Who will buy these fun, obscure essays?
November 20, 2014 3:19 PM   Subscribe

What are some magazines or online publications that publish popular -- but not dumbed-down or gimmicky -- history writing? Difficulty level: must pay writers.

I'm a trained historian working on a pre-modern period. In the past year I've started publishing popular essays about interesting sources, etc. that I've come across in my research in online magazines like The Appendix and The Public Domain Review. These are great publications! But they don't pay their writers. Now that I have a little portfolio, I'd like to start pitching pieces to publications (online or otherwise) that do pay.

My problem is that I'm having some trouble thinking of places that would be interested in the kind of writing that I do. My style is accessible and not stuffy, but also not clickbaity, mocking of the past, or overly personal. For example, I'm a fan of The Toast, but would not at all be comfortable writing something like this. I'd say my writing is more like Jill Lepore's, just about much older stuff that doesn't necessarily lend itself so well to comparisons with present issues.

So are there magazines out there that publish essays like mine, but pay? I'm not overly concerned with how much a place pays at this point; just want to stop working for free.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Hazlitt? They have a long reads section with some terrific investigative reporting. They pay. The Nation also pays and publishes some longer form stuff. Same with the NYTimes magazine but they're hard to get in with. Medium pays some people. Macleans and The Guardian I think both pay. Is there a trade journal/magazine that might be up your alley? I make regular money, personally, writing a column for an industry publication and it might be worth pitching to some of them, maybe a national association or niche publication. Even stuff like AAA magazine publishes a lot of short pieces and they actually pay pretty reasonably.
posted by jessamyn at 3:41 PM on November 20, 2014

Chronicle of Higher Ed--I've placed a couple of pieces there, over the years.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:31 PM on November 20, 2014

Off the top of my head, would Lapham's Quarterly be up your alley? They mostly use historical stuff but there's a section at the end for contemporary essays.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 4:34 PM on November 20, 2014

Do you know about this Scratch Mag "who pays writers" database?
posted by tapir-whorf at 5:38 PM on November 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

A friend of mine has sold some articles on historical topics to Alternet.
posted by heurtebise at 6:01 PM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Atavist? I think they pay, but they also generally want longer stuff than some of these other publications.
posted by naturalog at 6:15 PM on November 20, 2014

History Today is another possibility, but I'd guess they're a difficult publication to get into. Perhaps worth a try, though.
posted by Sonny Jim at 4:32 AM on November 21, 2014

It's a tricky wheelhouse. (Disclosure: I own a publication that pays for such writing.)

Pay rate is all over the map. For instance, you might be surprised by how amenable the New Yorker's website is to such things, in various historical arenas. Unfortunately, the NYer is capped at $250 for website pieces, which is hard on long, reported/researched work.

The publications at Medium might be interested in some things in that arena. They pay significantly more.

Gawker also has an essays editor, Kiese Laymon, and other editors in-house who edit longer work. Similarly, Steve Kandell at BuzzFeed. They pay better than many online publications.

But that's pretty rare.

So what all writers similarly situated are looking for is a combination of things:

* Working with an editor you trust, who will make your work *your* best work (not *their* best work).

* Finding a venue that shows your work in the best possible light, for all the ancillary benefits (for instance, I recently worked with a writer on a piece for nine months; her pay rate is certainly not good for the time and energy invested, but the meetings she's had with agents, etc. after publication were worth it). These benefits also include access to editors at print and/or larger publications.

* Maximizing your pay rate (yes, you should be paid!).

You can email me if you want any counsel, my email's in my profile. Now I have to go write a couple hundred freelance checks. :)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:37 AM on November 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

the-toast.net has published some historical articles i've enjoyed reading, aimed at a popular audience, and i know they pay - they just expanded and hired another editor and created a vertical so they are doing well.
even though it's a humor site it's a pretty smart one.
posted by zdravo at 7:30 AM on November 21, 2014

posted by Iris Gambol at 11:22 AM on November 21, 2014

« Older How can I give up on this business pursuit?   |   No really, what does umbers mean? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.