Why, with writing, sometimes the gamble is worth taking.
Waiting for commissions
A key piece of advice for wannabe travel writers is that if you want to write about travel, do some travelling. I say this, because there is an odd breed that will set at home, not going anywhere until they’ve got a commission. They surmise that this is the only way to make money/ get into travel writing.
Back the pitch up with an article
These are also the people that will send endless pitches, and are probably the ones obsessed with getting a stack of ‘clips’ that they can show to editors to back up their pitch.
Well I reckon there’s something a lot better to back up the pitch with – the article itself.
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BOOK YOUR OWN ADVENTUREThe following sites are usually my first port of call when booking a trip - so I recommend them as somewhere to start when booking your own holiday.
HOTELS: Hotels.com (£) or Agoda (£)
FLIGHTS: Skyscanner (£) Kayak or Roundtheworldflights.com
CAR HIRE: Car Rentals (£)
GUIDE BOOKS: Amazon (£)
TOURS AND ACTIVITIES: Viator (£)
Try on the editor’s shoes
Put yourself in the editor’s shoes. What do you prefer? Is it to e-mail back to someone you’ve never worked with before, saying that you quite like the idea, and would be interested in seeing the story? Or is it to see that story instantly, be able to immediately decide whether you want it or not, and then send an e-mail offering to buy it? It’s the latter, obviously.
Sending on spec to break into new publications
It has frequently been the case that when I have broken into a new publication, it has been by sending an article on spec. This was certainly the case when I was starting out. My first ever published travel article happened this way. I broke into my first three publications this way.
Editors simply haven’t got time to respond to endless pitches from people they haven’t heard of or worked with before. But if your story pops up fully formed in their inbox and appeals to them, you can jump the queue.
A matter of trust
Many travel writers discourage this approach, saying that in doing it, you are putting the time in for no certain gain. Well, when starting out, that’s pretty much what you have to do. When the editor becomes a regular client, they’ll trust you and are far more likely to trust that what you eventually send will be good.
But when they don’t know you, why should they trust you above every other freelancer that’s trying to crack the publication? When the piece is sent on spec, they don’t need to. They can see exactly how good the story is.
Format the story for the publication
This said, you should be careful to make sure the story is a good fit for the publication – roughly the same tone and word length, with the fact boxes in the same format the newspaper/ magazine/ website uses. Don’t just send them any old tosh.
It takes a little more time to format things properly, but it gives your piece a much higher chance of being accepted.
Move on until you get a bite
And if it isn’t accepted (or, more likely, completely ignored)? Then move on to the next publication that you think may be a good match for the story. Re-format accordingly, then send away. And keep on moving down the line until someone bites.