They’re all over your Facebook feed, and for good reason. Personal essays by popular authors and novices alike are relatable, engrossing reads.
Sometimes, their heart-wrenching reflections stay with you for days.
For reporters or academics, it can be hard to step back from research rituals and write from personal experience. But a personal essay can endear you to an audience, bring attention to an issue, or simply provide comfort to a reader who’s “been there.”
“Writing nonfiction is not about telling your story,” says Ashley C. Ford, an essayist who emphasized the importance of creating a clear connection between your personal experience and universal topics. “It’s about telling interesting and worthy stories about the human condition using examples from your life.”
But don’t worry if your life doesn’t seem exciting or heart-wrenching enough to expound upon; think of it as writing through yourself, instead of about yourself. “There are few heroes and even fewer villains in real life,” she said. “If you’re going to write about your human experience, write the truth. It’s worth it to write what’s real.”
Where to submit your personal essays
Once you’ve penned your essay, which publications should you contact? We’ve all heard of — and likely submitted to — The New York Times’ Modern Love column, but that’s not the only outlet that accepts personal narratives.
“Submit to the places you love that publish work like yours,” Ford advises, but don’t get caught up in the size of the publication. And “recognize that at small publications you’re way more likely to find someone with the time to really help you edit a piece.”
To help you find the right fit, we’ve compiled a list of 20 publications that accept essay submissions, as well as tips on how to pitch the editor, who to contact and, whenever possible, how much the outlet pays.
We’d love to make this list even more useful, so if you have additional ideas or details for these publications or others, please leave them below in the comments!
1. Boston Globe
The Boston Globe Magazine Connections section seeks 650-word first-person essays on relationships of any kind. It pays, though how much is unclear. Submit to email@example.com with “query” in the subject line.
Must-read personal essay: “Duel of the Airplane-Boarding Dawdlers,” by Art Sesnovich
2. Extra Crispy
Send your pitches about breakfast, brunch, or the culture of mornings to firstname.lastname@example.org or the editor of the section you’re pitching. Pay appears to be around 40 cents per word.
Must-read personal essay: Gina Vaynshteyn’s “When Dumplings Are Resistance”
3. Dame Magazine
This publication is aimed at women over 30. “We aim to entertain, inform, and inspire,” the editors note, “But mostly entertain.” Send your pitch to email@example.com. Pay varies.
Must-read personal essay:“I Donated My Dead Body to Give My Life Purpose,” By Ann Votaw
4. Full Grown People
Essays — 4,000 words max — should have a “literary quality.” Include your work in the body of your email to make it easy for the editor to review, and send to firstname.lastname@example.org. No pay.
Must-read personal essay:“Call My Name” by Gina Easley.
Want to write for this Jewish parenting site? To submit, email email@example.com with “submission” somewhere in the subject line. Include a brief bio, contact information, and your complete original blog post of 700 words max. Suggested word count is 500-700 words. The site pays $25 per post.
Must-read personal essay: B.J. Epstein’s “How I’m Trying to Teach Charity to My Toddler”
6. Luna Luna
A progressive, feminist magazine that welcomes all genders to submit content. Email your pitch or full submission. There’s no pay, but it’s a supportive place for a first-time essayist.
Must-read personal essay: “My Body Dysmorphia, Myself” by Joanna C. Valente
7. New Statesman
This U.K. magazine has a helpful contributor’s guide. Unsolicited submissions, while rarely accepted, are paid; if an editor likes your pitch, you’ll hear back in 24 hours.
Must-read personal essay: “The Long Ride to Riyadh,” by Dave Eggers
8. The New York Times
The popular Modern Love feature accepts submissions of 1,700 words max at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include a Word attachment, but also paste the text into your message. Consult the Times’ page on pitching first, and like Modern Love on Facebook for even more insight. Rumor has it that a successful submission will earn you $250. (Correction added Oct. 9, 2014: Payment is $300, The New York Times writes on its Facebook page.)
Amy Sutherland’s column, “What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage,” which ran in 2006, landed her a book contract with Random House and a movie deal with Lionsgate, which is in preproduction. “I never saw either coming,” Sutherland said.
Another option is the Lives column in the New York Times Magazine. To submit, email email@example.com.
Must-read personal essay: “When a Couch is More Than a Couch” by Nina Riggs
Salon accepts articles and story pitches to the appropriate section with “Editorial Submission” in the subject line and the query/submission in the body of the email. Include your writing background or qualifications, along with links to three or four clips.
“I was compensated $150 for my essay,” says Alexis Grant, founder of The Write Life, “but that was several years ago. All in all, working with the editor there was a great experience.” Who Pays Writers reports average pay of about 10 cents per word.
Must-read personal essay: “I Fell in Love with a Megachurch,” by Alexis Grant
Indicate the section you’re pitching and “article submission” in your subject line, and send to firstname.lastname@example.org. Average reported pay is about 23 cents per word.
Must-read personal essay: Justin Peters’ “I Sold Bill Murray a Beer at Wrigley Field”
Each print issue has a specific cultural theme and welcomes both fiction and nonfiction. Stories and essays of 5,000 words max earn up to $250. Review periods are limited, so check their submission guidelines to make sure your work will be read with the next issue in mind. Submit online.
Must-read personal essay: “Fire Island,” by Christopher Locke
12. The Billfold
The Billfold hopes to make discussing money less awkward and more honest. Send your pitch to email@example.com. Who Pays Writers notes a rate of about 3 cents per word, but this writer would consider the experience and exposure to be worth the low pay.
Must-read personal essay: “The Story of a F*** Off Fund,” by Paulette Perhach
Motherwell seeks parenting-related personal essay submissions of up to 1200 words. Submit a full piece; all contributors are paid.
Must-read personal essay: “The Length of the Pause” by Tanya Mozias Slavin
14. The Bold Italic
This publication focuses on California’s Bay Area. Strong POV and a compelling personal writing style are key. Pay varies. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Must-read personal essay: “The San Francisco Preschool Popularity Contest,” by Rhea St. Julien
Submit essays of 800-2000 words to this lifestyle site geared toward women. Pay averages about 5 cents per word.
Must-read personal essay: “Is Picky Eating An Eating Disorder?” by Kaleigh Roberts
16. The Rumpus
Focuses on essays that “intersect culture.” Submit finished essays online in the category that fits best. Wait three months before following up.
Must-read personal essay: “Not a Widow” by Michelle Miller
17. The Penny Hoarder
This personal-finance website welcomes submissions that discuss ways to make or save money. Read the guidelines before emailing your submission. Pay varies.
Must-read personal essay: “This Family’s Drastic Decision Will Help Them Pay Off $100K in Debt in 5 Years” by Maggie Moore
18. Tin House
Submit a story or essay of 10,000 words max in either September or March. Wait six days before emailing to check the status of your submission. Cover letters should include a word count and indicate whether the submission is fiction, nonfiction, or poetry.
Must-read personal essay: “More with Less,” by Rachel Yoder
Narratively accepts pitches and complete pieces between 1,000 and 2,000 words that tell “original and untold human stories.” Pay averages 6 cents per word.
Must-read personal essay: “What Does a Therapist Do When She Has Turmoil of Her Own?” by Sherry Amatenstein
Still looking for ideas? Meghan Ward’s blog post, “20 Great Places to Publish Personal Essays,” is worth perusing. MediaBistro also offers a section called How to Pitch as part of their AvantGuild subscription, which has an annual fee of $55.
This post originally ran in October 2014. We updated it in December 2016.
Have other ideas or details to add? Share with us in the comments!
Getting Paid to Write Essays and Term Papers
Essays for Cash: Intro, Info and Ethics
Who can I pay to write an essay for me?
Where can I buy an essay?
Now hiring- get paid to write academic papers!
Write custom essays for pay!
The internet has certainly made it easy for writers and students to connect; the paid essay writing service has been around for years now. This service is one in which a student pays someone else to write their academic essays, research projects or other school/university work for them, anonymously.
As a writer, you may have encountered this via a paid, organized business/website looking to recruit more writers into its ranks, or you may have stumbled on an ad from a harried student on Craigslist. Maybe a student has contacted you directly. Either way, the exchange exists, and, as a writer, you should know about it.
Students Who Need Academic Essays Written
So, who exactly are these students? From my experience, they tend to be desperate procrastinators, as evidenced by their late-night, hurried emails and rapidly approaching deadlines. I've also heard from several who simply lacked the self-confidence to tackle a big assignment. These are the ones who tend to reach out ahead of time, with a little leeway on the due date. Lastly, I gather some are simply spoiled and able to afford the service—why put themselves out when the ease of a credit card means they can do something else, something they want to do?
A former professor wrote about the practice at the Chronicle of Higher Education several years ago, noting that he sees three specific kinds of essay-buyers: “From my experience, three demographic groups seek out my services: the English-as-second-language student; the hopelessly deficient student; and the lazy rich kid.” That observation dovetails well with what I've seen, too.
This service exists for several reasons. On the surface, it’s because the dawn of the internet brought with it a special kind of plagiarism. Once students were able to post—and pluck—completed essays directly off the Internet, professors had to compensate in some way to attempt to protect the academic integrity of the classroom. Plagiarism-checker services like TurnItIn and Copyscape can compare a student’s text to (almost) the entire internet to catch copied work. Also, professors may also assign highly structured and specific essays with detailed instructions of what is to be included in the piece. It not only shows application of the curriculum learned but also (hopefully) makes it that much harder to just copy from the Internet. However, unscrupulous students can now get around this by hiring a writer or a service and providing the specifics of the assignment directly to them.
The Writer Who Sells Term Papers
So what does the writer that may engage in this business look like, exactly? And what’s in it for the writer? To answer this question, let’s look at this without the ethical argument for a moment (more about that below).
I’ll begin at a very personal level. The first time that I was approached to write a term paper floored me.
I received an email shortly after going public as a freelance writer in which a female college student asked me to write an essay on "Sense and Sensibility" for an English class. She stated that she was willing to pay me $400, as that’s how much of her birthday money she had left. The essay was due in two days. As an English major who 1) loved "Sense and Sensibility and 2) very much missed writing about and discussing books, this seemed like a dream to me. I knew I could pound out such an essay in a couple of hours, tops. Not bad money, and not an activity I would dread. So, you can see how this kind of arrangement can come to be for both players, right?
Of course, with any working writer, the major consideration here (again, leaving ethics aside for a moment) is financial. In the case above, I had already read the book (not to mention the fact that I’d previously dissected it in my past as a student).
I could have made more than $100 per hour in that early time in my career. Depending on the arrangement, due date, subject matter and other factors, there is a real possibility of making bank here for writers. On their end, many of these students seem to have credit cards, padded bank accounts or family willing to support them in whatever way necessary.
Lastly, I will say that there is another potential perk for the writer in this arrangement. In my practice of supporting and editing theses and dissertation students (a completely ethical service that I offer), I've found that working with the ideas, topics, and processes that my education is based on gave me a bit of a boost in my writing practice—“greased the wheels” a bit, so to say. After weeks and months of writing about my client’s products, writing about politics, or writing about writing (as I do here, I’ve found that approaching more cerebral topics is a nice change of pace.
The Freelance Writer’s Work
The way this particular service works depends on how the writer and student arrange the contract. For example, if the deal is made via one of the many “term paper writing” website-based companies, the contract, work, and pay would all flow through said company. However, if the arrangement is private, it’s a good bet that you’re arranging payment through Paypal or paper check, and delivering essays via Microsoft Word and email.
For the writer, there are a few challenges in this line of work. First, let’s consider the fact that you may not be dealing with the most honest of customers. After all, they are technically cheating. It seems to me that payment should be due up front and in full. Secondly, there is the situation of matching a student’s tone and voice. You may be a talented writer, but it stands to reason that your customer is not. How polished, exactly, should this work be? This will depend on the topic and level and is an interesting question in its right. Another issue is the research inherent in college-level work. Many writers in this business tend to heavily use Google Scholar, Wikipedia citations and Amazon’s book samples.
Writing Term Papers for Pay: The Ethics
Of course, this is the main question that comes up when writers talk about this line of work. A writer who does this is helping another person to cheat. It’s that simple. Also, although the work isn't illegal, the freelance writer should understand that this doesn't mean it’s free of consequences, either. Consider your reputation as a writer. Consider the impact this work may have on any community groups or board positions that you work within. Ask yourself what your cost would be, were it known that you engage in this kind of work.
One way that I've seen service providers get around the ethics question is by insisting that the writing they sell to students is simply a unique "model" essay that the student is supposed to use to help them learn. I’m willing to bet that all parties involved understand this is simply a ruse.
To present a somewhat balanced take on the ethical side of this service, I’ll share some of the other justifications I've heard through the years on the part of writers who provide essays for pay. The only potential excuse that flies in my book is when you’re absolutely in desperate need of the money. I get it. If your heat or light bill is due, I’m certainly not about to judge you for the way that you get that payment together.
Other writers have reasoned that the student will simply choose another writer to provide the service, so why bother? Some point to the fact that the writer isn't the cause of this particular problem, and that if any finger-pointing should be done, we should look at the education system that perpetuates such a practice.
Alternatives to Writing Student Essays
Look, as a book-lover and English major, I get the draw. I excelled at academics of this nature. I was one of the rare students who enjoyed the research and writing process. That’s why I’m in this career now. However, there are other ways to earn money by doing what we love.
Book reviewing is easily one of my favorite services. To this day, after a decade in this business, I get a thrill out of finding free books in my mailbox and reviewing them for others.
Also, many colleges are fine with upper-level students being supported in their writing process by editors. I've provided editing, indexing and research support to several Masters and Doctoral students. Individual institutions often have some guidelines on editorial services posted on their websites. Some colleges even keep a list of freelance editors to whom they refer their students.
Last, there are several magazines and websites that accept long form articles that are well-researched, interesting and provocative. Check the "Writer’s Market," or do a search within your particular niche area.
Getting Paid to Write Essays
The bottom line is that this is a service that people are willing to pay for—and it’s probably not going away anytime in the near future. The freelance writer must carefully gather the facts, but also follow their conscience. Good luck.