The traditional approach to travel writing is to query an editor of a given magazine and request an assignment letter. Unfortunately, it can take months to get a response from a magazine editor who requires exclusivity and has very little print space. If the answer is “no” you are back at ground zero, hanging in the wind waiting for a positive response while your life is flying by. What’s more, travel magazines pay paltry sums for work that can be time-consuming when you start to flesh out a piece with the appropriate details. Press trip junkets are often very un-fun. You are forced to go with a group and have little time to relax.
If you want to get to special places on your bucket list, I suggest going through the back door. Don’t approach the magazines (print or e-zines) until you have the story. Instead, go directly to the source of trips you want to take and show them how you are the best person for the job. Query outfitters who are offering trips in the destinations that you covet. Tell them how and why you are best equipped to produce articles with a personal touch that show off their special attributes. They are competing with other companies offering similar services in a given region. They need you, a mini-publicist, to make them stand out in the crowd.
I don’t expect to get paid much, if anything, for my articles. I get paid in advance with a wonderful trip that I could not afford otherwise. In addition to writing articles to satisfy my host, I write an essay that allows me to expound upon how the trip influenced me. There is a big distinction between an article that gives readers a sense of place, a taste of the experience, and information about how to get there and where to stay and an essay. A travel narrative essay is a reflection upon a given journey that uses tools of the trade, i.e., dramatic arc, dialogue, and character development to tell the story. Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler’s Tales is my first collection of essays detailing my most meaningful experiences and why they were important to me.
I have outlined the approach to travel writing that has been wonderfully successful for me in a booklet available on Amazon for $.99 titled How to Make Travel Writing Work for You. In it I share a typical query to an outfitter along with the query to an editor and what you need to build a platform. This includes having a few writing clips in your arsenal, a bio with a travel slant, and, hopefully, a website. The internet is crying for content, so get your work on a few travel blogs and into an e-zine or two to get started. Okay, you won’t get paid for your writing in many cases, but you are building a platform. Rome was not built in a day, but you will have your ticket to get there in no time if you do it my way!