So, you’d like to write for Slate—that’s great! If you haven’t worked with us before, here are a few pointers on how to craft a pitch and capture our attention.
Do read the Slate site to get a sense of the magazine’s voice and examples of pieces that have been done in a similar vein.
Do Google your idea. It may seem like a no-brainer, but often we reject a pitch because the writer’s argument doesn’t feel fresh or original. A brief search for other articles on your proposed subject can go a long way to figuring out what’s been written about it, so you can avoid pitching something that feels familiar. This research might also help inform your take—perhaps someone has indeed made your point, but you see a fundamental flaw in their argument, or disagree with their conclusions. That’s one way to frame your pitch!
Do make a strong argument if you are pitching a story that is in our wheelhouse: opinion and analysis. Slate is known for making smart, witty, persuasive statements. The best pitches are clear and concise, providing us with at least one or two specific examples that help solidify your thesis. You don’t necessarily need to have answers to all the points your piece might raise, but we do like to know that you’ve done a bit of research to help formulate your pitch, or can outline what resources you would use to flesh out your story. We particularly appreciate ideas that don’t take conventional wisdom for granted. We also happily consider pitches for reported pieces or dispatches, and much of the above still applies. In these cases, also tell us what insights your reporting will help uncover or crystallize.
Avoid sending complete drafts of your piece—it’s easier for us to envision and work with you on an as-yet-unwritten story that might fit Slate. (We also just don’t have enough time to read full pieces.) If you’d really like to send a draft, however, please make sure you still include a full pitch describing the piece in the body of the email.
Avoid vague, one- or two-sentence pitches on a topic, as in, “I would like to write about X because of Y news peg.” A short paragraph that captures your argument will be more effective.
Do specify what section of the site you’re pitching—Brow Beat, Health/Science, Human Interest, or, more generally, politics, culture. (For details on which editors to pitch to for what topics, see below.)
Do include a bit about your background in the form of a one- to two-sentence bio. If you can, please provide any relevant published work that’s written in a voice similar to Slate’s. If not, writing from a personal blog or anywhere else is fine. We do not need a complete CV.
Do be mindful if you pitch your idea to multiple publications. We try to reply to everyone in a timely manner, typically within one to two days. As a general rule, and if the story isn’t too timely, it’s best to wait that amount of time before sharing the pitch with another publication. If you do decide to cast a wide net, it’s always helpful to let us know ahead of time so we can respond accordingly.
Avoid sending your pitch to another Slate editor if the first editor passes. We are in close and constant touch with each other and frequently the decision to pass is not made alone. We unfortunately aren't always able to respond to every pitch in a timely manner; if after a few days you haven't heard back, feel free to take it elsewhere.
To give you a sense of the kind of pitch that will catch our eyes, here’s one recently from a freelancer that eventually became a Slate story. Editor Dan Kois notes that while it doesn’t make a particular argument, it was so “charming and funny, I didn’t even care.”
I'm writing in with a pitch for a short piece (800-1000 words) for Slate, to be published in advance of the premier of Season 7 of Game of Thrones.
In its six season run, Game of Thrones has tackled many difficult topics drawn from the universe of G.R.R. Martin’s books: incest, torture, rape, slavery. Pyromancy. But there is one element of the novels the show has consistently shied away from: soup. Specifically, seafood soups. More specifically, creamy seafood stews served in bowls made out of hollowed out loaves of stale bread. Martin is obsessed with describing foods served inside of other foods. He also has a carnal fixation with aromatic broths. Combine the two and you have something close to madness.
Far more than dragon-riding, brothel-owning or kin-slaying, the secret desire that underpins the Song of Fire and Ice trilogy is Martin’s intense, almost erotic, desire to see his characters risk everything in the name of a piping hot bread bowl. This reaches its apex in book 5, A Dance with Dragons, in a series of chapters I’ve nicknamed Chowder Quest. In them, Davos Seaworth, Onion Knight and Hand to the King to Stannis Baratheon, sets out on a voyage to secure an alliance and rescue a child and yadda yadda. It’s not really important, since in the middle of this he stops at every single island on his route, each time learning about the local gumbos and bouillabaisses. This all culminates in an incredibly drawn-out scene of him bantering with the lord of an island about the precise mix of spices in something called Sister’s Stew, a potion that’s “thick with leeks, carrots, barley, and turnips white and yellow, along with clams and chunks of cod and crabmeat”.... you get the idea.
Anyway – that’s the pitch. George R.R. Martin has a thing for chowder, and no one seems willing to say anything about it. And I’m the person to, because I love Game of Thrones and I fucking hate bread bowls. They’re the worst thing about San Francisco, next to the rent and the smells (I live in Berkeley). Enjoy Holland! And be advised - the “samurai” sauce you can get with fries is just hot sauce and mayonnaise, not something amazing as I initially suspected. It’s still pretty good though.
Here are editors to whom you can email your pitch:
Forrest Wickman (movies, music)
Sam Adams (television)
Laura Bennett (cultural features)
Dan Kois (books)
Recurring features (Our One Fight, My Parents’ Work-Life Balance, etc.)
Dan Kois (parenting and family, education)
Bryan Lowder (LGBTQ issues/culture)
Mark Joseph Stern (LGBTQ issues/culture)
Reid Pillifant (politics and policy)
Josh Keating (international, foreign policy)
Josh Levin (jurisprudence)
Jeremy Stahl (jurisprudence)
Torie Bosch (emerging technology effects on public policy and society)
Jonathan Fischer (big tech, cities, media/internet culture)
Jonathan Fischer (jobs, energy)
Health and Science
Slate Plus Academy
Mary Wilson (politics, policy, international and foreign policy)