New Writers Welcome at Saveur, says Oseland

Sep 272010
 

James Oseland, Saveur magazine editor-in-chief

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 edit@saveur.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:

  28 Responses to “New Writers Welcome at Saveur, says Oseland”

  1. Thanks so much for this excellent, informative post!

  2. Is this another ‘contribution Opportunity’ like I got today from http://www.tripbase.com to ‘contribute’ to their new ebook on traveling with kids to Paris with linkbacks as payment?

  3. Thanks Dianne. Nice to hear something encouraging for freelancers.

  4. Thank you so much Dianne. This is wonderful and encouraging to know. I wonder if they have a similar policy with freelance photography?

  5. this was great and encouraging for freelancers. thanks. reposting on my yahoogroup for freelancers @ Upod.

    • Oh terrific, David. Thanks very much. It’s a relief to discover something positive to say in these trying times for freelancers.

  6. Great information. Thank you for sharing. I love Saveur even more:)

  7. Thanks for this post Dianne, I’m finally biting the “do I really need another food magazine” bullet and subscribing to Saveur. Would love even just the experience of pitching and am so inspired by James Oseland.

  8. I’m uplifted. Thanks for showing me a break in the haze.

  9. This is very encouraging! And I loved that your post confirms that indeed Saveur is interested in stories about food and culture. Thank you for sharing, Dianne!

  10. Dianne, thanks for some great insights. I really enjoyed listening to Mr. Oseland at IFBC and I appreciate your following up to dig deeper. His approach to working with writers is refreshing and seems honest. Now, what to pitch…

  11. Your article on freelance writing for Saveur makes no mention of compensation. Is there any payment for this work, or do we simply “donate” the stories? I’m interested, but can’t afford to write for free.

    • If you pitch a story to Saveur editors, and they accept it, they will pay you. I’m afraid I don’t know exactly how much, but since it’s a national magazine, their rates have to be competitive.

  12. Really, in my experience, James is really very nice and approachable. I have yet to pitch him. Maybe this is my kick in the pants to do so.

  13. Hello Dianne,
    thank you so much for sharing this and everything else you do on your blog. I don’t always leave comments but I read everything you post and find it so incredibly helpful to my work as a food blogger.
    I also hope to attend your lecture tomorrow at Kendall in Chicago :)

  14. [...] Jacob is all over the place: being interviewed by The Christian Science Monitor’s Rebekah Denn; blogging the enticing news that Saveur is welcoming new writers; and publishing a revamped version of her very popular 2005 [...]

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