Submissions

The basics:

Writers are welcome to send pitches to our editors at seyward@atavist.com and/or jonah@atavist.com. We accept ideas on a rolling basis. We’ll post a note here if we ever hit the pause button. 

We try to respond to every submission we get. We request two weeks to do so. If you haven’t heard from us by then, feel free to nudge us, or to move on. We prefer that you not submit a pitch simultaneously to other publications, but if you do and get an offer that you decide to go for, just follow up to let us know. We know freelancing is hard, and the most important thing is getting your work published and paid for. 

Who can pitch: 

Anyone, anywhere! Early-career journalists, seasoned pros, Americans, writers from other countries—our door is wide open. We’re always seeking to diversify our pool of contributors, as well as the stories we tell. 

What we are looking for: 

The best way to understand our approach to storytelling is to read some of our most recent stories and/or the award-winning pieces in our archive. Atavist stories can be historical or current; they can be about crime or science, adventure or romance; they can be rooted in investigative reporting or in first-person experiences. What unites them is their narrative approach—our stories are plot- and character-driven, cinematic, the kind of yarns you don’t want to stop reading because you can’t wait to see what happens next. That isn’t to say that every story needs gasp-worthy moments. For instance, here’s a beautiful Atavist feature about the monarch butterfly migration, in which the narrative is about whether or not a butterfly named Flamingo will survive his flight south.

In 2020, the Nieman Foundation published an essay about the nature of cinematic writing. The whole piece is worth a read because it encapsulates what Atavist does as a magazine, but this part in particular resonates:

A story is a graceful line rather than a staggered inverted pyramid; it has an arc, a beginning-middle-end, a graceful spine with limbs attached in just the right places.

What we are not looking for:

News dispatches or analyses, think pieces, trend pieces, reviews, round-ups on a subject, profiles of well-known figures, and most any other topic-driven feature. Also, blog posts, op-eds, and academic papers. Our stories are deeply researched and carefully crafted, so fast takes aren’t our thing. Most importantly, if an idea doesn’t have a narrative arc, it almost certainly isn’t for us.

Words and dollars:

We’re looking for stories that need to be longer than a typical magazine feature, anywhere from 8,000 to 30,000 words. Payment rates vary by project. We offer a story fee plus, if applicable, a budget for expenses. Our baseline story fee is $6,000. We guarantee 25 percent payment for all assigned stories, because that’s the equivalent of our kill fee (an industry phrase we hate, by the way). 

If you’re not a writer:

Most of our stories are told primarily in text, but we’ve also won awards for our documentary video projects, and we run photography and audio stories so long as they fit the criteria described above. We welcome submissions and questions about commissions from illustrators, photographers, and other creatives. Please send them to our art director. 


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