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Hey, You! Want to Write for The Mary Sue? We Want You, Too!

This could be you.

Hi! I’m Jessica Lachenal, The Mary Sue’s contributor coordinator, and I’m here with our semi-regular call for pitches. As you may already know, we’ve got a great crew of contributors, all of whom keep the website purring with some excellent essays and articles. But that doesn’t mean we’re not always looking for more pitches! In fact, that’s why I’m writing to you today. We’re looking to grow that base a little bit, and I’d love to feature your work on the site!

“So,” you may be saying, “What the heck are you looking for, Jessica?” Good question!

We’re always on the lookout for pitches about the representation of women in nearly all industries, especially from those who identify as LGBTQIA. As well, women of color and/or gender non-conforming folks are especially encouraged to apply! We want a good diversity of voices on the site.

More specifically, though, in no particular order, we’re looking for pitches about:

  • LGBTQIA representation in movies, video games, television shows, music.
  • Video games in general; not looking so much for reviews as opinionated, personal stories. What are you afraid to pitch to other mainstream sites? What’s not being talked about?
  • Music! Personally, I think we could be talking more about the music industry, specifically indie acts in general. Know of any popular female artists we’re not covering? Tell me about them!

Please, no recap pitches. We’re pretty set on recaps for television shows for now.

“Okay, but what about qualifications? CREDENTIALS?!” Easy, pal. It’s okay! Let me tell you: we’re pretty light on the pre-requisites angle. While I absolutely would love to read more of your work if you have it published, it’s not a requirement. We like to give new writers a shot and help them hone their craft. If you think you’ve got a sufficiently unique enough angle or viewpoint on something, you should pitch us. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had work published in the New York Times or Tumblr or your personal blog; I want to see what you’ve got to say.

Now, all that being said, there are a few things that I do look for in a good pitch.

For starters, you should check out Code Switch’s Guide to Pitching. I’d like to highlight a few points:

  • If you’re pitching a personal story, find a way to get it to appeal to a wider audience or viewpoint and make sure to add that in to your pitch. This is how you add impact to a story. It might sound rude, but ask yourself, “Why should anyone care about this thing I’ve written about?” That’s where you find your answer as to how to get people to relate to what you’re writing, and it’s something I always look for in a pitch.
  • Focus! It’s okay if you’re still a bit unsure about an idea; I’d be glad to help flesh it out with you if I have the time, but truth be told, I tend to prioritize pitches that have a clear, focused vision.

A few more notes, based on pitches I’ve seen:

  • If you’re having a hard time describing your pitch in the e-mail, it could maybe use a little more refinement. Sit with your idea a little more and think about the whys and wherefores of your piece.
  • Don’t put yourself down in your pitch! Pitch like nobody’s watching, because nobody is. It’s just you and me, buddy.
  • Please, please, pleaseplease don’t send in already-written, completed essays in your initial pitch unless it’s super time-sensitive. Not doing that is a good habit to have, because as any freelancer can tell you: you should never write on spec (i.e., for free), because predatory editors may just take that completed work and “forget” to talk about payment with you.

Speaking of payment! As former TMSer and former contributor coordinator Sam Riedel has written about before, we’re committed to paying anybody who writes for us. Right now, that means we can offer payments in the ballpark of $40 – $50, depending on the length of the piece and the work involved. Depending on the piece, we may be able to go above as well, but that’s all on a case-by-case basis.

So! Tired of me talking about pitching, and want to know how to actually do it? Great! Here are the details.

Send your pitches to: jessica [at] themarysue [dot] com. Please include “[TMS Contributor Pitch]” somewhere in your header, otherwise I may not see it! And if you don’t, I’ll know you don’t read directions, and that makes me a sad editor.

Remember:

  • Keep your pitch short and concise; I don’t need an essay to explain your essay.
  • Include an expected word count range. Typically I ask contributors to keep it around 750 words, with 900 being an upper, more firm limit (with a few exceptions).
  • It’d be really swell if you could let me know when you’d have a draft ready. That can be something we discuss after I respond, but if you have an idea, it’d be useful information for sure.
  • No attachments in your pitch, please.

I do my level best to respond to every pitch I get, but sometimes I’m just not able to. If you know of a way to dilate time so I can respond to more e-mails, please let me know. Like I explained on Twitter:

That being said, I absolutely do read every pitch you send in. And like I said above, I’m happy to help you flesh out your pitch, but that definitely bumps you to the back of the line, as that’s something I do with the couple of free cycles I get during the work day to take care of things. If you’re utterly convinced that I’m missing out on something by not catching your pitch, don’t be afraid to bump the thread and let me know. I promise it’s nothing personal if we can’t take it.

That’s it! As Michael Scott (Wayne Gretzky) always said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” So pitch! I can’t wait to work with you.

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Jessica Lachenal is a writer who doesn’t talk about herself a lot, so she isn’t quite sure how biographical info panels should work. But here we go anyway. She's the Weekend Editor for The Mary Sue, a Contributing Writer for The Bold Italic (thebolditalic.com), and a Staff Writer for Spinning Platters (spinningplatters.com). She's also been featured in Model View Culture and Frontiers LA magazine, and on Autostraddle. She hopes this has been as awkward for you as it has been for her.