Coping Strategies
for Travel Writers:
How to Be Calm
in a World of Editorial Changes

By Roy Stevenson

After I being a freelance writer for three or four years things were chugging along swimmingly. I had solid relationships with several magazine editors who had come to depend on regular articles from me. 

I thought these gigs would go on forever.

Then, suddenly, things started changing. Some of the editors I depended upon for regular work left their jobs, and left me hanging.  I suddenly had some new editors who didn’t know my writing style or me.

Other magazines changed their editorial thrust.  The kinds of articles I had been sending their way were no longer part of their editorial vision for the magazine.

Changes are always a shock, but there are coping strategies you can use to recover from these setbacks as quickly as possible. 

you need coping strategies to deal with editorial changes

Here’s what I did (and still do) in these situations:

Breaking in a New Editor

So, you’ve been left high and dry.  One of your favorite editors, who you know on a first name basis, has moved onto greener pastures. 

You’re suddenly left out in the cold. The editor was so easy to work with - all you needed to do was give her a call and discuss a few story ideas and you got assignments. 

Now what?  Really, your only choice is to break in the new editor and see what happens.

How do you do it?

My standard coping strategies include a series of things I send to the new editor.  I start with an email introducing myself.  You can do this, too.  Here’s what to include in the email:

  1. Briefly cover your history with the magazine: how long you’ve been writing for the magazine and how many stories you’ve had published in their magazine.
  2. Tell them how you look forward to continuing to provide the magazine with great articles.
  3. End the email with a pitch for a new story.

Then wait to see if the editor bites. 

Sometimes the new editor responds positively and you can continue to write for the magazine.  

Other times, the new editor brings in his own team of freelance writers - writers he’s worked with previously.  Writers he knows and trusts.

However it turns out, it’s important to take this step to get to know the new editor, so you can either get more work, or find out you’re no longer needed.

And here’s another part of my coping strategies:

When the previous editor moves on to another publication there’s still an opportunity to continue your relationship.  Stay in touch with the old editor and find out how you can become part of his or her “new team”.

Often your old editor will happily take work from you for her new publication.  But you need to remember to pursue this so you don't lose this contact.

Coping Strategies for
Changes in Editorial Thrust

If you’ve been writing for a magazine for several years, sudden changes in editorial direction can throw you for a loop.  And it really stings if you’ve come to depend on these magazines for a regular income.

Editors change direction for their magazines to grow or even to survive.  So, these changes are a natural part of the freelance writing life and you need to be prepared for them. 

You can’t predict when editorial changes will happen, but you can make sure you react in a professional manner.  Sometimes the best coping strategy is to make some adjustments to your writing style or content, to try to keep that magazine as a client.  Other times, if you lose the client, do it with grace.

Here are four scenarios that happened to me and what I did to recover.  If you haven’t encountered these situations yet, you will eventually:

Scenario 1. 

I had been selling articles to a U.K. military vehicle magazine for several years.  My articles focused primarily on post-WWII military vehicles. Then, the magazine changed its editorial thrust and started accepting only articles about World War II vehicles.

My coping strategy, in this case involved a little bit of fancy footwork.  When I visit military vehicle museums now, I have to make a conscious effort to ignore the post-war tanks and vehicles, no matter how interesting they might be.  I stay focused on only the WWII military vehicles and write stories about those. 

Outcome:  I was able to keep the client.

Scenario 2.

A U.K gardening magazine had run two of my articles about U.S. gardens and suddenly stopped taking garden stories from other countries.  Their new editorial direction was U.K. gardens only.  Bummer!  This magazine paid well too, in British Pounds, so it hurt. 

My coping strategy was to lick my wounds and move on.  

Outcome:  In this case, I had to part company with the UK magazine.  Living in the U.S, I don’t have regular access to English gardens.  I looked for new outlets for my U.S. garden stories.

Scenario 3.

The editor of a U.S. publication suddenly stopped taking travel articles.  Her new editorial thrust was lifestyle stories about expat life abroad.  This hurt because it was one of my sources for assignments for luxury press trips to exotic destinations.

I really liked working for this editor, so my coping strategy was to give her a farewell gift: a story about my expat life as a trailing spouse when we lived in Belgium.

Outcome:  For a while I had no stories that suited her new editorial thrust.  But finally, as an expat living in S.E. Asia, I now send her stories about expat life here.  I was able to revive the relationship after some time off.

Scenario 4. 

For several years I wrote research-based articles for a living history magazine.  I’d contributed around 25 stories about medieval life.  They suddenly decided to focus on travel stories about places with a medieval history. 

This one worked out to my advantage since I’m a travel writer more than a historian.  My coping strategy was to adapt.  The living history magazine needed more travel stories about medieval destinations. 

Outcome:  I’m able to provide lots of stories from my annual tour of Europe.  And the articles are easier to write than the research-based ones I had been writing previously.  Win-Win!

You can see from these scenarios that things don’t always work out, but often they do.  Just as editorial changes happen, you can make changes, too.

The best coping strategy you can have, when any of these things happen, is to pause and take a deep breath.  Calm the panicky feeling in your gut.  Then adapt, if you can.  Investigate whether you might be able to work things out and keep the client, despite the changes.

And always forge new relationships with new magazine editors and in new genres, so you’re not left high and dry when a regular client folds.

Related articles that will interest you:

Getting Paid for Your Travel Stories
Business Basics for Travel Writers
Marketing Yourself On The Road

Roy Stevenson sitting in front of his computer.

Roy Stevenson is a professional travel writer and the author of  Over the past ten 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.