Lori Beattie is the director of Artistic Adventures a company dedicated to teaching the art of documenting travel. As one JourneyWoman to another, she shares her travel writing know-how…
1. Before you go on your adventure, pick your angle. Remember, “Paris” is not the story, it’s the destination. You, as the travel writer, must think of a unique way to present “Paris” to your readers. It is this special angle that will be necessary to grab the interest of a travel editor.
2. Know who you are! Are you a woman travelling alone through China? Then that may be your angle, your expertise. Perhaps you are a woman physician travelling alone through China. Suddenly more markets open up. You can write from the independent female traveller’s angle or from that of a physician, or both, simultaneously. Are you a culinary expert who loves the tastes of the countries you visit? Lots of newspapers have food sections and there are many magazines dedicated to scrumptious stories from around the globe.
3. Editors are very busy people. The easier you can make their job the more chance you have of being published. Before sending a query to anyone, be sure to read their writer’s guidelines. You can write or call the publication for these guidelines.
4. Once you have read through the guidelines be sure to read some back-issues of the publication to get a feel for their style. It helps to know what they have published in the last year so you don’t propose a repetitive story.
5. Never phone an editor and say “I’m going to Mexico, do you want any stories?” What you should say is “I’m going to Mexico and I have some angles for stories that I’d like to run by you……” If the editor is interested, she/he may invite you to submit your story ideas or angles on paper.
6. Each publication will handle the query process in their own way. In general, magazines like to have clippings of any stories you may have published as well as the story angle you are proposing. Again, the easier it is for the editor, the more chances you have of getting a response. Editors need to have confidence in you and that needs to radiate off the page since it may be the first time they have heard from you.
7. Writing what you know makes you the expert. Your own backyard is interesting to someone, somewhere. And who better to write about Banff National Park than someone who lives and works there. Ditto, if you are are, for example, a weaver. Imagine the interesting article you could write about the wonderful woven goods in the markets of Guatemala.
8. Travelling free is sometimes possible if you are the writer chosen for a familiarization trip or if you are convincing enough to get the tourist authority to pay for your expenses in exchange for a story. Again, have your great angles ready. You will also be asked for clippings of your work. However, if you are both professional and organized in your approach, they may agree to help finance your trip without proof of publication. But beware, word travels fast if you take free trips and don’t publish. Your free travel will end very abruptly if you don’t follow through on your end of the bargain.
9. Like any skill, writing takes practice and dedication. Travelling as a writer is very different from travelling as a traveller. You must learn to record the sights, sounds, and smells of a country. Your reader wants to feel like she is travelling alongside you. What really caught your eye in a bustling Vietnam market? Have you ever tried to describe the sound of the ever-present wind on a mountain top or to write about the wonderful aromas wafting from the kitchen in an out-of-the-way Italian trattoria?
10. Finally, organization is key to making money as a freelancer. Successful, full-time freelancers have an extensive database of potential markets for their stories. Do your research, too. Start building a database of your own. Getting your story into multiple publications is the way to see a return on your travel investment.