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Seven suggestions for becoming a travel writer

A friend’s daughter who just earned her master’s in journalism recently asked me about how to break into travel writing. Apparently the suggestions I passed along were useful:

Thank you for giving me more practical, helpful advice in your e-mail than I got in the entirety of grad school. Seriously, if we had only had more guests like you come into our classes (and fewer guests who were frazzled, depressed editors of soon-to-be-dead publications), I might have come out of it with some realistic expectations and feeling like there was a way to make online journalism work as a career.

(I quote her less for the ego boost than the insight into today’s J school.) Anyway, here’s the part of my e-mail to her where I passed along tangible to dos to get a travel writing job:

  • Create your own blog. Most online publications won’t hire you unless you have a site of your own. Use it to highlight where you’ve been published, share your expertise, and provide insight on yourself and your articles (like the director’s cut feature on a DVD).
  • Create a Twitter account and follow other travel writers and editors, interacting with the most important ones. Follow PR types who represent businesses you’re interested in writing about too.
  • Create a Tumblr account–it’s popular with NYC-publishing types (and fun to use).
  • Read travel blogs, post comments on them, and apply to write for the ones you like.

And after you get a travel writing job, do the following:

  • Promote the heck out of yourself. Every article I write I send out to about 35 different social networks (yes, that’s a bit much, but at least share your articles on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and LinkedIn).
  • E-mail the subjects of your articles and their PR people, even if they didn’t help you when researching your article, letting them know that you wrote about them. Hopefully they’ll pass around your article or link to it, leading to more page views.
  • Use Help a Reporter Out (HARO) to find sources. Not only will good ones just present themselves to you, but it’ll get you attention from publicists that can help you find good stories.

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3 Responses to Seven suggestions for becoming a travel writer

  1. Boz August 17, 2010 at 3:43 pm #

    In addition to possibly passing around your article or linking to it, the subjects you wrote about and their PR people will be so impressed you took the time to share your article with them directly that they will automatically adore the heck out of you and want to work with you again.

  2. Melanie August 17, 2010 at 4:08 pm #

    Zach,

    This is great of you to post. Did you really go talk to this girl’s class as a guest speaker?

    Anyhow, your suggestions are helpful – the same ones you’ve basically given to me and that I inherently knew, too. I’m going to have to check out the 35 social networks thing – wow, that’s a lot!

    Also, I love the HARO suggestion but is it possible to use if you don’t have firm assignment but are just looking for ideas and resources?

    Thanks again for posting.

    Best,
    Melanie

  3. Zach August 17, 2010 at 10:09 pm #

    Sure, I’ve used HARO for pieces I was pitching. It’s probably best to acknowledge that fact in the query though.

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