I Want to Be a Travel Writer, Now What?

As you can imagine, I get emails from writers who want direction with their travel writing. Today, I got an email from someone who had moved to a new city (Washington D.C.) and was looking for some advice. I did not know what his level of experience was, so I sent him an email with the first ten things that came to mind. Hopefully you can use them, too.


1. Get Don George’s Lonely Planet Guide To Travel Writing and Michael Shapiro’s A Sense of Place.

2. Invest in a travel writing class.

3. Build a database of editorial contacts. You can get leads from a local library (periodicals section), or take the easy way out and buy the list from Travelwriters.com. This is a massive list that you could cut down to fit your needs. And surely there will be regional magazines on there that you are looking for.




4. Read Read Read. Books, magazines, travel newspaper sections, all of it! If you want to write for magazines and newspapers, pick a few and start reading them. If you can afford a few subscriptions, great. If not, spend some time in the periodicals section of your local library. Read at least six months worth and study their style, what they’ve written, and what they haven’t written about. If you want to write about your personal journeys, Travelers’ Tales has more than 100 books that serve as great examples of travel essays.

5. Buy your books from your local travel store. Get to know the people that work there and let them know that you are looking for travel writing opportunities – network.

6. Attend author events. Network, network, network.

7. Ready to pitch? Get a subscription to MediaBistro.com so you have access to the “How to Pitch” section and start studying the way it is for different publications. They might even have a magazine that you are interested in listed.

8. Join a writers group for support and feedback on your writing.

9. Ask other writers how they broke in. Rolf Potts started by writing on spec, I started by getting an intership with Travelers’ Tales. Others just submit until they’re blue in the face. You can find out about several well known travel writers from Rolf’s Travel Writers interview section on his website.

10. Last, but possibly the most important piece of advice–write.
Write Write Write. Practice writing about place. Practice writing descriptions of where youare vs. anecdotes, vs. dialogue vs. history recaps. You can do this even without leaving town. Take notes where ever you are. What’s the best table at the restaurant you are attending and why? Staying at a hotel? What rooms have the best views? Festivals, events, notable celebrities? What’s unique and special about the place you are in. These are just a start.

***Obviously, these are not tips for veteran travel writers who already have a gazilion bylines, but, I’m sure even writers with experience can find use with some of the advice. Please send me additional tips at jen at jenleo dot com so that we can do a similar list for advanced travel writers.***

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