What is Sold Short?
Sold Short is a vertical about inequality. The stories we publish focus on labor, gender, racial justice, feminism, the family and kinship beyond it, Indian Country and tribal sovereignty, sexuality, wealth inequality, white supremacy, immigration and borders, state violence and the criminal legal system, mass movements (past, present, and future), public goods and privatization schemes, billionaire antics, general hoarding among the top one percent and their fellow travelers, and the rest of life under capitalism. The stories exist on their own but also in conversation with each other: We’re describing things as they are, interrogating the people and systems that got us here, envisioning more just futures, and grappling with the limits of our current imagination.
How do I pitch?
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What kinds of stories are you looking for?
The vertical is a place to document the current abyss while also thinking deeply about the collective work of getting out of it. Our approach includes timely news analysis about developing stories, long-form narrative reporting, wide-ranging essays that engage with difficult ideas, “as told to” pieces about daily life in bad systems, and photo essays. In general, the pieces we run are focused on people. Our stories explore policies, systems, and ideas, but always through the frame of how we live.
Pitches don’t have to be overly long, but they should be clear about what you want to do. A couple of short paragraphs explaining the subject and your idea should be enough. A few sentences that could conceivably act as your thesis statement or “nut graf” are useful and encouraged. (Think of it as answering the question: So what is this story actually about?) If there are other pieces on the subject that have run before it (this includes pieces at The New Republic), a couple of sentences distinguishing your pitch from what’s been published already or demonstrating how it can develop the story will go a long way. If you have direct experience with the subject, let me know about that, too. And don’t worry if you don’t have clips; first-time and unpublished writers are encouraged to pitch.
Anything you don’t want?
Dry policy writing, stiff opinion pieces—“Therefore, it is imperative that we pass Medicare for All today”—and stories that only superficially engage with their subject.
Can you share some freelance pieces you’ve published to make some of this feel more concrete?
Blow Up the Restaurant Industry and Start Over: This one hits a few sweet spots for the vertical. It features solid reporting that captures what’s screwed up, good data on how these burdens are shared unevenly, strong interviews that illustrate the stakes, and interesting ideas about what new models might look like.
A New Home in a Country Shuttered by a Pandemic: The pitch on this one was extremely clear about what the writer wanted to do: Talk to recently resettled refugees and refugee service organizations about how the pandemic has changed the already difficult work of finding financial footing and a sense of community in a new home.
The Post-Pandemic Future of Work: This is a good example of an ideas piece. The premise is straightforward enough—work is mostly bad but doesn’t have to be—but the writer goes deep into the nuance of the subject. No easy answers, just a thoughtful provocation on the things about jobs that we’ve normalized over time and some possible ways out.
Can $500 a Month Change Your Life?: This one takes a policy—a no-strings, supplemental universal basic income—and moves it away from wonky abstraction and into the space of real lived experience. (Also, the answer to the headline is yes—kind of.)
White Witness and the Contemporary Lynching: An essay responding to the killing of Ahmaud Arbery and contextualizing the viral footage of his death as part of a long tradition of white consumption of the deaths of Black people. The writer engages with wide-ranging histories and fields of criticism in her analysis, identifying in the present a past that never really passed.
Mothers Against Vampire Real Estate: This piece is a nice hybrid of person-focused reporting—in this case, Moms 4 Housing and the affordability crisis in the Bay Area—and an ideas piece about the work of defeating the people and systems that create scarcity and mass suffering.
A Legacy of Incoherence: This one is a deeply felt, difficult consideration of Kobe Bryant’s life and death, sexual violence, racist systems, harm reduction, and things left unspoken. It’s a great example of a piece that weaves a news story into something much broader and timeless.
The Problem With Heroizing Health Care Workers Like Me: A great first-person essay from a resident working at a New York City hospital and thinking a lot about the pandemic, what we owe each other, and what the state owes us. The writing looks inward and outward with equal clarity.
How much do you pay?
The rate will depend on the piece—how long it is, the difficulty of reporting involved, the time it will likely take to pull together. I don’t really accept short takes on my desk, so most of my fees start at $400. Kill fee minimum is $50.
What’s the general process like?
I try to respond to every pitch I get—whether to say yes or no or to follow up with some additional clarifying questions if the subject seems promising—but sometimes I can’t. If you want to follow up with me because you think I’ve missed your pitch, please do. If it’s taking too long and you want to pitch elsewhere, please do.
Once a pitch is accepted, we’ll agree on a rate, word count, and timeline to file. I’m available to talk through or troubleshoot the piece during the reporting and writing process, so don’t feel like you have to work it all out in a vacuum.
Once you file, I try to be as transparent as possible about my editing timeline. If I am working on a few other pieces before I can get to yours, I will tell you that and include a window when I expect to have your edits back to you. In general, I think open communication is a good thing and helps us both respect each other’s time. Rinse and repeat until we’re done with the draft, and then I’ll let you know when it’s scheduled to run.
If anything changes, I’ll let you know as soon as I can.
Nope. Please pitch!