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.

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine
Letsfit/Amazon

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains
Eclipse/Amazon

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock
JALL/Amazon

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
Philips/Amazon

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket
Baloo/Amazon

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band
Philips/Amazon

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

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

What Should You Do In the Unlikely Event You Meet An Alien?

If you ever find yourself in a Mac and Me-type situation, it's best to know what to do.
If you ever find yourself in a Mac and Me-type situation, it's best to know what to do.
Shout! Factory

What do you do if you encounter an alien? It’s obviously fairly unlikely, but nothing is impossible—after all, you can’t spell meet without ET. If there’s a stray dog in your backyard, there’s a set procedure to follow. But what if, rather than a mere hound, it’s a creature from another world?

“If you meet an alien in your backyard, my recommendation is to get out of town,” Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute, an organization seeking to explore, understand, and explain the origin and nature of life in the universe, tells Mental Floss. “If they have the technology to come here, they’re so far beyond us that whatever they want to do, they're going to do. If they’re here to take over the planet, it’s going to be pretty hard to stop them.”

A creature from another planet lurking on your property means not only that there is intelligent life elsewhere, but that it is at a significantly more technologically advanced stage than humanity. A species with the ability to not only travel the enormous distances involved (the closest star to our sun, which does have some potentially life-supporting planets, is 4.2 light years away), but also land undetected in your flowerbed would simply have us outclassed.

As you flee, however, you might want to contact the emergency services. If, for instance, the alien is aflame—and given that we know nothing about what form such a creature might take, there’s no real reason it wouldn’t be—you might want to give the fire department a call, for example. Moving up a notch, the FBI and Department of Defense are frequently contacted with flying saucer sightings, as are the UK’s Royal Air Force and Ministry of Defence and, well, pretty much every other emergency service in every country. This is because there is no set protocol, no universally agreed-upon decree of exactly what to do in the event of a close encounter.

“As far as I know, there is no policy for that, because that would be like Neanderthals having a policy for if the U.S. military decided to take them on,” Shostak says. “If aliens were actually landing here, we could have whatever policy we wanted and it wouldn’t be likely to help much.”

A scene from E.T.
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Whatever Hollywood might tell us, the likelihood is that any contact we have with beings from another world will be limited to picking up a signal from deep space, rather than encountering the long fingers and warm heart of a charming 3-foot-tall alien rustling around in shrubbery. As luck would have it, there is a protocol for that; it's known as the Declaration of Principles Concerning Activities Following the Detection of Extraterrestrial Intelligence [PDF] and was put together by the International Academy of Astronautics with input from Shostak.

The protocols are also entirely voluntary, with no force of law behind them and nobody under any obligation to adhere to them. What if you don’t want to tell everybody? What if you fancy keeping information about life beyond Earth to yourself for a while? You’re the one talking to aliens, after all—surely you can make a few bucks out of the situation ...

As Shostak points out, this kind of thinking is unlikely to get you anywhere. Given the distances involved, and the power required to transmit information that far, you aren’t going to be in any kind of dialogue. Secondly, revealing that you have detected a transmission is useless without it being verified and studied—the process of which, by necessity, involves making that information available to the world. Thirdly, interpreting any alien message will be a mammoth task involving a lot of work from a lot of people, a task unlikely to ever reach a definitive conclusion. “It would depend on whether they were trying to make it easy,” Shostak says.

Anything you discovered would belong to humanity as a whole, as we collectively tried to figure out what the signal meant, both literally and existentially, knowing we are not alone in the universe. You’d get to be the first person to prove there was intelligent life beyond Earth, which might be mildly less exciting in the short term than getting attacked by a little green man while taking the trash out, but at least you’d live to tell the tale.