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Pitch Guidelines for Freelance Writers

Discover 2020 logo

(rev. Oct 2020)

Frequency: 8 issues/year

Special Issues: The annual "The State of Science" issue (January/February) highlights the top science stories of the previous year; the “Everything Worth Knowing” issue (July/August) highlights current research on a theme.

Pay Rate: For print, starting at $1/word. For web, typically $300 for a 600 to 1,000 word story.

Payment: For print, on completion of editing on a story draft. For web, on publication. (No need to submit an invoice for either print or web.)

Kill Fee: 25%

Rights Purchased: For print, 90-day exclusivity and non-exclusive perpetual rights. For web, 365-day exclusivity and non-exclusive perpetual rights.

How to Pitch Discover

What Makes a Story a Good Fit for Discover

We want stories that enlighten, inform and get readers excited about science; we capture science that’s relevant to them. Our stories are grounded in the research, but are driven by strong narratives, high reader interest and a conversational tone. Our audience is broad: Science should be for everyone.

Pitching Dos and Don’ts

• Keep it short, and one idea per email.

• What’s the science, why is it new (and hasn’t been covered before), and what’s the story that will interest readers?

• Mention specifics about what studies you’d cite, and what researchers you’d talk to.

• Share how the story fits Discover; for example, if it’s for the print magazine, what department is it for?

• Tell us about your credentials: What’s your science writing background? Share your best two or three clips and a link to your website or portfolio.

• Don’t send completed articles.

• If you’re unsure which editor to pitch, send the pitch to

Reporting Expectations

• We strongly prefer you connect with your sources either by phone or via video chat. Emailed questions generally do not produce conversational answers like a verbal conversation would. If a source insists on emailing answers, you must quote them as such (“Science is cool,” said my source, in an email.)

Discover rigorously fact checks all stories in the print magazine (and fact checks web pieces with a faster, lighter process). For print stories, after the editing is complete, you’ll be asked to annotate a final draft, which will be sent to a fact checker to verify. For web stories, please link source studies directly in the text in the word document you submit.

• It is typical for a Discover article to go back to the writer for two or three major revisions, with a prompt turnaround required.

• The lead time between your work being assigned and the story running in the magazine will vary, but is typically six months or more for features and two to three months for columns and front-of-book stories, with shorter leads for web stories.

Your contract and the Author Guidelines will spell out more details.

Discover Contents

The breakdown below lays out the different segments of the print magazine, as well as which editor to pitch if you feel your idea fits that section. If you’re unsure which editor to pitch, send the pitch to

Hot Science

Hot Science is our front-of-book section. Send pitches for any Hot Science stories to Anna Funk,

Big Idea — Task the biggest names in science with answering its most perplexing questions. Don’t zoom into the subject matter to find what’s new — stay zoomed out. Think of it as a conversation starter, as a way to inspire readers and remind them why they subscribe. What is time? Is your clone you? Did we discover or invent math? 500 words.

Personal — Tales from a scientist. Exciting or unusual lab or field work anecdotes that have had some sort of impact on the researcher or their work. Could be harrowing, or funny, or serendipitous, or an aha moment that changed the course of their research. The anecdote should (practically) stand alone with minimal or no introduction; the majority of this story will be in the researcher’s words (edited by the writer for length and clarity). 350 words.

Profile — A great option for when a person is interesting but doesn’t necessarily have a single defining anecdote for Personal. A great place for highlighting diverse voices. A scientist worth profiling could have an interesting history, an interesting career, and/or interesting ideas for the future. 350 words.

Head to Head — When researchers don’t agree, we have them go Head to Head. Can include a short introduction if necessary, but we’d prefer to run this as two mini-columns, side by side, that are on the same topic, but don’t agree. Best topics will be well known enough to not require much setup. 350 words.

Debunked — Debunking trending pseudoscience. Should you believe the hype around X? Is this claim real or not? Discover gets to the bottom of it. 350 words.

Species Watch — A short update on a specific species that’s on the rebound after previous decline. Did researchers learn something about a species that gave its conservation a big boost? Or perhaps new research just confirmed that efforts of citizens, governments or organizations have made a positive impact? Could be a short column (350 words) or even a photo plus caption (100 words).

Solutions — A place for positive, uplifting climate change (or more broadly environmental) news. Could be a new tech solution, or a new finding related to the psychology of behavior change — anything grounded in science (not policy). We’re looking for solutions that are already being implemented to some extent, whether it be by everyday citizens, organizations or even governments. 350 words.

The Science of... — One-page explainer on anything; preferably super-relatable, everyday things. The chemistry of shampoo. The psychology of stage fright. 350 words or an infographic.

Photo Gallery — Any story could be a photo gallery instead of a written story. The strong visual component could come from original photos that we commission, existing photos or even stock art. 350 words.


Most columns are 1,200 words (variation from that word count will be decided by your editor). See individual column descriptions for the appropriate editor to pitch.

Vital Signs — Medical mysteries. The writer — who can be a medical doctor or a science writer — walks us through the twists and turns of tricky patient cases, with an eye to storytelling. It’s as if the reader is peering over the physician’s shoulder. Send pitches to Alex Orlando,

Planet Earth — Nature, geology, flora, fauna, glaciers, fossils! This column explores any topic from “the field.” What doesn’t the reader know about something found on our planet, past or present? Send pitches to Anna Funk,

Piece of Mind — Intertwines personal life experience with emerging or trending psychology and neuroscience. Can be first or third person, so long as the new research is related back to the anecdotal narrative. Strong pitches will share a surprising, vulnerable or humorous anecdote, plus specific experts and research you would include (link to related studies when applicable). Add a short explanation of how you’d tie the research to your anecdote. Send pitches to Timothy Meinch,

History Lessons — Devoted to uncovering lost, forgotten or unrecognized moments and individuals throughout the history of science. Can be a thoughtful narrative or lighthearted essay. The most successful pitches will be ones that can connect a moment in the past with current research, or situations where recent findings have helped shed new light on previous scientific discoveries or mysteries. Send pitches to Elisa Neckar,

Origin Story — This column focuses on new research that advances — or overturns — our understanding of our collective past. The column covers archaeology, anthropology and human evolution; we are particularly interested in findings that challenge conventional wisdom about how we evolved biologically or culturally. Send pitches to Steve George,

Out ThereDiscover's space column, “Out There” focuses on all that the universe has to offer: planetary science, astrophysics, cosmology and everything in between. A down-to-Earth writing style is key — clear, clean prose must balance a compelling story. Send pitches to Steve George,

Tech Note — “Tech Note” takes a deeper look at new technologies: how they work, what problems they address, and how they’ll impact us. Pitches should focus on new concepts, devices or applications that have not been covered extensively and have substantial evidence of being useful in the real world. Strong pitches weave in a human angle and aim to explain technological concepts to readers in an accessible, straightforward way. Send pitches to Jenn Walter,


Send pitches for main features of any kind to; from there, the email will be forwarded to the appropriate subject matter expert.

Print features — Compelling characters and strong storytelling, grounded in science. Any topic that stirs curiosity, inspiration or intrigue beyond a niche audience of experts or insiders. Include your ideas for additional content like photos, art, sidebars, and infographics. 1,800-3,000 words.

Feature-length Q&As — Focuses on a researcher or scientist. What about them is compelling? What’s their backstory? Get personal. How does their work affect the world? Why should the reader care about this person? And don’t forget the science.


Discover also seeks pitches for our website,, especially short feature stories (600-1,000 words) that have a new angle on current events or are evergreen. These pieces should focus on a larger body of research, examine trends in science and the world at large, offer historical context, or serve as helpful explainers. We’re looking for pieces that are fresh and thought- provoking.

Web pitches should be sent to our Digital Editor, Megan Schmidt (, unless they’re astronomy-related; please send astronomy-related pitches to Jake Parks (

Please note that we’re mostly not looking for embargoed news pitches (that is, single-study stories) at this time — but if you come across something irresistible, feel free to pitch it. Our news stories are around 500 words.