Unlike many magazines, Creative Nonfiction draws heavily from unsolicited submissions. Our editors believe that providing a platform for emerging writers and helping them find readers is an essential role of literary magazines, and it’s been our privilege to work with many fine writers early in their careers. A typical issue of CNF contains at least one essay by a previously unpublished writer.
We’re open to all types of creative nonfiction, from immersion reportage to personal essay to memoir. Our editors tend to gravitate toward submissions structured around narratives, but we’re always happy to be pleasantly surprised by work that breaks outside this general mold. Above all, we’re most interested in writing that blends style with substance, and reaches beyond the personal to tell us something new about the world. We firmly believe that great writing can make any subject interesting to a general audience.
Creative Nonfiction typically accepts submissions via regular mail and online through Submittable. Please read specific calls for submissions carefully.
We try to respond to all submissions as soon as possible. If you submit by regular mail, you will receive an email from us (typically within a week of your manuscript’s arrival in our office), confirming we have received your manuscript. If you submit online, you will receive a confirmation email from Submittable.
We read year-round, but it is not uncommon for a decision to take up to 6 months; unfortunately, this is especially true of work we like. If you have not heard from us since the initial confirmation email, please assume your manuscript is still under consideration.
Please follow the links below for more information about:
- Current Submission Calls
- Recently Closed Submission Calls
- A Note About Reading Fees
A Note About Fact-checking
Essays accepted for publication in Creative Nonfiction undergo a fairly rigorous fact-checking process. To the extent your essay draws on research and/or reportage (and ideally, it should, to some degree), CNF editors will ask you to send documentation of your sources and to help with the fact-checking process. We do not require that citations be submitted with essays, but you may find it helpful to keep a file of your essay that includes footnotes and/or a bibliography.
Current Submission Calls
DANGEROUS CREATIONS: REAL-LIFE FRANKENSTEIN STORIES
We’re looking for true stories that explore humans’ efforts to control and redirect nature, the evolving relationships between humanity and science/technology, and contemporary interpretations of monstrosity. $10,000 and publication for Best Essay and two $2,500 prizes and publication for runners-up. Deadline: March 20, 2017. Complete guidelines »
For an upcoming issue of Creative Nonfiction, we’re looking for true stories about starting over. Tell us about a time when you or someone else took a do-over, snuck a mulligan, or hit the reset button, whether by choice or not. Essays must be previously unpublished and no longer than 4,000 words. Deadline: June 19, 2017. Complete guidelines »
Our new magazine, featuring one exceptional essay every month, debuts this fall. Submissions should be between 5,000 and 10,000 words long, on any subject, in any style. Surprise us! The only rules are that all work submitted must be nonfiction and original to the author, and we will not consider previously published work. Now Reading Complete guidelines »
PITCH US A COLUMN
Have an idea for a literary timeline? An opinion on essential texts for readers and/or writers? An in-depth, working knowledge of a specific type of nonfiction? Pitch us your ideas; Creative Nonfiction is now accepting query letters for several sections of the magazine. Accepted Year-Round. Complete guidelines »
TINY TRUTH CONTESTS
Can you tell a true story in 140 characters (or fewer)? Think you could write one hundred CNF-worthy micro essays a day? Go for it. We dare you. There's no limit. Simply follow Creative Nonfiction on Twitter (@cnfonline) and tag your tiny truths with the trending topic #cnftweet. That's it. We re-tweet winners daily and republish ~20 winning tweets in every issue of Creative Nonfiction. Not sure what we're looking for? Check out this roundtable discussion about the art of micro-essaying with some of the more prolific #cnftweet-ers.
Maybe a tweet isn’t quite enough space for you to realize your tiny truth vision. What if you could include a picture worth a thousand words and 2,000 additional characters? Ready to try your hand at writing mixed media micro essays? Follow Creative Nonfiction on Instagram (@creativenonfiction), tag your photos (and caption-length prose) with #cnfgram and #tinytruth, and we’ll do the rest. We “heart” our favorites regularly, and every week we'll repost our favorite to our Instagram feed. Plus, we'll share one in our newsletter monthly, and one on our website every third month. Check out some early examples here.
Previous Submission Calls
EXPLORING THE BOUNDARIES
Closed: June 30, 2016
We are actively reading the submissions received and expect to be able to update submitters on the status of their work by fall 2016. Selections will appear in the "Exploring the Boundaries" section of the magazine in the upcoming two years.
HOW WE TEACH
Closed: August 29, 2016
We are actively reading the submissions received and expect to be able to update submitters on the status of their work by winter 2016. Look for this themed issue as our Spring 2017 release.
THE DIALOGUE BETWEEN SCIENCE AND RELIGION
Closed: December 12, 2016
We are actively reading the submissions received and expect to be able to update submitters on the status of their work by spring 2016. Look for this themed issue as our Fall 2017 release.
Closed: February 6, 2017
We are actively reading the submissions received and expect to be able to update submitters on the status of their work by spring 2016. Look for this themed issue as our Summer 2017 release.
A Note About Reading Fees
Here at Creative Nonfiction, we are always reading, searching for excellent new work to showcase in our various publications. At any given time, we usually have several submission portals open (see above calls for submissions), many of which require writers to pay a reading fee to submit their work.
Why we charge reading fees.
- We publish between 70-100 writers every year, and we pay every single one of those writers; reading fees help offset that expense.
- We like to pay writers more when we can, so we often run essay contests (with prizes ranging from $1,000-$10,000 per winning piece); reading fees help us offset that expense.
- Online submission is incredibly convenient for writers, but in some cases, it can be too convenient. Charging a nominal fee helps eliminate spam submitters--and it helps offset the administrative expenses of processing submissions.
How to avoid paying the reading fees.
- For books and other non-contest submission categories, send a hard-copy submission through the mail. The only cost is in ink and postage.
- Participate in our ongoing micro-essay experiment on Twitter! We publish 22 "Tiny Truths" in every issue… and we pay these writers with copies of the magazine.
- Subscribe to Creative Nonfiction and/or True Story.
How does buying a subscription to CNF eliminate the cost of a reading fee?
We recently adopted a new policy: no active subscriber to CNF will ever have to pay a reading fee of any type. Ever. Subscribers can submit as many times, to as many calls for submissions as they like, as long as their subscription is current. This is our way of supporting the readers who are supporting us.
Ways to become a subscriber (or renew a lapsed subscription) to CNF
- Submit your work to a contest. Many of our essay contests offer a submit-and-subscribe option—the price of which is about 25% less than the cost of the regular subscription.*
- Join our email list. Joining our list is another way to stay up-to-date for all of our current calls and news. Once you've signed up, you'll be offered a chance to subscribe for $10 less than the regular price.**
- Subscribe. You can always purchase a subscription at the regular price at any time from anywhere.
How much do you pay for a published essay?
For essays published in Creative Nonfiction magazine, we typically pay a $50 flat fee + $10/printed page, plus a copy of the magazine. For essays published in an In Fact Books anthology, we typically pay a flat fee between $100 and $150.
My essay is over your word limit. Will you still consider it for publication?
We’re very sorry, but we have to draw the line somewhere.
Do you always charge a reading fee?
No: you can always submit non-themed essays for consideration without a reading fee, if you send a hard copy via regular mail. Like many other magazines, we charge a $3 convenience fee to submit essays online through Submittable. In the case of contests, reading fees generally offset the costs associated with those issues, as well as (in most cases) the prize money; or, for a small additional cost, you can become a subscriber, which also helps keep the lights on at CNF.
Will you consider excerpts from longer pieces?
We are happy to read excerpts from longer pieces, though in our experience it rarely works to pull 4,500 words from a longer piece and call it an essay. Rather, we suggest you consider adapting part of your longer piece so that it can truly stand alone.
Does something posted on a blog count as previously published?
If your blog is shared with the public, we do consider its writing published. If you significantly re-write or expand a piece that is posted on your blog, though, we will be able to consider it for any of our calls for submissions.
Can I change the names or distinguishing characteristics of the people in my story to protect their privacy?
We typically prefer that you not do this, and would argue that, in most cases, there are better ways to approach this type of challenge. That said, in some cases—for example, if you’re a doctor writing about your work with patients—sometimes this may be appropriate. Regardless, we’re big fans of transparency, and greatly appreciate a note in the cover letter or perhaps even footnoted in the manuscript itself, if you’ve taken this type of liberty.
Will you give feedback on the essay I submitted?
Unfortunately, due to the high volume of submissions we receive (in the neighborhood of 100+ essays per month), we can’t send detailed feedback or responses. If you are interested in having a professional editor review your manuscript, we encourage you to check out CNF’s mentoring program and online courses.
Can I submit an essay I wrote in one of CNF’s online courses or in the mentoring program?
Sorry, no. But we do wish you the best of luck placing such work elsewhere, and hope you’ll keep in touch with your teacher or mentor and let us know about any successes!
What are CNF’s copyright requirements?
CNF typically considers only unpublished work and seeks first publication rights. After publication, CNF typically retains certain reprint rights, and some other rights revert to the author. We find that when people ask this question, they usually mean, “I’m submitting a chapter from a book I’m writing, and I need to have the rights to it.” Please know that we absolutely do not retain any rights that would interfere with your ability to publish your work in your own book.
Can I make changes to my essay once I submit it online?
The work you submit for consideration should be the final proofread and edited version of your essay. We do understand that mistakes happen, however, so in the event that you submitted the wrong file, realized that your essay was a poem, or some other obvious oversight, we do allow editing of submitted essays within a limited set of parameters--usually within two weeks of the original submission date or up until a contest deadline. After the essay has been assigned to a reader, changing files can cause a lot of confusion and may result in our not giving your work our best attention.
I found a typo in my submission. What should I do?
While your essay should be carefully proofread, a small typo will not influence the overall evaluation of your submission. In the event that we accept your essay for publication, it will go through a careful editorial process, and you will have plenty of opportunities to review it carefully.