For decades, aspiring travel writers have been using this simple technique to break into travel writing. It’s called writing “Front Of Book” stories, aka FOB’s.
An FOB is a very short broad-strokes story that you’ll find in the first few pages of most travel magazines.
These “mini-articles” are anywhere between 200 and 500 words and can be about a place, a tourist attraction, a restaurant, or any other small aspect of a travel destination.
I’ve written several dozen of these small articles for various magazines. My topics have included: a new winery in Eastern Washington, a resort in Alaska, a hotel in the San Juan Islands, a B&B in Port Angeles, and a military museum in Luxembourg.
You can even focus on a person. I once wrote a short piece about an older gentleman in Toppenish who leads tours through this small historic town in Central Washington, in his covered wagon.
Here’s why you might want to consider writing a short, front of the book piece first instead of skipping ahead to a feature full-length article…
- It’s a low-risk proposition for the editor. If the story is poorly written—or you don’t meet your deadline—she can easily replace your piece with something else she has in her inbox. This is more appealing to her than trusting you – a writer she’s never worked with before — to complete a feature, full-length piece.
- It gets your foot in the door and, in fact, many magazine editors will insist that first-time writers for their magazine start with FOBs. If it’s well written, and easy-to-read, then you’ll find the editors will be more receptive to future story pitches.
- They’re great writing practice. When you first try to write them you’ll find that compressing the essence of your idea into a few hundred words is a challenge. But with practice, you’ll learn how to get straight to the point and how to keep your stories lean and tight.
- They don’t take very long to write, so you can afford to write them out and send them complete to magazine editors, instead of querying first.
- Editors are always looking for these short ‘filler’ stories. Thus, they’re a great way to build your portfolio of bylines and improve your travel writing—which will hopefully lead to bigger and better assignments.
- Just because they’re short doesn’t mean you can’t use them to get comped stays at nice resorts and hotels. Most places are happy for any kind of publicity you can give them, so a short piece will often carry as much weight as a feature story for comps.
Flip through each magazine you’re hoping to pitch and get a feel for the types of FOB stories they publish.
Thousands of travel writers have broken into prestigious, top shelf glossy magazines via FOBs—and you can too.
Here are a few examples…