How To Become a Professional Travel Writer : Zero To Travel Podcast

This week on the Zero To Travel Podcast, award winning travel journalist Jayme Moye shares everything you need to know about breaking into the travel writing industry, getting published and building a dream career.

Jayme Moye is an accomplished professional travel writer who has won multiple awards and written hundreds of articles for over 50 different publications, including National Geographic and Men’s Journal.

Jayme doesn’t hold back in this interview. She spills every industry tip and secret you need to succeed. You’ll learn exactly how to get started (even with no experience) and pitch articles like a pro. Give it a listen now and you’ll learn:

  • Exactly how to get started as an unpublished writer with no experience
  • The first thing you should do if you want to be a professional writer
  • How Jayme went from office job to world traveling professional writer
  • What editors are looking for and how to sell your writing
  • How to pitch magazines with story ideas
  • The best way to get your name around in the travel writing world
  • Why your pitches are so important
  • Key industry terms to make you look like an experienced pro
  • Inside tips from Jayme on how to become a more creative writer
  • And so much more!

Listen to the travel podcast interview now by hitting play on the bar above. You can also Subscribe to the Zero To Travel Podcast on iTunes.

Here are a few key points covered in this interview:

Finding Your Place To Start

For just about everyone interested in becoming a travel writer, but especially for those who don’t hail from a writing background, the biggest question is always, “where do I start?”

So let’s begin with a simple and straightforward piece of advice.

READ!

Specifically, read whatever it is that you want to be published in. The better understanding you have of the publication you’re wishing to be a part of, the more likely you’ll be able to create something fitting and desirable.

It’s also a good idea to pay close attention to which section of the magazine you’re aiming for, as well as how the magazine is structured overall. Many magazines are structured similarly with regard to their recurring departments and feature articles, so as you start to recognize the structure of one, others will become easier to breakdown too.

Once you’ve got a destination for a pitch in mind, it’s time to consider the angle you’ll be pitching from. Is the story you’ve got in mind new or a novelty? Is it feature-worthy, or better suited to a specific section of the magazine? If it’s the latter, it’s important to gather information on who the editor is for that specific section. In fact, having a specific editor to contact is always a vital part of the pitching process.

Making An Effective Pitch

Jayme abides by this rule – always pitch before you write.

Why?

Because the editor you’re writing for will be critical in determining the direction your story takes.

The editor knows better than any other person what the audience of the magazine likes and what aspects of the story will need to be up or downplayed, which is exactly why their input is so critical before you put pen to page.

But how do you make an effective pitch?

Format is everything, and in fact a universally accepted format does exist that will propel you 98% ahead of the crowd if you use it. This ideal format consists of:

✓ Including the word “pitch” in the subject line, directly followed by the story subject (for example “Pitch: The Science Behind Polar Migrations.”)
✓ Using an informal greeting, and one that includes the first name of the editor.
✓ An opening sentence that begins something like, “For your consideration…,” and a reference to the specific section you’re interested in.
✓ A strong opening paragraph on the subject of your pitch, a “hook,” something exciting that will grab the editor’s attention.
✓ A second paragraph outlining the who, what, where, when, etc., of your article. The nuts and bolts of it, if you will.
✓ A final paragraph outlining the proposal. This should include the length of the piece, what section of the magazine it’s meant for, any specific timing needed (such as travel dates or why the article needs to run in a specific issue if the subject is time-sensitive).
✓ A closing sentence or two detailing who you are and where the editor can find clips of previous articles or a portfolio of work.

Keep in mind that pitch length should directly correlate to the intended length of your article. So, a pitch for a 200 word article should only be 4 or 5 sentences, whereas a pitch for an 800 word article would go the full distance outlined above.

When Publishers Pay Travel Expenses

Although occasionally big features for big magazines might cover some or most of a writer’s travel expenses, it’s an infrequent occurrence and better options exist to secure funding for travel writing.

A writer can search for grants specific to their type of article or subject matter (i.e. investigative reporting).

Another option for traveling writers are FAM trips, which stands for “Friends And Media” or “FAMiliarization.” These are basically press trips, usually hosted by a new resort who is working with a PR firm to bring out American journalists.

How to Start Without A Portfolio or Clips

Everyone looking to shift his or her career path onto that of a writer will likely be starting out without a portfolio. Therefore a personal blog is an easy place to start in showcasing your writing ability and individual style.

You can also kickoff your writing by covering whatever areas of expertise you might have, naming yourself as an expert, and pitching that idea to small, local magazines (as the larger publications are very unlikely to assign an article to a writer without clips).

In the beginning, it’s important to remember that writing is a business as well as a creative process and that writers need to have a thick skin.

When all you’re cold-pitching, it can’t be taken personally if the pitch is rejected.

Just because your pitch doesn’t work for one publication doesn’t mean it won’t be more suitable for another. Whatever the result, simply because a pitch doesn’t get accepted doesn’t mean that you’re not a good writer or that the story isn’t of value.

Remember that editors are ultimately looking for stable freelancers to choose from, and a number of high quality pitches can at least get you into their minds as a source for future needs.

Those in pursuit of a writing career should also remember to stay influential on social media, to keep putting themselves out there via conferences and events, and to develop relations with editors and PR professionals. With the right effort all of this can build up and become a loop of people and professionals surrounding you, the writer!

Ways to Improve As A Travel Writer

Get out there and find other writers whose work you admire and follow them. One way to learn to write like your idols? Retype their articles. It’s a great way to imprint into your mind the rhythms and styles you want to emulate, improving her own writing in the process – kind of like muscle memory for the mind.

When it comes to learning to write narrative story, Your Life As Story by Tristine Rainer is a highly recommended read. In the book, Tristine shows the writer how to include small pieces of their own life to make the perspective more meaningful and emotional to the readers.

Narrative story is a style of writing that is more personal for the writer (as opposed to third-person writing), and can be more relatable for the reader.

The above tips are covered more deeply in the interview –  if you are at all interested in travel writing give it a listen, you’ll be glad you.

Other Resources

Jayme Moye’s Blog

Your Life As Story

Men’s Journal

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