If you are aspiring to become a travel writer, you have probably come across the myths that have haunted the profession ever since Marco Polo set foot outside his front door. After reading this, you may want to think again. It's important you know the key myths about travel writing for a living.
1. Myth: Travel Writers Make a Good Living
Only a relatively small number of travel writers make enough money to live on. Most travel writers work on a variety of projects. However, this is not a reliable source of income, nor very lucrative. Example: travel writers asked to collate material for a guidebook that will pay a $30,000 fee may spend a year researching, making only a few dollars after expenses when the guide's finished. Most new travel writers will only be offered $10,000 as a fee, by the way.
2. Myth: Editors Can't Wait to Get Their Hands on Your Travel Stories
There are hundreds of new writers hungry to fill article slots. Editors are drowning in unsolicited material from new writers. Be sure to send a concise, targeted query letter outlining your proposal. Remember to show you've actually read the publication you want to write for, or the editor will shred your proposal.
3. Myth: It's the Destination That Makes the Story
Editors will tell you there's no shortage of people who will jet off to inaccessible places for the sake of a travelogue. Even the remotest places on the planet get their fill of travel writers, so there's always a slush pile of manuscripts about some desert rock or arctic lake nobody can pronounce. Find a new, unusual angle and editors might accept your article - otherwise, you'd better head off to outer space to find a better story.
4. Myth: Readers Want to Hear the Nitty Gritty of Your Travel Experiences
If you want to tell it warts 'n all, go to travel sites that don't pay writers for their blog posts. Nobody wants to read about the time you had blisters in Paris or boils in Timbuktu. This type of writing is only fit for journal entries aimed at friends. If your story doesn't stand up to comparison with writers like Pico Lyer or Bill Bryson, don't bother applying.
5. Myth: Editors Love Long Travelogues
Actually, they like writers who can edit, edit and edit again! Count the pages of travel pieces in some of the best travel magazines - they rarely run to several pages. Today's reader has the attention span of a goldfish; article lengths reflect that. The average magazine article in the US is now less than 500 words. Practice writing concise articles, and you might get regular assignments.
6. Myth: Write, Get Paid and See It Published
You'll be so lucky! It takes most magazines between 30 and 60 days to pay for commissioned articles - but most are paid "on acceptance" only. This means you have no way of knowing, until you eventually see the article published, whether or not you'll get paid. It could be cut for the issue originally intended and not appear until 6 months later.
7. Myth: Magazines Will Pay All Your Expenses
Fat chance! It is very rare to get "all expenses paid" travel gigs for freelance writers. Unless you get an assignment from a big newspaper or well-known travel website or magazine, you may get a few freebies but most expenses will come out of your own pocket.