September 11, 2011
The Right Way to Travel
HOW TO FIND AN EDITOR WHO’S LOOKING TO BUY
By Jennifer Stevens
I needed a pair of boots I could wear to walk the kids to school –
our winter is pretty snowy here in Colorado at 6,000 feet. So I went
Before I go on, I should tell you two things: a) I don’t like to shop
and b) I’m picky.
First I looked online, but I couldn’t tell from the pictures if what I
saw there was really what I wanted. I idly browsed, hoping something
would strike my fancy. But I never bought.
Then I went downtown and ducked into a little boutique. Their
selection isn’t big. (The whole shop is about 14 x 30 feet.) But they
always carry the kind of things I like. Sure enough, I found just what
I was after. Within 20 minutes, I was back on the street, boots in
bag. Smile on face.
I tell you this because an editor looking to buy a story is a lot like
me trying to buy boots. She doesn’t want to look too hard. And she’s
got a pretty clear idea about what she’s after.
One of the biggest mistakes new writers make is that they don’t show
an editor that what they have for sale is, in fact, exactly what she’s
looking to buy.
They tend to say, in effect, “I have this story… maybe you’d like
it.” And the editor reacts — as I did looking for boots online –
with glazed-over eyes. She doesn’t want to have to figure it out. So
she moves on.
Better to use the approach the small boutique employs. Show the editor
that your story is “her kind of story.” Make it easy for her to see
that what you have is what she’s looking for.
How? Two easy steps…
STEP 1 — Make sure that your article actually IS what the editor
Read a few back issues of the publication. Do they publish the same
sort of article as the one you’ve written?
Search the publication’s website to check if they’ve run a story on
the same topic recently. (If they ran one three months ago, she’s not
likely to buy yours.)
Look for a specific “department” in the publication where your article
would make the most sense.
Read the writer’s guidelines carefully… you’ll find lots of insights
there about what an editor is looking for.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: You’ll find a list of publications and interviews with
their editors to learn what it is (exactly) they’re looking for in our
Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop-at-Home Package, here:
Once you’re confident that the article you’re offering is exactly the
sort of thing this publication likes to print, then…
STEP 2 — Show the editor that what you have fits her needs exactly.
Your query should illustrate your abilities as a writer. So give the
editor a taste of what your story is like. Consider opening your query
with a few sentences from the lead of your article.
Include a sentence or two after that about how your article will meet
the editor’s needs. In other words, answer this question: In your
article, what’s the benefit to the reader?
For example, if you know the publication runs how-to pieces on a
travel theme and you have an article about “repositioning cruises,”
then don’t just say in your query, “Would you be interested in my
article on repositioning cruises?”
Instead, say something like, “Your readers can save hundreds, even
thousands of dollars by cruising during those times of year when
cruise companies are “repositioning” their ships. A ship that’s in
Alaska in the summer, for example, might be cruising along the
California coast or through the Panama Canal in September and October
en route someplace new. These one-way cruises can be a real bargain.
Transatlantic routes can go for as little as $599.”
At our Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop in Chicago last month, I
showed our attendees ways to “work smart” — ways they could avoid the
mistakes so many freelancers make and get the greatest return possible
on the time they spend traveling (and writing about their travels).
These two steps I talked about here, they fall into that “work smart”
category. Neither requires that much effort on your part. A small
investment in time up front. Yet lots of writers don’t bother with
If you do… you’ll immediately set yourself apart. Like that small
boutique selling just the boots I wanted… you’ll be peddling just
the right story to just the right editor in just the right way.
[Ed Note: Jen Stevens is author of AWAI’s Ultimate Travel Writer’s
Program and architect of our workshops. She (and a whole panel of
amazing guest speakers) recently handed over hundreds of tips like
this at our Ultimate Travel Writer's Workshop in Chicago. You may have
missed the live event, but you can still listen in and gain all the
secrets you need to jump-start your success and start getting paid to
travel sooner than you ever thought possible. Our 2011 Ultimate Travel
Writer’s Workshop-at-Home Package is on sale now, but only through
midnight on Tuesday, September 13. Details here:
The Right Way to Travel is a FREE newsletter from the American Writers
& Artists Inc., available to AWAI members and friends.
It is coming to you because you are either a member of The Ultimate
Travel Writer’s Program or Turn Your Pictures into Cash, or you have
opted to receive information about getting paid to travel from the
AWAI Travel Division.
** Find an upcoming workshop or photography expedition, here:
** More get-paid-to-travel resources, here:
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