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Hippocampus Magazine

These guidelines were updated and page reorganized a bit on Dec. 10, 2018. Please read them carefully before submitting; there’s a lot covered here. Our guidelines were shorter at one time, but we try to address all of the questions ahead of time. We can’t wait to read your work! (Already read our new guidelines? Go to our Submittable page now.)

NOTE: If you’re not already on our mailing list, please consider subscribing so that you’ll always be up to date on submissions announcement including open reading periods, special calls, etc.

Looking for a literary magazine that accepts personal essays? Hippocampus Magazine enthusiastically considers unsolicited, previously unpublished creative nonfiction submissions in the following categories:
  • memoir excerpt – a self-contained portion (chapter or selection) of a larger, book-length work – 4,000 words max
  • personal essay – a short narrative reflecting on a particular life experience or observation – 4,000 words max
  • flash creative nonfiction – 800 words max
  • For our small press submission guidelines, visit our Books by Hippocampus page
  • Our articles section (review, interviews, etc.) is by assignment only, and handled by our section editors. (Note: Guest columns and reviews are volunteer opportunities.)
See below for more details on how to submit creative nonfiction to us: what we’re looking for, and what we’re not as well as some common reasons for a decline.


Hippocampus Magazine is an independent, volunteer, mostly editor-funded effort. As of January 2017, we offer a $40 honorarium to authors whose work is accepted in the memoir, essay, and flash categories. If your story is selected for publication, your payment will be issued via PayPal within about 60 days of the date of publication.
Other perks and opps:
  • One contributor from each issue can win bragging rights AND a prize if their piece is deemed “Most Memorable.”
  • Contributors receive a discount on HippoCamp, our annual creative nonfiction conference, as well as special recognition on the conference name badge.
  • We have an annual contest, The Remember in November Contest for Creative Nonfiction which offers a grand prize of $1,000.


Word Count, Formatting and Submission Information

Please note: submissions not following our guidelines, below, will be automatically declined without explanation. Our blind reading process is important to us, and names on manuscripts/in filenames is the most overlooked rule. Please take care in your submissions to us and all literary journals. 
Aside from fitting our genre, submissions should be:
  • no more than 4,000 words in the memoir and essay category
  • no more than 800 words for flash creative nonfiction pieces
  • double-spaced
  • page-numbered
  • in a standard web/print font, such as Times New Roman or Arial in 10-12 pt. font. (No courier, or comic sans, please.)
  • free of your name or other identifying/contact information in the manuscript, header, and filename; you do not need to attach a cover page with your manuscript as that information is requested in the submission form itself
    • (Clarification: The submitter’s name is often important to the story. We completely understand! This is bound to happen since, after all, we publish creative nonfiction where you, the writer, are likely central to the story. Please use your judgement regarding your name appearing within the story, but PLEASE DO NOT include your name or contact information in the file name, header/footer or title page.)

Simultaneous and Multiple Submissions

  • Do not send us multiple submissions.
    • Hippocampus will only accept one submission at a time from an author; we will automatically decline any additional submissions, keeping only the first active in our queue. The exception is during contest or theme issue calls, in which you can have a regular submission AND a contest or theme submission under consideration at the same time.
    • You may also have a book query and an essay under consideration with us simultaneously.
    • If you are interested in submitting more than one piece to us, please wait until you receive a decision on one before submitting another.
    • Effective Aug. 1, 2017, Hippocampus will only publish work by a specific contributor once per calendar year; if you’ve been accepted by us, please wait until the following calendar year to submit again (this allows for us to have the most variety of voices possible.) The exception is contest and special theme issues, which are open to all.
  • We accept simultaneous creative nonfiction submissions, under the condition that you will withdraw your work from us if it is acceptable elsewhere.
    • Use Submittable’s “withdraw” feature, not email; this is so the status is changed and alerts given in the system. Again, please do not withdraw via email; we do not manage submissions by email.
    • Why is withdrawing important? If not removed from the queue, your submission will continue through our editorial process, meaning our volunteer reading panel reads and comments on your work; if your work is no longer available, we’re sure you’ll agree this is not a good use of anyone’s time.

How to Submit Your Work

Hippocampus Magazine has partnered with Submittable to provide an efficient way for both writer and publisher to track and organize submissions. If you frequently submit to literary magazines you may already be familiar with this superb submission tool.
Regular submissions require a $3 fee ($1.91 goes to Hippocampus after Submittable’s fee.) Learn more in this blog post.
Cover Letter:
A cover letter is not required. If you submit one, you must use the field in the Submittable form, not as a page within your uploaded document. Please note your letter is not visible to the reader panel. Your work will stand alone in our blind reading process, the way it should be.

More On What We’re Looking for… And What We’re Not

Please read a few pieces from our current and past issues to familiarize yourself with our publication. We can tell you this: we like quirky, we like edgy, we like witty, we like gritty, we like smart, we like diverse voices. We root for the underdog, and we appreciate resilience. We like pieces that take us to new places, we like to be moved, and, most of all, we like pieces that stick with us. We’re interested in hybrid forms and unique structures (that work in an in online format.) We entertain science, nature, and travel pieces that offer a personal element.
We do not accept fiction, poetry, academic papers, editorials, political/social commentary, satire, or criticism. Also, since we’re an online publication, we tend to not accept pieces that may require special text formatting/extra programming, or that include lots of footnotes.
Because of our response time, we may also not be the best place for timely pieces, such as an essay that reflects on a current event or holiday. (A newspaper/commercial magazine/specialty website with shorter lead times may be more ideal for these!)
We do not accept story pitches, and we do not accept submissions by email or mail. [We make rare exceptions to the mail in extenuating circumstances where a writer does not have access to the internet and/or a computer, such as incarceration, hospitalization, or other sensitive situations.]
Some common reasons for rejection: Beyond not following our guidelines or fitting our overall aesthetic, some craft-related reasons for a decline may include too much exposition, no universality, no clear story arc, not enough stakes for narrator, or over-explaining the ending (not trusting reader to make sense of piece). We’re sharing this brief list here so you can give your piece a once-over before you submit, knowing some of the things our reading panel often notates.

Other Submission Details & Next Steps

Submission Turnaround Time

  • We will respond to everyone who submits, but please be patient. Typical turnaround time is 3 to 4 months.
  • We typically read submissions in the order they’re received, with exceptions during contest and theme issue periods when submissions to certain categories are more time-sensitive than others. Sometimes we fall a little behind; we’re human and a volunteer team, but we do our best to keep up with a growing queue.
  • We accept—and expect—simultaneous submissions so, if another publication picks up your work in the meantime, please let us know via Submittable, as noted earlier (not through email).
  • Hippocampus Magazine publishes new material 10 times per year, and likes to plan ahead for future issues. We accept submissions on a rolling basis. If we accept your submission, we will let you know in which issue it will appear. Sometimes there is more lead time than others.

Acceptance Information

Notifications & Expectations
  • If we accept your story, you will receive notification via Submittable’s email system, so be sure you are set up to receive those notifications and periodically check your spam or promotion (or other filtered boxes.) Also, if you change your email address, be sure you update your Submittable account so you don’t miss a notification.
  • Your story will also change to “accepted” status in Submittable.
  • If we accept your story, you must respond to us with your intentions within 30 days; we’ll send one reminder email. If you do not hear back from you, we’ll assume you no longer wish to publish this particular piece with us. We will then change the status in Submittable from “accepted” to “withdrawn.”
Terms of Publication
  • By accepting publication, the author grants Hippocampus Magazine one-time electronic rights and one-time print anthology rights. The author retains copyright and may publish the submission elsewhere after it appears in Hippocampus. (We would appreciate a “first published in” credit.)
  • By accepting publication, the author gives Hippocampus Magazine the right to publish the work on, to archive it indefinitely as part of the issue in which it appeared, and to be included in future anthologized print or electronic editions of our publication. (Note: In some cases, we’ll re-feature archived work on the homepage; this does not constitute a new publication.)
  • Authors whose work is selected for publication will receive a contract outlining terms in more detail.

Other Helpful Information, Expectations & Requests

Communication Channels

Please only correspond with us through email or Submittable; we do not use the Hippocampus Magazine Twitter or Facebook accounts, especially Facebook Messenger, for professional and official communication. Our editors also do not use their personal email, Twitter, and Facebook accounts, and especially Facebook Messenger, for official Hippocampus communication. We DO use these channels for general audience engagement, but not to talk submissions, whether for the magazine, books division, or our annual conference.
Thank you for helping us streamline and organizing our communication, as well as respecting boundaries between personal web presence and professional. (Note: We’re firm believers in the email charter; give it a read and see how you can help save inboxes everywhere!)

Publishing Overview

  • As of the 2019 publishing schedule, Hippocampus publishes 7 new issues per year: January/February, March/April, May/June, July/August, September/October, November (a special contest issue featuring winner and finalist stories), and December ( special theme issue).
  • New issues typically go live the 1st of the month, but in cases of the 1st falling on a weekend or holiday, sometimes they’ll be released the first Monday or non-holiday day of the month.
  • Our bimonthly issues will typically feature up to 12 pieces of CNF, and our single-month issues between 6-10. All issues feature an articles department (reviews, craft, writing life, interviews)
  • We’ll refresh each bimonthly issue at the beginning of the second month with new articles and columns (reviews, craft, writing life, interviews).

About Passing on Submissions

Just because we pass on a particular submission does not mean it does not have merit; we publish 8-12 pieces per issue, and this often means turning away strong work. Sometimes it’s as simple as an essay with similar theme or style was recently published. Do not take editorial decisions personally. Just sitting down and getting your thoughts on paper is a task for which you should feel great pride—not everyone can do it. Every piece of writing has value. We feel it is important to spread the message of being persistent and diligent in your search for publication. Never let rejection discourage you from sharing your story. Just because it is not right for us or right for us at this time does not mean it will not find a more fitting or timely home. Write on.
Still have questions? Contact us.


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