How to become a travel journalist – 6

BE HONEST!

As a travel journalist, you’ll need to produce honest material. If you don’t like something, say it. If a place is full of dog poo, make a story out of it. If a beach is full of seaweed, don’t make it sound like a white, sandy beach. And if an area you thought was going to be inspiring has been spoilt by the masses, let the world know!

Never forget that your readers turn to your stories for information about where they will be spending their much needed annual holiday. There’s a responsibility involved. Think of yourself as a realist painter who pays attention to every detail, rather than a spray paint artist adding a touch of golden sunset wherever you feel the world lacks it.

 

An honest article will always go further than one that celebrates everything about a place. Because like we all know – nobody and no place is perfect. In Madrid for example, you will miss the beach if you visit in the hot summer months. In Paris, there’s a good chance you’ll be pulling your hair out at some point if you don’t speak French…

Making these observations is part of your job as a travel journalist. Why do I say this? Well, because if you’re an aspiring travel writer, I can only assume that you, like me, have a passion for discovering the world. And I acknowledge the fact that sometimes it is easy to feel so injected with excitement and amazement when experiencing new places  that you may end up turning a blind eye to the not so nice bits. And a mistake that is even easier to make, is to photograph only the beautiful… Make sure you also photograph the weird imperfections of a place, they often make for great stories!

(If you don’t mind me digressing, I’d like to share with you this link about a common tourist scam in Paris. It’s a true, self experienced story of which I am not terribly proud. Nonetheless, it does say something about a big city and its people. And sadly, also about the vision I have of myself as a travel smart lady…)

I quite often like to put myself in my reader’s shoes. What will they like to read about? What do I like to read about? I don’t know about you, but I want to read real stories. Something credible and inspiring at the same time. And in order to gain credibility (both with editors and readers), you’ll need to be honest.

Of course, having said this, I don’t mean that you should indulge in a series of negative comments either. There’s nothing more off putting than reading paragraph upon paragraph about how Venice smells, how Venice is overpriced, how Venice is full of tourists, how Venice is falling apart, sinking and is generally a place that should be avoided. Ok, this is a bit exaggerated, but you get the picture. Balance it out, and you’ll hit the nail on the head!

Two Cuban beaches, both on the north coast, a few kilometers apart. Which one would you write about?

 

Fancy more guidelines about starting out as a freelance travel journalist?

Part one of our series  focuses on how to make money.

Part two is for those of you who are not really sure whether you want to be a travel blogger or a travel journalist.

Part three reveals a trick or two about writing about the essence of a place. A must have skill for all travel writers!

Part four deals with photography. How do you make your images publishable?

Part five is about the timing. Play the game, and know exactly which articles will sell when.

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How to become a travel journalist – 5

Timing

You’ve been travelling. You’ve discovered your own favourite corner of the world and written a wonderful story.  Your camera is brimming with lots of juicy shots. In other words – you feel confident this one will sell hands down.

Believe me, I have been there… only to find out that it doesn’t sell. Why? Why? WHY? There’s nothing like a rejection to fuel your insecurities as a travel journalist. Isn’t the text good enough, funny enough, informative enough? Aren’t the pictures colorful enough, plentiful enough, strong enough?

Well, it may have nothing to do with the quality of your submission. It may be top notch, and something editors would be fighting to get their hands on. However, timing is critical when you present your articles.

A ski holiday in the Alps is not something to send out for assessment in May. I have found editors to be just as influenced by the season we’re in as everybody else. They may be planning their articles ahead, but chances are very slim they will actually buy something that is totally out of season. On the other hand, if you wait too long into the autumn months to present them with your article on skiing in the Alps, you risk missing the slot.

To sum it up, you’ll need to be one step ahead. To give you an idea of how to work, you’ll need to start planning your Valentines article in October (Paris, Rome, Venice – don’t worry – there’s no need to reinvent the wheel every time).

Being one step ahead of the seasons will make you more desirable to the publishers

Sending your potential clients a piece especially written with Valentines in mind in November shows that you are on top of things and will give them one less thing to worry about.

By March you should have your summer articles ready. Where’s the best surf? What’s new in Mallorca? And by August you should be thinking autumn city break destinations like London, Berlin and Madrid.

 

Good luck, it’s already January the 8th and high time to finish off your articles intended for the Easter holidays.

 

Part one of our series which focuses on how to make money as a freelance travel journalist.

Part two is for those of you who are not sure whether you are travel bloggers or travel journalists.

Part three reveals a trick or two about how to write about the essence of a place. A must have skill for all travel writers!

Part four deals with photography. How do you make your images publishable?