The No B.S. blog about Travel, Writing and Life

Paid for Travel Writing — All Those Dollars

This morning I received the following nugget (from a larger nugget) by a travel writer who is ready to move forward into the big cash rewards of travel writing. Yes, getting paid as a writer. He wanted my advice on how to get started.

“…I want to make a living at travel writing (writing, selling, markets etc.). I am ready to go TODAY!…”

I cannot blame him for his enthusiasm. Sadly, this is not a simple transition for most writers. Here is my answer on how to get started. Please note, I have changed some of the language to be a little more generic to help all newbie travel writers. Otherwise this letter is almost the same as the one I sent this morning.

I recommend reading magazines that pay, like the ones found at the local news stand. These likely represent the creme of the crop in paying opportunities for travel writers. Become familiar with their style and form, word counts and subject matter. Take a long look at the mast head to see who should be contacted regarding submission. Then explore these magazine’s individual web sites for specific “submission guidelines” (as an example here are In The Know Traveler’s Submission Guidelines). Also do this with the knowledge that most established magazines have already developed relationships with writers and may not be particularly open to receiving queries from new ones. However, this does not mean you should not send in a query. Remember, someone’s story has to get picked — it might as well be you.

Please note that while I completely understand the sincere desire to get paid (which is also a very reasonable desire), writers are competing with numerous other writers who write for the love of travel and may not care about getting paid. Stiff competition doesn’t mean writers should not try to get paid, but it means that publishing has changed and that there are a ton of well-trained, experienced writers looking for work. Also many good smaller magazines have folded, while others have fewer editorial pages or have stopped using freelancers altogether. This is a grim prospect for a new travel writer.

Most magazines online do not pay at all, including the many premiere sites who claim exposure is somehow worth as much as real money. ITKT has been listed as a paying site (by a variety of online sources), but my pay is only token. So recommend taking a mental note at how dramatically publishing has changed over the last several years.

The bottom line is that you have to be willing to hustle to find paying venues to place your writing. Submit. Submit. Submit. Keep trying. And while I often offer advice on requests like this, most editors do not have the time. So if you receive no answer or a short rejection to submitted work, do not be surprised. I can tell say from experience, it is nothing personal.

The minimum a writer needs to know:

1. Follow any submission guidelines exactly
I routinely trash 1200-words articles without reading them because a writer ignored my guidelines of 500-750 words. Only in the most rare occasion (a well-developed, long-standing relationship with a writer) will I consider writing outside of the scope of my submission guidelines.

2. Know the editor’s name and spell it correctly

When the first words of a query are “Dear Sir/Madam”, “Hey There” or “Hi Mike”, I know the writer has put little effort and has set a tone for the rest of the query.

3. Only submit your best work
Otherwise what is the point.

4. Know that you will be edited

A professional editor will edit every story before it gets published. Moreover, arguing over edits made by the editor will guarantee your will never work with that editor again. I know that sounds harsh, but I have had many conversations about this with many editors, and it is the truth. I have also received names and email addresses from other editors warning me about abusive writers. No one wants to be named on that list.

* I would also recommend reading the series, “Avoid Travel Writing Rejection.”

And of course, keep traveling and writing.

32 Comments

  1. This is a really great article! it brings the reality of the travel-writing situation into the light, but is also encouraging. Thanks!

  2. Thanks Bronwyn,
    At the end of the day, travel writing is for me and I just make it work. I know many others do as well, even though it can be really tough.
    devin
    devin the travel writer recently posted..In Photos- Guatemala People

  3. Until recently, I was editor and publisher of an online travel publication that I founded. Your comment #1 is particularly important. It never ceased to surprise me when the writers did not follow the guidelines, especially word count. An editor has a good reason for setting their guidelines, so you can’t expect that they’ll change them for a particular writer. I also know how hard it is to keep to a limited word count, especially now that I’ve been blogging!By the way, I was paying writers pretty well for their work, but I know that wasn’t the norm. I believed in paying for quality work from professionals. But it’s a tough business and everybody’s watching profits.
    Cathy Sweeney recently posted..San Francisco Travel Tribe October 27- 2010

    • Hi Cathy,

      Thanks for your thoughts. Personally, I am mostly watching deficits. Fortunately, doing something I love, and believe in, makes up for the lack of cash raining in from the sky.
      Devin the Travel Writer recently posted..My Favorite Photos from Guatemala

  4. Sound advice, Devin. Although it surprises me that it needs to be spelled out, because most of what you say is simply common sense. As for ITKT: the pay may be token, but it IS pay which I much prefer over the NO pay because the exposure bit can be damaging to your career. One editor to whom I submitted (in the end successfully) and included links to published work with one or two no-pay among them told me in no uncertain terms that it didn’t do me any good to be writing for a ‘sweat shop’. His words. Since then I steer clear of ‘exposure’.And ITKT is a lovely place to write for with a lively and talented commnity of contributors.
    inka recently posted..Discovering two sides of glamour in Beirut

    • I hear what Inka’s saying, but unfortunately the ‘sweat shops’ also include huge publications like the Huffington Post who pay very few of the people who write content for them – in fact, you’re lucky if you get anything for expenses.

      Although web types (I am one) like to throw around the phrase ‘content is king’ – they often fail to address the issue that it’s also cheap, plentiful and where the only concern is SEO, the quality often doesn’t matter. Sad but true.

      Good article and one that many want-to-be writers should read. 🙂
      Amy recently posted..Australia- A Few Things Oprah Probably Won’t Tell You

      • Hi Inka, It is surprising that it needs to be spelled out, but I keep having the same email exchanges so there are still a number of new writers plowing forward without a game plan.

        Hi Amy, I am with you, “content is king.” And truthfully, SEO is nothing more than a video game that large corporations and a few black hat programmers will always succeed over people who care about the topics they write about.
        Devin the Travel Writer recently posted..Some of My Favorite Photos of Tikal

  5. Hey Devon, nice article. Simple, direct and not too depressing. Any kind of writing can be difficult to make a living from, but it does happen. My advice to people who want to get paid for travel writing is to expand past paying publications and look into paying yourself. I rarely meet travel writers who have their full income coming from submission alone. They usually are also trying to build their own web presence and pay themselves for writing.

    Of course this takes time too. And on the flip side I just met someone who has been writing a travel column for the past 25 years and its enough. Sweet deal if you can find it.
    Todd | Todd’sWanderings recently posted..Response cached until Thu 4 @ 10:16 GMT (Refreshes in 60 Minutes)

  6. Sound article. I’m finding my way with this stuff, still paying my bills with “real” work. Some day…
    Robin recently posted..Lagomort

  7. I think it is sad that so many writers will write for “exposure” as that fuels the non-paying sites. If enough writers would refuse to do this, the non-paying sites would either be forced to pay or cease to exist. And the value of “exposure” appears to be minimal as I have had paying markets (SEO not travel) specify when asking for writing samples that I should send only clips for which I was paid!! And with SEO markets, if you violate their submission guidelines, you’re automatically trashed.

    • I here you Renee,

      But I am not sure that the non-paying sites will ever go away because there will always people looking to get started at any cost (pardon the pun). I have even heard from writers who have paid to be published. Truthfully, the reason why started accepting writers on ITKT was because I had been asked so many times.
      Devin the Travel Writer recently posted..Guatemala and a Volcano’s Welcome

  8. good read devin. the comments were interesting too. i never understood the free submission thing to get ‘exposure’. to me it feels like you are getting used. even a token payment, like yours, would suffice. cheers, jamie from cloudpeopleadventures.com
    jamie recently posted..Travel Tattoo Time

    • Thanks Jamie,

      I understand folks getting started and attempting to get a variety of content while not having money to pay. Still I think most sites can come up with something can come up with something if they try hard enough. What I do not understand is the amount of big corporate sites that pay nothing.
      Devin the Travel Writer recently posted..The Sunday Check In- CATM Guatemala 2010

  9. Excellent tips Devin. I like #3. Only Submit Your Best Work

    David
    David @ Malaysia Asia recently posted..8 Shopping Malls in Bukit Bintang Kuala Lumpur

  10. Thanks for some great advice, Devin. I’m still new to travel writing but am having a great time with it, even if I haven’t made any real money.
    Michael Figueiredo recently posted..Día de Los Muertos Day of the Dead Celebration Recap

  11. Really helpful tips Devin. Venturing into the world of travel writing scares me and I think I’m happy to stick with the freedom I have with my own blog, but should I change my mind I know who to contact.
    btw I love your writing style. Definitely somebody to learn from
    Caz Makepeace recently posted..Meet Jools Stone…Our “Facebook Fan of the Month”

  12. Good to know, I want to eventually able to be paid for writing.
    Dina recently posted..Termite Mounds of Queensland’s Savannah

  13. Thanks. As many say, just write to entertain, to enjoy yourself, and eventually it’ll pay off – providing of course they follow your guidelines!!! Cheers.
    John in France recently posted..2419D

  14. “3. Only submit your best work”
    – You are absolutely right! Writing requires commitment in a way that you need to provide a high quality of work. Otherwise, all your submissions will always be rejected. So what’s the use of writing so many stuffs if no one is willing to accept it right?
    Cole Stan recently posted..5 Inexpensive Homemade Christmas Gifts

  15. Thank you for the great advice Devin. For now I just post on my website but am looking forward to eventually getting my stuff out there. Your comment that it is “nothing personal” is true. But persistence pays off.

  16. Certainly a very useful article. Some very useful tips that I am sure to use in the near future 😉
    Siddhartha Joshi recently posted..Gujarat Darshan – Kera Kutch

  17. What should you do, though, after you’ve carefully searched the contact details of the publication you wish to submit to and there’s no name indicated?
    I’ve just sent a query and a sample of an article to a newspaper but the editor’s name isn’t given in the web’s contact slot, presumably because he or she is the only editor for the entire newspaper.
    I didn’t send a preliminary email or give the paper a call asking for the editior’s name. China’s rather a long way to call the UK, so I started off with ‘Dear Editor.’

  18. This is a great article. Lot’s of good information and some great tips on writing. I specifically enjoy the section that states the minimum guidelines a writer should follow. I should publish something similar because even on a non paid site such as mine, I still have problems with people submitting what I call “Lazy Articles” meaning it doesn’t seem like they care about what they write and therefore leave out the juicy details that everyone wants to know! Keep up the great work!
    Ron Robbins recently posted..Lost in the Garden of Hawaii

  19. Having read this I thought it was very enlightening. I appreciate you taking the time and energy to
    put this article together. I once again find myself spending a significant amount
    of time both reading and commenting. But so what,
    it was still worth it!
    related site online casinos usa recently posted..related site online casinos usa

  20. Great article. I think writers who after real money should become ‘writers who travel’ rather than ‘travel writers’. I’m a freelance copywriter making enough money to only have to work 8 months a year, while travelling all over the globe on the profits the rest of the time.

    Everyone wants to be a travel writer or travel blogger these days. Nothing wrong with that – it’s just not where the real money is. This past year I snorkeled with manta rays on the Great Barrier Reef, spent a month in the Bolivian jungle, played digital nomad in Cordoba, Argentina for 5 weeks, visited Tasmania and spent much of the summer in Italy, Portugal and Spain – all paid for by writing copy for businesses.

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