Outdated Travel Writing “Rules” That Should Be Broken

Updated: Jan 20th, 2021

Every year, thousands of aspiring travel writers try to break into this exciting field.

They want to snag paying print media assignments in glossy magazines.

They want to land press trips and get those glamorous complimentary travel perks they hear about from veteran travel journalists.

But, when novice travel writers start researching and assembling the nuts and bolts of travel writing, they soon find the devil’s in the details.

While travel writing might seem simple at first glance, it takes much more time and effort to be successful than they would expect.

There are all those ‘rules’ and ‘guidelines’ to follow. Do this, and don’t do that. Avoid saying this, and emphasize that. Often, the “expert’s” views differ and sometimes contradict each other.

When I began my freelance writing career in 2007, I wasn’t aware of ‘the rules‘. I simply did things the way I thought they should be done.

Any expert who tells you there is only one way to be a successful travel writer is blowing smoke.

I experimented with my query letters and sent out dozens of them to multiple magazines. I tried all sorts of marketing tricks and techniques, and discarded the failures and tweaked the winners. As it turns out, many of my practices go against the traditional travel writing grain. However, they work—and continue to this day to get my articles published.

Even better, these techniques work well for the writers I coach, proving that they aren’t just some sort of “magic” that applies only to me. Anyone can use them to get their work published.

One of the writers I coach just returned from a travel writing workshop, puzzled and confused. She told me the so-called ‘experts’ at this workshop, (which cost her nearly $2,000!) all criticized and discouraged the use of lengthy query letters.

‘Experts’ who proclaim that your query letters must be short are doing you a great disservice and costing you assignments. Anyone who tells you that your queries should just be 3-5 paragraphs is displaying their lack of experience working with magazine and newspaper editors. The fact is, editors want to know all about the story you’re pitching—and you simply can’t get this message across effectively in a few short paragraphs.

When I changed to sending longer, more detailed query letters, I went immediately from a very poor response to selling 90% of my articles. And—to further validate this—when the writers whom I coach beef up their query letters, they suddenly start selling their stories like hotcakes!

It’s only when travel writers add superfluous fluff to puff up their queries that their pitches are rejected.

Anyone who’s spent time as a freelancer will tell you there’s an art, a craft, and a science, to being a successful travel writer. I’ve worked with the editors of more than 200 publications and can tell you they differ widely in their approach. There is no “one size fits all” set of rules for freelance writing.

Any expert who tells you there is only one way to be a successful travel writer is blowing smoke.

Maybe it’s time to try new and innovative techniques to break you out of the “I-feel-like-a-failure-because-editors-are-not-responding-to-my pitches” rut?


About Roy Stevenson 59 Articles
Freelance travel writer Roy Stevenson has had more than 1,000 articles published in 200+ regional, national, and international magazines, newspapers, trade journals, custom publications, specialty magazines, in-flights, on-boards, and online travel magazines. He's considered one of the most prolific travel writers in the U.S.A. His free weekly newsletter for aspiring travel writers is 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. (http://www.pitchtravelwrite.com/digital-downloads.html) You can read Roy's full bio and see some samples of his work at his writer's website, www.Roy-Stevenson.com

1 Comment

  1. Thanks Roy – I totally agree with this one! I get so many pitches that tell me so little, if I have to reply with a lot of questions then I’m more likely to just decline…..most editors I know these days are far busier than ever due to staff downsizing at most publications, and simply don’t have a lot of time……the more a writer can anticipate what questions an editor might have, and include that in their pitch, the more likely they are to get an acceptance. Of course, it’s still vital to follow a publication’s guidelines on submission pitches, some are very strict!

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