Pitching Unsolicited Manuscripts

I’ve gotten in a good routine here at my Airbnb without my kids or my dog or my big house to look after, aside from managing some final projects. There is something to be said—a lot to be said— for living a simpler life. While our three-story, 3300 square foot house was beautiful with lots of great spaces and amenities, it’s the sort of home where minor projects become the reason to call in a contractor. I don’t own a ladder tall enough to clean my gutters or change out the ceiling light bulbs in the main living space, for example. So here I will say for the record: I never want a big house again.

During these lulls waiting for different people to show up, I have been catching up on my writing projects. The day before yesterday, I completed a piece I had started last year on mental health in the military. I got the idea for the premise based on my experience going through medical for my pre-deployment screening. The piece itself has come a long way from where it started. Initially, it was something of a personal essay, and while I like personal essays, I feel they are difficult to get published. There just aren’t many mainstream places that will publish personal essays.

I did some digging around to find a possible home for my piece and landed on the Ideas section of The Atlantic, which is a long shot for a few reasons:

1. I sent a completed, unsolicited manuscript, which is risky. One thing I’m learning is this idea of pitching (which is a skill all its own), which means you present the idea in the form of a pitch, and the outlet expresses interest and ONLY THEN do you write the piece. I have no idea if The Atlantic is interested in a piece on mental health in the military.

2. Because The Atlantic has a high standard for writing and content. When I decided I would pitch my manuscript, I turned a couple of their already published articles into Word documents so I could re-engineer my piece to fit the structure of what they have previously published. I also needed to look at the word count. I think I have leveled up my article a lot on a technical level and a scholarly level. I’m satisfied with the finished work, at least.

After I sent it in, I received their automatic response that if I don’t hear back from them in 72 hours, I can feel free to take my piece someplace else, which is good form on their part. There’s not much worse as a writer to have your piece in limbo because the publication hasn’t bothered to send you a formal rejection. We’ll see. I have one other idea of where to pitch the manuscript. If anyone can think of any others besides The Atlantic and War on the Rocks, let me know! Otherwise, I’ll put the thing in my digital drawer from now until eternity.