How to Pitch a Story to Mental Floss

Pheelings Media/iStock via Getty Images
Pheelings Media/iStock via Getty Images

So, you’d like to write for Mental Floss? That’s wonderful to hear. We’re always looking for new voices to write about the diverse verticals we cover, whether that's history, science, entertainment, language, pop culture, art, or beyond. In order to craft the best pitch possible, please take a few minutes to review the information and pointers below.

Pitching Tips

  • Be sure to spend some time reading MentalFloss.com before pitching to familiarize yourself with our content, tone, and scope—and to make sure that we haven’t already covered the story you’re planning to pitch.
  • Pitch only one editor. If your pitch is not within the scope of subject areas that particular editor covers, it will be forwarded on to the correct person.
  • Keep your pitch short—one or two paragraphs max—and if you have a particular expertise on this subject, tell us that. What makes you the best person to write this story?
  • Be sure to include a link to your portfolio or a couple samples of your work (please do not send attachments; they will not be opened).
  • Take the time to brainstorm a possible headline for your story, and include that as part of the subject line, i.e. Freelance Pitch: 50 Amazing Facts About Animals. Having a headline can help us better understand the angle you plan to use with your story.
  • If your piece requires interviews with any experts, let us know if you have specific people in mind.
  • Unless a story has officially been assigned to you by an editor, you cannot use Mental Floss’s name in order to obtain access to events, interview subjects, etc.
  • Do not pitch or send completed articles.
  • Expect a response to your pitch within two weeks. If you do not receive a response after two weeks, you can assume it’s a pass. Due to the number of pitches we receive each day, we are unfortunately not able to respond to every pitch we receive.
  • If your story is timely, include the word “timely” in your subject line (though note that news stories are generally written by our staff writers).

Pitches We Can Use

Lists

Lists are an overview of a topic in digestible-nugget form. Each list will cover the who, what, when, and where of the subject, plus its significance, and pay particular attention to quirky or little-known facts about the subject. Pitches may focus on the below topics:

  • Subjects that have a major anniversary coming up
  • Historical figures and events
  • Movies and TV series
  • Music
  • Literature and art
  • Language
  • Food and drink
  • Helpful tips and life hacks
  • Scientific discoveries, phenomena, and figures
  • Pop culture fads, events, and personalities

Features

Features are reported stories that delve into a topic from a particular angle and with strong characters and storytelling. Features can be short (500 words) or longer (800-1500 words). Areas ripe for features include:

  • Historical events that put current events into perspective
  • Exploring and/or answering a big question
  • Science stories that explain a new field of research or highlight a scientist’s ongoing work
  • A deep dive into a pop culture event or phenomenon in history
  • True crime and unsolved mysteries
  • Features about odd, unique, or little-known historical events and people

Pitches We Can’t Use

  • Short, timely news stories: these pieces are covered by our staff writers
  • Science articles based on a single study: these are also covered by staff writers
  • First-person articles or personal essays
  • Fiction, memoir, or poetry
  • Current politics or political opinion
  • Stories based solely on PR pitches

What to Include in Your Pitch

For Lists:

  • A possible headline
  • A short description of your subject and why you want to write about it
  • Four to five examples of the items you will include (simply listing the items is sufficient, unless some background info is needed)
  • A brief bio and two or three links to relevant clips

For Features:

  • A possible headline
  • One to two paragraphs explaining the topic, angle, and story arc, and addressing three questions: Why should Mental Floss publish the story? Why are you the best writer for it? Why should the story be told now?
  • Potential sources you will consult or interview
  • A brief bio and two or three links to relevant clips

Editorial Contacts

Language, Literature, Food, True Crime: Erin McCarthy

Entertainment (Movies, TV, Music), Pop Culture: Jennifer M. Wood

Science, Archaeology, Environment, DIY: Kat Long

Travel, History, Retrobituaries: Kerry Wolfe

Products, Product Reviews, Job Secrets: Jason Serafino

All Other Pitches: General

If you're a publicist looking to share a press release or pitching a client, please email contact@mentalfloss.com.

Payment

  • Lists begin at $150 and increase depending on length.
  • Short features (500 words) begin at $125 while longer features start at $200; rates increase based on length of story, amount of reporting and research, etc.
  • Fees will be discussed and agreed upon before work on any story commences.
  • When a story is assigned, writers who have not previously worked with Mental Floss are asked to sign our standard writer’s agreement.
  • Payments are made via direct deposit and invoiced at the end of the month in which the story is submitted, then paid within 15-20 days.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Who Was Jim Crow?

Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

The name Jim Crow appears throughout many U.S. history books. It's used in reference to both the laws that segregated Black and white Americans in the Southern United States and the region itself during the period when these laws were enforced. Jim Crow Laws and the Jim Crow South were very real from the late 19th through the mid-20th centuries, but a real person named Jim Crow never existed. The name comes from a fictional character used to perpetuate racist stereotypes before the Civil War.

According to Ferris State University, a white performer named Thomas Dartmouth Rice originated the Jim Crow caricature in the 1830s. Rice, known as "the Father of Minstrelsy," would don blackface and affect an exaggerated African American dialect while performing his musical act. Jim Crow was meant to be a racist stereotype of an enslaved person: Like many minstrel personas that came after him, the character was portrayed as a clumsy buffoon.

Though Rice didn't invent minstrelsy, his success helped popularize the stage show format. Inspired by Rice, other minstrel actors borrowed his Jim Crow routine, and soon whites were using the name as a derogatory term for African Americans.

Even after slavery was abolished and minstrel shows faded into obscurity, the Jim Crow character lived on as a label. According to History, the first Jim Crow laws were passed in the Reconstruction Period as a way to limit the rights and resources of newly freed Blacks in the South. Such laws imposed literacy tests on Black voters, segregated public schools, and made it legal for businesses to segregate their customers by race.

How exactly these laws became associated with Jim Crow is unclear, but the phrase Jim Crow Laws was being used by the late 19th century. An 1892 article from The New York Times used the wording when reporting on Louisiana's segregated railroad cars.

Though most people may not be aware of the name's origins, Jim Crow still comes up today when discussing this dark period in U.S. history and its lasting effect on the country.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.