Before you leave for your trip, start thinking about article ideas with a specific publication in mind. Sure, once you get to the destination you’ll be writing about you may find that you need to tweak the idea a bit, given what you find on the ground. But you have to start somewhere. As I was preparing for a European river cruise, these were the steps I took to find publications.
1) First I made a list of publications where I know I have a foot in the door. I have an “in” — as do all our written course graduates and workshop attendees — with the editor at International Living, Travel Post Monthly and Miles Geek. In fact, I already have their writer’s guidelines because they’re published in The Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program.
2) Next I went over the list of publications in the latest edition of 101 Places to Get Published (included with the Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program). I added to my list every publication I thought might consider publishing a story on the destinations I would be visiting. Even if some don’t pay much they might publish something that has already appeared elsewhere. This will come in handy later when I want to resell my articles.
3) Then I broadened my publications search. I looked at local publications. Since I live in New York City and my local publication is the New York Times (which is not easy to break into) I looked at regional publications for other cities or towns that might be a fit for my article. For example, since I was going on a European river cruise, I looked for publications in cities that offer international flights or at least good connections.
The Philadelphia Inquirer offers a free search of its archives online, but you must pay to view the full article. In this case, I researched river cruises and found a recent article on cruising the Danube River. Even though I would be cruising the Rhine River, the story would be too similar so I crossed that one off my list.
The Washington Post lists its writer’s guidelines in Writer’s Digest’s, Writer’s Market, and its website also offers free access to archives. I did a search there and found several mentions of river cruises but none specifically about the cruise I was taking. I could possibly pitch this story to the editor, but I would need an interesting angle, rather than just a general river cruise description—I made a note to consider focusing on the ship’s cuisine.
Amsterdam and Zurich are typical starting points for the Rhine River cruise I was taking so I checked out which airlines offer the best flight options and added the airline’s inflight magazines to my list. My list was starting to get a little long (a good problem to have) so rather than research each of these right off the bat, I started with the publications that offer free access to their archived issues. (At least this way I could get a feel for the publication without spending a lot of money. And I can always go back to the other publications later if I find I need to.)
4) Next I looked up each of my target publications in Writer’s Market and created a chart for tracking query letters. I included details specific to each publication, like: do they have a regular travel section, do they accept freelance articles, how many words do they want, are their travel stories typically written in first person, do I notice any trends in style or format? If I didn’t find the answers in Writer’s Market, I searched the publication’s website and archives.
For airline magazines, I did an online search to find writer’s guidelines. I noticed that Delta’s inflight magazine, Delta Sky takes travel article submissions but also profiles of notable people. That made me think I should try to get an interview with the ship’s chef and pitch that story to the editor. My goal is always to get as many stories as possible out of each trip.
All this might sound like a lot of work, but I did it in just two evenings, and I picked up a lot of good article clips as I read through the publications I was researching — articles that were well written and that I might use as models for my own.
I felt like this was enough to get me started, but I realize I left out a lot of online publications as well as international newspapers and glossies.
My goal is to leave no stone un-turned. So now that I’m back home, I’ll be sure to research them.