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Jen Stevens here again today – your guest editor this week, coming to you from Granada, Nicaragua…

Next week I’ll be over on the Pacific coast – just a stone’s throw from the Costa Rica border – where we’ll spend a couple nights at a beautiful jungle resort… all wood construction and tucked into the hills right above a glorious beach. The owners have offered me a tremendous discount so I can afford to stay, family in tow.

Why do they want my business so badly? Because they know I’m a travel writer.  They’re hoping I’ll write about my stay – and favorably.

Now if this sort of thing sounds like a good gig to you – and I’ve never met anybody who thought otherwise – here’s what you need to know to put yourself at the front of the line for similar invitations…

First, you need to get a few things published. I’ll tell you how in just a second. But here’s why this step is so important…

You need a little track record if you’re going to have any proof you can wave around that says, essentially, “I can get a story published.  I can get word out about your business.  You need me.”

And the good news is: You can assemble this track record a lot more easily than you probably think.

Over the years, I’ve taught architects, junior college instructors, massage therapists, accountants, photographers, marines – you name it – how to get started as travel writers.

And no matter what their backgrounds might be, the ones that end up cashing in on the most amazing perks all have one thing in common…

They all followed my plan for success.  They started by writing small articles first.  And then they got them published before moving on to larger articles and big, all-expenses-paid trips.

Not only are these small articles easier to write, but they’re also easier to get published.  And that means you’re able to compile that nice track record much more quickly than you would hawking lengthy, harder-to-write, harder-to-sell articles.

Here’s what I mean:

Take our week here in Granada, one of the oldest colonial cities in the Americas. I could write a 2,500-word story that encompasses the (very interesting) history of this city and all there is to see and do… but that would take me a long time to research and write.

And anyway, I know that I’ll have an easier time placing in a magazine or newspaper short, stand-alone pieces of 250-500 words (that’s anything from about 2/3 of a page to two pages of typed text). That sort of thing an editor can drop in here or there in an open space.  And trust me: these spaces ALWAYS open up.

So instead of a long travelogue, I’m thinking about a short bit on buying cigars in Granada.  There’s a great shop where they roll them and tell you all about how cigars are made – from what’s planted where to the different types of leaves used on the inside and outside of the cigars to how they roll and press them. And I can talk about how a huge amount of Cuban tobacco is actually grown in Nicaragua.

I could do another short piece on visiting the Masaya volcano just outside of town – it’s one of only two active volcanoes in the world, we were told, on which you can drive to the rim. We did it – and “the mouth of hell” as the locals used to call it was steaming and smoking and belching this sulfurous gas… I could do a third on renting a house – how we did it, what our experience was like, what to look for in the perfect rental, questions to ask, and so on.

You see my point… slice and dice a bigger topic into more manageable pieces. Stories like this are easier to put together – because it’s much simpler to see what belongs in it and what doesn’t. And, as I said, they’re easier to sell, too.

At our travel writing workshops, I’ll actually walk attendees through these kinds of short pieces, sentence-by-sentence. We break it down and you build your own with me guiding you and giving feedback. The idea is that you walk away with a piece in hand. So you have something to sell right away to build that track record and put you that much closer to your first paid-for trip.

Workshop attendee Kat Winklebleck, for instance, landed a free trip to Raleigh, NC for “Sensory Overload,” a festive month of museum exhibits, culinary walking tours, art festivals and fashion shows.

Roy Stevenson checked in to report that from June 1 to August 26 this year, he only has eight days at home. The rest of the time he’s on press trips. Washington and Oregon in June, Europe & England in July, and Alaska in August. And those are just the trips he accepted.  He turned several others down.

My point is: These perks ARE out there. And you CAN enjoy them. And the best way to put yourself in line for invitations that’ll have you traveling for free is to get a few short, easily digestible pieces under your belt. You’ll be off to the big time sooner than you imagine.

In fact, to help you get there even faster, we give folks who attend the program something really neat. It’s a guide that shows you how to earn back your workshop fee in 90 days or less. It’s pretty slick, and it’s all step-by-step.

Now I’m off to tour some islands in Lake Nicaragua… and potentially gather some material for yet another short story I could write.

In the meantime, here’s your assignment for today: Come up with three short article ideas about your own hometown or someplace you’ve traveled. Think short-and-sweet. A recommendation you’d make to a friend. And write those ideas down.

More tomorrow…

— Jen

Jennifer Stevens

Author, The Ultimate Travel Writers Program and Executive Editor, International Living

[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.]

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