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How I Became a Freelance Travel Writer

travel writerI’d just returned to my teaching job at a Seattle technical college after 5.5 years overseas, and couldn’t settle back into the routine. After 3 years as an expat spouse in Singapore, and 2.5 years in Belgium—laced with non-stop travel—my heart was no longer in teaching. I’d traveled too much and changed too much.

I wondered how I could break into what looked like the glamorous and exciting travel writing arena.

I took a travel writing workshop

In July 2007, I enrolled in a 3-day travel writing workshop in Portland, Oregon, just down Interstate-5 from Seattle. I was so excited to sit in the class, along with 70 other travel writing wannabees.

One month later, after reviewing the course notes and slide shows, I sent out my first batch of query letters. An editor emailed back, requesting my proposed article. I remember thinking, “That was easy.”

I immediately sent out another query and another editor snapped up my story. I thought that perhaps these modest successes were flukes, but I fired out more queries. Each week, without fail, I secured one or two more fresh assignments with paying print media.

My bylines grew rapidly, and by my 7th month, I had 100 published articles in print media, some of which were reprint sales. Sixty-eight of these articles were paid, and the remainder written for free to boost my bylines. I just wanted to get my work published. By this time, my work had appeared in 34 magazines. My gross writing income was only $9110, and my average pay for each article was $134, but at least I was bringing in some income. A modest start, but things were snowballing!

A travel writing conference

Then, in my third year of freelancing, I attended a travel writing conference. I heard a veteran travel writer boasting, very proudly, that she had been published in 100 magazines, over her 20 year writing career. I turned to the 7 other writers at my table and said, “What’s the big deal about that? It took me 25 months to get published in 100 magazines”.

A guy at my table said, “B——t”. The rest stared at me like I was from Mars.

I showed the guy who didn’t believe me my long list of published articles on my computer, and his jaw dropped. Then everyone at my table started asking me how I had managed to get published so much.

I was starting to realize that what I was doing was quite noteworthy. Up to then, I had thought that everyone was selling one, or two, or three articles every week like me.

Travel writing today

Fast forward to today. I have more than 1,000 articles published in 200 regional, national, and international magazines, newspapers, trade journals, custom publications, specialty magazines, in-flights, on-boards, and online travel magazines. Ninety percent of my queries are accepted for publication. I’m considered one of the most prolific travel writers in the U.S.A.

My work has appeared in American Cowboy, Australia & New Zealand, Beers-of-the-World, Beer Connoisseur, Beer Magazine, Blue Water Sailing, Britain Magazine, Cheese Connoisseur, Classic Boat, Collectible Automobile, Emirates Open Skies in-flight, International Living, Lost Treasure, New Zealand Sunday News, Northwest Travel & Life, Off-Road Adventures, Oregon Coast, Popular Communications, Renaissance, Scotland Magazine, Sculpture, Smithsonian Air & Space, South China Morning Post, Sunday Oregonian, This England, and many other magazines.

My travel writing secret

What’s the secret to my rapid ascent into freelance writing?

There’s no single key. In many ways I have a “maverick” marketing approach to selling my work. Here are a few of my most effective techniques and tips.

I write in multiple genres including travel and culture, history, military history, art, communications, automobiles, museums, health, fitness, running, sports, and film festivals. This broad base provides me with almost unlimited magazines to query.

I use numerous marketing techniques. I create lengthy distribution lists to fire my queries out to. I have a standard formatted template for my query letters and have great success using simultaneous queries and multiple queries. I also send out dozens of queries, and do not tailor my queries to each publication (heresy!).

I establish a strong rapport with my “regular” magazine editors, to get repeat business. I often help them out of a bind by writing articles at short notice.

I only spend one hour/day on social media; most of my time is spent dreaming up and researching new story ideas, writing query letters, and cranking out articles.

I have plenty of other marketing and sales tricks up my sleeve, but space does not permit me to elaborate on any others here. Above all, I’m in this for the long haul and do not let rejections and other minor setbacks deter me from ploughing on.


Roy Stevenson the travel writerRoy Stevenson has authored ten books on selling and marketing freelance travel stories. (http://www.pitchtravelwrite.com/digital-downloads.html )

He produces a free weekly newsletter for aspiring travel writers. It’s considered one of the most informative e-zines in the travel writing business.
Subscribe here: http://www.pitchtravelwrite.com/pitchtravelwrite-ezine.html

Roy also hosts a Travel Writing & Marketing Master Class in Seattle in April, aimed at showing travel writers how to sell their stories to paying print media, and how to parlay their assignments into complimentary travel perks.
For course & registration details please go here: https://www.pitchtravelwrite.com/travel-writing-workshop-2019-seattle.html

You can read Roy’s bio and see some samples of his work at his writer’s website, www.Roy-Stevenson.com

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