General Overview

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 A typical issue of CNF contains at least one essay by a previously unpublished writer.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 lyric essay to memoir and personal essays. Our editors tend to gravitate toward submissions structured around narratives, but we’re always happy to be surprised by work that breaks outside this general mold. Above all, we’re interested in writing that blends style with substance and reaches beyond the personal to tell us something new about the world. 

Creative Nonfiction accepts submissions online through Submittable. Please read specific calls for submissions carefully. 

When you submit online, you will receive a confirmation email from Submittable. We try to respond to all submissions as quickly as possible, but because the submissions are more often than not at the upper end of the word limit and because we really do read everything carefully, the process often takes a long time. Unfortunately, this is especially true for work we like. If you have not heard from us since the initial confirmation email, please assume your manuscript is still under consideration. 

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.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the maximum (or minimum) word count?

    Word count requirements vary for each call for submissions, so please view the category’s specific guidelines for the most accurate information. Broadly speaking, the maximum word count for Creative Nonfiction is 4,000 words (CNF does not have a minimum word count requirement, but the magazine rarely publishes pieces that are fewer than 600 words); True Story submissions should be between 5,000 and 10,000 words; Sunday Short Reads submissions should be fewer than 1,000 words.

  • How much do you pay for a published essay?

    For essays published in Creative Nonfiction magazine, we typically pay a $125 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?

    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. Our subscribers never pay a reading fee!

  • Does something posted on a blog count as previously published?

    If your blog is shared with the public, we do consider those writings to have been published. If you significantly re-write or expand a piece that is posted on your blog, though, we will happily 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 generally 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 masking identities may be appropriate. Regardless, we’re big fans of transparency, and if you’ve taken this type of liberty, we greatly appreciate a note in the cover letter or a footnote in the manuscript itself.

  • 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 online courses.

  • Can I submit an essay I wrote in one of CNF’s online courses?

    No, you may not. But we wish you the best of luck placing such work elsewhere, and hope you’ll keep in touch with your teacher or writing coach and share your successes!

  • Can I make changes to my essay after I submit it?

    The work you submit for consideration should be the best possible version of your essay. We understand that mistakes happen, however, so in the event that you submitted the wrong file, 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.

  • Do you accept simultaneous submissions?

    Absolutely. We understand that response times are long, and writers want to increase their chances. We ask only that you be sure to withdraw your submission in the event that it’s accepted elsewhere.

Still have questions? View additional FAQs here, or contact us.