Become a Fan
Around the world, billions of people read articles and books that transport them to Bali, explain Italy's public transport, describe where to shop in NYC…Whether you're traveling for business or pleasure your experiences could make great reading and bucks.
Here are ten reasons to open your notebook and load the camera with film.
1. You travel.
That's a boon although travel isn't a precondition for writing and selling travel articles.
2. The need for travel writers is growing.
According to the World Tourism Organization: "Foreign currency receipts from international tourism reached US$443 billion in 1997, outstripping exports of petroleum products, motor vehicles, telecommunications equipment, textiles or any other product or service." The WTO (www.world-tourism.org) predicts that the number of international travelers will increase from 613 million in 1997 to 1.6 billion in 2020 with earnings rocketing to US$2 trillion. Travel writers play a vital role in the world's largest growth industry.
3. A voracious market demands well-written travel articles.
As one travel editor put it, "If the article contains information that's unique and useful to readers, I'll buy it." Find markets listed yearly in America's Writer's Market (www.writersdigest.com), Britain's Writers' and Artists' Yearbook (www.train4publishing.co.uk/bookhouse/bookshop/frame.htm), and Down Under's The Australian Writer's Marketplace (www.dymocks.com.au). Numerous magazines and newspapers not listed under "Travel" in these books buy travel articles. "Australian Cyclist," not under travel, publishes travel articles for the two-wheeled set. Tons of publications aren't listed in market compendia, so keep your eyes open for periodicals on newsagents' shelves and friends' coffee tables, in lobby magazine racks and secondhand stores, at club and association venues, and in mainstream bookstores and offbeat book nooks.
4. Travel writers can earn high returns for low investment.
You probably already own a computer and printer; so capital outlay is virtually nil. If you happen to be in Salzburg, say, on business or vacation, jot notes, snap photographs, collect tourist brochures and send a query to several magazines and newspapers. Doing exactly that, I earned US$500 for an 800-word article. Travel writer compensation ranges from free copies of the publication to US$6,000 for an article in Travel & Leisure. Visit www.writerswrite.com/ for practical information. Read "Travel Writing for Fun and Profit" by Phil Philcox.
5. Literary brilliance not essential.
Luckily for those who haven't attained the celestial levels of Bill Bryson, L. Peat O' Neil and their ilk, plenty of markets exist. (Study these and other masters—your silent mentors.) Even renowned travel writers didn't start out super-talented. Most publications can't afford the fees big time writers command. Countless editors are eager to buy travel pieces that are professionally presented, interesting and appeal to the targeted audience. Travel Writing by Louisa Peat O'Neil and The Travel Writer's Guide by Gordon Burgett are available at www.amazon.com, in bricks 'n' mortar bookstores and libraries. Writing books are shelved in your library's 800 section; travel in 910.
6. Work when you want.
Assuming you're not counting on living on income generated from travel writing (at first, anyhow) you can write when the mood strikes. It's 2 a.m. Your body clock is four time zones out of whack. Ideas for an article flood your mind. Wearing your bathrobe (or not), you brew a pot of tea, boot up the computer and crank out an article explaining how to avoid setting off airport x-ray machine alarms. If you don't feel like writing for a spell, no 9-to-5 honcho will hassle you.
7. Boredom isn't an occupational hazard.
People who haven't "been there, done that" crave to know What's it like to be there, to do that? Authors writing about a place must pay attention to details, recreate scenes accurately in words for readers, capture the atmosphere of a place, notice nuances that epitomize a location. The writer's experience becomes a map for others. To write interesting travel articles, the writer must be interested. It's the rare writer who becomes bored with raw material that will be transformed into word pictures.
8. There's a niche for every writing style.
No doubt there's a publication buying the works of authors who write in a style similar to yours. Whereas one publication features concise articles liberally spiked with distances, dates, addresses, costs and other numerical information, another publication prefers articles brimming with impressionistic descriptions of splendid sunsets, roaring waterfalls, noisy marketplaces. Other publications feature articles covering an entire nation in 1500 words, and yet others assign 3000 words to a single attraction or event such as a zoo or annual regatta. While certain publications want authors' personalities to show through, other publications solicit articles in which authors remain invisible. Study the market to find publications matching your style. Sites dedicated to travel writing such as www.freelancetravelwriter.com/, www.travelwriterml.com/ and main.travelwriters.com/ feature techniques, markets, pay scales, editors, specifications and trips for writers.
9. Travel writing covers a vast field.
Topics for travel writing are as varied as the world itself. Writers have sold (and resold) pieces about hiking the Appalachian Trail, bicycling in Malaysia, sipping green tea in Kyoto, pub crawling in Dublin, chewing betel nut in Taiwan, and touring Pearl S. Buck's Pennsylvania home. People preferring to stay close to home can succeed as travel writers, too, because every place is some place else to someone else, and travel articles aren't about places only. Advice articles about traveling with children, handling money on the road, avoiding food poisoning, packing economically, to name a few practical concerns, are popular.
10. Job satisfaction guaranteed.
Satisfaction comes from raising the curtain on little-known destinations, from assisting sightseers in making the right turn, from taking armchair travelers along for the ride. Satisfaction comes from seeing your name after "By" in a publication and after "To:" on a check.
(Get your copy of the favorably reviewed travel book Half Baked in Taiwan at http://www.authorsden.com/bethfowler, www.amazon.com or your favorite bookstore where you can also get Fowler's The Dressmaker's Dummy and The Universal Solvent.)