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Top tips for landing your first bylineAs children, we learned to draw by joining dots. Landing your first byline as a travel writer can often be as simple—it’s just a matter of finding and connecting the correct dots.

The way I landed an article in the October/November edition of World Travel Magazine last year is a great illustration…

The first dot for me was a website called TravMedia.

Touting itself as “the travel industry’s social media network,” it’s a great place to publicize your work. But a lot of people don’t realize that editors also use it to find writers for specific articles.

The “Editors Alert” feature allows an editor to send out a message requesting a writer to work on a certain theme or with expertise on a given topic. In the case of Singapore-based World Travel Magazine, the alert requested experienced food and drink writers who could include a late Anthony Bourdain angle in their pitches.

Having never actually watched any of Bourdain’s shows, I did an Internet search and found the episodes related to Shanghai, where I am based.

Watching these shows was the second dot, as it allowed me to work out an idea of what Shanghai meant to Bourdain.

Having previously done an article on the Lost Plate food tour in Xi’an (another city in China), I checked to see what their tour of Shanghai consisted of.

It seemed to tick all the right boxes with the soup dumplings and noodles that Bourdain raved about in Shanghai… but went one better, with an invite into someone’s home. This seemed the final dot as far as the pitch went.

After carefully crafting the pitch I sent it off, and then nothing—not even a read receipt!

I noticed a few days later the same alert appeared on PitchWhiz—a website which allows you to track whether your pitch has been received or read. I used exactly the same text and sent it using PitchWhiz. This time I received a quick reply—the next dot.

After a few exchanges, I got the commission for a 500-word piece, with pictures, to be finished by Sept. 6.

Next stage was contacting the tour operator and getting them to put me on the tour before my deadline. I would normally suggest doing this before even pitching, but I have cooperated with the owner of Lost Plate on a number of other articles, so knew that there would be no problem once I got assigned.

The fun part came on a Saturday evening visiting restaurants that, despite living in the city for many years, were completely new to me.

Our appetizer was the city’s famous soup dumplings, before heading into a resident’s front living room for old school braised pork. Following on from this were two more restaurants before ending the evening at a craft beer bar.

The normal cost of the tour is $65, but thanks to writing the article, it was complimentary for me. Before tucking into each dish, I diligently took lots of pictures and notes.

Within two days of the tour, I had the article written up, pictures processed and on their way to the editor, resulting in a two-page spread in a glossy magazine and a nice paycheck.

That’s how you do it, dot to dot to dot.

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