Notes from a Travel Writing Course 1: Pitching to Publishers

A few years back I attended this travel writing course and few othersย  – out of curiosity really and to try something new. Finding Your Voice as a writer was another good one.

The notes below are from a 4/5 day course a few summers ago after I recently found a couple of old notebooks with some of the notes I took.

Sharing is caring!

Rather than gather more dust, I might as well share these notes in case they’re helpful to any curious travel/writing/blogging readers….and for the record, I am by no means an expert on any of this – I’m just passing it on.

I remember there were some very interesting people on the course, some were already professional writers, established travel writers, a few bloggers, other looking to branch into travel writing from some other profession – quite a mixed bag.

Regardless of whether you write about travel, fashion, cars, sport….. a lot of the writing principles and tips probably remain the same – then again if it’s purely ‘your’ art, then there are no rules right!!

Some of it is very much the opinion of the tutor – based on their journalistic career and what had worked from them over the years with newspapers, magazines and various publications, press trips……though the world is much more digitally entrenched and social media driven these days along with the growth of blogging and influencer sectors so …take from it what you will. ๐Ÿง

There’s quite a bit so I’ll break it down into more than one blog post…..maybe you’ll make sense of some of it ๐Ÿ˜ here’s part 1:

Pitching Tips

  • Your pitch is a summary of the article you want to be published
  • Research the kind of content the publisher wants and likes/target audiences etc
  • Try to connect with the company via LinkedIn before pitching, so they have some idea of who you are beforehand – they’ll want to know a bit about you
  • Send an email, keep it short and as concise as possible – they never read more than the first couple of lines. Get into more detail if they email you back
  • Let them know immediately what you want to offer, what the article will include and anything you can get special access to or someone you can interview – and include links to previous work
  • Don’t send more than a couple of paragraphs – they might steal it
  • Show an awareness of relevant trends
  • Your pitch needs to answer the question not just ask it!
  • Use bullet points
  • The hook – elaborate on what that is. It’s not the place itself (in terms of travel writing)

Start with a bang, have a typical hook: a sentence that will surprise them, with a fact/statistic/something original.

“My feature will reveal/discuss”

“in between I’ll be exploring” ” I will also supply”

“Details of my itinerary and excursions will be made available”

“I am a part time freelance writer”

“As a XX /former XX I can say with certainty….”

“I will also describe X”

“I can turn this feature around for you by…”

Outline the story: anything that looks toward the future is more appealing than an event that has already happened e.g. “My stay will include XXX use three bullet points” Make it topical.

Include case studies and excerpts

Demonstrate knowledge and research

Keep it conversational in style

Why you?: say something about yourself that’s worth bragging about. Don’t say you’ve never written before. Say things like “I was responsible for….I investigated…..I oversaw….I managed…I work in XX….

Why them?: travel generates the most revenue for magazines and newspapers. Choose a story that fits the publication. You understand their readers and familiar with their outlet, the topic, the industry etc…something!

Remember: you protect your pitch by being the only person who can do it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Editors

  • Editors buy ideas
  • They like typical stories (don’t those get a bit repetitive though?)
  • They need reassurance that you can produce a copy in agreed time – a reliable researcher
  • Twitter is good for finding editors
  • Some publications do not like to take copies by someone who is being ‘hosted’
  • Interesting – the Washington Post are using people who live in the area they are writing about

Pitching Faux Pas

  • Don’t base your intent on hearsay
  • Don’t be vague
  • Don’t use unreliable case studies – editors need to be confident you can find a case study/interviewee

Copywriting/Content Marketing

Sign up to freelancer platforms like peopleperhour.com to get commissions. Try pitching to small publications as well.

Journalism

Another great way into a writing career – either via a short course or degree route.

Networking is very important

  • Be creative about how you meet people
  • You’ll start developing relationships that help you get commissions
  • Go to relevant events – Google them and use things like meetup.comย 
  • Try and get onto the press lists of companies you’d like to pitch to
  • Useful –ย  Cisionย 
  • Also mentioned as useful iPaper
  • World Newspapers.comย useful for research and finding journalistic jobs around the world

Become a Go-To person for something

  • Most successful writers specialise in something – i.e. food, family travel, cruises, trains, luxury, or budget travel etc
  • The more you are known for one thing, the more you come to mind quickly to those who are looking for it

Press Trips

  • These are usually a few days, sometimes longer
  • You’ll get invites when your blogging or journalism takes off
  • All expenses are usually paid – PR will normally contact you
  • Sometimes you need to get the commission first, before you can go on the press trip
  • Once you get a commission for an article – use this (with a publisher) to then ask them for free hospitality – stay/meals access etc on the back of the commission

Photographs/Visuals

  • Never crop your photographs for newspapers and magazines because it messes with the pexels.
  • Photographs must be high resolution
  • Journalists are cutting back on photography
  • Video becoming a more popular medium
  • Learn the basics of composition and learn basic editing skills

Part 2 will go into the thing of trying to secure free hospitality/trips/travel in order to write your piece ( with or without a commission in place). Again, these are just the notes I managed to take, so if it seems a bit disjointed – it probably is!! ๐Ÿ™ƒ

If there’s anything from these travel writing course notes that is in anyway interesting or useful to you then they haven’t gone to waste!

Unless otherwise stated, all illustrations within this post are sourced from free clipart.

15 thoughts on “Notes from a Travel Writing Course 1: Pitching to Publishers

  1. maristravels

    May I add two more pieces of advice?
    1. Don’t write the article until you have the commission. You will pitch to possibly 3 or 4 magazines but each one has a different voice and you wouldn’t write the sort of piece you’d write for The Guardian, for The Mail on Sunday. So, don’t waste your time.
    2. Spend nearly as long on your two-sentence pitch to the editor as you would on the piece itself. I’ve been known to spend two days on my pitch and I usually try to make this my first sentence of the article as the hook for the reader should also hook the editor.

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