By Freelance Travel Writer and Photographer B. Howard, in Cleveland, TN
In “The #1 Easiest and Fastest Way to Get a By-line and a Check: Writing Short Articles,” Jen Stevens teaches that the short article – the “postcard” – pitched to your local newspaper, really will get you into print fast.
And I fully concur. It was the way I broke into publication many years ago.
There is, however, an even better way, not only to break into publication, but to build an on-going relationship with that local newspaper and collect a portfolio of articles you can sell again and again.
I’m talking about writing a weekly travel column.
Let me explain… Many years ago, I noticed my local newspaper rarely, if ever, published travel articles. It’s a small daily newspaper with a well-received Sunday edition that has an eight-page Lifestyles section, but no travel.
So, gathering up my courage, I boldly walked in the front door and asked to talk to the editor-in-chief. I had to wait a few minutes but, yes, I did get in to see the great man. I told him of my observations – no travel section – and offered to write one for him.
He looked me in the eye, sighed, and asked, “You think you can handle a weekly deadline?” I told him I could. His next question was, “Where will your ideas come from?” Now that one wasn’t so easy.
After thinking about it for a moment, I told him I would draw on my own experience and supplement that by alternating it with local attractions and destinations – my point being that most people take their local attractions for granted and never visit them. He sighed again and said, “Okay. Let’s give it a try. I can’t pay you very much. Can you have the first piece ready by tomorrow evening?”
I could and I did.
I wrote that column for more than two years. I don’t think any single piece ran to more than 800 words. And the editor was right; he didn’t pay very much – just $25 per article and that included a photograph – but it more than paid off in experience and perks.
My articles ran in the Lifestyles section under Travel with my by-line and a picture of me at the top. I had my own business cards and press credentials from the newspaper. My queries to other publications were well-received because of the “Columnist” credit. When I traveled, attractions, hotels and restaurants were only too pleased to comp me. The articles I wrote were often sold several times over.
Ultimately, the writing practice and discipline of having to meet a weekly deadline made me a better writer. All-in-all, it was a very gratifying time in my writing career. Among the plusses: you can generally pick your own topics; you can write about the things that appeal to you. Perhaps the only downside is you have to keep coming up with new and fresh ideas, but that can also be a benefit… it forces you to become creative.
Most importantly, when you write, be yourself. Write the articles in your own voice. Tell it as you see it. Describe it as you would to your own best friend. Above all… have fun with it!
So check out your local newspaper – perhaps up to within 50 miles of your home – and give it a shot. You may surprise yourself, and in the process you’ll be establishing your credentials as a bonafide travel writer!
[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.]