In-flight magazines represent the Holy Grail for a lot of travel writers. They pay well. They provide beautiful clips. And getting your by-line in one immediately elevates you to pro.
But because all of that is true… they can also seem rather forbidding.
Let me lift the portcullis, though, and show you that — with the right knowledge — you can easily land a by-line in one of them.
MYTH # 1: YOU MUST HAVE A NEW IDEA.
The truth is: Repackaged ideas work. In fact, they have to work because these magazines only write about a limited number of destinations. They have to find ways to revisit each destination every few months or years.
You can freshen up a subject in a various ways. But here are a few ideas:
** 1. Find a timely hook — Look for a seasonal reason to talk about a place — maybe one of your town’s neighborhoods really pulls out all the stops for Halloween. Well, you could write about that. Or use an upcoming event as an “excuse” to talk about your destination (a festival, museum show, race, rodeo…).
** 2. Write to a trend — If you notice that even your 82-year-old mother is ordering lattes these days, then think about ways you can ride the “coffee train” right into the pages of an in-flight magazine. Are there new coffee shops in town? Is there anything new in what’s being served in them?
** 3. Pluck ideas from local media coverage. Just because you read about something in your hometown paper doesn’t mean the idea is “taken.” Quite the contrary. Use your paper’s story as a jumping-off point and put your own spin on it for your in-flight reading audience.
MYTH # 2: PARIS ALWAYS SELLS.
The truth is…
Your best bet is to write about your hometown – not Paris — especially when you’re just starting out. Aim for magazines at the smaller, commuter airlines. And use your “hometown” status as a plus. You’re an insider. You know about places visitors will never find. Tell the editor as much.
Now, this means you’ll have to get yourself “connected.” So to make sure you really do know what’s going on in your own backyard. Introduce yourself to the folks at your local tourist board and get on their press-release list. And send a note to the chamber of commerce and maybe even a local restaurant association or retailers association, too.
Simply wave your arm around and let people know who you are and that you’d like to hear from them. You’ll find article ideas falling in your lap.
(Plus you can enjoy the “celebrity status” that comes with being a local writer, too…)
Then, once you have an idea you’d like to write about, just be sure you’re targeting a magazine at an airline that flies to (or near) that place.
MYTH # 3: A “COMPREHENSIVE” ARTICLE SHOWS YOU KNOW YOUR STUFF.
The truth is: If you produce a 5,000-word tome about your hometown and send it to an editor it will not glow “pro,” it’ll scream
Narrow the focus of your stories. You’ll sell more.
As I said earlier, editors must revisit destinations (they can’t say everything at once or they’ll run out of content). So keep your ideas tidy and specific.
“Houston Uncovered” is way too broad.
By contrast, “Three New, Hip, Good-Value Lunch Spots in Houston” shows much more promise.
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]