Sell Travel Stories to Newspapers: Three Strategies from Freelancer Jennifer Stevens
“The landscape for newspaper travel writing is shifting dramatically. But, amid all the predicted doom and gloom, lie some intriguing new opportunities for freelancers.”
John Flinn, former travel editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, told us that last year. And it’s still true. There are new opportunities for freelancers in the newspaper world, as we learned from two successful readers yesterday (if you missed that issue, you can read it here:).
If you’d like to join their ranks, and see your by-line in a local newspaper, read on. Below, you’ll find a great article from our archives in which freelance writer and former magazine editor, Jennifer Stevens, outlines three strategies to sell travel stories to newspapers.
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P.S. John also told us how changes in newspaper budgets are in favor of freelance writers who take their own photos. “As newspapers cut their photo budgets,” he said, “they’re using fewer and fewer stock images, and more images supplied by writers. The per-photo rate isn’t high, but if they publish six or seven of your photos in a spread, you can often double your pay.”
Three Smart Ways to Sell Your Story to A Newspaper’s Travel Editor
By Jennifer Stevens in Colorado Springs, CO
Open any newspaper’s travel section and you’re bound to see articles picked up off a wire. They’re easy to spot. Under the by-line they’ll say something like “Los Angeles Times” (though you’re reading the Denver Post).
It’s not that editors don’t want other stories — stories they buy individually from freelancers. It’s just that their budgets are ever dwindling and the wire stories are already paid for.
Now, given that situation, is it worth your while to even aim for a newspaper by-line? Yes.
You CAN sell travel stories to newspapers… if, that is, you keep a few important truths in mind.
Here are three insights about newspaper travel stories I gleaned while talking with Kyle Wagner, Travel Editor at the Denver Post.
Write with these in mind, and you’ll significantly increase your odds of selling your travel story to a newspaper.
** 1) Newspapers are chasing a younger audience. For older folks, getting a daily paper is a matter of habit. But for the younger set — college students and a bit older — it’s not. They are comfortable getting their news online. Their perfect morning does not necessarily include newsprint on their fingertips.
Yet that younger audience represents an attractive demographic for advertisers, and so travel editors will choose articles geared toward them.
In other words, given a choice between a piece on a gentle walk through a town where you can go antiquing and a white water rafting getaway… chances are you’ll have an easier time selling that white water piece.
Also, think budget. Younger readers are more likely to be budget-minded than not.
Now, I’m not saying this is always the case. But it’s something you should keep in mind as you define your articles. Think about details you can include in your pieces that would appeal to a younger reader. In other words: Don’t just mention a coffee shop if you can also mention a bar. Don’t just recommend high-end resorts if there’s a good-value alternative, too.
** 2) Day-trips and weekend getaways from a paper’s locale are something not readily found on the wire. Editors often have their choice of articles about exotic destinations, big U.S. cities, well-known national parks, popular cruise routes, and the like.
But the likelihood that a national newswire has posted a piece that would make sense as a day-trip or weekend getaway from Colorado Springs, for instance, is pretty slim.
And therein lies an opportunity for you. Identify a paper you’d like to write for, and then think about quick trips that paper’s readers could take.
An editor would be much more inclined to buy that from you than he would a piece on China, for example.
** 3) “Localize” your article and you’re much more likely to sell it to a newspaper. Even if you have on offer a story about, say, Paris — a destination an editor could no doubt find coverage of in a wire story — you can edge out that wire piece by making yours more “local.”
How? First, quote some local people — a travel agent, a resident who was recently there, a tour operator… anybody who makes sense, as long as it’s a local. Say there’s a university in town and you learn that one of the French professors there takes a group of students to France each year. You could get a restaurant recommendation or some tip from that professor.
Next, make sure that you reference local travel times and costs. Don’t tell your reader what it costs to fly to Paris from New York if you’re writing for your local paper in Sioux City, IO. Instead, explain the best way to get there from that airport, the airlines that fly from there, what it typically costs and how long it takes from Sioux City.
By tailoring your article in that way, you make it a much more compelling piece for a local editor and significantly increase the odds that he’ll buy it.
[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.]