The Do's And Don'ts Of Submitting To Online Travel Magazines

by Ian MacKenzie May 8, 2007

how to you approach an editor?

Study these practical tips and you’ll have your travel writing published in no time.

The life of a travel writer is framed with romantic notions of wandering the globe, notebook in hand, jotting down experiences and interviews in exotic locations.

Every day is filled with uncertainty. Work itself is an adventure. And the best part? You get paid to do it.

Traditionally, you’d send your work to a print magazine or newspaper. But over the past few years, online travel magazines have arisen to offer quality writing with an audience not limited to any geographic location.

Having edited and published close to a hundred travel articles myself, I’ve noticed a number of tips for new writers to catch an editor’s eye.

Do Read The Magazine First

Since you’re planning on getting published in a specific travel magazine, doesn’t it make sense to actually read it first? Carefully study a few of their most prominent articles and you’ll get a feel for the tone and types of travel angles they prefer.

Some magazines want gritty narratives told in the first-person from the streets, while others publish light, witty descriptions of hotels and restaurants. Narrowing the scope of travel magazine that you actually want to see your writing in saves you from unexplained rejections later on.

Don’t Use Fancy HTML Emails

The worst thing you can do is pick an unreadable font, colourful headlines, or meaningless icons. Not only can complex HTML screw up when it displays on the other end, many heavy email users turn off HTML features completely. Rather than wasting time on a visual masterpiece, instead use plain, easy to read text, and concentrate on crafting your intriguing query.

Do Write A Compelling Pitch

When writing your story pitch, imagine yourself in the shoes of the editor. Why should they choose your writing over the fountain of submissions they likely receive every day?

Skip flattery and fluff, and instead outline your experiences and expertise. How will you bring your story and characters to glorious life? Do you bring a refreshing angle to an over-saturated destination or topic?

Be sure to highlight your previously published articles (if any) and what distinguishes you from other writers. Think of how your story would help the magazine reach more readers, and entice the editor to follow up with you.

Don’t Send A Generic Letter

This happens to me all the time. I receive a pitch addressed to no one in particular that outlines why I should be interested in publishing their article that obviously would not fit with the Brave New Traveler theme – obvious to anyone who had spent more than 2 minutes on the site.

Sometimes I wonder if these misguided authors (or more likely, marketers) just see the word “travel” and assume all magazines print the same stuff. Editors can spot a generic letter a mile away.

In reality, every publication is different, and each pitch should be unique and specific enough to reflect that.

Don’t Forget To Spellcheck

Frequent (and minor) spelling errors are immediate red flags that often result in instant rejection. After all, if you can’t spellcheck your own pitch, how accurate are the details in your travel article?

Other offences include sentences that lack grammatical coherence, and too much emphasis on your own abilities, rather than how your story will benefit the travel magazine’s readers.

Do Address The Most Appropriate Editor

Online travel magazines are still a fairly new phenomenon, meaning many of them are edited by one or two editors. Their email or contact form are rarely more than a few clicks from the homepage.

If you’re pitching a large online travel magazine, it’s possible they may have multiple editors that handle different departments. Sleuthing your way to the appropriate editor in this situation can be a little more difficult – so pick the most appropriate to your topic.

If you’re still unsure, just address the Editor In Chief. Use their name whenever possible with the prefix Mr. or Ms. I’ve never known another editor who was offended by formality, though the opposite is certainly true.

Another tactic pointed out by Don George is to address an editor who also writes and profess how much you enjoyed their most recent piece. At the very list, you’ll get their attention.

Don’t Send Your Story To More Than One Magazine

In print magazines, this tradition is vital, and excrutiatingly slow for a writer. You send off your manuscript, and the days turn to weeks as you wait for a reply. The urge to pitch multiple magazines is tempting, though if your story is accepted by two editors, the fallout just isn’t worth it.

Thankfully, online travel magazines are generally quicker in their turnaround. I try to answer all pitches within a week, letting the writer take their piece elsewhere if it doesn’t fit here. Keep in mind, pitching different stories from the same trip is fine – it’s the identical submissions which will have you burning bridges.

Do Send a Followup

If you haven’t heard from the online travel editor a few weeks after sending your pitch, by all means, send another email asking if they’d had a chance to read it. As long as you’re polite and friendly, you’ll likely get an answer.

It’s possible your first pitch was lost in cracks of cyberspace. But the truth is usually that editors are simply too busy and haven’t had the time to respond.

Don’t Harass The Editor

A few years ago I received a pitch from a writer that was fairly generic, but the story sounded intriguing, so I kept them in the pile. A few days later I received another email from the same writer that was little more than, “Have you read my story yet?” That’s it. They didn’t even take the time to sign their name. Rest assured, I didn’t bother replying.

Do Learn How To Deal With Rejection

An inevitability of every writer is that one day, they must face the cold, clammy face of rejection. And it’s usually not because your travel writing sucks. It could be the magazine isn’t looking for your angle, or they’ve published too many similar stories, or the article is too long/too short…the list is endless.

Everyone gets rejected. The best thing you can do is give your story a moment of silence, then move on. Try to pitch it somewhere else with more resolve. If still no one bites, try writing a brand new article.

Don’t Wallow In Self Pity

The first rejection letter is hard. The 30th can be the nail in the coffin. You may feel the urge to curse the world and proclaim you’re giving up travel writing forever. Which may not necessarily be a bad thing. After all, it’s good to periodically re-evaluate your skills.

I’ve long realized that I will never be a professional surfer, a rock star, or an astronaut, and I’ve come to terms with that. It’s possible you may not be cut out for travel writing. Then again, you may just need more practice. Decide whether to toss away the quill forever or concentrate on making yourself better.

Do Define Success On Your Own Terms

Are you in travel writing because you “kinda” like writing and travel and you put the two together? Or is your daily routine dedicated towards that one nirvanic moment when you behold your byline in print (or in this case, on screen) for the first time?

It could be you just want to prove to yourself that you can get published in an online travel magazine. It could be a stepping stone to that first novel, or a fond memory when you’re older and have since moved on to other occupations.

The only truth is that everyone writes for different reasons — don’t let anyone tell you what constitutes success. You’ll know when you get there.

Ian MacKenzie is editor of Brave New Traveler, and co-founder of the blogging community TravelBlogger. Aside from writing, he spends his time exploring the fundamental nature of existence and wishing he did more backpacking.

Do you have any more submission tips for new travel writers? Share in the comments!

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