As I enter my second full year of travel writing, it never ceases to amaze me what sells.
I found I can dig way back into my past and write stories of my time in Alaska – in the 1970s, I spent nearly a year on Kodiak Island and one year in the Bering Strait – and get those stories accepted.
Because I have photos to remind me of the days spent outdoors reveling in the Midnight Sun, and hours playing cards in the deep of winter, all that is needed to spark a story that will sell is to revisit my photos and remember what it was like.
Once I have an image of a story, I think of which publication might want my tale, and then I just construct it for that audience.
This method has worked well for Alaska magazine, since they like to publish an occasional story of what the “old days” on the frontier were like. They’ve paid me as much as $75 dollars for old photos I scanned on my home copier and sent in as email attachments.
Beginning writers have a wealth of life experience from their pasts, from before they had jumped into the travel writer world.
We live in a fast-changing world, and there is an audience for events and places from decades ago.
For inspiration, visit your local library and spend an hour or two reading through their stacks of magazines. With a little imagination and diligent reading, you can find a match for your stories in one of those magazines.
Then comes the query process. It’s not unusual to get no replies, or a brief one, and then hear months later they want to publish your story.
I had a story accepted recently by Fish Alaska magazine about a self-guided fishing trip I took with my wife and my siblings two years ago. This query originally received a brief reply stating they had received it and would let me know if there was any interest in the piece. Seven months later, I got the good news of acceptance.
Never mind that a travel website already had published a story from the same trip – I just re-wrote it to fit a different audience and was successful in reviving an old story.
I also have had a story published on Nelson, New Zealand. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t been there in over six years: those photos brought me back, and so I just wrote it up. After some fact-checking to make sure the restaurants and attractions were still open before I submitted, the piece was ready.
This worked on a story about Gisborne, New Zealand, also. I hadn’t been there in over eight years but was able to sell the story and photos for a destination article on a travel website. These two stories didn’t pay much but gave me a couple of by-lines when I needed them early on in my travel-writing career.
You have so much to share with the travel reading audience. Start a habit of writing at least five days a week and including one or two “vintage” stories each time. If you write regularly and query often, it’s only a matter of time before you are a published travel writer with plenty of clips to move up to larger paying publications.