Travel Writers Blog and the subject of money


OK, Carl Parkes called me out. I've been meaning to do a post about his blog for months now. (my sincere apologies, Carl). And if everyone knows about his blog already, all the better.

Travel Writers: The Trevails of Travel Writing

Several of his posts, will require their own individual attention, and I will get to that. But yesterday he requested that we discuss the subject of getting paid to be a travel writer.

“Let’s pretend there is a new rule about supporting writers with adequate pay. $1 per word. No more honors, honorariums, or other semantic tricks for travel-writing-slave-wages.

What do you think?

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Should writers starve or be supported by their work? How much did you get paid per word?”

Well, we can discuss it. But I don’t think there is going to be that much change in the industry. I just want to put information out to writers so that they can then make a choice about where to put their energy. If we’re talking about honorariums, most anthologies only pay an honorarium which can range between $25-$50(can’t remember) and, $100 (Travelers’ Tales) $250(Best American Travel Writing), sometimes $1000 (Italy, A Love Story, Seal Press). Honorariums are often used for anthologies. The sad truth there is that they are not money makers. Unless you have a break out title, anthologies don’t really go anywhere. Travelers’ Tales is proof of that. They are just trying to survive.

Look at the newspaper industry. They used to pay $ .10/word (sometimes less), but even they are moving to flat fees. A friend of mine was recently paid $75 for a department piece in the travel section of the San Francisco Chronicle. However, the exposure led him to more assignments (two for $650).

Magazines often pay $1/word. So, if that is the only fee you want to write for, go after the big glossies. Here’s the catch, tell me how long you are going to spend not only on writing the assignment, but also in researching your pitches.

Yes, obviously it is difficult to make a living as a writer. But I’d like to think that we all have our eyes open to this industry. Being a writer is as much a choice as it is a calling. (Don’t make me compare it to love). You can say you were meant to be a writer, have been “called” to writing, that it’s just “in” you, or whatevber. Still, it is your choice. And you can keep it as a hobby, or you can be a hustler extrordinaire and try to live off of it. But I think there is very little merit in complaining about it. If you want to make more money, think about that before you query assignments. Know your market, and your publisher before you put an hour of work into it.

One way to get higher paid assignments, is to build a name of yourself. And the way to do that is to expose your name. Sometimes that means writing for free. I’ve done it. I’m still doing it. And I’m still building my name. Is it working? Yes. People are coming to me with assignments. Some pay, some don’t. This is how TIME found me and asked me to write some little travel trend blurbs for them. They pay $200 for 200 words or less. And guess what? For the amount of time I spend on pitches that they don’t accept, it all evens out. But I’m still happy to have it. Heck, I think the bits I do for them are fun. I’ve also learned lots about research, not to mention have found leads for other venues in the process.

Enough from me. I’m in the camp that it’s fine to write for less money as you’re starting out. There is that other side of the fence that thinks that you should never write for free. That’s fine. We can agree to disagree.

Now, lets take a look at the discussion on Carl’s website for travel writers, “Travel Writing. Can You Survive?”. His post is the beginning of the discussion started on the TravelWriters.com forum board.