Home » How To Pitch Stories To The Autopian So You Can Get Published On The Ultimate Car *Cult*ure Website

How To Pitch Stories To The Autopian So You Can Get Published On The Ultimate Car *Cult*ure Website

Write Stuff Final (2)
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There’s a chance you read the stories on The Autopian every day and think: “Look at these absolute goons; if they can do this, so can I!” Well, yes and no. After all, “can” and “should” are very different things. We must advise caution here; do this wrong, and you could go down a very dark path that ultimately leads to Buick Park Avenue Ultra ownership. Having said that, we’re always wanting for stories around here, especially from new voices and especially if those voices can meet our tough editorial standards. We pay, too!

So if you want to pitch a freelance story to us, go ahead (and thank you for considering writing for us). But here’s what we’re looking for, and what you need to do first.

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Some Basics

Learn Aps

Our Mission: The Autopian’s goal is to serve the car enthusiast community by sharing stories that inform and entertain while celebrating the unifying quality of automobiles.

Our Philosophy: The Autopian is a “Yes First” organization. New ideas are welcomed with open arms, not discarded out of fear or laziness. This team embraces change and growth.

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Quality Is Job Number One: Basically, be prepared to turn in good, clean, high-quality writing. Read Strunk & White cover-to-cover. Consult the AP Stylebook. Make sure 100% of your stories have gone through a spelling/grammar check (Google Docs will do) prior to submission. This last one is a requirement—since we’re a small operation, we’re not in a great spot to perform surgery on your work.

What We’re After: The Double-E Rule

Double E

We Value Expertise: What can you teach readers that they don’t already know and cannot easily learn without your guidance? What insight do you have — through your own experience or through your research?

The “Double-E Rule”: Any article written on The Autopian must meet the following criteria: It must be entertaining or sufficiently enlightening. Ideally both.

For readers to feel that their time has been well-spent perusing an article, they must have experienced either fun or significant learning. In other words, the typical reader expects each story to contain humor, some other form of entertainment, or a significant amount of information that they don’t already know.

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If a person finishes a story and does not say either “Wow, that was fun” or “Wow, I learned something new today,” then they will likely be unsatisfied with the piece.

Thus, the Double-E Rule is the standard at The Autopian. Building an understanding of how much of each E is needed to leave your audience satisfied is something that takes time and experience. Until then, just ask yourself “Is this entertaining or enlightening?” And if it’s not strong in one area, is that made up for with more of the other ingredient? Just posing that question can expedite your ability to properly frame and execute your story; fine-tuning the quantities will come with time.

Note: This isn’t just about making readers happy that they took the time to read your story, it’s about getting them to read the story in the first place. The latter is just as important as the former, and the Double-E rule applies to it just as much. Your headline and intro paragraphs need to help readers feel like they’re either going to read something fun or that they’re about to learn something new (and that they haven’t read elsewhere.)

As you establish your reputation at the site, people will associate your byline with Double-E, and that alone will be enough to get them to read; that should be the dream of any writer.

If you’re not a seasoned expert, you need to figure out why anyone should listen to you. Or you need to find people who are and interview them.

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Not An Expert? Find One

If you write for us, you’re a journalist, and that means we have high standards for accuracy and quality.

It’s your job to leverage that opportunity to provide readers with genuine insight. Get answers from experts, not just some website that you Googled. Dig into exclusive imagery and long research papers, not just YouTube videos. Make some phone calls, send some emails, or experience something in person: You are the public’s tour guide for the automotive industry. And if properly executed, that tour will fascinate hundreds of thousands of people every day.

Technical Articles MUST Include Input From Experts

At The Autopian, we generally expect stories to include input from experts (engineers, technicians, historians, analysts, etc.) whenever possible.

If you are one of those, great! We’d love to have you write for us. If you’re not, find some experts—or ask us to hook you up. We have an extensive Rolodex, we don’t expect you to know everyone and we’re always down to help.

Example: If you want to write a story about bushings — ex: “Bushings Can Make A Huge Difference In How Your Car Drives: What You Need To Know” — our readers will expect that story to have input from people who are experts on the topic. Engineers, mechanics, product planners, America’s top scientists… people like that.

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In this instance, if you’re not an expert, you cannot write authoritatively about bushings (again, just an example) without strong sourcing. Even if you’ve done all sorts of research on the web, you’re going to miss certain key elements that only an engineer can know, so you need to make sure your research includes input from true experts. Yes, you can base your story on a scientific research paper written by experts, but your first instinct should be to have experts directly inform our stories, especially technical ones.

If you need some, just ask! We’re probably able to help you find some folks if you need. But that’s something you should try to bring to the table.

Images are Critical

All stories here have art of some kind. You don’t have to be a pro shooter, but it’s highly encouraged to bring your own work, or use photos from the automakers’ media sites or publicly-available pictures.

Snag screenshots off YouTube, Wikipedia is sometimes okay if it’s labeled public domain, use for-sale listings, and of course, manufacturers’ websites are often awesome. If you’re not sure whether you can use an image, just ask (we have a guide). If you need The Autopian to draw you an image, we have artists on our payroll.

What We Want

  • Engineering deep-dives into interesting, relevant technology, especially written by experts in their fields.
  • History lessons from people who were there at the time.
  • Dives into an interesting car culture or subculture nobody knows about.
  • Deeply sourced stories where a lot of voices are involved.
  • Stories from people who lead interesting lives working on lots of interesting machines.
  • Stories that counter a popular narrative, and are different from everything else on the web.
  • Stories from folks who who maybe haven’t been represented much in car journalism, for whatever reason.
  • Stories with lots of good, original photos whenever possible.

What We Don’t Want

  • Car reviews if you’ve never done any before, or requests to get into a press car.
  • Articles that require a lot of overhauling. We keep our overhauling to cars!
  • “Takes” that do not require significant research/a unique perspective. (Ex: “I think this car is the best value on the market” — This does not pass Double E).
  • News items—we have a daily staff that handles those. (Unless you’re sitting on a hot scoop, in which case, get in touch ASAP.)
  • Very short items. No thanks, we want features instead. (1,000 words is considered on the smaller side)
  • SEO-gaming articles and lists. Leave that race to the bottom stuff to the competition.
  • Fiction or satire (only Jason gets to do this). We are not a literary magazine.
  • Press releases or PR pitches (unless you’re with an OEM). Please don’t send those to the contributor story pitch line.

Ok, with that out of the way, here’s what’s next:

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The Process

Step 0: You can request a more complete freelance pitch guide via email (pitches@theautopian.com. Use subject line: Pitch Document Request).

Step 1: First, freelancers suggest a topic to write about with a specific angle involved. In the business, we call this “the pitch.”  Often this can be in headline format (How Volvo’s Radically ‘Humane’ Car Production Idea Lost Out To Toyota, for example.) It can be a rough headline idea; your editors will make the final call on the headline.

Make a list of story headlines that will form the basis for the stories you’re pitching. Along with each headline, include a 1-2 sentence blurb about the story’s subject and angle. Also include why each pitch passes Double-E.

Step 2: Send it to us at pitches at the autopian dot com. Twitter DMs and text messages don’t count as pitches, sorry. If we’re interested, you’ll hear from us. If we’re not, you may not. Don’t take it personally—we’re a small and busy team and we do the best we can. [Ed Note: This guide is hopefully going to help us improve our process, as I haven’t been great about freelance-submission management. -DT].

But if we’re into your idea, then you and the editor will concoct a basic plan of how to construct the story. A deadline will be established unless it’s a piece you’ve pre-written first.

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Step 3: Upon receiving the draft (in Google Docs, with grammar/spelling check already complete), the Autopian staffer will go back and forth with the writer, suggesting edits until the piece is ready for publication.

Step 4: Upon handing in the final draft, email a completed W-9 form and an invoice to david@autopian.com (a standard invoice doc is available should you need one). Just make sure to include an invoice number of some kind.

Freelance Story Rates

Our freelance rates are based upon a number of factors, the main ones being 1. The author’s level of expertise on the topic 2. The author’s writing experience. 3. How well we think the story will perform with our audience. 4. If travel is involved or heavy research, those can affect the rate, as well.

Generally, though, we start at $300 for “standard” stories from people with professional writing experience, and move up to $500 for longer, more heavily researched/reported features or for reviews that require multi-day press trips. Though we are a startup trying to remain lean, we’re willing negotiate up for excellent stories, especially pieces requiring extremely intensive research. (If you have a world-beating piece, we want it to be published here). Newbies with no writing experience who have interesting stories to tell will also sometimes be accepted, as well, though we pay about $100 to $200 when the story is from someone new to this world and when it requires major surgery (this number can grow as the writer grows).

Any Questions?

Hit us up anytime! Email david@theautopian.com.

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And readers, we’d love comments on what types of stories you’d like to see around here. Maybe a freelance writer will see your idea with its many thumbs ups and think “Hmm, maybe I should dig into that.”

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Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
9 months ago

I know you are swamped, any idea on when a pitch do could be seen? I threw one out there as I am doing something that may hit many of the vehicle related interests in May. I have the general idea and it could be become a 2 part article as I have some the plans down.

Things and stuff
Things and stuff
9 months ago

Fiction or satire (only Jason gets to do this)

So you’re saying the bishop is Jason’s alter ego?

Is Travis
Is Travis
9 months ago

I wish I had the talent to compile my automotive experiences into an interesting article, lord knows I have the photos of the journey, but I don’t think I could consistently convey the stories in a way that would be entertaining and enlightening.
While I am sure there is heaps of entertainment and some mild enlightenment to be mined from the highs and lows, I think I would be better off trying to condense my anecdotes into something more embarrassing like stand up comedy or film making. My writing is terribly lazy from years of forum commenting and internet depunctuation, I’m amazed I can cobble together decent work emails.

Steve Karo
Steve Karo
9 months ago

This is hilarious. You finally answered my inquiry for submitting my Defender Restoration Journey and basically told me I have no E – that’s BS everyone knows the Defender is superior to Jeep. And to top it off, you shat on my bushings story. Seriously, I had a great idea for why you need to buy control arms with bushings, instead of pressing them out/in since I just completed both and now have a comparison – if its on a Range Rover sport..buy the whole control arm if you want to save yourself 20 hours of extra work. Ok..now that I am done venting its off to Pitch my “Why the 1978 VW Rabbit is the worst car to drive as a teenager” story. Anyone have an AP Stylebook I can borrow?

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
9 months ago
Reply to  Steve Karo

“Anyone have an AP Stylebook I can borrow?”

Your friendly local public library.

Wolfpack57
Wolfpack57
9 months ago

Can I pitch a story for Torch? I’d be interested to see a lighting/styling analysis of the new WEC/IMSA Hypercars

Alan Bradley
Alan Bradley
9 months ago

This article is golddust for people starting to write and pitch.
I, for example, wouldn’t have had a clue where to start. Thanks, guys.

Chronometric
Chronometric
9 months ago

So I can spend 20 hours to research and write a witty and informative article using my unique expertise in order to make minimum wage? Well there’s a deal.

Seriously, you just put those numbers in so we would feel sorry for the starving journalists and sign up for memberships, right?

Ian McClure
Ian McClure
9 months ago
Reply to  Chronometric

If you can write something and have someone else pay you more for it, then do it. If you can write something that Autopian is willing to pay more to have, then do it.

Chronometric
Chronometric
9 months ago
Reply to  Ian McClure

Writing a good informative article is hard work and requires intellect, language mastery, and knowledge. I think it is fair to say most people could not do it well. My point is that anyone with that skill set and motivation should be worth more money.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
9 months ago
Reply to  Chronometric

How much time do you spend writing comments?

Chronometric
Chronometric
9 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Way too much! However, anyone can do that.

Look, this is entirely my opinion. It appears to me they are treating this like an Uber gig job, just a cheap side hustle. Clearly some really smart professionals with both technical and writing skills have contributed in the past and others may want to do so in the future. I will happily read their content. My perception of what it takes to do an article might be way off. Maybe those with years of experience can knock out an article in a few hours and it is totally worth their while.

Bottom line, I hope the contributors to this site are being paid a professional wage for their efforts. And we can continue to get rootwyrm for free.

Hiram McDaniel
Hiram McDaniel
9 months ago

I’m the world’s worst car flipper. Professional level. I’m terrible at it. I’m not sure if that’s the basis for an article, but I am absolutely the man you want to buy a car from.

Carbon Fiber Sasquatch
Carbon Fiber Sasquatch
9 months ago

This sounds awesome but unfortunately I get most of my car info from you guys lol. The only cars I have any expertise on are these and these

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
9 months ago

ap style guide for librul elites i use good words why no1 publish my articel???

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
9 months ago

But, what if we have no discernable talent or abilities whatsoever? Can we still get in on it?

Carbon Fiber Sasquatch
Carbon Fiber Sasquatch
9 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

I meant to ask the same thing, but I’m not talented enough of a writer!

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
9 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

I mean, that’s been the entire premise of my failed writing career.

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
9 months ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

Well, in the eyes of this gang of eccentrics, crackpots, dingbats and individuals-of-concern, you have not failed.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
9 months ago

awwww <3

Argentine Utop
Argentine Utop
9 months ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

Stef, you are incredibly talented! It’s incredibly tough out there for us writers, but not because of a shortage of skills and drive. Not in your case, at least.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
9 months ago
Reply to  Argentine Utop

“Shortage of money and jobs” has me looking harder outside the industry for the first time in a decade or so, and thanks, I hate it. :/

I’ll still probably write a few things outside of that if I end up going that route, though. You can’t keep me from having TAKES on PARSH.

Last edited 9 months ago by Stef Schrader
Argentine Utop
Argentine Utop
9 months ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

Well, part of being a writer is knowing that you will have another job. At least for me. I’m lucky that I like the job that pays my bills, but it has a cost: less time to do research, write and pitch. On the plus side, any day job can bring new stories to write, like the fabulously unlucky imaginary kidnapper I defended years ago. He will become a novel someday.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
9 months ago
Reply to  Argentine Utop

Ehhhhh…I’m really doubting the “another job” thing right now, at least not in the full-time, less-anxiety sense. They just don’t seem to exist.

Last edited 9 months ago by Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
9 months ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

Nuts, I wanted to expand on that, but I ran out of time in my edit window. RANT INCOMING!

The devaluation of writing as a skill worth paying decent wages for is a major frustration of mine, and one I’m constantly running into in my futile, depressing job search. Content mills have been paying exploitative bottom-dollar wages for years because this is a “cool job.” Some of the freelance rates I’ve been offered after a decade of doing this are downright insulting. Others feel like they can make up the difference in airline miles or press trips without realizing that our bills won’t take branded swag or access to press cars in payment. Worse yet, that setup incentivizes writers to stay on the press trip gravy train at all costs. That’s not great for getting honest, objective reviews, folks!

Now oblivious industry bosses and vulture capital ghouls feel like they can get away with replacing us with chatbots. They’ve been shedding jobs at an absurd rate for years—large language models like ChatGPT are really just their latest excuse. They don’t understand that we’re the entire value of the companies they buy. Without us, they’d have a bunch of inaccurate bot-barfed-out dreck that no one in their right mind wants to read (or watch, in the case of the film industry strike).

On the other side, we’ve got an entire automaker who ditched their media relations department, for goodness’ sake. Fortunately, Extremely Divorced, Inc., is an outlier—but if there’s anything the depressing listings in my job hunt have made crystal clear, the attitude of “why would we pay good wages for words?” runs rampant in every communications-related field out there right now. There’s far more entry-level roles that pay entry-level wages, but if you’re hoping to land anywhere that’ll pay for your experience, it’s bleak! Very bleak.

Too many of the experienced writers I know who would be a major asset to any publication that’d have them are stuck freelancing after layoffs, buyouts and other shenanigans. Where do we go? There’s only a handful of full-time roles available in this niche—if that—and many of them are looking for entry-level staff that they can pay way less than what we were making.

So, going back to the original post—all of this is to say that I’m glad to see The Autopian’s offering pretty decent freelance rates for web blogs. That’s depressingly tough to find nowadays.

Last edited 9 months ago by Stef Schrader
Argentine Utop
Argentine Utop
9 months ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

Wow, Stef, your rant is an impressive account of the state of the art… I was not aware of the situation in autojournalism, as I’ve been struggling on the -quite distant- political fiction side of the craft (ending up self publishing 4 novels that sold a grand total of 1 example in two months).
Yes, the prospect is bleak, and yes, the Autopian call is a blessing anytime, but especially in this context.
I very much hope to read more from you soon -and that you can live comfortably off it.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
9 months ago
Reply to  Argentine Utop

That’s an interesting niche, though! Hopefully you’re due for bigger and better things.

I really hope the recent, highly visible pushback from writing fields ends up for the better in the long run. Folks showing up en masse on the film side to show that human-produced writing matters and without us, entire industries can’t function actually gives me a lot of hope. Same goes for authors making a stink about training datasets using their work without any compensation or permission given for that use, or calling out the poor quality of relying on bottom-dollar content creation strategies. Our output is a skill worth compensating us for, full stop.

This interim period we’re stuck in is just bleak, though. There’s no getting around that.

Last edited 9 months ago by Stef Schrader
AC2DE
AC2DE
9 months ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

Failed?! I loved reading your work on the old site.

Your articles on racing made me wish I had the time (and budget) to get into Lemons or similar leagues, but helped me to live vicariously instead. Your TBI article had me in tears more than once; it really helped me understand a few fellow servicemembers who suffered TBIs.

At least in my (maybe over-inflated) opinion, you have a talent for writing in an engaging, entertaining, and informative style.

I, for one, would look forward to seeing your byline again, even if only occasionally.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
9 months ago
Reply to  AC2DE

Aw, man. That means a ton. <3

Citrus
Citrus
9 months ago

The only things I can think of are things that I’m not quite a qualified expert on – cars as visual shorthand in film was my first thought, but I really don’t have the contacts to talk to real directors/set designers. It would just be film criticism starting with a Nissan Figaro in Pacific Rim.

I remain tempted to do this for free.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
9 months ago
Reply to  Citrus

You should get paid for it! I’d read that.

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
9 months ago

I used to love writing for Drivetribe back when that site was a thing, and I was briefly well-known for high-quality, interesting, and entertaining articles. The main editor liked my stuff, and I was fortunate enough to be promoted to the homepage and paid for my writing several times… some were successful enough that they could be found on Apple News, which my friends thought was cool.

I haven’t had a good outlet for that kind of writing since, but perhaps I could try writing something for The Autopian? I’ve been wanting to write an article about early American electric taxis for quite some time now, but had nowhere to publish it…

Only problem is that interviewing people who were alive at that time in history is quite impossible now, since I don’t think I can find anyone who remembers the 1890s firsthand… But anecdotes from period publications are something I can probably find.

If I can find enough spare time between classes and homework, I’ll see what I can write!

Ecsta C3PO
Ecsta C3PO
9 months ago
Reply to  Austin Vail

If there is an early American electric taxis expert out there, Beau might know them! Or at least connect you to museums or collectors with some

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
9 months ago
Reply to  Ecsta C3PO

If so, that would be great. From what I can find, it doesn’t seem like any of these particular taxis still exist, which isn’t surprising as they had highly specialized infrastructure.

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
9 months ago
Reply to  Austin Vail

I would read that.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
9 months ago
Reply to  Austin Vail

Your stuff on DriveTribe was awesome! I love a good history dig, and that sounds really interesting.

Third Pedal Girl
Third Pedal Girl
9 months ago

I really should interview my dad, an old-school dirt track guy with lots of stories. I’m stupidly proud of him: his last year racing (1977!) he wrecked out early in the season but nobody caught up to him in points till August anyway.

ChefCJ
ChefCJ
9 months ago

I have a 2011 VW TDI Sportwagen. I would love to write a series of articles about my continual efforts to keep it on the road, and it’s continual efforts to thwart me at every turn.

Amschroeder5
Amschroeder5
9 months ago

We’ve seen car journalists try to cover it a couple of times in the internet, but how about taking a professional nuclear engineer (volunteering myself) to go through how functionally even advanced reactors are not likely to lead to nuclear cars (or trains/planes), even though companies, including my own, are developing reactors that are order of magnitude power compatible (5MWe) specifically targeting replacing diesel generators?

That’s a wordy-ass pitch, but still. Either directly written or just adding expertise where relevant.

Not interested in the money here.

David Tracy
David Tracy
9 months ago
Reply to  Amschroeder5

Why Nuclear Cars Will Never Happen

Is something I’d read! Especially if the answer isn’t intuitive.

Amschroeder5
Amschroeder5
9 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

Yep, its mostly a nuclear physics question, with hard constraints. At least without HEU (high-enriched uranium), which also won’t happen (politically).

Albino Kangaroo
Albino Kangaroo
9 months ago
Reply to  Amschroeder5

.

Last edited 9 months ago by Albino Kangaroo
Ecsta C3PO
Ecsta C3PO
9 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

Especially if the answer isn’t intuitive

This is my favorite category of technical and/or historical media (which Autopian is great at providing).
I don’t want the answer to be a long version of “because radiation is bad”.

Baron Usurper
Baron Usurper
9 months ago
Reply to  Amschroeder5

I support this.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
9 months ago
Reply to  Amschroeder5

It’s pronounced ‘nucular’.

Space
Space
9 months ago
Reply to  Amschroeder5

Do it, and then get the Bishop to make an article of what would happen if Saturn survived by making nuclear powered cars during high gas prices.

Mike
Mike
9 months ago

Can I just submit stories, pictures and short videos of my cats? That’s clearly where this website is headed.

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
9 months ago
Reply to  Mike

How my Feline overlords select my vehicles. When I look at RVs, I think of where they would lord over the moving house from.

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