Many aspiring travel writers never get around to sending out pitches because they can’t quite figure out how to write a query letter.
Writing a marketable query is especially difficult in travel writing because beginners have the tendency of wanting to pitch a story about every attraction at a destination.
I get this. Early in my freelance travel writing career, after spending a week in Paris, I wanted to tell a story about everything in that wonderful city.
So, I pitched a roundup story about Paris. My query letter jumped around like a Mexican jumping bean! I wanted to write about the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triumph and the Louvre art museum and a boat ride on the romantic Seine river and the delicious bakeries and the fine dining and . . . . everything!
Convinced that this was a “sure thing” sale and that editors would be clamoring for my story, I sent out 40 queries to travel magazines. Then I sat and waited for the magazine editors to beat my door down.
You can probably guess how this turned out. I didn’t get a single response. Not a one!
I felt self-righteously indignant that no editor wanted my story about one of the world’s most gorgeous cities.
Then a year or so later, and much wiser in the dark arts and mysterious ways of travel writing, I finally realized my Paris roundup pitch was one of the most egregious mistakes a travel writer could make.
What was my big mistake? Travel magazine editors want stories about heretofore undiscovered places in Paris, or its latest attractions, and not a pitch that rapidly switches back and forth from one topic to another.
It’s crucial that you focus on ONE main angle or story idea in your queries. Successful query letters focus purely on one aspect of a destination.
If your pitch jumps around between a bunch of attractions or activities, with no common thread that links one attraction to the next, editors will be confused. Pitch too many things and the editor’s head will be spinning. They’ll scratch their heads and wonder what, exactly, is your pitch about?
This is, of course, a classic beginner travel writers mistake, so it’s nothing unusual. Beginners throw too much stuff into the query pot thinking that editors will be impressed with their irresistible and dazzling display of topics.
Unfortunately, the opposite happens. The editors think the pitch is a convoluted mess and want nothing to do with it. They don’t want to spend their valuable time unraveling the story, so they hit “delete” and move on to the next query in their inbox.
You need to focus on one topic and get straight to the point in your query letters—preferably in the first sentence.
Did I finally sell any Paris stories? You bet! I sold several focused Paris articles to paying print media, including an in-flight!