Travel Writing Guide: Brief but complete process, from Travelling to getting Published

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

There was a time when my mailbox was filled with questions about how to get to some place I'd written about or asking me to plan an elaborate, personalised trip for free, very very quickly. However, things have changed over the past few years and one of the most common I emails I get these days is about travel writing. From pitching an idea to finding out the editor's contact, there's a lot of stuff that can feel overwhelming about this line of work. But once you figure out the workflow, the process eases considerably. So here's a quick and brief guide to the entire process from travelling to publishing. I've already added few helpful links as resources in this post. But feel free to google more on specific steps to find out more, the internet is filled with insightful advice on every aspect of freelance writing.

Let's take a look at eight quick steps to getting published.

1. Travel
Self-explanatory but still I’ll expound. Easy thing to do here is going to interesting but rarely covered places. Hard thing is going to the same old destination but finding unique things to do. Either way, travel well to find fascinating places.

2. Think of a story idea/find an angle
Now comes the hard part. Think of a unique slant or angle to sell your travel story. Why should an editor or a reader be interested in your pitch? What’s the new angle you’re bringing to the table? Finding a marketable angle to your story is what will make or break the deal for you. You can't sell a destination or a travel story without a timely or an interesting hook. So work hard on that one.
Related reading:

3. Find a suitable publication
Once you’ve figured out an angle, look for a suitable publication that’ll be interested in a story like yours. Pitching a longform narrative to Lonely Planet is as futile as pitching an exhaustive guide to BBC Travel. Finding the right publication is the key to making a successful pitch. Steps 2 and 3 are interchangeable though; either think of a story angle and find a matching publication or pick a publication and think how you can tweak your story to match their publication style.

4. Find the right editor to pitch and figure out the contact details
This is where I believe most newcomers hit a wall. Finding the right editor to pitch and figuring their email seems like impossible but all you need is some tricks really. Mastheads(a printed list of staff positions) are available on the websites of most magazines and for newspapers, LinkedIn as well as Google is a good place to start.
Related reading:

5. Craft a Pitch and hit send!
Once you got editor’s email sorted, focus on writing a kickass pitch. That it should be concise and interesting is a given. But also focus on why the editor/readers should care about this idea and why you’re the right person to tell this story. And then hit send!
Related reading:

6. The agonizing wait, follow up and re-pitch.
If you don’t hear back within a week, follow up and then once more before taking it somewhere else. Most editors just ignore the email if they aren’t interested in commissioning the story. Don’t take it personally because the pitch might have been rejected for a variety of reasons that you’ll never know about for sure. So, for the sake of your own sanity, just ignore that gnawing sense of dejection and rework on your pitch to send it to another publication. Repeat the process till you get a commission.
Related reading:

7. Get a commission. Start working on the story.
Here comes the exciting part. Your story is commissioned and you have to actually sit down to write the whole thing. Daunting as it sounds, get to work as soon as possible and keep it aside for a day or two before reworking on it with a fresh perspective. Edit your work carefully to remove all the fluff. Also it helps immensely if you can provide the images to go with your story, maximizes your chance of getting a commission. So if you have good images to support the text, prepare those images and send an online link for the editor to view. Make their job easier and they’ll love you for it!

8. File the story. Work on edits. Enjoy the glory!
Once you’ve filed the story, wait to hear from the editor on the edits required. Don’t fight every change but be reasonable and object to changes that you feel aren’t keeping in line with your story. Once the final edits are done and dusted, wait with baited breath to see the story go live. Because irrespective of whether you’ve been in this field for a decade or just starting out, the thrill of seeing your byline never really fades. That’s it, there’s no glory. Sorry!

Suggested further reading:

Also read: 9 questions you asked me about Travel Writing

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