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 A typical issue of CNF contains at least one essay by a previously unpublished writer.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 accepts submissions online through Submittable. Please read specific calls for submissions carefully.
We try to respond to all submissions as soon as possible. When you submit online, you will receive a confirmation email from Submittable.
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
EXPERIMENTS IN NONFICTION
Creative Nonfiction is currently seeking fact-based writing that is ambitious, pushes against the conventional boundaries of the genre, borrows forms, plays with style and form, and makes its own rules. Send us your prose poems, your hermit crabs, your word collages, your speculative nonfiction. Surprise us! Submissions should be 4,000 words or less. Complete guidelines »
Submissions for our monthly mini-magazine 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. True Story is currently on hiatus. We are not taking submissions at this time.
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 280 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.
Previous Submission Calls
GENERAL, UNTHEMED SUBMISSIONS
Closed: May 18, 2020
We are actively reading the submissions recieved and expect to be able to update submitters on the status of their work by November 2020.
Closed: Dec 2, 2019
We are actively reading the submissions received and expect to be able to update submitters on the status of their work by June 2020.
Closed: June 10, 2019
We are actively reading the submissions received and expect to be able to update submitters on the status of their work by October 2019.
Issue forthcoming Spring 2021
EXPLORING THE BOUNDARIES
Closed: May 13, 2019.
Closed: February 25, 2019
Issue forthcoming Spring 2020
Closed: November 19, 2018
View the issue »
LET'S TALK ABOUT SEX
Published: Summer 2019
View the issue »
Published: Spring 2019
View the issue »
Published: Winter 2019
View the issue »
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.
- Participate in our ongoing micro-essay experiment on Twitter! We publish up to 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 buying a subscription eliminates the cost of a reading fee:
No active subscriber to Creative Nonfiction or True Story 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. Many of our calls for submissions 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 $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!
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 manuscript review program and online courses.
Can I submit an essay I wrote in one of CNF’s online courses or in the manuscript review 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 writing coach 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.