How Long Does It Take To Sell Your First Travel Story?

After taking the AWAI Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop in July 2007, in Portland, Oregon, I started pitching stories to magazines and met with immediate success.

Within my first month, I had a dozen stories accepted for publication. And, over the last few years I’ve accumulated over 500 published articles in more than 150 different magazines, online magazines, newspapers, and in-flight magazines.

If I count the number of times my articles were reprinted in different magazines, I’ve been published over 700 times. And, I have a stack of magazines four feet tall to prove it.

The AWAI Travel Writer’s Workshop was instrumental in getting me started on this path. It saved me a lot of time and helped me skip all the beginner mistakes most people make.

Here is some practical advice and recommendations for getting started in travel writing that has worked nicely for me...

First, you need to draw up a potential story list. Stories can be about anything that interests you on a recent, or upcoming, trip. Brainstorm with your spouse or a friend about what you enjoyed the most on your last trip. It’s likely that if it interested you, it will interest a travel magazine editor.

When you travel, you need to compulsively collect all of the tourist brochures and literature that you can find. Between this information, the Internet, and contacting the tourism department where you have been, you’ll have more than enough information to write about.

Once you have your story ideas and information, you need to match them with potential magazines where you’ll send your queries. This can be time consuming, but it’s absolutely necessary.

I’m going to share one of my biggest marketing secrets with you here... I prepare lengthy “distribution lists” of magazines, and then send my query letter to them all. My travel magazine distribution lists have 10 to 45 magazines on them.

To prepare your distribution lists, buy the Writer’s Market (a book that lists thousands of magazines), search the Internet, and scan magazines at your local bookstore.

Editors love it when you tell them that you have photos to accompany your story. So take lots and lots of high-resolution photos (by putting your camera on its highest quality setting). I am not a particularly skilled photographer, but have a good quality point-and-shoot camera that has kept the editors I work for satisfied.

Again, you can also get some photo training at The Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop.

Here’s another of my secrets... I take so many photos of the attractions that I visit, from close up and far away, and from different angles, that I have a huge selection of images to choose from. Inevitably, some of them come out looking pretty good and are enough to keep my editors happy.

Finally, you need to actually put your fingers on the keyboard and send out your query letters to magazines. This is the first big hurdle to getting started in travel writing and the main thing that deters many aspiring travel writers.

Don’t let it scare you. Send out those query letters and see what happens. And send out lots of them, pitching different ideas to many different magazines.

The worst that can happen is that you receive rejection e-mails or no replies from the editors. If this happens, you are no worse off than when you started. But if your story ideas are good, and well-presented like Jennifer Stevens teaches at The Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop, you’ll suddenly find that you have some stories to write and some deadlines to meet. It’s a thrill. Go for it!

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]

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Roy Stevenson is a freelance writer based in Seattle, Washington. Since attending our Ultimate Travel Writer's Workshop, he’s had over 350 articles published over 700 times, in over 150 magazines and newspapers.
Topics include: military history and vehicles, history, travel and culture, communications, running, fitness and health, sports and film festival reviews.

One response to “How Long Does It Take To Sell Your First Travel Story?”

  1. John Hensley

    thank you for sharing this information and i am going to put it to use this week. I have traveled internationally but never thought about I could write about what I have done on those travels. I took copious notes on your article. Thanks again.