Erica Mills is a writer and editor with over a decade’s experience. Previously the editor of International Living’s Daily Postcards e-letter and Great Escape Publishing’s The Right Way to Travel e-letter, she now works as an editor for Great Escape Publishing’s Travel Writer’s Café. She lives in and hails from Ireland.
TPM ~ Tell us about the Travel Writer’s Café.
EM ~ The Travel Writer’s Café is a community of writers, editors, and travel writing experts designed to help aspiring travel writers to reach their potential. The Café helps writers achieve 100 articles sold and 12 press trips taken. As part of that aim, we publish a weekly “bonus” article, member profiles, and a monthly “Roadmap” that acts as a guide helping writers master a different aspect of travel writing each month. These articles and the Roadmap are all delivered online and via e-letter. We also maintain an active and supportive Facebook group, in which members share tips, opportunities, challenges, and success stories.
TPM ~ What inspired you to become an editor?
EM ~ Since the moment I learned to read, I’ve had my head buried in a book or a magazine or a pen in my hand. I love the art and creative pleasure that comes with playing with words and polishing an article or book so that its message shines through clearly and engagingly. I think part of that love comes from growing up in Ireland, which has a rich, literary history.
While studying for a bachelor’s degree in English and music, I was assigned a group editing project. The rest of the group, when faced with doing the work, were—very rapidly—nowhere to be found… That left me in at the deep end, translating and editing a text from early modern English to current English by myself. Thankfully, I discovered that I had an aptitude for editing and derived genuine pleasure from it.
To me, facing a tricky edit is like solving a puzzle, which appeals to my analytical nature. I am also a “helper” by nature, which I can utilize well with beginning writers to help them produce their best work.
Erica’s editing journey
TPM ~ How long have you been an editor?
EM ~ I’ve been editing a variety of materials—books first, followed by articles and e-letters—for about 13 years now.
TPM ~ Do you work with freelance travel writers?
EM ~ Yes, almost exclusively. I work closely with Noreen Kompanik, who pioneered the Travel Writer’s Café. We commission a variety of articles and Roadmaps that chart the experiences of and lessons learned by freelance travel writers. As the majority of our members are freelance travel writers, we want articles from writers whose experience reflects our members’. We publish articles that examine the art, business, and process of travel writing.
The more perspectives, the better for us: We want to hear from people of all backgrounds, experience, education levels, ethnicities, and genders.
Working with new writers
TPM ~ Do you work with new travel writers?
EM ~ We do. It doesn’t matter where people are on their travel writing journey; we want to work with them—as long as they have a lesson or tips that can be helpful to other travel writers. For example, if a new travel writer has discovered a hack for increasing their pitching success rate, or if they learned something valuable in submitting their first article or first 10 articles, we want to hear from them. As I mentioned, our community is focused on supporting and uplifting each other. That’s something a new travel writer can certainly contribute to.
TPM ~ Does your publication have regular contributors? If so, what attributes and experience do you look for in a regular contributor’s portfolio and resume?
EM ~ There are writers Noreen and I will reach out to again and again. What unites them all is their professionalism, courtesy, and appreciation of deadlines. In my career, I have worked with writers who were incredibly skilled, experienced, and talented, but who have ignored deadlines, been rude or condescending, or who turned in rushed or sloppy work. I have also worked with new and less experienced writers who were friendly, accommodating, willing to learn, and never late with an article. I will take the latter any day. Writing skills can be improved; I find a bad attitude very rarely changes.
Great ideas are also a must, as are fresh takes on established topics. If you can bring me an angle I have never considered or a writing technique or outlet I am unfamiliar with, I will look for ways to work with you.
Erica Mills advice on queries
TPM ~ What makes a query stand out from the crowd for you?
A query that shows me the writer understands my publication will always grab my attention. A query should also always be clear, concise, and straight to the point.
TPM ~ What will send a query directly to the trash bin?
EM ~ A disregard for the types of articles we publish. Previously, I edited for a publication whose audience was retirees who wished to retire overseas. I lost count of how many pitches I received that were targeted at young people and young families or about domestic travel. Don’t be that writer! If you would like to submit a pitch for the Travel Writer’s Café, please read what I have written above about our members and article needs.
TPM ~ What advice do you have for a new writer when it comes to queries?
EM ~ A few pieces of advice:
– Tailor your query to the publication you are pitching—make sure you understand its audience and that you have read previous articles to get a sense of the publication’s tone and focus.
– Build collegial relationships with editors. If you sell an article to an editor and they appear to like it, follow up with another pitch/idea! They may not take you up on that pitch, but they will be more inclined to keep you in mind for future work.
– Pitch a lot! If you’re only sending out one query every now and again, it will take a long time for you to build up your portfolio of writing.
– Don’t fear rejection too much; it comes with the territory. That said, if you’re receiving no response or hearing the same reasons for rejection frequently, take a look at your query letters and whether they meet the publications, you’re pitching’s guidelines.
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