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Issue #67: "Why Can't I Sell My Travel Stories?"
June 15, 2015
|Greetings Fellow Travel Writers and Bloggers!
Almost a week ago I returned from a marvelous 5-day press trip to Roanoke and the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains, courtesy of a PR company and the Roanoke CVB.
There were 18 travel writers from all over the USA and Canada, and of course we all got to talk shop and trade ideas—not to mention touring all over the county, and eating some delicious regional food. We even sat through a show with the famous Dr. John, who offered up a fun show of jazz/blues/rock/honkeytonk music.But, the highlight of the press trip was on the last day when we got to ride the newly restored Class J 611 Steam Locomotive from Lynchburg to its new home in the Roanoke Transportation Museum. Tens of thousands of Virginians lined the route on a gorgeous sunny day to see this beautiful locomotive chugging and hissing its way along the track. We felt like rock stars as everyone waved excitedly to us.
This week I’m in Eugene, Oregon, covering the NCAA Track & Field Champs for a magazine and a blog. The NCAA is the incubator for the USA’s phenomenal track and field team. I’m seated in the press box with dozens of other journalists, watching a sport that is my passion.
The perks of travel writing are what make this profession worthwhile.
When I began my travel writing career, I believed that 90% of my success would be due to being a good writer and 10% of my success would be determined by my marketing skills. “If I’m a great writer, my stories will sell themselves”, I thought.
Nine years later, I’ve completely reversed this concept. I’m absolutely convinced that 90% of my success as a prolific travel writer has been due to the ability to market and sell my freelance articles—and a mere 10% of my success can be attributed to my writing skills. I suspect most successful travel writers would agree with me.
To answer the perennial question, “Which do you have to develop first in travel writing, marketing skills or writing skills?” the answer is clearly marketing skills. Most people do it the other way around and wonder why their stories are not selling.
Certainly your writing must meet the publication standards of your editors. But, if you can’t sell your travel stories in the first place, you’ll never get the chance to hone your writing skills.
Yet, selling and marketing their travel stories is the one area where most travel writers fall woefully short. Some journalists see the act of marketing their stories as prostitution of their art form. “I just want to write”, they say. Others simply lack a basic understanding of marketing and sales techniques.
Through years of trial and error, and by studying how other travel writers market themselves and create their own brands, I’ve evolved a system that guarantees that I will sell 90% of the stories that I pitch to magazine editors.
Most writers consider themselves lucky if they can sell 25% of their proposed stories.
In 2011, I wrote the first edition of my marketing manual, Marketing Your Magazine Articles: Inside Secrets of a Successful Travel Writer. (It was 80 pages long and cost $99.)
I’ve just revised and updated this manual, and it’s more than 150 pages long now. It covers every marketing tip and technique that I’ve learned since 2011, plus all of my sales techniques from the original eBook.
This is the only manual of its kind. You can search amazon.com, bookstores, and the Internet, but you will not find a marketing manual like this that teaches everything you need to know about selling your travel stories to magazines.
If you have already purchased this manual, you will receive a link to download the updated version for FREE within the next week or so. Watch your inbox (and your junk mail folder) for an email from me with your link.
We’ll be sending out an announcement to e-zine subscribers when we post the updated manual on PitchTravelWrite.com. As usual, we will offer subscribers a substantial discount during the first few days.
We also plan to offer a bundle that includes some one-on-one travel writing coaching with me when you purchase the marketing manual. Details will be in the email announcement to subscribers.
In keeping with the marketing theme, this week’s featured article is a troubleshooting guide for selling your story ideas. If you ever wondered, “Why can’t I sell my travel stories?” this article will tell you the answer and give you the same advice that I give to my coaching clients.
"Why Can't I Sell My Travel Story?"I think most travel story ideas are worthy of publication somewhere. If you spend some time researching the destination, you can usually find a salable story idea.
It’s true that sometimes you’ll have to abandon a story idea. If it doesn’t have enough “jam” to hook an editor, you won’t be able to sell it. That’s the sad reality of travel writing.
But it’s more likely that you just need to do a little work to discover what’s so interesting about a place and to clarify your unique story angle.
Many beginning travel writers have problems with this. They fling out general story ideas in their query to an editor, hoping that the editor will somehow recognize the gold nugget hidden within. (The editor won’t find it.)
Some writers think mentioning a place in the subject line is a pitch. It’s not. Writing “Paris Travel Story” in the subject line of your query letter and expecting the editor to fill in the blanks simply won’t work.
The name of a place isn’t a travel story.
When you tell an editor that you want to write a story about a place only says you’re planning to take a trip to that place. It doesn’t tell the editor what the story is about.
If your query is about Paris, editors know in general terms what “Paris” means, but they don’t know what you’re planning to say about it. What’s your story angle? Why would someone want to read your story instead of just reading a Wikipedia article? Why would an editor want to pay you to write about Paris - or any other place?
No matter how much a place excites and interests you, you have to figure out how to make it jump out and interest an editor. That’s how a story idea is sold.
The good news is that within every vague story idea, there’s usually a unique angle waiting to be uncovered. It’s up to you, the travel writer, to find the topics that are most interesting and do enough research to turn them into something an editor wants to buy.
You need to develop your story ideas in enough depth to describe it to an editor. He needs to find it attractive enough to want to publish it.
In my coaching practice, when my writers send me their query letters for review, I find most of them have good ideas. But often their query letters are scant on details and need some serious beefing up.
The first thing I tell them to do is …
Please share this e-zine with friends, family or anyone who may be interested in travel writing and can benefit from some free marketing and travel writing information.
If you haven’t already done so, please ‘Friend’ me (Roy Stevenson Freelance Writer) on Facebook. My posts are generally travel writing-related and I try to keep it fun.
My Saturday morning ‘Where’s Roy’ Facebook post has been particularly popular! I post a travel photo—usually with me in it—and you have to guess where the heck I am. A few friends and subscribers have proved particularly adept at this.
Please note: Some products mentioned in this e-zine may result in my receiving a small referral fee if you decide to purchase the product. I only recommend products and services that I believe are high quality and can help you be more successful as a freelance writer. Please let me know if you have any questions.
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