Wondering whether to pitch Saveur magazine? If you’ve never written for the publication before, you’re in luck, says Editor-in-Chief James Osland. In a recent phone interview, he estimated that some 60 to 80 percent of Saveur is freelanced. Of that amount, he said at least 50 percent is not from regular contributing editors.
So, if you do the math, that means 30 to 40 percent of Saveur’s food writing is written by new writers. Moreover, new writers don’t have to pitch a small story first.
“No,” Oseland reiterates when I express surprise. “You don’t have to break in at the front of the book. I’ll take a feature.”
Saveur has only nine issues per year, with an average of 72 to 74 pages to fill per issue. That’s three or four features, four to five departments, and four to five shorter pieces in Fare, a department at the front. “We don’t have a lot of real estate,” Oseland admits. “Sometimes you have to choose stories that go well together. I wish it wasn’t finite, but alas it is, so we have to be judicious.”
One Long Communal Story Meeting
The way to get into Saveur is to pitch (an email to the editors that explains the story, why you’d like to write it, and why you are qualified to do so.) It doesn’t matter which editor you email, so send your pitch to email@example.com. Assuming it’s not instantly rejected, an editor will circulate it in a pitch meeting.
“Every couple of weeks we have a gigantic pitch powwow, in which we bring to the table pitches that have been circulating,” explains Oseland. Two to three days before, the editors receive a thick packet containing hundreds of story ideas. Together, the editors decide on stories at this meeting. “No one editor can say yes to a story,” Oseland says. “It’s like the 1973 Vermont commune of magazines.”
Adding to the editors’ workload is the notion that a pitch letter doesn’t have to be short. “A pitch can be anywhere from a few words to a few pages,” says Oseland. “There is no one perfect size or shape. It all boils down to the effectiveness of the story.”
Effective Story Ideas Defined, Sort Of
And what, I asked him, is an effective story idea? “A writer can be pitching a story that’s not at face value the freshest story on the block, but if there’s a really fresh and vigorous way that they’re assuring us they’re going to tell that story, we’re smitten,” Oseland explains.
What kind of story does Saveur want? “The big difference between us and other food magazines is that, on one hand, we’re a food magazine. On the other hand, on the subtle cosmic plane level, we’re only sort of a food magazine, and in fact really we’re a magazine about human culture that tells this extraordinary kaleidoscope of human stories through the world of food,” continued Oseland. “Even if we’re doing a story that can absolutely be a food story – say something about the science of butter – for us, the editorial staff, we honestly view that in a grander scheme of how it fits into the panoply of human experience.”
“Passion is what goes the longest way,” he says of how he and the editors approach the content of the magazine. “I’m determined to stick to that model. It has support.”
(If you’re not a subscriber, research the magazine’s stories online here to get a feel for what turns the editors on.)
For writers who want to pitch personal essay, he said the pitch should be no different. “To my mind, what invariably works is the story the writer cares about,” Osland advises. “If writer is trying to shape or tell a story that they think the magazine wants, it’s not a good idea to do that. If you’re writing something personal, it’s got to be the stuff of the fire in the belly.”
For more on James Osland, see: