on June 18, 2011

Check out Open Salon which is a sub-area of Salon where people post essays and develop audiences. Salon sometimes chooses Open Salon pieces for publication on their primary magazine site.
posted by carmicha at 7:50 AM on June 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

You should also acquire a current copy of Writer's Market.
posted by carmicha at 7:54 AM on June 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'd like to suggest The Sun Magazine. It's about 95% freelance. They say "We publish essays, interviews, fiction, and poetry. We tend to favor personal writing, but we're also looking for thoughtful, well-written essays on political, cultural, and philosophical themes."
posted by la petite marie at 3:01 PM on June 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Writers Market is a great resource. Online, check out Writers Weekly and browse through their market and articles. Also, "The Shy Writer" author C. Hope Clark has a few newsletters (most free) that offer market info that ranges from famous mags to semi-popular to really arcane outlets. When I was writing bigger pieces I'd always have some factoids and things that I could shape into a small piece, and I'd send these off to something I found in her Small Markets newsletter.

If you're just starting out, make sure to read some good query books, such as the "The Renegade Writer: Queries that Rock" from The Renegade Writer (the co-authors also have an amazing blog).
posted by mdiskin at 3:20 AM on June 19, 2011

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