Over the past several years of working with novice travel writers, I’ve noticed they tend to make a lot of incorrect assumptions about how things work in freelance writing.
These assumptions cost them assignments with paying magazines and newspapers.
One prevalent assumption is that some paying magazines will not be interested in their stories. I get this. They’re novice writers. They lack confidence. They’re unsure whether their writing is publishable. Loaded with these insecurities, they tell me “Why should I even pitch them?”. This recurring theme among beginner writers is natural enough, but it erodes their chances of breaking into freelance travel writing.
Here’s an example of how one aspiring writer’s assumptions have prevented him breaking into paying print media. This novice golf/travel writer emailed me:
“There are so many golf writers out there that it’s hard to find a publication that is willing to consider my queries. Let me give you an example. I’m invited to participate in a FAM trip to the Alabama gulf coast to play and see several golf courses. But what publications will want to run an article on that subject. Certainly not the golf magazines. They have already highlighted that region. So, who to query? I best I can do is contact the .coms and they don’t pay.”
This writer’s comment that every golf magazine has written about the Alabama gulf coast links indicates there’s strong interest in golf course stories in that region. But his assumption that all the golfing magazines have run stories about the Alabama gulf coast is surely wrong.
I personally have a distribution list of 48 paying regional, national, and international golfing magazines. You can’t tell me that they’ve all run recent pieces about golf courses on the Alabama gulf coast. And perhaps an Australian golfing magazine editor might be interested in running a piece about golfing on the Alabama gulf coast?
Golf magazine editors (like any other magazine editors) are always looking for good copy—and they don’t particularly care who they commission to write their articles so long as they get a good publishable story that will interest their readers.
Rather than giving up before he starts, this writer should fire out his Alabama gulf coast query letters to ALL the golfing magazines on his list, regardless of whether they have run stories about that region, or not. He will probably be pleasantly surprised with the results.
My observations are that golf/travel journalism is red hot. I’m not a golf writer myself but I know that, for example, every regional travel and lifestyle magazine worth its salt runs a golfing/travel roundup story every year to cater to their golfing readers. Every spring I’d be pitching a state-wide golf roundup travel story to all the regional travel and lifestyle magazines in my state, and in the adjoining states.
The fact is, we’ll never definitively know if a magazine is interested in our story until we pitch it. We can never assume that a publication won’t be interested in our pitches. Don’t prejudge your magazines before you query them!
Likewise, rookie travel writers should never assume their genre is saturated with writers. Let’s look at that writer’s email again. “There are so many golf writers out there that it’s hard to find a publication that is willing to consider my queries.
Don’t assume you can’t break into a writing field until you’ve tried it. But you do have to give it a good try! If this beginner sent out 1-3 queries/week to every golfing publication in every English-speaking country he would eventually meet with success, unless his writing is unpublishable. In this case, I know the writer has excellent writing skills, so that would not be a problem. It seemed to me that this writer was pre-judging the golf arena before he really gave it an honest attempt.
I’ve witnessed and helped plenty of aspiring writers break into different “saturated” writing genres over the past few years. I’m convinced that if you have enthusiasm and passion you can break into any writing field—if you give it a serious attempt and if you have above average talent. A good writer like the person mentioned above, who knows the golfing field and the history of the sport, and who has an appreciation for travel, should be a sure thing to break into that field.
Breaking into a new genre is never going to be as easy or as fast as you’d like—and there will be plenty of rejections from editors—but if you keep putting your queries out there, you’ll eventually break into your chosen fields.
One writing colleague from Michigan has broken into paying yachting and sailing print media over the last two years and is going gangbusters. He’s just starting to realize that if he can break into his regional boating magazines, maybe he can break into other travel magazines or specialty publications. Another couple I coach from California have broken into multiple respectable paying travel and wine magazines with great panache over the past 18 months.
One year ago, I received a despondent email from an aspiring travel writer about how she’s been getting all these rejections from magazine editors. Now, she’s consistently scoring solid paying print magazines assignments, going on press trips, and is gaining steam every month.
I’m just wrapping up a new book called “Rock Star Travel Writers” that we’re publishing soon. One of the featured elite travel writers in this book took six(!!) long years to break into freelance writing. He now supports himself with his writing, and absolutely loves his lifestyle.
I’ve even broken into fields I was never particularly interested in. Here’s an example: I’m currently writing two museum articles about American automobile museums that I visited a few months ago. Each article pays $1200. When I pitched my first story to this magazine back in 2011, I was definitely not a car buff. Nor did I know anything about classic and vintage cars. But I’ve written more than one dozen museum stories for this editor and he now considers me his “go to” museum writer.
My point is, if you’re interested in writing about a genre, and prepared to work and learn and grow into the field, you can break into it.
If you’re about to start pitching stories to print media, do your research on your destination’s attractions and create your queries based on what interests you there. Make sure you have an angle for your story. Pitching bland roundups that we can read about on the Internet is not going to cut it. Be flexible when dreaming up your story ideas.
Create lengthy distribution lists for your pitches. Make sure you list and pitch every magazine you think would be interested in your story, and even a few mags that are long shots. Assume that your story idea will be a good fit for every magazine on your distribution list. And never assume your writing genre is saturated with writers!
About the Author:
Roy Stevenson produces a free weekly newsletter for aspiring travel writers. It’s considered one of the most informative e-zines in the travel writing business.
Subscribe here: http://www.pitchtravelwrite.com/pitchtravelwrite-ezine.html
Roy has published seven eBooks on selling and marketing freelance travel articles. (See right sidebar)
He operates a personalized coaching business for novice travel writers, and every one of his 60+ novice writers has been published in print or online media. Many have scored cool press trips using their assignments as collateral. (http://www.pitchtravelwrite.com/coaching-for-travel-writers.html)
Roy offers Travel Writing & Marketing Master Classes, which will next be held in Seattle, Washington State, U.S.A April 27-29, 2018.
Excellent advice Roy, as always! As the old saying goes (and there are good reasons we have ‘old sayings’)…”you never know until you try!”