One of the biggest challenges for freelance travel writers is crafting great pitches. You might have a great story idea and a perfect publication in mind, but your first job is convincing an editor to run your piece.
My first job in travel writing was as a deputy editor at a magazine in India. We generated many of our ideas in-house and either sent staff writers out to work on stories or commissioned pieces from a regular pool of freelancers. We occasionally got pitches from new writers, but only a few made the cut: the ones that left us wanting more.
Few people in the industry have time to read lengthy emails about story ideas, especially if such emails are coming from a writer they’ve not yet worked with. Instead, give them just enough information to get them interested in your story.
A good pitch conveys what a story is about, why it’s pertinent, and why you are the best person to write it. A great pitch does all that in just a couple of easy-to-digest paragraphs.
Think of your story as a feature-length film and the pitch as the trailer: you want to entice and engage in as short a period of time as possible. The goal is to get your editor captivated by the idea of running your story.
While it’s always a good idea to check if a website or publication has specific guidelines for how they want to be pitched, here are a few guidelines on how to write strong travel pitches that will leave editors wanting more:
1. Introduce yourself: In two or three sentences tell the editor a little bit about you. Mention past publications, or if you haven’t yet been published, write a bit about what makes you a good fit for the magazine or the story you are about to suggest. For example, if you are going to pitch a story on the Bordeaux Region in France and you happen to have a background as a sommelier, you’ll want to mention this up front.
2. Give a snapshot of your story: Sum up the idea in a sentence or two. Maybe even include a suggested headline and a section of the publication that you think the piece would go well in—this shows that you are familiar with the publication, which can help build instant rapport.
3. Explain the relevance: What’s the “peg?” Editors are known for asking “why now,” so if there’s something timely about your story, let your editor know. For example, 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service, so now is a great time to sell stories on outdoor exploration. Or maybe there’s a film coming out that’s set in a place you want to write about.
4. Close out with grace: Remember to thank the editor and tell them that you look forward to hearing from them. Include links to an online portfolio if you have one.
A final note: remember that your query letter is essentially a sales pitch. Captivate your editor by keeping your pitch concise, precise, and intriguing!
See also: 5 tips to getting started as a travel writer.