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Part two of becoming a travel writer

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Take a look at part one of Angela’s three-part travel writing series here. This week we start off talking about where travel writers can hope to get published. Happy writing!

There are several places you can get published, and with more and more online content cropping up, the space in which you might see your words in ‘print’ is growing. Of course that also means travel writing is more competitive than ever. The best places to get published are in magazines, newspapers, guidebooks, websites, blogs, or even coffee table books that might be commissioned by airlines, hotels or tour companies.

If you’re working as a full-time travel writer, it’s likely you’ll know months in advance what you’re going to write and where you’re travelling to. You’ll also be earning a full-time salary to travel. Lucky you! That makes things pretty straightforward because your editor already knows what’s coming in, and you’ll be around to bounce off any edits that may come in.

If you’re a freelancer – and especially if you’re planning on getting a free stay or flights somewhere – it’s HUGELY important to approach the publication that you are hoping is going to publish your piece, pitch your idea to them, tell them you’re getting a free trip, and then get confirmation that they want the story before saying yes to the company offering to fly you or put you up. Also, make sure the editor has seen previous examples of your work – published or not (although published is better) – so that they know your style. You don’t want to submit your story after staying somewhere for free and then have the editor reject it. It’s the same sort of process if you’ve funded your trip yourself, but again, don’t promise coverage unless you’ve got it. You can really ruin your reputation and burn bridges by flying around and then not getting any coverage.

Now, how do you pitch to a publication? I usually do it via email and I like to submit a proposal before working on a story. Editors are looking for knowledge and passion, so write about what you know and what you love, and pair that with travel.

If you have no contacts, the best thing to do is to pick up the publication you want to be featured in, read it so that you know it well, and then send an email to the editor. Please make sure to send it to the right person, and make sure that you understand the magazine’s style and demographic. The editor will be able to tell if you don’t! I received emails while working as a full-time features editor and managing editor (before I started Scribe) in which people were trying to promote products or services that had nothing to do with the magazine I was working for. It was such a turn off and it showed me that the people sending those emails had no real interest in the magazine, dampening their chances of being featured. With that in mind, you must make sure that you don’t pitch the same story or angle as one that’s been featured in a recent issue. The point is: do your research.

You want to create a portfolio, website or blog where you can save your pieces. Or just save them on your computer and shoot them over to the editor via WeTransfer. It’s likely that people will want to see some previous work samples (published, or not).

Address the email to the editor – so “Dear Susan” – so she can see you’ve made an effort to figure out who she is. A brief introduction should follow, and try to be specific about where you see the piece going in the publication. (“This piece might work really well in your Insider section.”) Again, give a fresh, new angle, especially if it’s a place that’s been covered to death. You want to give the editor the angle and style you think their reader will like, but don’t hand everything over on a silver platter.

Of course, if you can take half-decent photos you can offer to submit photographs too. You can try to negotiate a slightly higher fee, but that might not be a success as most publications expect photos to come with a story. We touched on this briefly earlier: remember that it’s very important to ask the editor if they need you to sort out the photos. If you don’t ask and you submit your story without photos, it might be rejected. Most photos need to be high-resolution, meaning around 300dpi.

Before you hit send, please spell check! If you can’t write an email, the editor is probably not going to trust you to write a feature.

I always tell my corporate clients that their email subject lines are more important than the body of their emails, and it’s no different here. Your subject line should be short and to the point: “Story idea for an all-expenses paid trip to Indonesia by Angela Boshoff Hundal”. Tell them everything they need to know in the subject line.

If you put any attachments of your previous work – which I would recommend if the publication you’re pitching to has never seen any of your stuff before – in the email, please make sure they aren’t ridiculously heavy (meaning high res). It is an editor’s bane to have his or her inbox choked up with pitch ideas. The truth is, if they’re on a tight deadline and out of space in their inbox, they might just hit delete. Keep things light and quick.

You can follow up with a phone call, but give the editor a few days. There’s nothing more annoying than someone calling three seconds after hitting send. Editors are busy, but they will come back to you if they see promise in your work.

You might get rejected, and that’s totally okay! I’ve been rejected tons of times. You’ll eventually develop a thick skin. Just keep writing anyway and eventually someone will take the piece. Tip: change the angle slightly and pitch to someone else, if you need to, but just don’t give up!

If you do get published – yay! Get a copy of the story in PDF format and pick up a copy of the publication if you can, and then save it to your portfolio so that you can share it with other editors moving forward.

Take a look at our blog again next Tuesday for the third and final part of Scribe’s travel writing series. Chat soon!

Want to get in touch for more tips on travel writing, or any other writing for that matter? Do you want our team to write something for you? Get in touch at angela@scribe.ae