The 500th post – Travel Writing is simple hard work
The answer is no. If you are looking at a fat salary at the end of the month or for the travels to be sponsored, believe me travel writing is not for you. But if you have the passion to travel and you have a flair for writing, then you must give it a shot. Most magazines and newspapers have a standard rate for a freelancer and as you keep writing, you can slowly start paying off your bills. Even today, almost 90 % of my trips are self funded, but for a few . The invites are very few and there are many contenders out there, so if you do not get freebies , do not bother. Invest in your trips wisely and it may eventually pay off
2. How do I become a travel writer ?
Now there is no magic formula out here. Editors do not look for me, I look for them. I search for emails on the net, find contacts from magazines and keep sending briefs. Many a time there is no response. The silence may be discouraging, but there are so many magazines out there.
I would suggest that everyone starts with a travel blog first. Then write for other blogs and magazines, who may not have the resources to pay , but will promote you. Build your confidence and your portfolio. Share your stories openly. Do not get cowed down by lack of responses from editors .
Secondly, read the magazine and see the kind of briefs that they want. Some are very keen on an angle or a style. If it does not work for you, do not send briefs to such magazines. For example, if you are not a luxury traveller and you have to write for a luxury magazine, you will not be able to do a great job of it.
Finally, do not expect friends and well wishers to share every contact off their list with you. Some do, others are uncomfortable doing it as they would have probably struggled for years getting those contacts. I believe that there is nothing like a free lunch and every writer has spent hours networking, earning these contacts and getting their trust. It is part of someone’s hard work. So dont think you are entitled to just tweet someone you barely know and ask them to share their contacts. But that said in professional circles, we all share as its usually understood that it will be quid pro quo. The best way is to read the magazines or surf the net and find the submissions guidelines or the contact details. Sometimes pick up the phone and call the editorial team and ask them for their email. Or just tweet them as I do.
3.Opportunities out there for a travel writer
A good travel writer needs to have a personalised style, a niche area of expertise, a passion for travel and writing and a sense of observation. If you can take great photographs then it is an added advantage. Online is a great place to look for opportunities. Blogs, websites, newsletters – everyone has a travel section. Guide books – both online and offline are available. Start somewhere and slowly build your repertoire.
4. What kind of travel stories should I write ?
Well, this largely depends on the publication and your personal interests, but here are some tips to remember. Personalised narratives are always interesting, but people do not want to hear every bit of your trip. Show more and tell less. Let your experiences take your reader along with you on the journey, to the destination .
I personally like to add local flavour in my stories- conversations with people, sights and sounds, a peek into the culture, food if that interests you – these are always a welcome break than just sightseeing spots. Trivia and history are nice, but I prefer stories – they give a nice feel to the piece.. The mood and tone of the story is important too -if you can write in a humourous style, then no editor can refuse your story. Position yourself in the story – are you a narrator, a guide, a road tripper, an adventurer ? What would you like to share with your reader ? Add a sense of discovery in your journeys or let the reader know that you are a lazy traveller, lounging in the chair watching the sun set .
Do not bombard the reader with too many adjectives..there are better ways to describe a place . You can also be a guide and show your expertise and tell the reader where he must go or what he or she must not do. Lists are a great way of showing off your understanding of the destination.And always ask yourself the most important question – Does the reader need to know every detail of my trip ? Maybe some of them are plain irrelevant. The destination can never be shadowed by you .
5.So where do I now begin ?
The first step is to travel. Have a journal and keep notes..it may be something you saw or heard. If you are not into photography, have a digital camera to quickly take pictures and write down short notes on the same. Get your facts right – names,places, distances, routes, whatever you want to share. Write down whatever you feel, what you liked and even what you do not like. And make your observations as well.
Once you are back home, create a small brief on your trip. Make a pitch to a few publications and wait for their responses. Then do some research and ensure your facts are right. If you do not hear from a publication, fret not. Become your own editor and start posting your experiences. Share photographs and promote your posts .Once you are done, restart the process all over again. Your journey as a travel writer begins now..
So, there you are..ready to look at the world with new eyes and to share your experiences. All the best and if you have further questions, please do not hesitate to ask me .
OK..here are some giveaways for this post as well. I will be giving away five postcards and will be happy to post them to you if you can send me your addresses in the comments section. Here is a catch though..You need to guess where I am headed next. And the five who get it right get a postcard from me from that destination . A clue – I am flying overseas.