One of the most common questions novice travel writers ask is, “Should I write my article first and then send a query to the magazine editors,…
…or should I query my story to the editor first and then write the article?”
The answer: Query first!
Beginners should always query their story idea to an editor before writing their article. Your sales pitch comes first. The reasons are simple: If no one buys the article, you’ve spent a day or two writing your story with nothing to show for it. It’s hanging there in article limbo and you’ve just wasted two days of your life — which you can never take back.
This lost time can never be won back; time you could have been using to research other story ideas and sending out more queries.
As a new writer, it’s more difficult to sell your articles than it is for seasoned writers. The publication success rate for newbies is going to be significantly lower. So it’s very important, if you’re a beginning writer, that you write your query letter to magazine editors before writing the article – or you’ll become very disappointed early in the game. I suspect this poor response rate for beginners is why so many of them drop out early in the game.
Is there ever a time when you can write an article with confidence that the editor will accept it for publication?
Yes, once you’ve developed a sound relationship with an editor by delivering good copy before deadline, and established trust with that editor (this can take a long time – even years), you might be able to write first without querying.
Over the years I’ve developed a solid working rapport with a number of running, triathlon, and fitness magazine editors around the world by consistently providing them with good copy. Eventually they trusted me and my work enough to accept and publish my written manuscripts without requiring me to query them beforehand. My articles would be published simultaneously in England, the U.S.A, Canada, and Australia. I would earn $2,000 – $3,000 for each article by the time it had “done the rounds” in these non-competing magazines.
These ideal situations can take a long time to establish. And, these situations are exceptional. They also end at some point in time. Editors often leave their jobs and move on to other magazines, leaving you with new editors to “break in.” Some magazines fold. Then you have to start from scratch again with each new editor.
The lesson here is, always query your story first!
There are several other reasons why you should query your travel stories before you write them. Here are five of them.