Get Paid to Travel

bali-570655_640Who wouldn’t want to travel the globe and get paid for it?

Before booking a flight to Bali, get grounded in the basics of travel writing press trips.

 

  1. The Rule of Hype: Teasers such as “Get paid to travel the world!” are usually ad copy written for companies selling courses and books. While it’s true that travel writers do go on paid press trips, known as junkets or “fam” (familiarization) trips, the road toward being wined and dined in luxury hotels is paved with contacts and publication credits.

 

  1. Develop Contacts: freelancetravelwriter.com reveals the secret to receiving invitations to junkets — get your name on the press lists of national and regional tourist boards, airlines, tour operators, hotels and other organizations that regularly host trips for journalists.

 

  1. Join: Become a member one or more travel writers associations which receive calls for writers and hold conferences jointly with travel industry representatives. Every association I looked into requires applicants to have had a minimum number of travel articles (or photos or books) published in widely read media within a given timeframe. For details visit International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Organization ifwtwa.org, the Midwest Travel Writers Association www.mtwa.org, the Society of American Travel Writers www.satw.org, the Travel Journalists Guild www.tjgonline.com, the Australian Society of Travel Writers www.astw.org.au/login.php, or the Travel Media Association of Canada www.travelmedia.ca.

 

  1. Unglamorous Truths: Louisa Peat O’Neil, author of several Travel Writing books, contends that many travel writers hold other regular jobs and use vacations days for junkets. And not every trip is glamorous, as Jeremy Ferguson attests in his article that included the line “It’s a simple restaurant that serves dishes that usually surf on a tidal wave of grease.” (savvytraveler.org/show/features/2000/20000506/china.shtml).

 

  1. Ethics in Question: In “All Expenses Paid: Exploring the Ethical Swamp of Travel Writing” washingtonmonthly.com/features/1999/9907.austin.expenses.html, Elizabeth Austin writes, “It’s true that the writers of most junket-based pieces generally sing the praises of their hosts’ accommodations… the greatest hazard of the press junket isn’t the implicit quid pro quo. It’s the controlled and sanitized travel experience it presents to the writers, with everything as perfectly planned and tidily gift-wrapped as those nightly presents left on our pillows. During our trip…we got the complete visiting rock star experience.” The likes of which Average Traveler won’t experience.

 

  1. Objectivity is Key: Tim Ryan (com/2001/06/24/features/story1.html) tells about the time Paul Theroux (www.paultheroux.com/) joined several travel junketeers for dinner at a luxury hotel. “In a pleasant tone that carried a knife-to-the-heart message, Theroux posed a question: ‘How can you possibly write something objective about a place when you’re essentially being paid to visit? I know I couldn’t.’ The room fell silent as most of the writers lowered their heads.” Writers who occasionally break away from the group can gather un-choreographed impressions and information.

 

  1. Integrity Intact: Disclosing that a trip was sponsored can put the article in perspective. Jeff Shelley writes, “I flew out to ‘the Flathead’ thanks to an invite from the Whitefish Convention & Visitors Bureau…Don’t tell anyone, but I don’t need a ‘fam’ trip to be sold on the Flathead Valley.” Writing about firsthand experiences and appealing to the five senses, rather than parroting adjective-laden brochure hyperbole, demonstrate integrity, too.

 

  1. Readers Trust Writers: Tourist attractions can get publicity with advertising campaigns, but at a high price. Austin explains that “a single full-page ad in ‘Condé Nast Traveler’ (concierge.com/cntraveler/) reportedly costs a whopping $50,000. And an ad lacks the credibility of a seasoned travel writer swooning over a resort’s breathtaking setting and lavish amenities.” Tourist attractions realize value for the dollar when they invest a fraction of that amount per writer per day. According to Jeremy Ferguson, “Travel agents don’t like to use their customers as guinea pigs. If an area of China, for instance, claims to be ready for tourists, the agents want to see it for themselves.” Writers participate in these PR junkets.

 

  1. Travel Writers’ Resources: Order the e-book “Guide to Become a Travel Writer” at FabJob.com. Click on http://www.thetravelwriterslife.com/abswriteclass

If you’ve already had travel articles published, getting invited on a paid press trip could be your next goal. If you’ve dabbled in travel writing, you can follow L. Peat O’Neil’s recommendation. “No one starts at the top. Find your own level, work in it, then work up out of it.”

As you’re jetting to Bali, you’ll agree that travel writing is the best job in the world.

By the author of Ken’s WarWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide.

Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQjZBjqFNzs&feature=youtu.be

 ken's war cover

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award-winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

 

 

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Tools for Breaking into the Freelance Market

Beth Fowler headshot

If I can do it, you can. Here’s how I’ve broken into the world of getting published & paid.

Freelance writers are not employed on a publication’s staff. Freelancers work on a job-by-job basis and get paid for each project.

Below are writers’ tools and advice from editors to help you open the doors to the freelance market.

 

Contents:

  • Analyzing Magazine and Newspaper “House Style”
  • Submission Guidelines
  • Query Letter    
  • Query Letter Checklist
  • Manuscript Checklist
  • Publishing Business Terms
  • Editors’ Advice for Writers

 Analyzing Magazine and Newspaper “House Style”

 Look at a publication’s table of contents, illustrations and advertisements to determine the targeted readers’:

 

  1. Gender and age range
  2. Marital status
  3. Occupations and income levels
  4. Education levels
  5. Social group
  6. Moral, political, religious outlooks
  7. Main likes and dislikes

Look at several articles in one magazine, or several articles in several issues of the same magazine, to determine:

 

  1. Technique used in most opening paragraphs.
  2. Average number of words per article.
  3. Average number of words per sentence.
  4. Average length of paragraphs.
  5. Vocabulary – informal, academic, slang, jargon, colloquial
  6. Simple or complex sentences.
  7. The extent adjectives and adverbs are used.
  8. The extent of descriptive passages.
  9. Proportion of narrative and quotes.
  10. Proportion of subjective passages (feelings/emotions) and objective passages (facts/data).
  11. Technique used in most concluding paragraphs.
  12. What is the mission of most articles? (educate, entertain, titillate, amuse, persuade, etc.)

****

Submission Guidelines

Always study the submission (or writers’) guidelines before sending a query or article to an editor. Here is an example of guidelines.

THE SATURDAY EVENING POST Guidelines for Submitting Work Writers & Cartoonists

Before submitting work to The Saturday Evening Post, please take the time to read our guidelines for writers

Before sending us a manuscript or query, we hope you will look over past issues of the Post to get an idea of the range and style of articles we publish. You will discover that our main emphasis is health and fitness. Although there are many specialty publications in this field, the Post‘s goal is to remain unique by presenting not only cutting-edge news but by combining this with information of practical use to our readers.

Major freelance contributions in recent years include: “Hats On For Health: A Skin-Cancer Warning from Down Under,” about the advanced skin-cancer-prevention program in Australia, and “Munchausen by Proxy: The Deadly Game,” about a little-understood but prevalent psychological disorder that can be devastating to children.

In addition to health-related articles, the Post buys humor and anecdotes suitable for “Post Scripts,” as well as cartoons, illustrations, and photos. Payment ranges from $15 for Post Scripts to $25-$400 for most feature articles.

Our nonfiction needs include how-to, useful articles on gardening, pet care and training, financial planning, and subjects of interest to a family-oriented readership. For nonfiction articles, indicate any special qualifications you have for writing about the subject, especially for technical or scientific material. Include one or two published clips with your query. We prefer typed manuscripts between 2,500 and 3,000 words in length. We generally buy all rights.

Although we seldom publish new fiction, our readers enjoy upbeat stories that stress traditional relationships and family values. A light, humorous touch is appreciated. We are also always in need of straight humor articles. Make us laugh and we’ll buy it.

We respond quickly to queries, normally within three weeks. If you do send the whole manuscript, either (1) include a sufficiently stamped and sized SASE for its return should we decide not to use it; or (2) indicate you do not want the material returned and include an SASE with appropriate postage for a reply. Please send typed, double-spaced copy. We normally respond to manuscript submissions within six weeks. You are free to submit the article simultaneously elsewhere.

Feature articles average about 2,000 words. We like positive, fresh angles to Post articles, and we ask that they be thoroughly researched.

Please submit all medical/fitness articles to Cory SerVaas M.D.; travel queries and articles to Holly Miller, Travel Editor; fiction to Fiction Editor; and Post Scripts to Steve Pettinga.

1100 Waterway Blvd. Indianapolis, IN 46202 (317) 634-1100

***

Query Letter

 

Note: This emailed query letter was successful. You may use it as model for your projects. Snail mailed queries should include your telephone number, email address and a pre-addressed, stamped return envelope.

Dear Jean Ann Duckworth:

I benefit from reading Simple Joy and was especially happy to see an article by my friend Rekha. I believe that an article about breathing would support Simple Joy’s purpose.

We all breathe, but do we breathe properly?

Once we’re aware of our breathing patterns, we can improve them instantly.ghuū Women who breathe properly report that they feel “calm, poised, energized, a general well-being, centered, alert, relaxed, open” and similar positive sensations.

Does that sound like a miracle? Because God is in every breath, the benefits of proper breathing are miraculous.

I’d like to share what I’ve learned about breathing with Simple Joy readers. This proposed 1500- to 2000-word feature article (one time rights) will:

 

  • Explain physical and emotional hindrances to proper breathing
  • Guide readers through a breath awareness questionnaire
  • Review the breath’s path through the body
  • Include several easy, effective breathing exercises
  • List hobbies and sports that improve one’s breathing as a side benefiProvide surprising facts and additional resources.

I can write the article for the general interest issues or slant it as a December (holidays) stress buster. Earning an instructor’s diploma to teach Qi Gong (or Chi Kung, it’s Chinese for “skill with breath”), speaking to women’s groups on “Better Breathing Means Better Living,” my research on the topic and my firsthand experience in improving my breathing give me the background I need to write credibly and convincingly.Magazines that have published my works dealing with improving the quality of one’s life include, but aren’t limited to Daily Meditations, Evolving Woman, The Phoenix, New Vegetarian and Natural Health (Australia), Woman at Work (Malaysia), and Her Business (New Zealand).

Sincerely,

Beth Fowler

 

 

Query Letter Checklist

__ Return address – your name, address, phone number, fax and email address.

__ Address to proper editor, spell name correctly.

__ One-page letter (two if absolutely necessary) of 3 – 4 paragraphs.

__ Letter is concise, polished, courteous, written in business format, yet “human”.

__ Check spelling and grammar. (Donut really on word processor’s spill chick.)

__ SASE large enough with postage for reply or a contract!

__ Queries – business-size SASE for agent’s or editor’s response.

Manuscript Checklist

__ Follow writers/submission guidelines.

­­__ 12p font, Times New Roman, double spaced on 8 ½ x 11, one side only.

__ Proofread for spelling and grammar. (Due note rely on computer spell Chuck.)

__ Capitalize first letter of first word, and rest of words unless small (to, of, in) in chapt titles.

__ Approx 1 inch margins all around.

__ No italics. Underline instead.

__ No handwritten corrections.

__ Mag/newspaper manuscripts: Top left corner – 1st p single-space name, address, tel, fax, mobile, email. Mr/Miss/Mrs if first name is unisex. Top right corner – word count, rights offered, dept or column if applies. Drop down ½ way. Center title, By and name. Every p thereafter: Top left corners – last name & keyword of title. Top right corners – p number. Follow the submission guidelines if they differ from this.

­­__ Book ms: Title p with title, address, wc. Every p thereafter: Top left corners – last name & keyword of title. Top right corners – p number. New p for new chapt, drop down 1/3 –1/4.

­­__ End at end.

__ No                                                                                                  “widows”.
***

Publishing Business Terms

ADVANCE: $ pub pays author for book under contract, i.e. ½ paid at signing, ½ at delivery of final ms. Author doesn’t receive more $ until proceeds ($ales) exceed amount of advance.

BACKLIST: books from previous seasons still in print.

COMMISSION: advance payment from publisher to author asked (commissioned) to write something

COPYRIGHT: designates ownership of work. Most pubs © in author’s name, so when work goes out of print rights revert to author who may resell ms to another publisher.

COVER LETTER: accompanies solicited ms sent to agent or publisher.

FLAT FEE: “work-for-hire.” Lump sum for work. No royalties.

FRONTLIST: books published in current season and in publisher’s current catalogue.

INSTITUTIONAL SALES: books sold to schools/libraries, roughly 25% of kids lit is bought by libraries.

MASS MARKET: “rack-sized”, paperbacks smaller than trade paperbacks, usually different cover than hardcover edition, and cheaper.

MASS MARKET PUBLISHERS: companies that produce large quantities of paperbacks inexpensively, titles follow trends that fit markets – tie-ins with movies, TV characters and toys. Sell high volume in short time.

NET PRICE: “wholesale price”, $ pub receives from each book sale after discounts given to bookstores/buyers. Some pubs base author’s royalty on net price.

PROPOSAL: document author sends to agent/pub describing proposed book, length, audience, table of contents, chapt outline, first 3 chapts, competing titles, ways to market book, author’s credentials.

QUERY LETTER: letter author writes seeking permission to send ms to agent/pub.

RETAIL PRICE: cover price on book. Most big pubs pay royalties based on cover price.

ROYALTIES: 3-15% of proceeds from the sale of each copy of book.

SASE: self-addressed stamped envelope

SELF PUBLISH: Author pays for publication. Companies offer different levels of service. Authors must do a lot of marketing themselves.

SUBSIDIARY RIGHTS: pub/agent sells book to foreign pubs, mags, movie studios. If pub sells rights, $ split with author (usually 50/50). If agent sells rights, author keeps proceeds minus agent’s commission.

SUBSIDY PUBLISHER: “vanity publisher”, pubs that charge authors $$$$$ to publish ms. Avoid.

TRADE PAPERBACK: bound with heavy paper, usually same size and cover art as hardback, cheaper.

TRIM SIZE: outer dimensions of book.

UNSOLICITED MANUSCRIPTS: ms sent to pubs who didn’t request them. Often rejected, languish in “slush pile”.

***

Editors’ Advice for Writers

 

 

Beginning writers know that they’ll get bylines without bucks from time to time, free copies of magazines in which their works appear, and a few dollars here and there. No pay and low pay are typical during the apprenticeship phase of writing.

 

Following the advice of paid writers representing nearly 200 years’ experience can advance your career and compensation to the next phase.

 

Q: What separates paid, published writers from wanna-bes?

 

A: Discipline, persistence, hard work and the ability to “get back up on the horse” were common responses from the interviewed writers. Francesca Kelly, Tales from a Small Planet editor (www.talesmag.com), says, “You don’t have to have brilliant talent to be published, but you DO have to have incredible persistence.”

 

Lucy Clark, prolific medical romance writer for Harlequin Mills & Boon (http://www.eharlequin.com.au), is the personification of persistence. “I received the contract for my first book the same day I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. Life happens! It’s hectic. It’s busy, but if we don’t make time for the things that are important to us, we might have regrets later on. I now have two adorable children who commandeer most of my time. I don’t have time for writers’ block. I don’t have time to waste. My stories have to be planned, the research done, so when I sit down, I can build up word count. There’s no such thing as writer’s block – just lack of planning.”

 

  1. What rumor about the business of writing turned out to be false?

 

  1. Arlene Uslander, editor of The Simple Touch of Fate (www.uslander.net) which has one of my stories in it, discovered three falsehoods on the road to publication. “Once you have a book published, it’s easier to have the next book published and that when you send out a manuscript, no news is good news. And that having an agent accept your work means you’re going to get published.” Not true. Not true. Not true.

 

Karen Rose Smith (www.karenrosesmith.com) is a fulltime author with about 40 books to her credit. She sold her first book in 1991. “I thought after I sold the first few books, life would become easier! That’s not necessarily true.  After ten books, I remember being stalled and not selling for about ten months.”

 

Francesca believed that editors were unapproachable. “They’re usually really nice people who are just overworked.” She should know. She’s an approachable and no doubt overworked editor.

 

  1. What advice do you wish you’d received (or heeded) sooner?

 

Karen Rose Smith learned to “Write to the market. Study the line you want to write for.”

 

Studying the magazine she wanted to write for had a lot to do with an editor accepting one of Francesca’s articles. Being published in Redbook was a “sudden breakthrough” for her.

 

“It’s not enough that you have something to say,” is freelance editor and author Karen Schmitt’s advice. “You have to make yourself understood – connect.”

 

“Rejection isn’t personal,” counsels Megan Hart, an author whose been paid to write for decades. “They’re not rejecting you, they’re rejecting the work.”

 

“ ‘To be a successful writer, you must write every day,’ ” recalls editor, Dan Case. “I heard this a lot, but really didn’t believe it. When I read Stephen King’s book, On Writing, and he said ‘write every day,’ I believed it. (Hey, if the King of all writers says it, it must be true.)”

 

  1. What would you tell a beginner about writing for pay?

 

  1. Writers’ answers ranged from “Don’t write for pay. Write because you love it,” to “Don’t write for FREE!”

 

Lynn Wasnak, a freelance writer for 25 years, explains that fulltime freelancers urge beginners not to write for free or too cheaply because it allows editors to lower the going rate. Go to https://www.writersmarket.com/assets/pdf/How_Much_Should_I_Charge.pdf.

 

As for me, I do the writing because I love it. I donate some works to organizations where I volunteer. Otherwise, I sell my work for dollars.

 

And so can you!

 

***

By Beth Fowler, author of the beloved coming-of-age novel “Ken’s War.”

Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQjZBjqFNzs&feature=youtu.be

 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

Cool Advice from Editors about Queries: Part 2

Beth Fowler headshotDon’t send another query until you’ve read this roundup of advice from editors.

According to the editors I interviewed, freelancers are irritating editors with lukewarm queries. Queries that sour an editor’s opinion of a writer can kill potential sales.

An Exemplary Query: The basic components of a solid query comprise a salutation to the editor by name, an introductory paragraph establishing familiarity with the publication, and the topic of the proposed article. The second section summarizes (tantalizingly) the gist of the article. Next come the author’s qualifications to write about the topic, and then relevant publishing credits are listed. A polite final line and signature round out the letter.

Editors would give a query containing the basic elements, as this one does, a thumbs up.

 

“Dear Francesca Kelly:

 

I’ve been an enthusiastic fan of Tales from a Small Planet for three years. I feel that the attached essay, in Rich Text Format, about everything going hilariously wrong during a scuba diving expedition in Bali captures the right tone for your magazine.

 

As an expat living in Bali, I want to stress that this essay isn’t a tourist travelogue, but a real glimpse of what local life is like where I live. Using incidents from my own experience, I’ll show how foreigners can go hopelessly astray without someone local to help them.

 

Going Places, Destinations and Islands Ho! have published my articles.

 

I look forward to hearing from you at your convenience.”

 

An actual query would also include the author’s first and last names and all contact information. These can be automatically inserted in e-mails with the signature function. “I’m always impressed when a writer provides several contact numbers and addresses,” an editor said.

 

…Furthermore: “Include your byline on the article you submit,” said an editor of a natural health magazine. “Don’t send me articles full of grammatical errors and misspellings,” another editor reminded authors.

 

“Nothing’s more refreshing for an editor than to read a query that takes him completely by surprise,” Betsy Lerner wrote in The Forest for the Trees: Editor’s Advice to Writers (www.booksnbytes.com/reviews/lerner_forestforthetrees.html).

 

A small magazine editor agreed. “I like a twist. I like to guess. I love surprises, especially when stories involve mundane topics.”

 

In How to Write Attention-Grabbing Query & Cover Letters, John Wood wrote that queries should be professional, novel, provocative and creative, focused and customized. Authors, when querying, want to show that they are reliable and qualified.

 

Follow editors’ advice and their positive replies to your hot queries will grow.

***

Article by Beth Fowler, author of the beloved coming-of-age novel “Ken’s War.”

Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQjZBjqFNzs&feature=youtu.be

 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

Cool Advice from Editors about Queries: Part 1

Beth Fowler headshotDon’t send another query until you’ve read this roundup of advice from editors.

According to the editors I interviewed, freelancers are irritating editors with lukewarm queries. Queries that sour an editor’s opinion of a writer can kill potential sales.

Number One Gripe: Many editors echoed Francesca Kelly of Tales from a Small Planet (www.talesmag.com), when she said, “Know my publication and read the writers’ guidelines.” Poorly targeted queries expose a writer’s arrogance or ignorance.

“Don’t send me queries on subjects I don’t publish,” advised another editor. “It’s obvious those authors haven’t read our newsletter nor our writer’s guidelines.”

An editor for a magazine targeted to home-based business owners said that potential contributors can gain an understanding of the type and style of articles a magazine publishes by reading back issues or viewing archived articles at the magazine’s website.

She went on to say, “Writers who submit queries on topics such as ‘Combating Office Politics’ and ‘Is Your Boss A Jerk?’ (pretty funny when you consider our readers are self-employed) prove they’re ignorant regarding the type of editorial submissions we’re looking for.”

A freelance editor based in the D.C. area said, “I appreciate a writer that is sensitive to the publication’s demographics – submits a story that targets readership. It makes everything a whole lot easier for everyone.”

Don’t Pester Editors: After assurance of anonymity, an editor of an international magazine told me, “We’re busy and we’ll get back to you when we can. We remember the names of people that have bothered us and it’s not in a good way.”

The editor of a healing and recovery magazine said that she is more likely to show interest and give time to writers and their work if they have shown respect for her. She added, “Don’t put me on your e-mail distribution list.”

After a vacation, she returned to combat a deluge of 800 e-mails. She begged writers to hold off sending e-mails.

An acquisitions editor at Tor Books (www.tor.com) said, “If an editor says she will get back to you in two months, give her a few more weeks. I don’t want to work with someone who’s always asking, ‘When are you going to do me?’ ”

Busy editors appreciate writers who resist the urge to ask about the status of submitted material until a reasonable period has passed, who send in their best work the first time (as opposed to submitting minor changes and revisions after the piece was accepted) and who don’t ask questions that are answered in submission guidelines.

E-mail Etiquette: “Don’t think that because you’re querying by e-mail, you don’t have to be polite.” The editor of Tales from a Small Planet (http://www.talesmag.com/writers-guidelines) bristles at messages like “Hi! Thought you might like to read this!” with a link to an essay on the writer’s website. This editor is “not inspired to use my limited time to follow up.”

Too many writers put “submission” or “article for you” in e-mail subject lines. When an editor wants to locate that e-mail later, but it’s buried in tons of other e-mails with identical subject lines, well…”It helps if the subject is what the article is really about,” the travel mag editor said. Travel writers who type “buying pottery in Belize,” or “Korean street food,” for example, in subject lines make e-mail editor-friendly.

Editors are reluctant to open attachments that come without an introduction in the body of the e-mail. “As our e-mail volume gets higher,” one editor warned, “I’ll just delete these.”

An editors’ perspective on e-mail etiquette: “I expect writers to present the same information they would in a written query letter: who they are, what they’ve written and why they think their work fits our publication.”

 

Stay tuned for Part 2.

***

Article by Beth Fowler, author of the beloved coming-of-age novel “Ken’s War.”

Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQjZBjqFNzs&feature=youtu.be

 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

How to Impress Editors & Get Published: Part 1

By Beth Fowler

Editors acquire, improve and publish manuscripts. Although I had only 50 manuscripts to work on during my two-week stint as an editor, I developed sympathy for editors who’d rejected my work in the past. (Contact me for your free copy of Travelers’ Tales, the anthology I edited.)

While wielding the red pen, I learned how to make the best impression on editors. Here’s the scoop.

FOLLOW GUIDELINES (Yes, that again!)

When H.L. Mencken received a batch of Thomas Wolfe’s short stories, the critic yelled, “Take them out! They’re not even sanitary.” The future novelist had submitted dog-eared, greasy manuscripts.

That anecdote reminds us that good writing alone didn’t guarantee publication in the past, and it doesn’t now. During my stretch in the editor’s chair, otherwise talented authors submitted handwritten manuscripts without contact information, without margins, with pages secured by pins and with word counts too high by half. Standards for capitalization, spacing and punctuation fell by the wayside.

In addition to word count and format, guidelines provide other information if read closely. A magazine’s articles that are “highly referenced” means writers better quote big cheeses, if they want to see their bylines in this mag.

Deviations from guidelines sabotage or even kill your chance for publication and leave a sour taste in editors’ mouths. The editors at one large publishing house say, “We’re linear. Very linear.” Translation: If your submission doesn’t follow their guidelines, they’ll reject it.

Guidelines are provided so incoming manuscript formats and conventions are standardized, allowing editors to do their real job, discover and publish writers’ work.

CRAWL INTO THEIR HEADS

Paul McCarthy, author of Editing and the Ideal Editor, believes “It’s only by understanding totally your editor’s thinking that you make the best creative decisions about your manuscript.”

Understanding an editor’s thinking isn’t difficult if writers remember that an editor’s greatest dream is to publish crucial information and riveting entertainment that readers need and want. And then readers crave more! Editors need writers to turn the dream into reality.

Crawl into editorial heads by “reading the writer’s guidelines and back issues of the publication,” longtime e-zine editor Dan Case said. Scrutinize letters from the editor in magazines and newspapers, and dig into books the editor wrote or had a hand in. Study written communications (acceptance letters, contracts, suggestions, short e-mails and the like) from the editor.

In the early stages of works-in-progress, make sure you understand the editor’s ultimate vision for the piece. For example, does she envision the book splayed on coffee tables or shelved in university libraries? Does he envision illustrations, lists and sidebars or a dense article? The Better Homes & Gardens editorial team says that most of their articles undergo a lengthy development process involving both editor and writer. This “lengthy development process” gives authors opportunities to see the world through the editors’ eyes and revise along the way.

QUERY WITH STYLE

Let’s say you’ve studied Gentleman’s Quarterly guidelines and editorial vision. You have an idea for an article about custom-made shoes. A query to “Dear Editor” screams “Amateur!” So you flip GQ open and see 28 editors listed. Six handle fashion. To which editor should you pitch your bespoke shoes idea? Aim for the editor-in-chief, and you risk annoying this VIP who’d delegated portions of his editorial tasks to lighten his load, and you risk snubbing a fashion editor. Call, write or e-mail and ask who gets a shoe query. Staff might’ve departed since the magazine was last published, so verifying the recipient is a good idea in any case.

Submitting queries “on topics that are over-discussed, entirely general in nature or don’t apply to our targeted readership” is one of the most irritating thing writers do, according to Francesca Kelly, who edited Tales from a Small Planet.

Francesca’s colleague added, “Don’t think that because you’re submitting or querying by e-mail, you don’t have to be polite. ‘Hi! Thought you might like to read this!’ with a link to an essay on the writer’s website doesn’t inspire me to use my limited time to follow up. Even though I correspond with people by e-mail, I expect writers to present the same information they would in a written query letter: who they are, what they’ve written and why they think their work fits our publication.”

In her book The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers, Betsy Lerner wrote, “Nothing is more refreshing for an editor than to…read a query letter that takes him completely by surprise.”

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ken's war coverIf you were to judge a book by its cover, what do you suppose Ken’s War is about? (I approved the cover art a few days ago. . . pub date getting closer…)

Make Money Writing Travel Articles – Part 2

Take lots of photos to jog your memory when you write.

Take lots of photos to jog your memory when you write.

Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, your experiences could make great reading and bucks. Here is the second batch of reasons to take notes and photos.

6.      Work when you want.

It’s 2 a.m. Your body clock is four time zones out of whack. Ideas for articles flood your mind. Wearing your bathrobe (or not), you brew a pot of tea, turn on the computer and crank out an article explaining how to minimize jet lag. If you don’t feel like writing for a spell, no 9-to-5 honcho will hassle you. Assuming you’re not counting on living on income generated from travel writing (at first, anyhow) you can write when the mood strikes.

7. Boredom isn’t an occupational hazard.

Readers who haven’t “been there, done that” crave to know What’s it like to be there, to do that? Authors writing about a place notice details, recreate scenes accurately with word pictures, capture the atmosphere of a place and observe nuances that epitomize a location. The writer’s experience becomes a jumping-off place for others. To write interesting travel articles, the writer must be interested.

8.      There’s a niche for every writing style.

No doubt there’s a publication buying the works of authors who write in a style similar to yours. Whereas one publication features concise articles liberally spiked with distances, dates, addresses, costs and other numerical information, another publication prefers articles brimming with impressionistic descriptions of splendid sunsets, roaring waterfalls, noisy marketplaces. Other publications feature articles covering an entire nation in 1500 words, and yet others assign 3000 words to a single attraction or event such as a new zoo or annual regatta. While certain publications want authors’ personalities to show through, other publications solicit articles in which authors remain invisible. Study the market to find publications matching your style. Or adjust your style to your target. Sites dedicated to travel writing such as www.freelancetravelwriter.com/ and  main.travelwriters.com/ feature techniques, markets, pay scales, editors, specifications and trips for writers.

9.      Travel writing covers a vast field.

Topics for travel writing are as varied as the world itself. Writers have sold (and resold) pieces about hiking the Appalachian Trail, bicycling in Malaysia, sipping green tea in Kyoto, pub crawling in Dublin, chewing betel nut in Taiwan and touring Pearl S. Buck’s Pennsylvania home. People preferring to stay close to home can succeed as travel writers because every place is some place else to someone else, and travel articles aren’t about places only. Furthermore, locals like reading about and exploring their own neck of the woods. Advice articles with tips on traveling with children, handling money on the road, avoiding food poisoning and packing economically, to name a few practical concerns, fall into the travel writing category.

10.  Job satisfaction guaranteed.

Satisfaction comes from raising the curtain on little-known destinations, from assisting sightseers in making the right turn, from taking armchair travelers along for the ride. Satisfaction comes from seeing your name after “By” in a publication and after “To:” on a check.

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It’s 1965 and Ken Paderson is itchin’ to get his driver’s license, but his world turns upside down when he and his dad are whisked off to a remote army outpost in Japan. The novel, Ken’s War, is slated for publication this May by Melange Books LLC.