Despite some people saying that the personal essay boom is over, I’m seeing little evidence to suggest that readers’ appetites for candid, revealing and thought-provoking first person pieces are sated. For freelance writers, the advantage of writing a personal essay is that you are drawing on your own experience, so there is very little need for external research or case studies. Many writers also say that writing down their own experience and sharing it with others feels validating, affirming and therapeutic.
There are numerous articles about how to sell personal essays in the age of over-sharing and how to write compelling first person pieces for major publications, and if you are willing to open up and share your own experience, I believe you should be compensated well for it.
It can be hard to find magazines that accept freelance submissions, let alone locate publications that pay well for your writing. But there are plenty of online and print publications looking for writers.
So if you have a personal story you want to share, where can you pitch it?
7 publications that pay well for personal essays
If you’re a writer who has had a book published, it’s definitely worth pitching to Allure (a magazine predominantly for women about beauty) as they pay up to $3,000 for personal essays up to 2000 words.
For those mere mortals among us who haven’t written a book, the rate for personal essays seems to be more like $250 – $500.
Glamour is another women’s magazine that heavily focuses on beauty, fashion and entertainment stories. Personal essays published by Glamour are reported to fetch around $2/word.
You have to love an editor who puts what she wants from writers out there and Jessica Reed from The Guardian certainly delivers. For beautifully written personal essays, The Guardian reportedly pays 60c/word.
If you’ve got something compelling, insightful, intimate, funny, relatable or awkward to say about your love or sex life, then a personal essay directed to Marie Claire might be just the ticket. Writers report that Marie Claire pays $2/word.
Are you spotting a theme here? Women’s magazines love personal essays. If you want to write first hand experience about fitness, food, health or culture, it’s worth pitching to SELF magazine, who pay up to $700 for 2000 words.
A dynamic site covering world affairs, pop culture, science, business, politics and more, Vox pay around $500 for personal essays. What’s even better is their clear pitching guidelines for their First Person section.
If you feel like a sharing a real life story like this one, you can pitch to the lifestyle vertical on the Australian website news.com.au. Writers are reportedly paid around $500 for a post.
The rules for pitching a personal essay are much the same as when you query an editor for any other kind of writing assignment – you need a strong hook and engaging writing style.
The writers I know who produce personal essays love it. They feel free and are absolutely thrilled when readers respond to their articles with “me too!” Afterall, isn’t the point of writing to reach and connect with others? Personal essays tend to do that in a very special way.
Do you write personal essays? Have you found other well-paying markets?