Opening the email, I closed my eyes and held my breath. The response read, “Thank you for the submission. Your writing style is an excellent fit… We would be happy to publish this article.”
“I’m so excited!” I exclaimed as soon as my family answered the phone just moments after I received the good news. The first travel writing byline was so exciting, and my family was excited for me, too.
After the initial happiness subsided, I knew I needed to “rinse and repeat.” I wanted to have this feeling again and again.
Here’s what’s changed for me as a travel writer since landing those first bylines, and a little insight to help you along in your travel writing journey…
** Focus on the local story.
In some ways, starting local takes more motivation because you aren’t on vacation, so there’s a tendency to say, “I’ll do it tomorrow.” Don’t wait. Get out there and talk to people. I didn’t think there was a local magazine for me, but I was wrong. One night I went to dinner with friends and someone mentioned a great restaurant for corned beef hash which I visited the next day (I love corned beef hash). At the end of a conversation with the restaurant manager, he handed me a magazine with coupons in the back. It was the inaugural issue of a local glossy lifestyle magazine. It was just what I had been looking for.
** Send out queries.
At first I didn’t have clips, so I submitted completed manuscripts to editors when I pitched. By the third article, when I emailed an editor asking for submission guidelines, he asked me, “What’s your story idea?” This changed my mode of operation from submitting completed stories to querying.
Querying is when you send an editor your story idea, instead of the completed article.
I used the query formula I learned from Kyle Wagner at the Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop in New Orleans. The editor agreed to run it if he couldn’t fill his issue with enough advertisements. He did end up publishing my article, and five weeks later asked if I was interested in contributing again! Now I’m a regular contributor, and I regularly query other publications.
** Set up interviews as a travel writer.
Before my first bylines, I traveled and talked to people, but didn’t ever mention that I was a travel writer. I flew under the radar. Calling myself a travel writer made me feel like an imposter.
After my third article, I set up interviews by prefacing it with, “I’m writing a story.”
My confidence has grown.
** Increase your output.
In the beginning, I would write one story, submit it, and wait for a response. These days, I have multiple pieces in progress at once. I write, submit, and immediately repeat. It’s continual and will help me get more and more articles published.
Since my first bylines, my confidence, self-editing, output, and query process all have improved. I’m proof that as you continue to practice your craft, you will only get better, as well.