Make getting published your reality in 2014
Traveling and getting paid for it - talk about a writer's dream (especially this writer). I get asked by a lot of writers how I started writing, how I went from unpublished to published, how I turned my travel writing dreams into a career. As you might expect, the answer is complicated...
The good news is that being a travel writer - any kind of writer - is within your reach. But like any profession, the hard-to-hear news is that it takes a lot of time, creative energy and good old fashioned hard work. There's no easy path to success here, especially in the digital age of free content everywhere. Simply being a good writer isn't enough to get a byline and get paid for it. Free content is easy to find. Great content is harder to find and valued by smart editors.
Knowing the difference is your job as a travel writer.
For me, the best way to teach someone how to be a published travel writer is to look at some of the more common mistakes in travel writing/blogging. And not repeat them.
How NOT to be a (paid) travel writer and/or blogger
I began my writing career pitching stories to editors (this was before the birth of self-publishing and blogs) and the competition was fierce. Getting an editor to read my query over all the others sitting on their desk took constant contact, regular emails offering valuable ideas relevant to their publication. If you don't want to be a travel writer (or any kind of published writer for that matter) follow these simple steps to remain anonymous, unpublished and NOT a (paid) travel writer.
Practice careless travel writing
Everyone makes mistakes but professional writers edit, edit and edit some more before submitting their work. If your editing skills are lacking, print out your work and edit with pen and paper. Our eyes fill in the gaps on the screen. Let's be honest, you're more likely to catch missed words and over-used phrases if you're reading without the distraction of Facebook.
Ignore other travel blogs
Think of your writing as a product, like a smart phone for example. If you want to sell your product, you need to know what the market's looking for, what inspires them and what's new on the horizon. Reading other blogs gives you a competitive advantage and it's free. Not using this resource is, well, silly.
Act without integrity
Your integrity is even more important than your ability to write. Barter that away and you might have better luck getting a job at Starbucks than you will as a writer.
- Lying - If you hated a resort and have nothing good to say about, be (gently) honest why and what the owners can do to improve it. Don't lie and wax poetic on it - you'll eventually be called out.
- Cheating - If your travel was compensated by a resort, say that in your piece. Your readers will understand and respect you more knowing you trusted them. No one expects you to be able to afford to travel the world on your own dime but they demand your honesty.
- Stealing - Plagiarizing someone else's work is stupid and more easily tracked today than ever before. Don't do it. Ever.
- Switching teams - If you're working with Microsoft and trying out the new Window's phone, think seriously before bestowing that same love on the BlackBerry10 - unless you're doing a competitive review.
Disrespect your readers
A blog post is the start of a conversation. Your content is meant to spark commentary and dialogue and sharing as much it's meant to provide insight and meaning. When someone comments on your post, even if they disagree, answer them with a thanks and a comment. Engage don't ignore - or worse, tell them their opinion is stupid.
Writing for a publication is more detached and your writing may need to be more journalistic. Research the magazine and understand the tone and voice before submitting your work for publication.
Never give away your writing
Your articles and stories are priceless and incredible. But if no one ever reads them...
Every profession gives away before charging. If you're a hockey coach, you're required to give away your expertise for a long time before you can charge for it. Same deal if you're a lawyer, doctor, mechanic...It's called learning the ropes while building your reputation. I gave away a lot of my writing before I could convince someone to pay me for it. And having written for publications like the Chicago Sun, Women's Health and Chicken Soup for the Soul, I can tell you it's worth it.
If you're a new travel writer just starting out or you're a writer looking for more publishing opportunities, consider contributing to blogs like GoGirlfriend. In exchange for your writing, community travel blogs provide a ready-made audience for your work and strong visibility in social media.
Ever thought of travel writing for a living? I'd love to hear your travel writing experiences: what worked, what didn't work, what you wish you would have done. Feel free to share in the comments below or shout out to us on Facebook or Twitter.