Lounging on golden beaches or hitting the hottest night spots while you are getting paid to travel. Never pay for a vacation again! Sounds divine and oh, so very simple! Not so fast!!
If only travel writing were that easy.
The reality for most travel writers is long days of interviews and visiting places that may not be the hot spots but do need some exposure. If you love to travel and you love to write this may be the dream job you think it is, but never forget that it is A JOB.
ADVANCES... not likely
Yes, you do get to go to many exotic places, but more often than not you will be traveling on your own dime not someone else's. With only the hope that an editor will be willing to pay you for your work once you get home.
"In the meantime keep excellent records and a detailed daily journal to prove to tax people that all this terrific travel is actually work ...."
Travel writers who get paid up front and have everything covered by the assignment editor are pros who have been producing top quality prose for years. No one has money to throw away on an untried freelancer. Even if you have tons of clips from previous jobs, getting financed is rare. Always send queries and try to find an editor to pick up the tab before you go, but...
Be ready to finance your travels and furnish your own equipment for a while until you earn an editor's respect. It does happen, but don't count on it. In the meantime keep excellent records and a detailed daily journal to prove to tax people that all this terrific travel is actually work!
Family trips may bring editors' frowns
There are plenty of press, media and fam trips that will pay for your stay in return for reviews, but many editors frown on writers who use compensated travel. There is always the danger that your truthfulness may be impaired by the fact that a hotel is paying your bills.
Finding paying markets
One of the toughest jobs of a new writer is trying to identify
paying markets that will look at queries or submissions.
markets information is a good place to start. Paying for the current issue of the writer's market is worth the price. Many online writer's sites
were started by freelancers sharing their own resources and tips
with others. Good advice on how to query and what to do before you submit
any of your work as a professional can be found on these sites.
Spell check, please!
A word of caution from an active editor. Never send a query that you haven't put through a spell checker. Make sure your grammar, syntax and spelling are all showcasing your skills. A poorly written letter will get deleted. Take the time to do it right and have someone who knows what they are doing proof your query before you hit send. Do the same with any work you submit.
Mr. Margaret? Not impressive.
Try to personalize your query... but get it right. A little research will turn up the fact that the editor at Chiff.com is someone named Margaret. Receiving an email addressed to Mr. Margaret does not make an impressive case for your ability to check the details in anything you may submit.
The same is true if you submit to an editor who is no longer with the publication. Try to find a current copy of the magazine you think may buy your work. The first page has a section called the masthead. This will usually give you the name and title of the person to contact. If you can't find any current information, call the company and ask to check the spelling of the travel editor's name. A receptionist may not be willing to give out a name, but might just help with spelling it for you.
Researching the travel writing market
Understand that most publications are working on the beaches issue in the dead of winter. The lead time might be six months or more from when you submit your piece. Pitching an article off cycle is a good way to get ignored.
Before you send a query to a print market, check the last year of articles to make sure that they haven't already featured the spot you have in mind. You might mention in your query that you have not seen any coverage of senior travel in Antarctica in the past few months and you think that the topic is peaking and... guess what? You happen to have just the piece, with professional photos at a slight additional cost ... with first North American Rights available. How lucky for them!
Working for clips?
Paying markets are preferred, but sometimes working for clips is acceptable.Clips are published features that have your byline and samples are not yet published. Editors like clips because it shows that you produced a finished product, presumably on a deadline. It also says that you can work with an editor. Some authors have a rough time letting someone edit what they've written. That can make producing their work difficult. Given the choice, most editors prefer to hire a writer willing to make changes to fit the needs of the publication.
You will find some markets that cut costs by asking writers to give away their work. It may be flattering to be asked, but it's much more flattering to get a payment. Even the smallest budget can afford a few cents per word for the writers creating content for the publication or the web site. It is your call, but always at least try to get a nominal payment.
Also, make sure you know what rights you are selling -- or giving away. Email is the best tool for negotiating. That way you have everything in writing if disagreement come up later. Phone call agreements often result in honest misunderstandings that can sour relationships.
As always, check the warnings and forums to find out if certain publishers
promise payment and then don't send a check. Don't be discouraged at rejections. The best writers have folders of rejection letters! Editors who are rude are jerks. Don't take any of it personally and keep your love of travel and your love of writing alive.
Travelwriters.com/ - Gathering place for seasoned and newbie travel writers. Fam and press trips as well as updated travel market info. You can snoop around, but the paid subscription is $49 a year. Well worth the price if you get one lead that pans out. They also provide a place for syndication and allow editors to go in and take a look at what you have posted. Imagine having an editor call YOU!
All Freelance Writing - writer's markets - You can use the drop down box to bring up travel markets and the rest of the site to gather some hard earned advice from the freelancer/blogger team that runs the show. No whining, just work.
The Travel Writing Portal - Transitions Abroad focuses on living in the big wide world. Travel writing is a natural spin off for them and they do it well. Don't look for markets here, but do click around to get insight into the travel writer/wanderer's life and down to earth suggestions.