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. 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 surprising but persuasive 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 full 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 specialize in musical borrowing and the ways musicians circumvent copyright law. In fact, I’ve written an article evaluating how Dua Lipa’s music borrows from other artists in the past, so I was intrigued to learn that within the past week or so, Dua Lipa’s “Levitating” has been hit with two copyright infringement lawsuits. The story has been reported widely, and plenty of opinions have been shared. Those opinions, suffice it to say, are running hot, and this is shaping up to be one of the more controversial musical plagiarism cases in recent memory, perhaps even rivaling the infamous “Blurred Lines” saga.
So, I’d like to pitch an article about why these lawsuits have inspired such strong, contrasting opinions. My goal is not to argue that Dua Lipa and her songwriting team did or did not “copy” passages of “Levitating” from other songs. Instead, using the methods of “forensic musicology”—that is, comparing exactly what these songs have in common musically—I can demonstrate why it is reasonable to draw a wide range of conclusions from these examples.
I’ve read plenty of the articles about music in Slate, including some contributions by other musicologists and music theorists, so I’m familiar with the tone of the venue. I just read Chris Molanphy’s article about Dua Lipa’s “Levitating” winning “Song of the Year” without reaching No. 1 on the charts; many of the features of the song that he describes are the ones that have allegedly been borrowed from other songs without attribution, by the way. Do you think such an article might be a good fit for Slate?
Please refer below for the relevant editor for your pitch.
Forrest Wickman (movies, music, features)
Sam Adams (television)
Books (arguments and literary essays, please—we are not looking for reviews)
Health and Science
Jeffrey Bloomer (features and essays)
Rebecca Onion (academia, school, family)
News/Politics & Jurisprudence
Jeremy Stahl (jurisprudence)
Rebecca Onion (history)
Natalie Shutler (features)
Torie Bosch (for Future Tense, or stories on the policy, ethics, and social implications of tech; for guidelines on pitching Future Tense Fiction; and for State of Mind, on mental health)
Jonathan Fischer (big tech, cities, media/internet culture)
Mia Armstrong (Future Tense)