A Conversation with Amanda Black

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Amanda Black and I recently met on a press trip to Malaysia and became instant friends. Our love for writing and editing, combined with our passion for travel and sharing that passion with others, had us chatting about travel writing nearly all week. As the Associate Editor for Sherman’s Travel, Amanda knows first-hand how important budget-minded travel is and how much her readers need articles and stories that really speak to their desire to see the world without spending a fortune. In our interview, Amanda shares how she landed her position with Sherman’s Travel, what it’s like working with freelancers, and where she sees the future of digital media. Enjoy!

Amanda, you’re the Associate Editor for Sherman’s Travel. How did you get your start in the business and what led you to your current position?

I don’t want to sound cliché, but my fascination with media began when I was in high school. I interned at a community newspaper and there, I learned I didn’t want to work in newspapers. In college I interned at RealSimple.com with two amazing editors and my experience there really solidified my passion for editorial content. When I graduated I was lucky enough to land an EA position at The Knot where I handled everything from real weddings features, to fashion, stationery, and honeymoon stories. That travel experience, combined with my wanderlust, led me to ShermansTravel.

What was it like transitioning from the wedding industry to the travel industry?

I think of it this way: When I started in weddings, I had been to, maybe two weddings. I was by no means an expert – and nowhere close to having my own – but I became an expert by writing about them, interviewing top industry experts, etc. I think anyone can adapt if they have the drive. If anything, I felt I was more suited to travel because I had done so much in my personal time and was very passionate about it outside of my career. I didn’t know everything about cruises, the newest plane models, or the state of tourism in every country, but I’ve been doing my best to study up!

If someone close to you asked you for advice on what it takes to become a freelance writer or editor in the travel industry, what are the top three things you would tell this person?

1. Network. I’ll be the first to admit, this is easier said than done. But it’s so necessary in this industry where there are more incredibly talented people vying for positions than there are jobs to be filled. 2. Be flexible. It’s so important to be able to quickly turn around a piece, take edits, or write about most topics you’re given, and so on. It helps to be able to roll with the punches and sort of be a jack (or jill) of all trades. And while many people might think travel writing is just about going to beautiful places and writing about them, it’s ShermansTravel-logoalso about teaching travelers thing, keeping up on the news, and staying on top of the trends. 3. Do your research. I can’t tell you how many pitches I get that just aren’t on-brand for ShermansTravel. If you’re cold-emailing with pitches, they’ve got to catch my (or any editor’s) eye and stop me in my tracks – ‘That is so us.’

In your opinion, as more publications continue to transition to online platforms, what does it take to succeed as a digital content publisher?

I think performance is key. In my experience, online is all about the numbers: how many clicks did that get; uniques; page views; what was the bounce rate; how long did the user stay on-site? If those numbers aren’t showing improvement or promise, that’s not a good sign for the author or the site. Ultimately, advertisers pay attention to those numbers and we promise a certain number of impressions. Being able to show that you’ve had record numbers is always a good thing when you’re pitching yourself as an online producer.

With the influence of digital media, social networking, and online marketing, where do you see the market going in the next five years?

It’s hard to say. I think there will always be a place for print media in travel, even I still want to have something to flip through and boston-globe-logo1look at beautiful pictures. In terms on digital media, things are changing rapidly, from apps to tablets, we’re constantly consuming media in new ways. Digital media is going to keep changing and I think the stakes will keep increasing – you have to keep innovating to keep your readers to come back and devote those clicks to you as opposed to someone else.

What kinds of stories get you excited? What have you published that you were really proud of?

The coolest experience I had most recently was interviewing two really big names in travel – Anthony Bourdain and Samantha Brown. I think those interviews were two my proudest accomplishments. Then there are the really servicey pieces that I think help our readers out a lot like Traveling with Pets 101. Of course, I get really excited when I get to travel and see new places – I think some of the best stories come out of those first-hand experiences. I think the pithier pieces are also really fun: It’s in those that I really get to infuse my own voice. I’m also really proud of some freelancer pieces that I’ve edited. While I think of myself as a writer first, I know that as I grow, I’ll have to take on more editing. Some of our freelancers produce incredible content and I’m proud to have had a hand in helping it go live.

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An avid traveler and writer, Amanda Black sees her job as a travel writer and Associate Editor at ShermansTravel.com as a dream. Her work has appeared in The Knot magazine, TheKnot.com, BostonGlobe.com, RealSimple.com, and more.

Interview conducted in September, 2013 by Kristin Mock.

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