This post is not current. Please read our submission guidelines and this 2022 call for essay submissions.
Are you interested in publishing essays on Longreads? It’s important that you read these new submissions guidelines before pitching.
Recently we’ve undergone some budget cuts due to the Coronavirus pandemic and some other changes. As a result, we’re publishing fewer pieces than we used to, and selecting most of those based on whether they fit within a few specific series we’ve developed. While there will still very occasionally be room for some more general, broader interest pieces, we’ll be mainly focusing on the following series for now:
1. Life in the Time of Covid
— In recent months, a new reality has been foisted upon us. Coronavirus has changed our home lives, our work lives, our family lives. These essays will look at the virus’ impact on the way we spend our time now, and its effect on our relationships with friends, family, partners, co-workers, and others.
2. What I Did For Love
— Relationships, through the lens of how we have strived — for better and worse — to make them work. The essays in this series will touch on relationships of all kinds — romantic, familial, platonic — bringing to light the challenges they pose, and the solutions we’ve resorted to. How did you go out of your way to try and make a relationship work? To make amends after you behaved badly? To persuade someone to stay? To make love last?
3. Down to Earth
— This series will focus on climate change and the way it affects our lives. The seas are rising, the weather has become unpredictable, the physical landscape is changing dramatically. There’s no escaping the increasing impact of global warming. The essays in this series will explore the ways life on earth is shifting, and the choices we are making in order to adjust.
4. Fine Lines: Writing About Age
— What’s it like to travel through time in a human body that ages? This popular series has been running for some time. It’s about the joys, frustrations, and amazement that accompany getting older. It’s open to writers of all genders and age groups. Take a look at the existing essays in the Fine Lines series here.
5. Amplify: Stories of Racism in America
This series, open exclusively to writers of color, features essays about racism in America — lived experiences of it, and perspectives on it.
What I’m looking for, in all our series, and in general:
• Well-written, well-told stories with narrative arcs that are accessible and easy to follow, and which illustrate some relatable human experience readers will identify with, even if their own experiences in life have been quite different.
• The pieces should be roughly 2,500 to 5,000 words. We pay $500 per piece.
• All essay styles are welcome — singularly focused, braided, lyric, collage — as long as there is one clear thread that runs through the piece.
• The main story arc should begin close to the top of the piece. On the web, where it’s easy to lose readers’ attention, there’s not a lot of room for beating around the bush in the opening.
• The stories can be about very unique experiences, or fairly common ones. Good writing can make a reader understand a common experience in a new way.
• We are interested in hearing from a wide range of voices from all backgrounds, genders, abilities, experiences, and perspectives, including those from writers who haven’t been published before.
What your submission email to firstname.lastname@example.org should include:
• I mostly do not assign essays from pitches. I consider completed essays, on spec. Because I receive exponentially more essays than I can use (like, I receive 50 to 100 per week), and hate to hold a writer back from publication, I encourage you to do multiple simultaneous submissions — pitching your essays to other publications as well. If you sell your essay elsewhere, drop a line and let me know. For the same reason, you will only hear back from me if I am interested in your piece.
• In the subject line of your email — which you should address to email@example.com — please indicate which of the four series you are submitting to. If your piece does not target one of our series, mention that it is general interest.
• Provide a paragraph-long synopsis of your piece. A strong paragraph telling me what the piece is about also quickly gives me a sense of your writing and your voice.
• In the next paragraph, tell me who you are as a writer and as the person who is telling this story. Include some links to other work. If you haven’t published anything, that’s okay. Tell me that, and let me know why you’re still the best person to tell this particular story.
• Attach your whole essay, in a Word doc or a Google doc.
What you can expect from working with me:
• I’m a very collaborative editor. If your piece isn’t already in Google docs, I’ll likely move it there and then make my edits in “suggesting mode” so you can see, and if necessary push back on, the edits I’ve suggested.
• I’m not interested in making unnecessary changes, and I’m pretty easy-going to work with. I know being edited can be anxiety provoking, especially when the work at hand is so personal. I am very interested in making the editing process a positive experience.
• I might need to change your title, or headline, or “hed.” People tend to be very attached to the ones they came up with. But online, “heds” need to give enough information about the central conflict of a piece to interest readers, without telling them the whole story. I’ll go back and forth with you to arrive at a web-worthy hed and dek (sub-hed) that you feel good about.
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Before submitting your piece for consideration, please read some of the essays on our site, so you get a sense of what a Longreads essay looks like.
While it’s difficult to single out particular essays, here’s a mix of some we’ve published in recent years, to give you a sense of the kind of writing we look for.
Our Well Regulated Militia, by Alexander Chee
It was an honor to work with brilliant novelist and essayist Alexander Chee. After one of the many senseless shootings in this country, Alex wrote this piece for us about his feelings regarding gun control as the son of a late firearms enthusiast. It was recognized as a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2017.
On NYC’s Paratransit, Fighting for Safety, Respect and Human Dignity, by Britney Wilson
Civil rights attorney Britney Wilson recalls a ride home from work on NYC’s paratransit that exposed her vulnerabilities as a Black disabled woman. It was recently picked up by This American Life and adapted as a segment. When I emailed Britney to congratulate her, she wrote back, “Thank you for seeing the value in this story. I pitched this essay to seven different outlets, some of which told me things like, ‘It’s a beautifully told, horrible story, but we don’t think it would generate national interest.’”
Woman of Color in Wide Open Spaces, by Minda Honey
While visiting national parks to detox from the oppressive whiteness of the MFA experience, Minda Honey is reminded the only places to retreat from whiteness in this country are the spaces women of color hold for each other. Personal narratives by people of color are especially important right now, when we have a racist president who serves as a painful mirror through which even the most liberal in our country must view ourselves, and our difficulties in confronting our country’s deeply rooted racism.
I Want to Persuade You to Care About Other People, by Danielle Tcholakian
This piece gave me hope. After changing her conservative grandfather’s mind about affirmative action, Danielle Tcholakian commits to trying to get through to people whose politics are very different from her own. Danielle is a great reporter, but she’d never written a personal essay before. She could have fooled me.
What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About, by Michele Filgate
Michele Filgate reflects on her teen years with an abusive stepfather and a mother whose silence protected him. It’s a story she says she had been struggling to tell for 14 years. Unfortunately, it remains painfully relevant now.
Feeling Unsafe at Every Size, by Eva Tenuto
Here’s another story that spans back many years but remains unfortunately relevant. Months before women were emboldened to join the the viral #metoo campaign on social media that was inspired by Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men getting busted as sexual predators, Eva Tenuto found the courage to share this story with us. She’d been living with shame about it for decades. Then, around the election, hearing Trump’s predatory attitudes towards women transported her straight back to a high school teacher’s abuse of power and the relentless criticism of her junior high peers that made her an ideal target.
Raising Brown Boys in Post-9/11 America, by Sorayya Khan
Sorayya Khan recalls racist threats to her young sons after the 2001 attacks, and worries about them as young men living in “Trumpistan.” (Seeing a recurring theme here? It’s stunning how many subjects are affected by the election of our current president.)
From a Hawk to a Dove, by Ray Cocks
Vietnam Veteran Ray Cocks, who’d eagerly enlisted in 1967, writes about how he was forever changed by the realities of war. After struggling with alcoholism and PTSD, he becomes a pacifist, and later returns to Vietnam to offer healing there. I find that to be incredibly inspiring, especially at this difficult moment in our country.
Unprepared: The Difficulty of Getting a Prescription for a Drug That Effectively Prevents HIV Infection, by Spenser Mestel
Spenser Mestel finds it difficult to get a prescription for Truvada in Iowa City. It provides an eye-opening look into the politics around HIV prevention.
The Pleasures of Protest: Taking on Gentrification in Chinatown, by Esther Wang.
Working as a tenant organizer in New York’s Chinatown opened Esther Wang’s eyes to the ugly—and complicated—realities of gentrification in New York City.
Curing My Flight Anxiety, One Book Tour at a Time, by Jami Attenberg
Yet another brilliant novelist, Jami Attenberg, discovers a surprise antidote to the anxiety that has plagued her each time she’s had to get on a plane to promote a book. Some of my favorite personal essays and memoirs are those in which great writers take familiar experiences and deliver them in a way that crystallizes your own, or helps you too see them in a different way.
My Bad Parenting Advice Addiction, by Emily Gould.
I’m a longstanding fan of Emily Gould’s writing — fiction and non-fiction — not to mention her taste in books. She observes life’s mundanities with a sharp eye, allowing the reader to identify, but also see things in a slightly different light. In this piece, she writes about the time after her son was born, when she read 25 books about babies and sleep, but wound up only more confused.
Flying Solo, by Jen Doll
Memoirist and YA author Jen Doll tries to make sense of a breakup that happened the day before a romantic vacation — and blindsided her in the same ways the presidential election did. Jen applies humor and absurdity to a painful breakup in a way that is imminently resonant, and fun to read.
The Doctor Will See You Now, by Sarah Miller.
Sometimes it’s incredibly refreshing to read essays that take a less serious view of even the most serious matters. In this one, Sarah Miller uses dry wit to eulogize a relative who was kind of a jerk, and whose death, frankly, doesn’t faze her.
You can find a complete list or Longreads essays here.
I look forward to your submissions!
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Sari Botton is a writer, Longreads’ Essays Editor, and editor of the anthologies Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving & Leaving NY, and Never Can Say Goodbye: Writers on Their Unshakable Love for NY.