Every issue of Pipe Wrench is made of one longform feature story and a constellation of conversation pieces — shorter contributions in a range of styles and media that springboard off the core story.
Features come from pitches; conversation pieces are commissioned. We’d love to hear from longform writers with feature ideas, and from anyone who’s interested in doing a conversation piece.
Here are ten quick answers to ten common questions.
1. Where do I send my pitch? email@example.com
2. When do you accept pitches? On a rolling basis. Pitch at will.
3. What should my pitch include? The basics: your contact info, the thesis of your story, a proposed word count, basic details about reporting you’re planning, and some indication that you have read Pipe Wrench and this page.
4. Is there a submission fee? Never.
5. Do I need to provide clips of other published work? No. If you have them and want to share, great. But if you have a good story to tell and you’re the right person to tell it, we don’t care if or how much you’ve published before.
6. What are your rates? Longform stories start at $1800. Conversation pieces start at $200. (Help bring these up!)
7. What’s the deal with copyright? It’s yours. We get 90-day exclusivity to publish you. After that, just cite us in any reprint.
8. When will I hear back from you? We’ll let you know if we’re interested or not within 30 days. Every pitch gets a response.
9. Can I pitch the same story to other outlets? We wish you would! We want your work to get published, whether it’s here or elsewhere. Let us know if you’re pitching multiple outlets, and if your pitch is accepted somewhere else.
10. How do I suggest myself for a conversation piece? Here’s a form! Fill it out and tell us who you are, what you do, and what you’d like to create.
What to pitch
We want the story that either you need to write — because you can’t stop thinking about it, because you’re obsessed, because you dream about it — or the story you need to read because it doesn’t exist in the world and it should. (The best stories are both!)
What kinds of things make a story Pipe Wrench-y?
- A strong narrative: Your piece has a particular story at its center. It’s about something specific, not about a topic. It’s focused, not exploratory.
- A critical lens: Your pieces take us beyond the Who-What-When-Where-Why and into “Why It Matters.” Readers should take something away from your story beyond “Now I know more about X.” They should be thinking about it and grappling with it days later.
- A thesis: Your piece is making an argument about how the world should be. The narrative is the vehicle you use to unpack your argument.
- A lack of obvious placement: Writers, you know how you go on Twitter and ask “Who’s gonna pay me to write about [random thing you can’t stop thinking about at the moment]?” Bring us pieces that have no other natural homes.
- A personality: Have a voice. We’re not a newspaper, and this story is something you care deeply about. Let that through.
Given that, we’re not looking for reviews, profiles that don’t explore some larger issue, and memoir/personal essays without a larger cultural or political arc. Given our quarterly publishing cadence and the lead time issues require, we also stay away from news-pegged stories unless they have a strong evergreen backbone.
“Longform” for us means at least 4,000 words. Researched essay, cultural critique, creative nonfiction, historical inquiry, narrative reporting — we’re open to all your ideas, as long as they tell a good story and interrogate their topic thoroughly. We especially love working with new writers, and with writers from communities that have been historically excluded in media.
This is where it gets fun. You’ll get a draft of the core story before it publishes, and time to read, sit with, and digest it. And then you’ll create something, based on whatever piece of it spoke to you (or provoked you!). Maybe your creation will follow the theme of the core story; maybe it won’t. Along with your creative work, you’ll write a paragraph or two explaining the thought process that led from the core story to your piece.
We’ll be reaching out to people to commission these — by definition you can’t pitch them, since you don’t know exactly what you’ll be reacting to or what your response will be. That means we need to know who you are and what you do, so we know when to tap you! We want a wide range of perspectives, crafts, disciplines, and media. A novelist writing short fiction, a musician making a playlist, an essayist telling a personal story. A photo essay. A comic strip. A scene of dialogue. A Tik Tok. An original song. A reading list. A recipe. Activists, film critics, theologians, sociologists, poets, chefs, yogis, students. People we haven’t thought of yet. All ages. All backgrounds. You? You.
Rates, contracts, and publication
Rates for core stories start at $1800 and go up from there depending on the type of story, length, and research/reporting required. We’ll also reimburse basic research and reporting expenses like purchasing books/articles and local travel for interviews/research. We are unable to fund major reporting trips at this time but are open to partnering/co-publishing with other independent publications to make bigger stories happen.
If we decide to work together, you’ll get a writer’s agreement outlining your rights that’s been developed in partnership with the Freelance Solidarity Project of the National Writers’ Union, and you’ll receive 50% of your fee upon signing. (Interested in our complete freelancer policies? Here they are.)
For the story itself, you’ll work with a Pipe Wrench editor — heads up, we’re hands-on! — and your piece will be thoroughly fact-checked before publication.
Rates for conversation pieces start at $250 and go up from there depending on the length, type of media, and work required.
If we decide to work together, you’ll get an agreement outlining your rights that’s been developed in partnership with the Freelance Solidarity Project of the National Writers’ Union, and you’ll receive 50% of your fee upon signing. (Interested in our complete freelancer policies? Here they are.)
Depending on what kind of work you do, you’ll either work directly with a Pipe Wrench editor or with a partner who has specific experience in your medium. Nonfiction writing will be fact-checked before publication where applicable.
How to pitch
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the following:
- Your name and contact info.
- A summary of your proposed story and its thesis.
- A rough word count.
- A brief outline of any research or reporting you’re planning.
- Anything else you think we should know about you.
If you’re pitching the story to other publications, let us know. If you’re pitching exclusively to Pipe Wrench before approaching other outlets, let us know that, too.
We’ll be in touch within 30 days.
Fill out this short form! We’ll add you to our big ol’ spreadsheet of potential contributors, and will be in touch when it makes sense.