Is anyone here a Travel Writer?

Old Jan 7th, 2004, 06:04 AM
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Is anyone here a Travel Writer?

I am considering doing this part-time and would love to get as much inside info as I can. I am in the research stage of my endeavor and I recall reading something about an outfit that offers a workshop on how to become a travel writer over the course of a week or so. I believe the locale is somewhere on the east coast. Does anyone recall who they may be?

I will admit that I would love to take advantage of low cost to no cost travel while at the same time indulge in a little creative writing. Nevertheless, I am committed to doing an excellent job for the publication and I'm not simply looking for a free ride. Also, I'm more interested in writing short features more so than guidebooks.

Thanks in advance for any ideas, suggestions or tips that you knowledgeable Fodorites may have.
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Old Jan 7th, 2004, 07:08 AM
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To the extent that you have income from writing, your travel expenses will of course, be business expenses, and thus tax-deductible. Otherwise, I'm not sure how you would get "low cost" to "no cost" travel - - or at least not until you have a considerable resume or bibliography of published items.

I think that most writers get started by simply going out on a limb, traveling, and then simply writing up the kind of feature article you feel comfortable with - - and then trying to get someone to read it as something they would be willing to publish.

I'm thinking that the travel editor of any large metro newspaper near you is someone worth your time to contact.

I'd be eager to hear what you learn further.

Best wishes,

Rex
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Old Jan 7th, 2004, 07:10 AM
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p.s. looking again at your message header... let me clarify (what is probably already obvious) that I am NOT a travel writer. Sounds fun, but then again, it sounds a litle bit like making travel into work.
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Old Jan 7th, 2004, 07:20 AM
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Rex,

Thanks so much for your insight! I will certainly take what you said under careful consideration. The travel editor suggestion is sheer genius! I will keep a detailed diary during my trip to Rome this March and will submit an article to my local paper.

Thanks for giving me a start on getting my bearings. And...yes, I should have re-worded my heading....of course, I welcome info from anyone!

P.S. I know that you aren't a travel writer, but judging from your past posts, you certainly have the talent for it.
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Old Jan 7th, 2004, 07:32 AM
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This is something that I've been interested in at times, as well. I was in touch with Margo Classe, who writes the "Hello!" travel series books, and asked her about how she got started in the business. She basically informed me that it doesn't pay all that well since she puts up all her own money for the travel, writes about it, and hopes the books sell.

On that note, I would say that if you are already traveling somewhere, why not write about it and see what you can get published?
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Old Jan 7th, 2004, 07:32 AM
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Having traveled quite a bit, I finally decided to try the very approach suggested by Rex. I will mention that I have won awards for writing in college, that I have been editor of a local small community newsletter, and that in business I was always chosen to compose the difficult proposals and reports. I mention this only because it proves that I know how to write.

Anyway, I chose a couple of destinations that I felt would be extremely interesting to the readers of our big-city newspaper here in Florida. It has a travel section published on Sunday. I prepared nice articles, along with good color photos, of the destinations (Hallstatt and Dubrovnik) which had not been reported in the paper before, at least not in the last 8 to 10 years. I felt that my articles were written with good style, a human touch, and were concise yet very informative.

Having read the travel articles in our paper each week, I would have ranked mine along with the best. Instead, I received a rather curt response from the travel editor saying he had lots of articles available from "established" writers and that he couldn't possibly use mine. Later, I found that the travel editor himself took a number of trips at the newspaper's expense, and his articles were far from professional. Other contributors over the years have provided lackluster articles on totally uninteresting topics.

I say all this to let you know that if this is something you want to do, you'll have to stick with it, try again and again with different publications, and persist until someone accepts one of your articles. Personally, after putting a lot of effort into my articles and seeing them rejected totally out of hand, while the travel editor published what could only be labeled as near junk, I just gave up. If you decide to do it, good luck to you.
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Old Jan 7th, 2004, 08:00 AM
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Travel writing is not my profession, but because I love to travel and to write I have, over the years, written and had published a few dozen travel articles.

I wouldn't bother paying anyone to teach you how to write travel articles. If you read travel articles, you can pretty well figure out what the publication's editor is looking for. Besides, every magazine has written guidelines for writers. Just go on Google and type in "travel writing" and you'll find enough sites to keep you busy for months. Then, check out the websites of individual magazines.

Subscribe to travelwriting.com and WriterNetwork.com and the Writer's Weekly newsletter online and Journalismjobs.com and Writing911.com - there are thousands of resources out there. Buy a copy of Writer's Market 2004.

As Rex says, a local paper is a good first bet. My first articles were in the Washington Post, my local paper; with those clips I was able to grab the attention of other newspaper and magazine editors. The most important thing, besides being able to write well and turn in error-free copy, is to understand the "slant" of the publication, which requires careful reading and absorbing the publication's guidelines.

Good luck with this. Don't give up your day job!
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Old Jan 7th, 2004, 08:04 AM
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Wayne, you're right -- one of the keys to success as a freelance writer is to ignore rejection and just move on. Don't give up just because of one rejection from an editor, especially one with an apparent conflict of interest. There are hundreds of newspapers and other publications that might be interested in articles about Dubrovnik and Hallstatt, especially if accompanied by good photos.
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Old Jan 7th, 2004, 08:38 AM
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Renee, long time no see! I do a limited amount of travel writing for an established customer. For several years, I sold articles in the outdoors market. It wasn't the most well-compensated thing I've ever done in monetary terms, but it paid for a lot of adventures and there are "spiffs" within various industry segments that are kind of nice, too.

To get started, you need to research your market(s). It can be as simple as just reading the fine print in the publication's masthead, where you will find an address for editorial submissions and that standard line about how "we are not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts blah, blah, blah..." Write to that address and request a copy of their "writer's guidelines". (ALWAYS include a self-addressed, stamped envelope with anything you send to publications when you expect a reply or your materials returned -- it's an industry standard.)
The guidelines will tell you the types of articles they look for, photo standards, etc.

Pay particular attention to the photo guidelines. When I was selling a lot, many magazines wanted slides on Kodachrome. Perhaps that has changed, but pictures can be VERY important to successfully selling your writing because that is what can turn your manuscript into a turnkey submission that is easy and more cost-effective for the editor to use.

There are a couple of good resources I would recommend. One is a magazine called "Writers Digest":

http://www.writersdigest.com/

They publish an annual "Writer's Market" (very thick), which is an invaluable source of information including contacts, genres -- the works.

It was very difficult to get started and I got my share of rejection letters. Don't let yourself become too frustrated and keep refining your work. After several years, I never wrote anything that wasn't already pre-sold and I was getting some nice accommodations from guides, product manufacturers, tourism bureaus, etc. Once you have some publication credits, it really helps!

Don't be afraid to start at the bottom; you will probably HAVE to. My lowest-paid article was $4.11 from a local publication once. I also got a couple of nice checks from Times-Mirror (always exciting!).

For me, the very best money was not in hitting the occasional home run with the big circulation nationals, but in getting consistent with regionals and niche publications. If you can sell things frequently to a solid, paying customer and you get no rejections or wasted effort, that can be a far more profitable way to go than concentrating on breaking in with big-name publications that will pay you a lot more, but you will hit far less frequently.

The competition is stiff in freelance writing, but it can very satisfying, too. You shouldn't really do it for the money. Do it because you want to and the money will come on its own as you progress.

Good luck!
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Old Jan 7th, 2004, 09:05 AM
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This is a great thread, keep the ideas going!
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Old Jan 7th, 2004, 10:01 AM
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If you want to travel inexpensively, try being a travel agent. Travel agents get to pay a lot less when they go on "fam" (familiarization?) trips.

E.g., years ago, I remember a friend of mine - a retired school teacher who became a travel agent - got to go to Costa Rica, China, and Egypt for about a third of the cost that the tour companies were charging. A couple of trips he took (to the Caribbean) were almost "free". He just had to come up with 1/2 the cost of airfare, the rest - hotel, food, onsite tours - were all free.

These trips are to familiarize the travel agent with a particular area, so that they can then turn around and sell that destination or tour.

Don't know if this system is still in operation, but you might check into it. Travel for less - and still get to write about it!
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Old Jan 7th, 2004, 10:34 AM
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Don't forget special interest publications. I am a journalist by trade (although last year I went "over the wall" and now handle international press relations for a major European pharmaceutical company) and have written numerous travel articles for publications geared to medical professionals (two examples: an article on the x-ray lab at [under] the Louvre in Paris for Medhunters magazine and an article on best places to buy medical antiques for American Medical News [an AMA newspaper]). I've done dozens of travel related articles tied to medical conventions (best places to eat, how to get hotel deals when the convention hotel service tells you they're all booked up, etc.). These kinds of magazines pay much more than local newspapers, or at least that's been my experience. But the local papers are a good place to start.
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Old Jan 7th, 2004, 10:41 AM
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Ah, so it is you, BTilke, who has absconded with my dream job!
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Old Jan 7th, 2004, 10:48 AM
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BTilke has a good point. You can sell travel articles to lots of publications that aren't specifically devoted to travel. I've sold travel articles to FibreArts Magazine (on the lacemakers of Alençon), Parenting Magazine (travel in Italy with a toddler), International Living Magazine (buying property in France),and food and wine magazines (obviously on topics related to European foods and wines).
If you're creative, you can take a travel idea and work it to fit a publication that's not directly involved with travel.
If you do buy Writer's Market, be sure to check all the listings, including the Trade listings, not just the Travel section. If you can develop a specialty, like BTilke's, so much the better.
Still, keep your day job.
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Old Jan 7th, 2004, 11:15 AM
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Another kind of idea for someone hoping to get going as a published writer:

can you think of any publications that would be easier for you in particular to get published in? I am thinking of something like an alumnae magazine, a church newsletter, a newsletter published by the kids' school, etc.

--if there is such a publication, I'd suggest thinking of a suitable idea -- "Ten tips for taking the kids to Europe," "Paintings in out-of-the-way churches," "Travelling with your spouse? some great ways to spend a day alone in a foreign city," etc.
--and see if you can get some little articles placed.

--because I think that as someone else has said, clips in print get the next editor a little more interested in you.

keep us posted please!! Another kind of idea for someone hoping to get going as a published writer:

can you think of any publications that would be easier for you in particular to get published in? I am thinking of something like an alumnae magazine, a church newsletter, a newsletter published by the kids' school, etc.

--if there is such a publication, I'd suggest thinking of a suitable idea -- "Ten tips for taking the kids to Europe," "Paintings in out-of-the-way churches," "Travelling with your spouse? some great ways to spend a day alone in a foreign city," etc.
--and see if you can get some little articles placed.

--because I think that as someone else has said, clips in print get the next editor a little more interested in you.

keep us posted please!! Another kind of idea for someone hoping to get going as a published writer:

can you think of any publications that would be easier for you in particular to get published in? I am thinking of something like an alumnae magazine, a church newsletter, a newsletter published by the kids' school, etc.

--if there is such a publication, I'd suggest thinking of a suitable idea -- "Ten tips for taking the kids to Europe," "Paintings in out-of-the-way churches," "Travelling with your spouse? some great ways to spend a day alone in a foreign city," etc.
--and see if you can get some little articles placed.

--because I think that as someone else has said, clips in print get the next editor a little more interested in you.

keep us posted please!!
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Old Jan 7th, 2004, 11:32 AM
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You asked for suggestions. My first suggestion is to improve your writing skills. I may not be an expert, but I see several grammatical errors in your message. I suggest you proof read your own post and see if you can find them.
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Old Jan 7th, 2004, 11:45 AM
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Newspapers are interested in news. If you can get a scoop on a place that no one's ever covered -- on an angle that no one's written about -- you will be a step up on the competition. This is an important aspect of pitching to a newspaper.

Don't know if that's of any help -- good luck.
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Old Jan 7th, 2004, 12:25 PM
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Renee, I actually am a real writer and a real editor, and I thought your posts were well written. An outfit is an "it" and not a "they" but what the heck?

I am a poor typist, though.

You've got a lot of good advice already. I emphasize that travel writing money is, mostly, awful.

There are three main travel writing markets; you can write for editorial clients, such as newspapers and magazines.

You can write for destinations and suppliers, such as writing about Florida for the Florida tousism commission or whatever it is called. Then the FTC sends the stories out, for free, to magazines and newspapers.Or write for Four Seasons Hotels about a new property, and then Four Seasons' PR department sends the article for free to newspapers all over the world.

And you can write for organizations
of people who take trips. For instance, if the American Association of Butcher Knive Manufacturers is going to hold a convention in Denver, your job is to write great articels about Denver for the assocaition to put in its convention promotion materials, on its web site, and so on. Words to attract paying delegates to the convention.

Within the travel writing profession, there's several associations of writers. Tehse men and women know eachother, know the destinations and tourist boards and airlines and shipping companies, and are genuine professionals. They look after each other, and if you are good enough, and published enough, to join, you become part of the inner circle. And they know the ethics and the mores and conventions of travel writing, and editors trust them.

Ethics is a huge issue in travel writing, and editors are much more likely to buy stories from writers they trust. Association membership provides a degree of credibility.

I used to handle public relations for jamaica's tourist board, in Canda, and I've been approched over and over by amateur writers looking for fgree trips. Back in my day, I wanted lettters from editors committing to at least seriously looking at a story about Jamaica, before I'd arrange tickets, hotels, food, guides, etc.,

Some travel agents my be luicky, and get relaxing "fam" trips, but the ones we ran were intense. Four, five and six hotels in a day, just as many restaurants, meetings with hotel managers and staff, jusat the highlights of the tourist attractions -- you got to see the glass bottom boat, but you did not get to go out in the lagoon and see the fish through the glass; no time for that.

We did some weird stuff; you may be able to arrange somethings similar. one of the best was this.

A clothing story owner and her huysband wanted a free trip to Jamaica. They phrased it differently, but that was the goal.

So we made them create this project: create a Toronto show of Jamaican and Jamaican-related fashions, to which they would invite their rich, high-roller clientele, who were likely prospects for expensive vacations in Jamaica.

The retailers talked two models into working on the project, and they talked a photographer into the deal. How much anyone was paid is unknown to me.

The retailers organized a dozen high-end evening gown outfits to be worn by the models, plus bathing suits and more casual sports clothes.

We arranged for another dozen outfits created in Jamaica by Jamaican designers, sized to fit the specific models.

We flew everyone to Montego Bay (airplane seats that are otherwise unused can be easily obtsained by tourist boards from cooperative airlines), provided several local models, a van and driver, a sytlist, excellent hotel accomodations, and all meals.

The photographer shot hundreds of slides of themodels in the Candiana and Jamaican clothes, in Jamaica. Everyone was working, but having a good time, too.

then everyone returned to Canda, and the retailer put on a huge fashion show, with the same Candian models wearing the clothes, live and in person, that were shown on giant screens being worn by them in Jamaica. Lots of pictures of the hotels and restaurants that provided accomodation. We gave away in a lucky draw another trip to Jamaica, but we also knew we sold at least a dozen Jamaica vacations to the people at the show.

And we got copies of some of the photos to use in promotion.

So, the point of the story is this: don't limit your thinking.

Back to ethics: different publications have different rrules about what writers can be accept for free and for discounts. Lots pf publications pay all expenses to their writers; others buy stories from people who pay full fare; others buy from people who get freebies.

And remember that stories can be sold around the world. What's called "rights" gets confusing, but for instance, you'd sell a story to the Baltimore Sun with the understanding you would not sell the same story to any other paper sold in Baltimore (which would eliminate the NY Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today) but still allow you to sell to a paper in Florida and one in maine and one in Michigan, etc.

Plus papers in Canada and Australia and India.

BAK








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Old Jan 7th, 2004, 01:17 PM
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Good addition there, BAK. When I was very active, I was a member of a trade association for writers. Ethics and intellectual property rights were both areas of constant interest. Interestingly, I saw some of my stuff being sold on Amazon.com as part of a larger work being published by a party that I had never dealt with after someone tipped me off last year. (It was an article for which I hadn't reserved any particular rights and it didn't really bother me, but in our electronic world you can end up providing content for entities that you may have never anticipated.)
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Old Jan 7th, 2004, 01:37 PM
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Wow! Thanks for all of the helpful replies! I really, really appreciate your wonderful ideas.

Statia,
Thanks for the tip and I do plan to chronicle my next trip in my journal. Hopefully, I will get someone's attention as a result.

Wayne,
I'm sorry about all of the difficulties that you've experienced. It truly is a dog eat dog world out there. I will go into this with my eyes wide open and I appreciate your giving me another perspective on the subject.

St.Cirq,

You are a virtual fount of information! Thanks for all of the resources, I will check them out. Trust me, I plan on doing this part-time.....period! lol

Flyboy,

It has been awhile hasn't it? I won't even ask you divulge all of the lovely places that you've been since I last saw you. As usual, you provided so much wonderful information for me. I agree.....I will not be doing it for the money.....I will keep my day job. I'm doing it more for the perks than anything else. Don't worry, I will be bending your ears to learn more! I know it will be a long, hard road....luckily, I have the patience of Job. ;-D

Easytraveler,

Hmm.....this is an option that I hadn't considered. My ultimate goal is to begin a part-time home based business that may or may not culminate in a full-time gig. Becoming a travel agent would certainly provide the travel perks that I'm seeking. I will consider this option as well.

BTilke,

I agree with Seamus about your job! I think special interest mags are a definite possibility and most assuredly would have been something that I would have overlooked!

Elizabeth,

More great ideas!! Thanks!

Earl,

Thanks for your honesty. I will try to be more careful when posting questions on a message board. Your critique will help me to be more cognizant of my grammatical errors in the future. I really don't mean this in a negative way because I believe that you are being genuinely helpful and I do appreciate it.

Tandoori,

You are quite right, I have to slant my articles to fit a certain target....it's sure to give me an edge.

Well, keep the comments coming folks! I'm so glad I posed the question because you guys are phenomenal!



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