Why subscribe to Open Secrets?

Open Secrets is a home for memorable, revealing personal essays about all the subjects we're taught to keep “secret.” Open Secrets launched in April 2023 and publishes an original personal essay every Monday (Tuesday if Monday is a holiday). Subscribe for free to get full access to every essay as it’s published and the website. Paid subscribers will receive exclusive access to bonus content including audio and video interviews with Open Secrets essayists, and any additional content shared. Open Secrets is funded by readers, with the first six months of funding provided by Editor Rachel Kramer Bussel.

Want to reach Open Secrets Editor Rachel Kramer Bussel? Email opensecretsmag at gmail.com

Why Open Secrets?

Open Secrets was founded and funded for its first six months by writer, editor, and writing instructor Rachel Kramer Bussel. After the closure of several prominent publications for essays in 2023, Rachel wanted to provide a home for the kinds of powerful essays she enjoys reading. Open Secrets will run from at least April to September 2023, and will continue indefinitely based on funds available via paying subscriptions.

All Open Secrets essays will be free to read at Open Secrets and will be emailed to free and paid subscribers. Paid subscribers to Open Secrets will receive exclusive access to audio and video interviews with essayists, bonus essays about writing, chat threads, and more.

From Editor Rachel Kramer Bussel: I have been a fan of the personal essay format for decades, as both a reader and a writer. I read as many essays as I can find and am always eager for more that make me feel like I’ve gotten a peek into the author’s inner life in ways that show me new ways to live my own life and will stay with me forever. After the demise of several prominent publications for personal essays in 2023, I wanted to provide another outlet online for essay authors, both established and newcomers to the genre, to share their work with an appreciative audience.

How are Open Secrets essays selected?

Call for Essays updated September 10, 2023

Open Secrets is looking for 10 essays to round out its 2023 publishing schedule. This call for essay submissions will change as topics are filled so check back before submitting. Submissions will be open until all available slots are filled. Priority will be given to the most unique, dramatic, and compelling among the submissions we receive. Authors will receive $100/essay upon approval of final draft of essay preview in Substack.

Make sure you read several of our past essays to get a sense of the type of work we publish. Open to essays from authors located anywhere in the world, but must be able to receive payment via Venmo, Zelle, or PayPal, or else accept a free lifetime membership.

Open Secrets essays must be previously unpublished and between 1,000-1,500 words. They should be deeply personal and make readers feel like they've been given an intimate glimpse into the author's life. They should be about topics we haven't covered previously. We are looking for the kinds of essays that readers will remember and feel moved by long after they've finished reading. Open Secrets essays must contain a clear trajectory exploring how the author's life has changed over the course of the essay.

Open Secrets is open to essays on all personal experiences, and is especially looking to publish essays on the following topics:

For our new Stuff-ed vertical, Our relationship with our stuff, from hoarding to minimalism to collecting and other approaches - can be about a large collection of belongings, or a single item or subset of items. The focus here should be on the personal impact of your stuff and how that has affected one or more aspects of your life. Submissions on this topic with original photos are especially welcome. 

Accessing abortion care in a state that has banned or limited such care post-Roe v. Wade

Essay by a veteran or active military member from anywhere in the world about your military experience and its ongoing impact 

Essay by a witch about Wicca/life as a witch

Essay related to gratitude/thankfulness and/or the Thanksgiving holiday

Essays about work and career, especially looking for someone out of work due to the WGA/SAG-AFTRA strikes about that experience

Essays about dating and relationships, especially less publicized angles and unique takes

How to submit:

Send Word or accessible Google doc that includes: Unpublished 1,000-1,500 word essay with headline, 1-line subhed (tagline), and bio for author

Send at least 1 horizontal photo you have the rights to (with photo credit) OR a link to an Unsplash.com image URL to run with your essay - we are open to multiple original photos being included if available

Authors may use a pseudonym but must let editor know a pseudonym is being used.

Essayists retain the rights to their work. While we are not issuing contracts, we are informally requesting 90-day exclusivity from the date of publication and that Open Secrets be credited as the original source with any reprints.

You will hear back by December 15, 2023 at the latest.

Questions? Email opensecretsmag@gmail.com

If sufficient funding from paying subscribers allows, future open submission windows of will be posted here.

Which essay topics does Open Secrets cover?

Since Open Secrets only publishes one essay per week, essays must be truly unique, original and powerful to be selected. Open Secrets essays are all previously unpublished at the time of publication and run from 1,000-1,500 words.

Open Secrets essays are loosely themed around the topic of "open secrets" but can be about any topic. We publish essays by authors that comment on the human condition in a way that will open readers' minds and give them new insights and food for thought. We're looking for the kinds of essays people will want to share and discuss and think about long after they've finished reading them. Open Secrets essays will cover the gamut of human life, from personal relationships to mental health and physical health to LGBTQIA+ life, grief, love, career/work, parenting, our attachments to our belongings, addiction, identity, and beyond. As long as an essay feels like it gives the reader a chance to get to know the author in a memorable way, it’s relevant.

Open Secrets pays $100 on acceptance via these platforms: PayPal, Venmo, or Zelle, or a lifetime subscription to Open Secrets. If you cannot receive payment via PayPal, Venmo, or Zelle, you will not be able to be paid by Open Secrets. An alternative payment option is a free paid lifetime subscription to Open Secrets (value of $80/year).

Open Secrets asks for 90-day exclusivity from the date your essay is published. After 90 days, you're free to publish your work elsewhere, although we request credit/link to the original Open Secrets essay, if possible. Open Secrets does not issue contracts.

Open Secrets essayists will have the option of additional unpaid promotion of their essay in the form of a video or audio Q&A with Open Secrets Editor Rachel Kramer Bussel for paying subscribers and/or to write additional commentary about their essay and/or participate in chat threads.

How to submit 2023 memoir excerpts to Open Secrets

Separate from our weekly Monday original essay, Open Secrets will also publish occasional excerpts from published 2023 memoirs (including traditionally published, self-published, and hybrid-published). Publicists or authors can submit a standalone 2023 memoir excerpt of 1,000-1,500 words that reads as an essay as a Word doc, Google doc or RTF to opensecretsmag@gmail.com but it MUST include the following:

Permissions line if required

Headline and subhed (a subhed is a one-line tagline - see an example here)

Jpg of book cover

Author bio of 5 sentences or less with links embedded

Horizontal image to run as main image, or suggestion of Unsplash.com photo to include

How can I contact Open Secrets?

To contact Open Secrets and Editor Rachel Kramer Bussel, email opensecretsmag@gmail.com

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Open Secrets is an online magazine for memorable, revealing personal essays about all the subjects we're taught to keep "secret." Contact Editor Rachel Kramer Bussel at opensecretsmag at gmail.com


Rachel Kramer Bussel

Freelance writer. Books include 70+ erotica anthologies and How to Write Erotica. Teaches erotica and essay writing classes. @raquelita on Twitter.

Open Secrets

Open Secrets is a home for memorable, revealing personal essays about all the subjects we're taught to keep “secret.”