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.