Many of my freelance writer friends tell me they have difficulty coming up with multiple story ideas about one place.
And on press trips, I notice that so many travel writers arrive with only one idea in mind. No matter how many things they see on the press trip - and they see a lot - they act on only one story idea.
This breaks my heart. So many opportunities to get published are being overlooked!
I believe you should always be looking for multiple story ideas when you travel. Here's why ...
I repeatedly sell multiple story ideas about one topic or place. Why do
I do it and why do I think
you should try it?
The first reason is productivity.
As a freelance writer your time is your currency. Time away from your desk doing “research” costs you money, even if you’re having fun doing it.
Anytime you can get multiple stories from one place or topic, you
save yourself a lot of time. Research the destination once - get paid multiple times!
Which brings up the second reason – profit. I have to assume if you're reading this, you want to make money at freelance travel writing.
The standard travel writing protocol of publishing only one story about a destination is grossly inefficient and definitely outdated. Maybe it worked way back when magazines were paying top dollar or when a writer was a full-time employee of a magazine and only had to produce one story.
today I can’t think of any reason why a freelance travel writer would only pursue one
story about a place. It makes no sense.
Here's the reality:
Travel writers today aren't paid much for our stories. Most press trips last three to five days. Those press days are precious time away from your desk where you can be earning money in some way.
Do the math: You're away several days on a press trip, it takes time to sell your story and it takes you another day or two to write the story. If you only write one story you might be earning minimum wage at best. More likely you're losing money.
Writing one story is hardly profitable, but selling multiple story ideas about a destination makes it more
profitable and worth doing.
The third reason to sell multiple story ideas about your destination is to build solid relationships with your hosts.
The DMOs are thrilled when you produce multiple articles. They view you as a productive resource for their region. It builds a solid relationship and pleases your hosts. You feel good that you delivered on your promises and made them happy, too. They're likely to invite you back again.
Finally, when you pre-sell multiple story ideas about your destination, you are more likely to be hosted with better comps. Notice I used the word "pre-sell" in the previous sentence. This is important.
My strategy is to pre-sell articles before I travel.
When you have a list of confirmed assignments before you take the trip, your hosts will ensure that you see and do all the things you need to deliver on those assignments.
Example 1. The Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum, Hood River, Oregon. WAAAM
The minute I walked into the cavernous museum I got a warm and fuzzy feeling. I stood stock-still, jaws wide open. Gazing in awe at the huge collection of beautifully restored antique aircraft and rows of gleaming automobiles, I knew I would sell multiple stories about this place.
Within a year I had a piece about the museum’s restored 1917 Curtiss-Jenny airplane published in Aviation History magazine. Another piece about the museum’s vintage aircraft collection was published in Warbird Digest magazine.
I also sold a feature about the museum’s automobiles to a classic car magazine. Then I sold a write-up about the museum to Gorge Guide magazine. A UK magazine, Military Machines International, wanted a story about the museum’s military jeeps. Then I re-sold the same piece to an Australian magazine called Jeep Action.
That’s six stories, all different genres, and a nice bundle of ca$h from one museum. Not a bad haul for a 4-hour museum visit!
Example 2. Fivelements, Bali, Indonesia
A couple years ago I was on assignment in Bali, doing an article about luxury resorts and spas on the island. Each resort we visited was different, which really made the article interesting.
Most of the resorts served a mainstream audience, but one resort definitely didn't fit this audience. Soon after we arrived we learned it was known as a "healing retreat".
Fivelements served exquisitely prepared raw, vegetarian food and no meat dishes. There was no alcohol served on site. We were assigned mentors to guide us through our healing journey.
This was not your typical resort! And it created a problem for the confirmed assignment I had. It just didn't fit.
When I got home I had to figure out where to place an article about Fivelements. So I thought about who would be interested in a healing retreat. With a little research, and thinking about multiple story ideas for this single resort, I sold three articles.
One story angle was for a lifestyle magazine. It focused on the luxury and spa aspects. I sold a different story idea to a vegetarian health magazine focusing on the exquisite raw food served in their restaurant. And finally, I sold a story to a metaphysical magazine focused on the spiritual healing treatments.
These two success stories aren’t flukes. I do this all the time to maximize my time and profits.
Here are a few more examples of multiple story ideas from one place:
• A schooner rendezvous in the Pacific Northwest resulted in selling three slightly different articles to three yachting magazines. Because there were several interesting yachts at the event, I collected the history of each of the yachts and split them into three different groups. Then I wrote three separate articles about each group. I was able to sell similar articles to competing magazines because the articles were all different.
• I wrote a series of articles about yachting marinas in the Northwest to a local yachting magazine. A couple of years later I sold edited versions of these articles to a yachting magazine in the Canadian market.
• A motorcycle tour in the Columbia Gorge sold to a local travel and lifestyle magazine, then again to a national motorcycle magazine.
• Stories about the U.S. Army Transport Museum in Fort Eustis, VA sold to several markets. I got that same warm, fuzzy feeling when I walked into the museum, as I did with the WAAAM. I sold an article about the vehicles to one military magazine, a story about two special machines to a UK magazine, a story about its flying jeep to Smithsonian Air & Space magazine, and a story about one if its unusual military flying vehicles to Aviation History.
One of the keys to producing multiple story ideas about one place is to write in a number of genres. That way, when you find a place that is suitable for several genres, it pops out at you.
For example, the WAAAM
article I mentioned earlier was sold to a general travel magazine, two
aviation magazines, two military vehicle magazines and a car magazine.
That's four different genres for one museum!
When you write in several genres it becomes a lot easier to extract numerous stories from one place. You develop a “sense” for the potential of every place you visit.
There are two strategies I use to accomplish the multiple story approach:
1. Find multiple story ideas about one place and write different articles for each idea.
2. Sell stories about the place to multiple markets, or genres.
When you visit a destination, ask yourself these questions:
1. Does this place offer potential for several story angles?
2. Can I re-sell the same story to different magazine genres, with a little tweaking?
3. How many magazines can I think of that might go for this story?
Obviously not every place you visit has the potential to yield multiple story ideas. But I’m willing to bet that most do – with a little creative thinking.
Ambitious travel writers work on developing their “multiple story angle” sense. After a while it becomes second nature.
This practice inevitably leads to multiple stories and a bigger income
from each place you visit. I can't think of any reason that you wouldn't want to do this. Can you?
Do you want to learn about travel writing sales and
marketing techniques that work?
This manual has every tool and technique that I use to pitch and sell - and then resell - my travel stories. I hold nothing back. Reading this manual is like looking inside my marketing brain.
Roy Stevenson is a professional travel writer and the author of www.PitchTravelWrite.com. Over the past nine years, he’s had more than 1000 articles published in 200 magazines, trade and specialty journals, in-flights, on-boards, blogs and websites and has traveled on assignment around the U.S. and to dozens of international destinations.