Travel writing for magazines and newspapers perhaps represents the most likely way for a writer to make a living. Every month there are hundreds of editions that need fresh content to keep the existing readership happy and attract more.
Most newspapers will have a staff of writers and will rarely take content from unknown freelancers unless you have a special angle or expertise that you can really sell to an editor. The magazines that accompany newspapers on Sundays though may well stretch to freelance writing if you can pitch an idea with enough charisma.
Likewise there are many magazines that seek new travel content each month – and not just travel mags but also men’s magazines, consumer interest, culture and educational journals.
It’s all about finding the right angle to pitch your idea; if it’s a women’s magazine then you can approach your time in Peru from the point of view of indigenous cosmetics; if writing for a political magazine, you could write about the exploitation of the same women by local employers.
When pitching your ideas to an editor it’s not a bad plan to give him a choice of stories so that he can feel he’s been involved in the decision process. It also shows your flexibility in finding the angle that suits the magazine.
Give yourself an imaginative but modest biography and get creative where needed. You might only have been getting stoned in the Himalayas the previous summer but you’re more likely to interest an editor if he thinks you were studying the intricacies of Hinduism.
Editors will often ask to see clips of your past work and if you don’t have any then you should also resort to the above tactic. What you don’t want to do is brag about your online blog and unpaid submissions to article directories on the internet.
Most editors are tired and overworked and bored. If you have the charisma and confidence to pitch your idea over the phone then go for it but be in touch by writing first so they have the faintest idea who you are. Don’t be a pest but by making personal contact the chances are they’ll take a better look at the material you send them.
And when you do send material by post make sure it’s presented well: a short covering letter, clips and story idea on separate pages, all with headers that with your name on it. Check for spelling and typos and generally make life as easy as possible on the person reading it – don’t print everything out in pink font, for instance, in an effort to be cute.
Established travel writers get kill fees if their stories are commissioned and not printed. But to begin with you’ll need to send your stories through in full and hope. If they’re rejected you can add them to your portfolio for material to submit elsewhere.
The main thing is not to get preoccupied on how much money you’re making but just to get into print so that you can build references and contacts. Media is all about who you know – build a friendship with an editor over many years and good things can only come your way.