Last updated September 1st, 2020.
What is Folks?
Folks is an online magazine dedicated to telling the stories of remarkable people who refuse to be defined by their health issues. By sharing the experiences of these individuals, we hope to challenge stigma, and change people’s preconceptions about what it means to be normal and healthy.
Editorially independent, Folks is sponsored and published by PillPack. Part of our mission at PillPack is to create healthcare experiences that empower people. We believe that people are more than just their conditions, and managing health is an important part of everyone’s life.
We publish roughly four stories per week. We pay our contributors fairly, and we don’t sell advertising.
What kind of stories does Folks publish?
Folks publishes stories that challenge people’s preconceptions about what it means to live with illness or disability. Our stories do this by:
- Making illness relatable to everyone, even people without a health condition.
- Educating readers about the human side of having a health condition.
- Confronting and reducing stigma around being disabled or ill.
- Showing that managing a health condition is a balancing act, just like the rest of life.
- Answering specific and relatable questions about the experience of being ill or disabled.
Most of our stories under the following formats:
- Narrative essays about some aspect of the experience of having a condition.
- Focused think pieces with a strong hook.
- Profiles and interviews with notable individuals who live with a condition.
- Primers that break down a condition in a relatable, humanist way.
- Historical essays that look at important figures through the lens of having a condition.
- Features that weave together the stories of three or more notable people living with a condition to reveal a specific aspect of their shared experience.
Is Folks accepting pitches from new writers?
Yes, always yes! But make sure you read and understand what we’re looking for first.
What do we look for in a pitch/submission?
Here’s some of the things we look for in a pitch:
- A strong narrative hook.
- A unique take or non-generic perspective.
- A notable subject, if a profile or interview.
- A killer suggested headline.
- A story that intersects with a health condition, but isn’t about it.
- Timely relevance.
- A large and thriving community of people online who will relate to the piece.
- Specific, not abstract.
- Showing, not telling.
- A clear takeaway.
Pitches we don’t usually accept include:
- Profiles or interviews with people who are only notable for having a condition.
- Under-developed pitches, and pitches that are generic or abstract.
- Pitches that over-rely on empty terms like “inspiration,” “perseverance,” “living life to the fullest,” “real life superhero,” “empowerment,” “overcoming adversity,” etc.
- Pitches without relevance to an American audience.
- Explicitly partisan political pitches.
- Stories without a strong point of view or narrative.
- Thinly-veiled advertorials for a person’s business.
- Diagnosis or treatment journeys without any other takeaway.
- Clichéd stories like “Disabled Artist Does Art” or “Cancer Survivor Climbs Everest” without anything else to distinguish them.
- Stories about subjects who are primarily looking to build out their personal brand.
For example: “How Being Attacked By A Crocodile Changed My Relationship With Diabetes” is a no-brainer buy for us. “How Getting Diabetes Inspired Me To Live Life To The Fullest” is a pass.
A further example: “After Diagnosis, This Man Designed A Rollercoaster For People With Vertigo” is an example of both a notable subject, killer headline, and unique narrative hook. “After Diagnosis, This Person With EDS Started Blogging” is a pass.
One final example. “How Having Spina Bifida Is Like Being A Mermaid” is an intriguing hook for a more abstract thinkpiece. “How My Diagnosis Taught Me To Persevere” isn’t likely going to be interesting to us, because it’s both abstract and generic.
How should I pitch/submit stories for publication?
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org. The subject line should begin with “Pitch:” and contain a brief description of your pitch, including the condition you’re writing about. All future correspondence about this pitch should happen within this email thread.
- Include a 2-3 sentence bio telling us who you are, along with links to a handful of your best previously published stories.
- If you already have a draft, please attach it.
- Make your pitch brief and to the point. What is your piece about? What makes your subject(s) unique? What condition is it about? Why do you think this story would perform well? What do you hope audiences will take away from it?
- Other things to consider: Are there quality, high-res photos available? Does your subject have a large social following? Have there been other articles written about them? How long will you need to deliver a first draft? If you have this information, include it here.
Here’s a decent pitch example for a profile or interview:
“My name is John Brownlee, and I’m a writer based in Boston who has previously been published in Fast Company, Wired, CNN, and more. I’d like to interview Morticia Adams, a 28-year-old mortician with Type 2 diabetes who creates imaginary animals out of taxidermy as “spirit animals” representing other chronic illnesses. Here’s a link to her Instagram. Although she hasn’t been written about by other publications, she’s garnered an Instagram following of 100K people, and is often enthusiastically talked about on the biggest Facebook groups about Type 2, such as Beyond Type 2 and Type 2 Or Go Home. She has already agreed to an interview, has several high-quality photographs available, and promises to help promote the finished story, which I could deliver a week after the date this pitch is accepted.”
We respond quickly to most pitches, but please give us a couple of weeks before following up.
What other editorial guidance do you have?
- Please share your drafts with us as editable Google Doc files. After your draft is submitted, all changes you make to the text should happen in ‘Suggesting’ mode.
- We prefer writers to follow the AP Stylebook.
- All drafts should be under 1,000 words.
- Feel free to include hed, dek, headings, and pullquote suggestions in your draft. However, we reserve the right to make the final decisions.
- We try not to censor our subjects for language, but even so, it shouldn’t be gratuitous. Please try to keep the language friendly for a general audience.
- Please include a list of relevant organizations and social media accounts at the bottom of your drafts, as well as the email address of your subject.
- We need at least one high-quality image (preferably relevant to the subject, and which we have permission to use) in landscape orientation to publish a story. Ideally, photographs should be at least 1280 pixels on their longest axis, and 72DPI+. However, the more images you submit the better. Submit your images (along with photo credits and captions) as soon as possible. Please note: we can not use images with watermarks.
- Unless it’s the point of the story, or the way in which a person was diagnosed is extremely interesting, it’s generally a little lazy to open a story on a subject’s diagnosis. We should be talking about our subjects as individuals first, not as sick people.
- Please be aware that all pieces on Folks are professionally edited, and the text of your draft may change between acceptance and publication. We try to make sure to run major changes by writers first.
How much do you pay and what rights do you retain?
Folks is proud to pay competitive rates to all our writers. We pay $400 for QAs and essays, $600 for reported profiles (1 main subject), and $1000 for reported features (3+ main subjects). For all stories, we buy a one-year publishing exclusive, after which you can publish the piece elsewhere. For a look at our contract, see here.
Payment and other terms?
Here’s our standard terms and other things you should know:
1) Folks purchases the exclusive publication rights for a period of 12 months, after which time, you may republish or resell the piece elsewhere.
2) Upon receiving a draft of your story, we will (if necessary) invite you to join our payment system, Payee Central. Once you sign up, we will then write a purchase order for 50% of the agreed-upon fee, which you can then use to invoice us through Payee Central.
3) All drafts should be shared with us as Google Docs with edit rights. Submit high-resolution images by email.
4) All stories go through an editing process, during which time we expect writers to work with us on revisions. When your editor asks for changes, you should make them in Google Docs’ ‘Suggesting’ mode so they can be easily tracked.
6) If a draft can not be brought to publication through this process, or does not otherwise meet our standards, we reserve the right to kill the story, in which case the writer can keep their 50% upfront payment as a kill fee and shop the draft elsewhere.
7) Upon publication of the completed story, we will write a purchase order for the remaining 50% fee, which an author can use to invoice for the amount owed.
8) Once an invoice has been submitted with a valid PO to Payee Central, our payment terms are 30 NET. You can check the status of a payment at any time by logging into Payee Central.
Kill Fees / Why Stories Get Killed
While we hate to do it, Folks reserves the right to kill stories for any reason. If a story is killed, authors will be paid 50% of the agreed-upon rate for the piece. They are then free to shop it around elsewhere.
While some stories are killed for reasons that are nobody’s fault, few authors who have their stories killed are asked to contribute to Folks again. Here are some common reasons stories get killed:
- Requires an inordinate amount of editing time to bring up to publication standard.
- Writer did not do due diligence or research ahead of time.
- Story does not deliver upon pitch, or is different from story agreed.
- Writer does not accept edits, or does not address edits in good faith.
What is PillPack?
PillPack is a Massachusetts and New Hampshire pharmacy founded in 2013 that pre-packages prescriptions and OTCs together by the dose, then ships them directly to your door. Now owned by Amazon, PillPack’s mission is to make managing your medications—and therefore, managing your health—as simple as possible. For more information about PillPack’s service, check out our webpage.