THE INTERNET IS A medium that seems custom made for travel writers. It puts our work before an unlimited audience, provides free exposure through RSS and other subscription services, and serves as an electronic archive of published work and feedback. Consider the following strategies to maximize all this potential.
Explore “cross-over” platforms for publication.
Travel writers are often interested in publishing in publications, whether print or electronic, with a direct thematic connection to travel.
While good and important, limiting your interest strictly to travel publications will prevent your work from gaining the audience of readers who might love your writing but who would never stumble upon it in a travel magazine or site.
Does your story involve food? Study food magazines like Saveur, Bon Appetit, and Gourmet, all of which include place-based articles in every issue.
Maybe your tale is about transportation. If that’s the case, liven up the pages of Boating or Car and Driver with your writing.
Regardless of the topic, know the publication and its submission guidelines prior to sending off your story.
Mine the expert knowledge in your travel writing network.
I recently prepared a pitch for a respected travel publication that received a short, ambivalent reply from the editor. I contacted a friend in my travel writing network who had more experience with the editor and asked for advice.
The second round of communication with the editor ended with the encouraging message: “Sold! Go for it!” I then passed the advice along to another writer who’d hit the same wall with that editor. Ask for advice when you need it, and share advice generously, too.
Be tight, be specific, be proactive.
Editors are busy. Do some of their work for them.
When you’re sure you’ve got a solid pitch, take a good look at the publication and make an assessment about where you think your piece would fit in best with respect to content and format. When you pitch to the editor, offer the story idea and a brief statement that articulates where you see your piece fitting into the publication and why.
If you have high-quality photos or other related content (audio, video) to offer the editor, make that information known in your pitch. Editors want to fill space, and the more content you can offer them that adds visual appeal to the publication, the more likely you are to get your story placed.
Produce a piece that has value.
This tip seems obvious, but “value” doesn’t simply refer to the idea or the content of the article. If you’re writing about a person, a place, or an event, provide the reader with hyperlinks to appropriate resources that add value to your own work.
If you refer to another article you’ve written, direct the reader to it. If you’re writing about a concert, a meal, or a store, provide a “practical advice” section that leads your reader to more information without distracting from your own story.
Viral market your own work.
The idea of viral marketing is simple: Generate buzz that gets your reader passing your story throughout his or her network, creating widening circles of readers for you.
How do you do this?
First: send a link or clip in a personalized message to every person mentioned in or related to the article. In a recent piece I wrote about disabled travelers, I sent a personalized thank you note to the interviewees, along with a link to the article. I encouraged them to forward the link to their own friends and family.
Second: send a link or clip in a personalized message to groups of people who are likely to find the article interesting. For the same article, I forwarded a brief message to the director of an international disabled travelers’ organization and encouraged her to share the story with her colleagues and clients.
I also posted the link in the disabled travelers’ forum on Lonely Planet. These three actions pushed readers who might not otherwise have read my work or visited Brave New Traveler to visit the BNT site.
One word of caution about viral marketing: do not abuse this strategy by sending your work over and over to the same group of people—even (and especially!) close friends or family. Direct your viral marketing campaign deliberately and respectfully, not simply with the intention of expanding your readership, but also of giving content of value to a potential new reader.
Know your rights.
Publications, whether print or electronic, have wildly different policies when it comes to your rights as a writer. Do you retain the rights to your work? Are you permitted to republish excerpts, the entire piece, or a variation on the piece in other publications in the future? The answers to these questions should play a part in the decisions you make about what to write and for which publications.
Be a good reader.
Good writers are good readers. Good readers offer feedback on others’ writing. Just as you wish for others to respond to your work, offer responses to others’ work. This is a great way to network, to get a better feeling for particular publications, and to develop a more astute awareness of what editors are seeking.
* Get access to paid freelance travel writing opportunities and an active community of travel journalists by enrolling in the MatadorU Travel Writing program.