I’m delighted to welcome colleague and fellow writing teacher Kristine Hansen to the blog to talk about breaking into travel writing. If you like what she has to say, check out her bio—she’s offering a travel writing class this spring! -Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach
Writers@Work: How to Break Into Travel Writing by Kristine Hansen
At least once a week, I get asked the question: “How did you get into that?” That is travel writing, a seemingly luxurious job of flitting around the world eating meals in palaces and lounging on beaches. While it’s true this does constitute part of my job (why, yes, I’ve eaten lunch at a palace in Abu Dhabi, and walked dozens of Caribbean beaches), it’s not always a cakewalk. On days I am not traveling, I am marketing my skills as a writer and developing strong story pitches. I spend more time securing the assignments than I do planning my trips.
Here are three tips to launch a career in travel writing. First, forget the notion that you are a newbie. While you may not have a thick stack of travel clips attached to your name, life experience can trump all of that, along with solid writing and the ability to package a story idea. I help dozens of writers each year realize their publishing dreams and have seen that anything is possible. One of my students, with only a few writing clips about travel, sold a book on budget travel to a major publisher’s series. Traveling on a budget had been her life – and who better to be an expert? Another of my students pitched her dream pub – Islands – and was shocked to soon be in an email dialogue with the editor about what her first story would be.
Start Local. Even as a widely published travel writer I have greater success pitching stories about my own backyard, which is Wisconsin, and the greater Midwest, including large cities like Chicago. The reason is that most editors are based along the East Coast or have their radars set on popular tourist destinations. The Midwest, and other rural or lesser-known pockets scattered across the U.S., are an intriguing mystery. Even if you live in a large city, propose a story off the beaten path, such as Los Angeles’ best taco dives or Miami’s best designer-vintage boutiques. Besides, who knows your region better than you, a person who resides within? Realizing that the competition to write a story about the area where you live is less fierce, it’s a win-win for your first published travel article.
Start a Blog. Although the business of travel writing is a lot of hurry-up-and-wait, as your pitches are reviewed, there is one task you can start today. Launch a blog using free platforms like WordPress.com, Weebly.com, Blogger.com and Tumblr.com. While you’re at it, set up a Facebook page and give yourself a moniker, like Spa Gal or Budget Betty. Dig deep into your vacation memories and I bet you’ll soon have a dozen ideas for posts. Don’t forget about the allure of travel stories that are not destination-based. What are the best travel apps? How can you easily cram six pairs of dress shoes into a carry-on bag? What is it like traveling solo with two small kids? These stories are important too.
Read, Read, Read. Those glossy magazines you ooh and aah over, with photo spreads of overwater bungalows in Bora Bora and lavender fields in France? Or the slideshows you click through while you are supposed to be working? Give yourself permission to start spending more time with those publications and websites. Figure out what stories are not being told but still fit in with the coverage. Study the ads. Who are these ads targeting – men or women? Families or senior citizens? Fashionistas or hikers? The key to a good pitch is identifying the area of the magazine or website where it will appear. Otherwise, it’s an open-ended question that is difficult for the editor to answer. Where exactly will your story publish? And what tone will it adopt? If you can point to a previously published story that the editor worked on, stating how yours will be similar but different (and how), the editor will love you.
Your turn: What questions do you have for Kristine about travel writing?
About the author. Writing for markets that include TIME Magazine, Fodor’s Travel blog, American Airlines’ inflight magazine, Destination Weddings & Honeymoons and Wine Enthusiast, Kristine Hansen gets to dive deeper into her passions. As a writing coach and teacher, she offers online travel-writing classes with plenty of one-on-one support. Her next class is Virtual Spring Break (April 21-25) with sign-up details on her website (http://www.kristineahansen.com/classes).