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 Slate 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 here or elsewhere, so you can avoid pitching something that feels familiar.
Do make a strong argument if you are pitching a story that is in our wheelhouse: opinion and analysis. Slate is known for its surprising arguments. The best pitches are clear and concise with just enough detail. You don’t 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. We particularly appreciate ideas that don’t take conventional wisdom for granted or assume the audience shares their beliefs.
Do pitch reported pieces and dispatches. Much of the above still applies. In these cases, also tell us what insights your reporting will help uncover or crystallize.
Do distill your idea into a pitch, even if you have a full draft already written. If you happen to have a draft ready, feel free to attach it, but please make sure you still include a pitch describing the piece in the body of the email.
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 CV.
Do let us know if you pitch your idea to multiple publications. As a general rule, if the story isn’t too timely, it’s ideal to wait about a week before sharing the pitch with another publication.
Avoid more than one follow-up email. We try to respond to all pitches, but it often isn’t possible. If after a week or so you haven’t heard back, feel free to take it elsewhere.
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.
To give you a sense of the kind of pitches that will catch our eyes, here is one recently from a freelancer that became a Slate story:
I’m writing to pitch a piece that investigates why there are so many action stars with character names of Jack, John, or James.
This phenomenon has been briefly reported on before in the past but there is yet to be a deep-dive into the data behind it. I’ve created a spreadsheet that categorizes the last 70 years of action films and the names of the hero characters. Over a third of all action film stars in the 700 films I’ve collected start with the letter J. I’ve then been able to see how this trend has changed over time and how J names characters fair in comparison to box office success. I plan to contact various experts in the field of name studies to have a better understanding of why these particular names are so repetitively used by Hollywood writers and authors.
I read Slate articles often and listen to the Culture Gabfest fairly religiously and think the slightly obsessive, detailed, and light-hearted tone would fit with Slate. My research reminded me of this recent article on why Taylor Swift holds her pen the way she does.
I am a writer mostly focused on popular culture, data and technology. You can see my recently published book here.
Do you think this story on J-named action stars would be a good fit with Slate?
Forrest Wickman (movies, music, features)
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