Photos First: Another Easy Approach to Writing Round-Ups
- Today’s Hottest Article — Building One is A Lot Easier than You Think
- “Photos First” – An Easy Victory Over the Blank Page
- More Opportunities and Resources for Writers
Last week, freelance travel writer Jennifer Stevens told us that one of the best ways to break into the travel-writing business is to write short articles of about 250-600 words and pitch them to specific departments within a publication.
“Lots of publications are in the market for such things,” she said. And they’re nothing more than “short pieces about a great restaurant, a notable little hotel, an excellent travel deal, a new resource, and so on.”
If you missed last week’s issue, you’ll find it in our e-letter archives at: The Easiest and Fastest Way to get a By-Line and a Check
This week, let’s take that a step further…
If you can write a short front-of-the-book piece, you can certainly write a “Round-up” article.
A round-up is, really, nothing more than a collection of short pieces linked together by a common thread.
Here’s what I mean: Let’s look at this month’s Budget Travel magazine…
On page 76 we find: Secret Hotels of the French Riviera: Where Life is Both Sweet and Salty, Thanks to the Mediterranean Breezes — an article that profiles 11 hotels on the French Riviera.
The profiles do exactly the same thing Jennifer talked about last week, each is…
SHORT: They run approximately 50-75 words each.
NARROW IN FOCUS: Each is devoted to just one hotel. And the profiles include what amounts to “distinguishing features.” In other words, they focus on what makes each place unique and different from the others included in the round-up.
DRAWS THE READER IN WITH A “PICTURE” – The snippet about the hotel, Les Deux Freres, for instance, starts with: “Go up – past the crowds, past the noise – to the tiny cliff-top village of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. Stop to gasp at the panorama from the tiny town square, and notice the lovely dining terrace to your right. It’s attached to the restaurant of Les Deux Freres, in a 19th century stone building that was once a school…”
GETS TO THE “BIG IDEA” QUICKLY — In this series of hotel profiles, the “big idea” — that is, what makes the hotel notable — is, in fact, often embedded in the descriptive lead. In the example we’re looking at about Les Deux Freres, for instance, you can infer from the description that this is a quiet hideaway with breathtaking views. History buffs and those that appreciate a little character in their hotel will love this place (my guess is that photographers will too – it sounds photogenic).
In essence, all the writer did was create 11 little front-of-the-book articles. She identified a common thread that would link the eleven items — in this case 11 hotels that were either “sweet,” with flower-filled gardens and wood-manteled fireplaces, or “salty,” less traditional, often artsy touches like mural-covered walls or a guest book where guests are invited to record their dreams. And then she sent her collection to the editor.
You’ll find round-ups like the Budget Travel one in all sorts of publications. This month’s National Geographic Traveler features a round-up of 28 unique aspects of Montreal. This month’s Entrepreneur magazine includes a round-up of the top fastest growing, smart businesses in the world.
And the summer edition of The Knot’s wedding magazine features a round-up of “hot (and cool) honeymoon destinations” (which, by the way, is a travel round-up — don’t forget that you can sell travel articles to non-travel publications).
This weekend, when you’re out and about in town, think about possible round-up articles you could write about your own area. Perhaps a round-up of the most colorful B&Bs or the three new restaurants that are getting the most attention. Maybe a piece on seven off-beat summer activities for kids.
Go check out the offerings and make a point to nose around with a pen and paper in hand.
Not a writer? Not a problem. Head out this week with your camera instead and check out Carol Shield’s article below on approaching round-ups “photos-first”. By letting your best images lead you to what’s most important about a place, you’ll conquer the blank page fast.
Until next week, happy snooping.
And as always… keep me up-to-speed on your travel-writing and/or photography success. If you have a story to share, send me a quick note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great week,
Director, Great Escape Publishing
[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.]
PHOTOS-FIRST: ANOTHER EASY APPROACH TO WRITING ROUND-UPS
By Carol Shields in Lake WorCarol Shields
Jennifer Stevens defines a round-up article as nothing more than a collection of short snippets about places linked by a common thread. You write a few paragraphs that introduce your “collection,” and then you simply launch into each of the elements you’re profiling, addressing each one in a paragraph (or two or three) and then moving on to the next.
In this type of article, you don’t have to worry much about coming up with lots of language to connect the various parts of your article. You’ve established the connection in your introduction. The rest of your piece, then, can be fairly formulaic.
Now, if you read Jennifer’s course on travel writing – The Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program – you’ll find that she usually comes at this article-first. Meaning, she comes up with an idea for a particular piece, she writes her article, and then she picks (or lets the editor pick) the photos that best illustrate it.
As a photographer like me, however, you might consider coming at it from the other direction. I find that starting “photos-first,” letting my photos define what I include and say about a place or item is often less intimidating than staring at a blank page.
And editors like nothing more than to have a good-looking spread to entice readers into their pages. So if you can provide a package with really compelling pictures, your piece is likely to catch an editor’s eye.
Here’s how it’s done…
THE PHOTOS-FIRST APPROACH
I think shooting for round-up photographs is one of the easiest — and most fun — jobs for making money in photography. Your selection of subjects is as big as your imagination and interests. Do you like boat races? How about baseball parks or landmarks?
Any subject can be transformed to a round-up by shooting the right images. And what could be better than to shoot from your own personal experience on a subject?
For example, you might love fishing around the Great Lakes area. Photograph the best locations that you personally know. Be sure to gather as much information as you can about the area while you’re at it. This information you will use to write your very brief article. Really, it can be nothing more than a collection of photo captions (a few sentences each), which follow an introduction of a few paragraphs. Your images are what will stand out in telling the story.
The Great Lakes idea is an example of photographing similarities, in this case fishing spots. Another example might be historical homes. I did one photo round-up in similar shots entitled, “Orchid Bouquets for Weddings.” All the images were of different bouquets from simple to extravagant.
However, there are other kinds of round-ups that will make a saleable package to the right editor. You might shoot chronologically. Perhaps a major attraction or landmark is under construction in your local area. You could capture the very first stone laid all the way through to the ribbon-cutting event.
Or you could shoot the highlights of a rodeo event, where you capture action shots of cowboys riding and falling from their bucking broncos.
Another round-up would be a smaller portion of a larger event. Say, for example, there’s a hot dog eating contest at the State Fair. Shoot the event from the beginning to the end, capturing the eager contestants, to the pile of hot dogs, to the grand prize, and everything in between.
In round-ups it is important to shoot everything that captures your eye. Editing can come later as you sort, selecting the best shots that capture the subject, location, or event. And always gather as much information as you can about your subject – brochures, flyers, even business cards. These will be very helpful when putting words to your images.
A QUICK WORD ABOUT TAKING THE KINDS OF PHOTOGRAPHS EDITORS LIKE TO BUY
When it comes down to it, what will make each of these “collections” a saleable package is what you are actually capturing on film. Remember: pay attention to details (no garbage, no unnecessary objects). Crisp, clear, and unique shots – that is what will attract an editor’s eye.
And don’t forget: editors like color, people, and action. They also look for images that show a center of interest and, in some cases, selective focus (like a plate full of hotdogs for that hot dog eating contest piece).
Keep in mind: you should not even consider sending in any photo that is not focused, exposed, or flashed properly, or a photograph that does not relate to the subject. Your hard work can be passed over very easily when it shows you’re not paying attention to details such as this.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Carol Shields has a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, majoring in photography. During college, she had a lucky break and got a job in the photography department of a Fortune 500 aviation corporation. She picked up many more “hands on” skills there and eventually worked into the staff photographer position, which she held for almost 10 years. Working for a Fortune 500 corporation gave Carol the opportunity to see many of her photographs on the cover of trade magazines. Today, most of Carol’s photo sales are accompanied by articles.]