One of the greatest joys in my work as an editor over the years has been finding top-notch travel writers with whom I later developed long-term relationships. My quest to find local travel writers in Colorado to hire as permanent columnists for The Denver Post began with my simply looking around online for people who were covering the state. I wanted writers and photographers who came off as experts in the unique features of our area, and I knew that their expertise would be invaluable to my readers.
Eventually I found four writers, all of whom also had become proficient at photography, and I hired them to write one column a month each for the paper’s travel section—a gig that continues for all of them to this day. They came from varied backgrounds: an elite athlete who relished backcountry adventures; a “retired” gentleman who sought out more easygoing trips that still promised some exercise, including skiing and hiking; a teacher and dad who speaks fluent Spanish and longed to showcase the effects of South and Central America on the Southwestern and Western parts of the U.S; and a mom of four who had made her name as a “Vacation Gal,” specializing in multi-generational and girlfriend travel.
They had one critical thing in common, though—because they’d all started out focusing on where they lived as the subject of their blogs and the smattering of travel stories they had written for online publications, they were able to showcase their talents without spending much money or expending much time and energy.
Here’s why writing local content can be the fast track to publication for you, too:
Local content is the fastest, cheapest way to publication
The best part about covering your hometown is that you don’t have to pay to go anywhere—you can walk out your front door and find all the fun after just a quick bus ride or short drive. There’s no need to have your passport updated or get additional immunizations, and no one has to get you to the airport, or water your plants or feed your dog while you’re gone.
Also, when you write and photograph your hometown, you’re right there and in the perfect position to get an updated photo or make a phone call to find out hours. If you forget to take notes about a key aspect of the place, it’s not going to take a translator or require awakening in the middle of the night to contact a city 10 time zones away to follow up.
Finally, editors understand and appreciate the value of local writers and are more likely to respond when you pitch them. Once you have a couple of stories published, they’re usually eager to continue working with you, and they tend to recommend you to other editors, too.
Local content features your best recommendations
This is why you come off as such an expert when you write about your own area: Because you have an in-depth understanding of the ins and outs of the experiences available where you live and work, you can direct folks toward the top activities, the finest meals, and the easiest way to experience it all.
This kind of insider outlook is invaluable, because editors are always on the lookout for tips that ring true—you have been able to compare various experiences, and that gives you the authority to share your thoughts.
Local content allows you to be confident
When you write about what you know well, your credibility is obvious. You’re able to present information in an in-the-know way, with tips and tricks that can come only from an intimate knowledge of a place.
In addition, when you focus on the familiar, you can easily call upon your experiences to describe meals, trails, museums, you name it—all of those things that you’re already recommending to your friends at parties and on Facebook.
In this case, though, you’re getting paid to share your thoughts, and as with the writers I hired, that can lead to long-term relationships with editors, and ultimately the sweet travel perks that are offered only to established writers and photographers.