GoNOMAD Editors Max Hartshorne and Kent St. John and Julia Dimon of the TV show Word Travels presented a seminar on travel writing for beginners in February at the NY Times Travel Show. Below are some tips that they offered the 180 attendees at the presentation. You'll also find some great outlets for beginning travel writers.
Julia Dimon’s Travel Writing Tips:
1) Find a Good Hook: Take a fresh point of view on an old subject or look for unusual new stories. Many of the places you will write about have been written about before, so you need to find something new and original to say that will grab a reader’s (and an editor’s attention.)
2) Be a Reporter: Traveling as a writer is different from traveling as a tourist. Take notes, ask questions, get quotes and notice the little details of your trip. How much did it cost, how long has it been open, how many people have visited, etc. Travel writing has been described as part reporting, part dear diary and part providing traveler information.
5) Know Your Audience: Get familiar with the publication you want to pitch. Ask yourself who their audience is. Is it young males who like snowboarding, teenage girls, parents with young children? What types of stories does this publication feature? What kind of story could you write that would fit in with their style?
6) Pitch An Editor: Craft a well written, succinct paragraph outlining what your story is about, why it’s relevant for their publication, why it’s important to cover now, and why you’re the best person to write it. If you’ve never had anything published before, it may be best to look online. Blogs, magazines, online communities offer more opportunities to get your work out there.
7) Don’t Get Discouraged: Follow up with editors but don’t be obnoxious. Editors are very busy and often get hundreds of emails a day. Pieces often get rejected. It’s nothing personal. Grow a thick skin and keep on pitching.
8) Promote Yourself: Travel writing is 20 percent writing, 80 percent marketing. Use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flicker, Travelistic, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Linked In and Digg to promote your work.
9) More than Words: More and more Internet sites are looking for video content. New media skills are the future. If you can provide video content for sites AND write, it makes you more valuable.Julia Dimon is co-host of Word Travels, a 26-episode TV series about the real lives of travel writers. It’s broadcast nationally on OLN across Canada and internationally on National Geographic Adventure in over 45 countries worldwide. She is also a nationally-syndicated columnist for METRO NEWS with a column called “Travel Junkie” published weekly across Canada.
Julia is also the editor of The Travel Junkie (www.thetraveljunkie.ca), an online magazine for the young and restless traveler and has, herself, traveled to over 60 countries.
Contact her at www.juliadimon.com
Shoot videos... but not too long. One minute of video is an eternity...and people get bored fast. Still, there's nothing as nice as being able to show instead of tell, and while photos are better than text, video is always better than photos.
Kent E. St. John, GoNOMAD's Senior Travel Editor
1. Read everything you can get your hands on. Reading is probably the most overlooked step on the road to travel writing. First of all those writers have been published, they must be doing something right. Secondly you will get ideas and knowledge about all sorts of things, such as places and people. Of course a book about travel writing is a good place to start. I recommend Don George’s Travel Writing published by Lonely Planet.
2. Learn what publications are looking for; they all have their own slant. A story about traveling through Croatia on ten dollars a day isn’t going to fit in Travel & Leisure. The good news is that if you search you will find a place where it will be accepted. An editor can tell immediately if you are at all familiar with their publication. If you are not you are wasting their time as well as your own.
3. Editors receive a ton of queries and except for newspapers do not want a completed article. All publications have guidelines available somewhere — read the guidelines first. These guidelines will tell you exactly how to submit to their publication, and it shows professionalism even if you haven’t a clip to your name.
4. Pitch an idea not just a place. I have heard of want-to-be travel writers who contact editors notifying them of an upcoming trip to Paris. What about Paris will that writer introduce an editor to? The travel editor most likely has been to Paris several times themselves. Use your own likes or even dislikes about a destination. That book you read about Thai influences in French cooking will finally come in handy.
5. Everyone is a local somewhere. You need not travel across the world to travel write. Start looking for stories nearby. This will also help you develop ideas for those exotic locals that you will eventually get to. “Think locally” is more than a bumper sticker; it is a skill that is coveted by travel editors.
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