Travel writers make great novelists.
They have all the ingredients – writing ability, courage and the creative fuel of seeing new places.
With this in mind, I thought I’d share a few tips about how to write and sell travel fiction.
I now write travel fiction for a living, but writing novels and getting paid for it isn’t easy, as anyone who’s tried it will know. I made plenty of mistakes before reaching publication and profit.
Let me outline a few of the secrets to success I wish I’d been given ten years ago, when I first decided to write travel fiction:
- Your travel experiences are the basis of a good story, but not the story
Often, when you work abroad, or see some amazing or unsettling things in a different country, it feels like that alone could make a story. But there’s much more to a good tale than simply relating real life – even if real life is fascinating. Fiction needs to be made larger than life, so think bigger.
- Research, research, research
Even if you’ve lived in a foreign country and feel you know it very well, it’s still vital to read as much about your subject area as possible. When I researched Glass Geishas, I was amazed by all the things I found out about sex in Japan, even though I worked in Tokyo’s sex district. Research really fueled my imagination and helped me write the book. Some of the best feedback I got about Glass Geishas were about the scenes I book-researched rather than experienced directly.
- Network to find an agent/publisher
Lots of people send their beautifully crafted travel fiction to agents or publishers, where their hard work is thrown onto a great pile and waded through by people who are often too busy to read it properly.
Sending manuscripts out blind this way requires an awful lot of luck for success. Now I must confess, I did get lucky this way. But it took me a very long time.
Networking is a far quicker, and easier way to get noticed if your books are any good.
How do you network? Visit publishing events, find people on twitter, but most important of all – find the thing you can offer an agent or publisher that they might want. No, not your manuscript. What can you offer? Well, if you’re as a journalist, you can offer press coverage, which is extremely valuable, and a great way to meet people.
And finally … ignore the doom and gloom. You can get paid to write travel fiction, so if this is your dream, go for it!
(If you want to read more about Glass Geishas, see my website here: Book Group Books).
Great post, Susanna. I personally went the self-publishing way for my travel books, but I do like your tips about networking to find an agent.
Hi Maria, what a lovely comment, thanks so much.
I’m actually on the side of doing it yourself in many areas of publishing, particularly things like travel where people search by topic and key word. Basically, anything non-fiction I think can be more profitable if you go it alone.
I love your book titles btw – very funny and interesting!