So You Want to Know How to be a Travel Writer?
No doubt about it, travel writing sounds like the dream job to many people. For the vast majority of aspiring writers, earning a living from traveling and writing remains just that—a dream. The good news is that getting your work published is easy. The bad news is that earning a living from getting your work published is infinitely more difficult.
Most guidebook writers are signed on by publishers as experts to a particular region, or start out by researching and updating for an established writer. Contracts for writing a guidebook vary greatly between publishers, with potential returns that are usually poor and occasionally good. Payment is either via royalties or work-for-hire (set fee). Many outside the guidebook writing world would be very surprised at how little some of the better known publishers pay their writers.
Travel Guidebook Writing is Tom Brosnahan’s analysis of the guidebook writing industry, with solid information for beginner writers, including the excellent essay “Is Guidebook Writing Worth the Money.”
The following travel guidebook publishers supply online writing guidelines and information on submitting book proposals:
Getting Your Articles Published
The easiest and least expensive way to have your travel articles published is to focus on writing about where you live or vacation, then submit your story ideas or finished pieces to local newspapers and magazines. These outlets are bombarded with literally hundreds of stories and queries (story ideas) each week. In this flooded market, many will pay little or no money for your work. Like signing up to write a guidebook, you may be surprised to learn that payment from even major magazines and newspapers sometimes won’t even cover expenses.
The ideal scenario is to produce work for a variety of outlets from a single trip, to submit photography with your writing, or to spin off articles from guidebook writing.
To find other markets for your travel writing, search at Google using the term “travel writing guidelines” and you will instantly find literally hundreds of outlets offering online guidelines for submitting your writing.
Here are other helpful sources of information on travel writing markets:
► Writers-Editors Network is loaded with information for freelance writers of all genres.
► Subscription to Writer’s Market includes access to an online database of over 5,000 paying markets. See below for the printed version.
► Writers Weekly is a free e-zine packed with information for writers of all genres. Includes freelance job and assignment offerings.
Travel Writing Organizations
The following organizations have rigorous membership standards, which in turn give them creditability:
► National Writers Union (United States)
Many larger cities have writing clubs, some specifically for travel writers, others for writers of all genres. These can be an excellent way to meet with other writers and exchange ideas. Look for them in your local phone book or online by searching for “(your city) writing club”
Online communities of travel writers include Travelwriters.com, which provides a forum and meeting place for travel writers from around the world.
Don’t be sucked in with offers of free trips and press cards, which are the eye-catching incentive offered by some writing organizations. Before signing up, do some research—check how experienced their members are, contact members in your area, and ask questions about the benefits. Also find out who is behind the organization; be wary if it’s an individual.
The market is awash with travel writing courses and how-to books, all provided by “experts” who are probably making more money selling their knowledge than they ever did actually writing for someone else. The following titles will help at any stage of your career.
►Tim Leffel is well-known in the travel writing industry and is the editor of perceptivetravel.com, an online travel magazine filled with contributions by professional writers. He is also the author of Travel Writing 2.0 (Splinter Press, 2010, $15, kindle $10), my choice as the best book for navigating the business of travel writing in the online world.
► Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Writing (Lonely Planet, 2013; $19.95; kindle $9) is authored by Don George, who has authored many guidebooks for the world’s best-known budget-traveler guidebook company.
►The printed version of the Writer’s Market Deluxe (Writer’s Digest Books, US$49.99) is updated regularly, but looking at this latest edition, it’s having difficulty keeping up with the evolving online markets. That said, it’s the most comprehensive book for writers looking for new markets. The price includes access to a website updated daily with new markets.
► New Tax Guide for Writers, Artists, Performers & Other Creative People (Focus Publishing, 2012; $16.95) includes valuable tax information for U.S.-based writers, as well as blank spread sheets for recording expenses and income. And the cost (US$15) is deductible.
► Although it’s now almost a decade old, The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success (Marion Street Press, 2005; $15) comes highly recommended for its insights on getting started in the writing business.
► Travel Writing (Leromi Publishing, 2006; US$59) is a university-level textbook divided into 19 chapters—each dealing with a different aspect of the industry. The emphasis is on the craft of actual writing rather than finding markets, so is still relevant today.
► The Travel Writer’s Handbook: How to Write and Sell Your Own Travel Experiences (Surrey Books, 2012; US$18.95) is a solid reference for those starting out in the industry, with coverage of everything fro pre-trip research to digital photography.
More Links for Travel Writers
► Carl Parkes’ blog The Travails of Travel Writing is an insider’s view of the travel writing industry.
► Durant Imboden, one of the few writers who has made the transition to profitable online travel writing, gives his take on the profession and changing markets at Writing.org.
► Travel Web Owners is a collection of non-corporate, destination-specific websites. Strict membership qualifications maintain a high caliber selection of sites.
► Canadian writers who have authored books should register their work at Access Copyright, an arm of the the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency.
► The official media website of the Canadian Tourism Commission provides many benefits for accredited writers, including newsletters, travel assistance, media releases, and access to an image library.
► Media Bistro is for all media professionals—job listings, a forum, how-to pieces, related news articles, and more.
► Free for qualified travel writers, Media Kitty provides a database of contacts, press releases, trip opportunities, and a tool that allows you to post requests for information on specific destinations.
► Peter Jason Riley supplies tax information for writers at Tax Guide for Artists, as well as income and expense worksheets tailored especially for writers.
► Publishers Weekly is the news magazine for the book industry. Print and online versions, with lots of subscription bonuses.
► Writer’s Marketplace is a leading forum for travel writers and photographers. Also includes one of the better publication and market databases. Membership requires affiliation with a major writing organization and costs US$29 per year.