where to pitch

Science writing for freelancers – 8 publications that pay well

By June 25, 2019 July 4th, 2019 4 Comments

It’s a great time to be a freelance writer who creates articles and content about science, medicine, the environment, climate change and conservation issues. I have seen so many callouts lately for writers in these areas that I thought it would be worthwhile pulling together a post for freelancers who want to jump into freelance science writing or submit articles to science magazines. If you’re looking for freelance science writing jobs or opportunities here are 8 publications that want your pitches and will pay well (one even pays $2 a word).

Freelance science writing – 8 publications that pay well

The Open Notebook

The Open Notebook is pretty much the greatest blog around for science, health and environmental writers. If you want to see successful pitches behind 190+ science stories, read interviews with science writers or just generally nerd out about science writing, this is the place to go.

Even though The Open Notebook is a non-profit, they welcome pitches and they pay for commissioned contributions.

At the moment, they are looking for story-behind-the-story interviews and reported features. For story-behind-the-story pitches, make sure you include the kinds of questions you’d like to raise with your interviewee and why you think the story is important to tell.

Pay: $750 USD for interviews (1,500-2,000 words), $1,000 USD for reported features (1,500-2,000 words).

Payment is upon acceptance of the final draft.

Pitch: editors@theopennotebook.com

Australian Geographic

Australian Geographic is a bi-monthly magazine that covers Australia’s landscapes, plants, animals, culture, science and industry. The digital site covers the latest news in the world of science and the environment, as well as articles on ‘wild’ travel, adventure, history and culture.

Pay: Depends on the scope and length of a commissioned piece, but usually it’s around $300AUD for 600-1000 words.

Pitch: Digital producer Angela Heathcote

Sierra Magazine

Sierra is the “storytelling arm of the Sierra Club, the United States’ oldest, largest, and most influential grassroots environmental group”. If you’re keen to write thoroughly-researched stories about green living, natural sciences, outdoor adventure, environmental threats or conservation, it’s definitely worth pitching.

In terms of the magazine, three sections are open to freelance contributors: “enjoy”, “explore” and “protect”.

As you can imagine, Sierra Magazine receives loads of queries, so read their editorial guidelines carefully before you pitch.

Pay: $1 USD/word for print (rising to $1.50 word for “more well-known writers with crackerjack credentials”) and $300 for digital stories.

Payment is on acceptance of the article.

Pitch: submissions.sierra@sierraclub.org

Discover magazine

If you’ve got an incredible untold science story, make sure you pitch it to Discover magazine. Discover publishes stories on topics within health and medicine, the brain, technology, the living world and the environment.

Pitch guidelines are available on request, so email: editorial@discovermagazine.com

Who to pitch: Senior Editor Gemma Tarlach  (first initial last name [at] discovermagazine.com)

Rate: $2/word USD

Medium

I know I’ve said this before, but if you haven’t thought about pitching to some of Medium’s new (and not so new) sections, you’re missing out.

Science and health topics on Medium are really popular and I’ve noticed that in recent months they’ve been commissioning more and more writers for these verticals. There’s a real mix of long (feature-length) stories as well as shorter, snappier articles about the climate, environment, mental health, wellness, neuroscience and public health. So if you’re a generalist science writer, now might just be the right time to pitch.

Pay: $1 USD a word.

Pitch: Deputy editor Alexandra Sifferlin

The Revelator

The Revelator is an environmental news and ideas site, published by the Centre for Biological Diversity. It covers topics like climate change, wildlife, pollution and toxins, sustainability and population. Their motto is: “wild, incisive, fearless”, so it makes sense that they are looking for pitches from freelance writers that discuss the intersection of environmental topics with politics, economics and culture, and attempt to reveal the deeper context behind stories in the news.

It’s important to know that they are predominantly looking to cover stories within the United States.

Pay: Rates start at $300 USD for first-time contributors ($350 for returning writers), and stories run between 800 – 1000 words. Each month they have space for one “slightly more involved” story per month, which pays up to $500.

Pitch: Editor John Platt or deputy editor Tara Lohan (make sure to include a list of people you want to interview and when you think you could file). John is very approachable so it’s worth emailing to request contributor guidelines.

New Scientist

If you really want to make a name for yourself as a science writer, it’s worth considering sending a query letter to New Scientist.

The features in New Scientist are almost all written by freelancers, so there’s a great opportunity to get published. The contributor guidelines set out exactly what they are after, but you’ll want to pitch fascinating science and technology story ideas that appeal to, and inform, a general audience.

Think big – New Scientist loves to cover stories that “move science on, not incremental advances”.

Pay: Competitive rate per word – to be discussed with assigning editor

Pitch: There are quite a few editors at New Scientist, so your best bet is to pitch to chief features editors Rowan Hooper or Tiffany O’Callaghan (Email formula: first name [dot] last name [at] newscientist.com). They can direct your pitch to the right person.

Hakai Magazine

Interested in writing about everything coastal? Then Hakai magazine is the right publication for you. The magazine is part of the Tula Foundation and “explores science, society, and the environment from a coastal perspective”.

Freelance writers are encouraged to read the submission guidelines before pitching about stories that focus on coastal ecosystems, cultures and communities throughout the world. First time writers for the publication also need to include three links to published work when they pitch.

Pay: Reportedly $0.75 to $1/word USD

Pitch: Managing editor Adrienne Mason (editor@hakaimagazine.com)

This is just the beginning …

Each time I compile a list of places to pitch (such as where to pitch your service journalism, social issues or travel ideas), I want you to know that these are just some of many outlets that are looking for pitches and will pay for commissioned contributions.

There are so many great resources out there about how to pitch science editors, what top science editors are looking for and interviews with science freelance writers, so get pitching!

Are you a freelance science writer? Are there any other publications that you’d recommend?

4 Comments

  • Lauren says:

    Thanks for the list. It is useful. I am thinking about writing for a science publication, but it’s my first time doing it. How do I come up with a topic for these publications? Are there specific online resources that give some ideas? Do I borrow the storyline from the science section of a major news outlet and put a spin on it? Any tip helps.

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Hey Lauren,
      I’d start reading these publications and look at the type of content that they cover. Then if anything grabs your attention and interest, I’d look at recent journal articles about the topic, other articles and see if there’s another angle you can take. Or if there’s a deeper story there. Looking at university publications and websites too can often help.
      I’m not sure if you’ve seen this post I wrote a little while ago about where to find story ideas? https://www.thefreelancersyear.com/blog/magazine-feature-story-ideas
      That may also help?

  • Jessica Myscofski says:

    This list is really helpful, thanks! My question relates to Medium.com. From what I’m seeing, you can just write a post and publish it, for free. Is there a particular process to publishing a paid article, or just pitching the editor you listed? Another good publication is Earth Island Journal, for topics relating to the environment, conservation, climate, etc.

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Hi Jessica, thanks for your comment. Yes, so with Medium, you can just register for an account and treat it like a blog by uploading your own content, or you can pitch specific Medium-hosted publications like the ones listed here. Like all feature writing, you’ll need to look at the pitching guidelines and familiarise yourself with the publication before pitching.
      Thanks for the info about Earth Island Journal. Here are the writers’ guidelines: http://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/page/writers-photographers-guidelines (they pay 25c/word)

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