Editorial Guidelines

Sierra is a bimonthly national magazine publishing writing, photography, and art about the natural world. Our readers are environmentally concerned, politically diverse, and actively enjoy the outdoors. We are looking for painstaking reporting and smart writing that will provoke, entertain, inform, and enlighten this readership.

Sierra is eager to work with professional writers of proven accomplishment who have read recent issues of the magazine and have ideas for stories that are germane to the magazine's motto--"Explore, enjoy, and protect the planet"--yet genuinely fresh. Well-researched, tightly focused queries should be submitted to Submissions.Sierra@sierraclub.org. Phone calls are strongly discouraged.

Prospective Sierra writers should familiarize themselves with recent issues of the magazine. For a sample copy, send a self-addressed envelope and a check for $5 payable to "Sierra"; back issues are included on the magazine's Web site, sierraclub.org/sierra. Please be patient: Though the editors meet weekly to discuss recently received queries, a response time of six to eight weeks is usual.

Please do not send slides, prints, or other artwork. If photos or illustrations are required for your submission, we will request them when your work is accepted for publication.


Sierra is looking for strong, well-researched, literate nonfiction storytelling about significant environmental and conservation issues, adventure travel, nature, self-propelled sports, and trends in green living. Writers should look for ways to cast new light on well-established issues. We look for stories of national or international significance; local issues, while sometimes useful as examples of broader trends, are seldom of interest in themselves.

We are always looking for adventure-travel pieces that weave events, discoveries, and environmental insights into the narrative. We are more interested in showcasing environmental solutions than adding to the list of environmental problems. We publish dramatic investigative stories that have the potential to reach a broad audience. Nonfiction essays on the natural world are welcome too. Features often focus on aspects of the Sierra Club's work, but few subjects are taboo. For more information about the Club's current campaigns, visit sierraclub.org.

We do not want descriptive wildlife articles unless larger conservation issues figure strongly in the story. We are not interested in editorials, general essays about environmentalism, or highly technical writing. We do not publish unsolicited cartoons, poetry, or fiction; please do not submit works in these genres.

Examples of feature articles that display the special qualities we look for include Jake Abrahamson's "Second Sight" (January/February 2014), Steve Hawk's interview with photographer Nick Brandt ("Artist or Activist?" March/April 2014), Bruce Selcraig's "The Mayor of Wind" (July/August 2014), Aaron Teasdale's "Lost in Time," (May/June 2014), and "India's Barefoot College," by Natalya Savka (September/October 2012).

Feature lengths range from 500 words to (rarely) 4,000 words or more with payment starting at about 75 cents a word and rising to considerably more for well-known writers with crackerjack credentials.


Much of the material in Sierra's departments is written by staff editors and contributing writers. The following sections of the magazine, however, are open to freelancers. Articles are 100 to 1,500 words in length; payment is $50 to $1,000 unless otherwise noted. Expenses of up to $50 may be paid in some cases.

"Enjoy" provides a colorful, upbeat take on green living. At turns practical and whimsical, this lavishly illustrated section informs readers about the latest (and best) trends, products, and tips in food, fashion, housing, outdoor recreation, transportation, and other areas of their everyday lives. The section also includes brief Q&As with green innovators in the lifestyle field and short takes on the books, music, movies, art, and other media that should be on any well-rounded environmentalist's radar. Writers are encouraged to submit queries on light, positive, inspiring topics that will help readers add more value to their lives, not more work--or more guilt. We especially welcome ideas that incorporate lists, factoids, photos, how-tos, recipes, quotes, statistics, tips, and other quick-hit presentations. Items should generally be 50 to 200 words in length; payment will vary depending on length and complexity.

"Explore" succinctly describes a superlative place, including fascinating natural and cultural facts, in about 300 words.

"Protect" focuses on environmental issues of national or international concern. Regional issues are considered when they have national implications. At 100 to 700 words, "Grapple" articles are tightly focused, provocative, well-researched investigations of environmental issues. Payment varies according to length.

"Act" features first-person accounts of ordinary folks doing extraordinary things. We publish a 100- to 150-word, heavily edited quotation from an interview that explains the person's actions, motivations, and impact.

"Comfort Zone" focuses on a home, apartment, office, building, or community that incorporates environmentally responsible design and building practices, while telling a story about how and why the structure was built and what it's like to live or work there.

"Mixed Media" offers round-up reviews of current and classic books, magazines, films, videos, games, and/or radio spots focusing on a central theme--fishing and riparian management, energy, natural history, and animal books are a few recent subjects. These are assigned to established authors, actors, directors, or editors with a measure of expertise in the area and an engaging, entertaining writing style. The writer's work is often excerpted.

Payment for all articles is on acceptance, which is contingent on a favorable review of the manuscript by our editorial staff, and by knowledgeable outside reviewers, where appropriate. Kill fees are negotiated when a story is assigned. Address all queries toSubmissions.Sierra@sierraclub.org.