How to Sell Your Stories Beyond the U.S.
Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Beyond: How to Increase Your Income by Writing for Foreign Markets
Today’s advice is about targeting markets outside the U.S. — not about headlines. But how could any editor resist reading an article titled, “Termites Ate My Bed?”
This tale of India appeared in the travel section of The Age, an Australian newspaper. The editors accept global travel pieces from freelancers — they’ve taken some of my stories about Ireland.
You might not be considering writing about any overseas destination right now. But to Australians, Kiwis, Brits — in fact, to the rest of the planet — the United States is as foreign as the Outback is to North Americans.
Travel statistics say people are once again traveling in great numbers (pre-9/11 levels in many cases). Projections from the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries suggest nearly 53 million international travelers will visit America in 2007.
That’s a lot of travelers — and they need good information on where to go. So who better to provide it than a U.S.-based travel writer?
Many foreign editors are looking for “insider” stories. I’m sure much of my own success in placing Irish travel articles in overseas publications is because I live in Ireland.
Whether it’s New York jazz clubs, the Civil War Trail, or skiing in Utah, this home advantage can work to your benefit too.
You already know the inside places to go. You’re familiar with the quirky things that breeze-in, breeze-out foreign writers rarely discover.
So here are five pointers to help you place your articles in other English-speaking markets.
** 1) Do your homework.
Obviously, find out if the publications you’re targeting work with freelancers. (Tip: If you can’t find Writer’s Guidelines on a publication’s website, send an email.) Just as you would when writing for U.S. outlets, study the content and tone before sending anything. Most larger publications have web archives you can read.
Recent U.S. travel articles in The Age and The Guardian (a U.K. newspaper with an extensive travel section) indicate both of these prefer tight focus — not the broad brush “10 things you must do in Miami” approach.
For example, I found articles on an Elvis festival in Tupelo; searching for the decadent spirit of Dorothy Parker in her old New York haunts; the muscle boys of Venice Beach; and a highly irreverent look at the Holy Land Experience, Florida’s biblical theme park.
** 2) Be aware of cultural differences.
Take British travel publications, for example. They often contain far more negativity than you would see in the States. One memorable Daily Telegraph article about the Black Sea was headlined “Hotels on muddy building sites, unappetising food and prostitutes hanging around the prom: Welcome to a holiday in Bulgaria.”
The writer didn’t lie. When I visited Bulgaria, that’s exactly what it was like.
Few British readers get offended by raunchiness either.
Even the venerable London Times has a regular travel slot called Confessions of A Tourist. This features an amorous vacation encounter that went wrong for some reason. Some of the stories can be fairly salacious.
Australians are also comfortable with telling it like it really is. In the “Termites Ate My Bed” story, the writer wakes to find a rat scampering across her face. Her gut-churning descriptions of street life include a puppy chewing the head of a dead kitten. And the story starts with the line: “A pashmina salesman felt me up on my first day.”
Groping locals and abominable accommodations? Copulating buffalo, Texas whorehouses, and scrotum-stinging jellyfish? It would be ill-advised to send such stories to U.S. travel editors, but their Brit and Aussie counterparts are generally made of sterner stuff.
** 3) Target foreign in-flight publications.
Of course, not all articles are about travel’s viler side. And when seeking non-U.S. markets, don’t forget that numerous foreign airlines fly to the States. Their in-flight magazines often use freelance content — and these are always stories you can safely show your granny.
Certainly so in Cara, the in-flight magazine of Irish airline Aer Lingus. Frequently featuring U.S. destinations, Cara is published by www.harmonia.ie.
With in-flight magazines, you’ll often find the content in English as well as the native language. I once wrote a piece for Golden Falcon, the in-flight magazine of Bahrain-based Gulf Air.
I can’t write in Arabic, but they paid me $150 for a short article on buying private islands. That issue also contained four full-length travel features, including one from a U.S.-based writer.
** 4) Look to listings of foreign publications for ideas about where to sell your stories.
Where do you find foreign publications?
A good start for Britain, Ireland, and Commonwealth countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa is The Writers & Artists Yearbook. Available through www.amazon.com for $28.05, it carries contacts and abbreviated guidelines for many major publications.
I haven’t checked every link, but www.newsdirectory.com claims to point the way to 20,400 worldwide magazines, newspapers, and other media outlets.
** 5) You can often resell your stories overseas without changing a word.
One final point. Unless you’ve sold Worldwide Rights, you can usually resell a story that has already appeared in the U.S. to a foreign publication.
Say you’ve sold First North American Serial Rights to your article. Well, you can resell that same piece to a U.K. publication under First British Serial Rights. You can also resell it to an Australian or NZ publication for First Australasian Rights.
Essentially it’s three checks for one story!
[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.]