Pitch Guidelines for Freelance Writers


Frequency: 8 issues/year

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.)

Pay Rate: For print, starting at $1/word. For web, typically $300/story.

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


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

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

  • 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 pitch completed articles.

  • If you’re unsure which editor to pitch, send the pitch to editorial@discovermagazine.com.


Pitching DiscoverMagazine.com

Discover seeks pitches for our website, DiscoverMagazine.com, especially short feature stories (600-1,000 words) that have a new angle on current events or are evergreen and remain relevant for readers over a longer period of time. 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, thought-provoking and in line with our reader’s interests. Generally, we are not looking for single-study, embargoed stories — but if you come across something irresistible, feel free to pitch it.

Your pitch should clearly and concisely explain the story you wish to write and why it’s relevant for our readers. In your pitch, you should try to adopt Discover’s conversational tone and demonstrate an ability to translate scientific concepts for our lay audience. We encourage you to include your portfolio or links to previous work along with your pitch.

Web pitches should be sent to Megan Schmidt (mschmidt@discovermagazine.com). Due to the volume of web pitches we receive, we can only respond to those we are interested in commissioning.  

Pitching Discover Magazine

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 editorial@discovermagazine.com. 

Columns/Departments

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, aorlando@discovermagazine.com.

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 Steve George, sgeorge@discovermagazine.com.

Piece of Mind — Intertwines personal life experience with psych/neuro research. Can be first or third person, so long as the new research is related back to the anecdotal narrative. Strong pitches will also outline the studies you would include. Send pitches to Timothy Meinch, tmeinch@discovermagazine.com.

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 connect a moment in the past with current research or recent findings that shed new light on previous scientific discoveries or mysteries. Send pitches to Elisa Neckar, eneckar@discovermagazine.com.

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. Send pitches to Molly Glick, mglick@discovermagazine.com.

Out There Discover's space column 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, sgeorge@discovermagazine.com.

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. Send pitches to Steve George, sgeorge@discovermagazine.com. 

Features

Send pitches for main features of any kind to editorial@discovermagazine.com; 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.

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.

  • 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, as hyperlinks would appear if the article were posted to the website.

  • It is typical for a Discover article to go back to the writer for two or three major revisions, with a prompt turnaround required. Web stories typically require fewer revisions, but turnaround time is even shorter.

  • 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.

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