Carole Terwilliger Meyers, the author of 17 travel books, has been in the freelancing business for many years, having personally watched the shift from print to digital media. Like other savvy journalists, Carole decided to join the digital revolution by moving into blogging, turning her books into e-books, and focusing on online content and relationships. In today’s interview, she tells us about this move and what she’s up to now.
Carole, tell us a bit about your background. How did you get your feet wet in the travel writing/editing industry? What’s your story?
My story begins with a colicky baby. When my son was born with colic, I discovered that bouncing him around, especially in a car, soothed him. So we packed him up and hit the road on weekends. Until that point, I was an elementary school teacher. After our first excursion–to California’s Gold Country–I started documenting my trips and published them in a newsletter that I edited and wrote for the Bay Area La Maze group. One thing led to another, and pretty soon I was a publisher self-publishing my guidebooks and also writing a local travel column for the San Jose Mercury News.
What’s it like being a freelancer? What have you learned over the years?
Freelancing is a tough business, and it seems to be getting tougher all the time. Until a few years ago, I wrote as much for newspapers and magazines and I did for myself (blogging, websites, books). Now, my newspaper and magazine outlets are few, and I no longer have the interest in trying to track down new outlets for poor pay. I also recently decided to stop publishing hard copies of my guidebook, Weekend Adventures in San Francisco & Northern California. I wrote (and published) nine editions of that book, but book stores are closing relentlessly and sales are harder to make. As a publisher, I always made money on that book, but with the last edition I could see I might lose money with another edition. So I decided to move my information online and started the website Berkeley and Beyond. Now, I also write four other travel blogs as well.
How do you balance the workload between the different websites you work on?
I post to each of my blogs three times per week, except when I am traveling–when I don’t blog, and except for Webcam Traveler–to which I usually post every other week. I am still growing my Berkeley and Beyond website, so I work on it regularly but just do what makes sense time-wise. This really does eat up my time—to the point that sometimes I feel like the cobbler’s child, only in this case I am the travel writer who has no time to travel.
What advice would you have if someone near and dear to you asked for tips on getting into the travel industry?
Become a travel PR rep. Seriously. Coincidentally, my daughter did just that, though for other reasons, and she makes more money than I do, which is what I would have predicted. Also, she gets to travel to great places leading press trips—Argentina, Switzerland, and more.
Or go to Hollywood. That colicky baby grew up to be a director and just went around the world shooting a commercial! And he gets his writing fix working on scripts! And in Hollywood the various unions are strong, and they protect rights and make sure members get paid well when they work.
Or marry someone with a day job who gets health insurance and can keep a roof over your head and food on the table (I did that by good luck before I became a travel writer). When I quit my teaching job, the deal was that I needed to make as much from my writing as I would if I were teaching. I accomplished that by also becoming a publisher (Carousel Press).
Would you say you are more of a travel editor or travel writer? How are the two jobs different for you?
I am first a travel writer, second a travel editor. As a travel writer, I create and write my own articles. As a travel editor, I edit someone else’s work and try hard to leave it in their own voice. I’ve edited both books and articles.
How has the transition to digital media affected your income stream and your work? Where do you see the field going in the next five or ten years with an increased emphasis on digital content production?
Like many travel bloggers, I am definitely dependent on ad income. I also have one evergreen book that continues to sell and sell—Miles of Smiles: 101 Great Car Games & Activities—and I am thinking about turning it into an e-book. I have no idea what will happen in the next ten years.
Award-winning travel writer Carole Terwilliger Meyers, a native San Franciscan, holds a B.A. degree in anthropology from San Francisco State University and an elementary teaching credential from Fresno State College. She is the author of 18 travel books, including Miles of Smiles: 101 Great Car Games and Weekend Adventures in San Francisco and Northern California. She is the founding publisher of Carousel Press and the editor of Camping Europe. She is a blogger, an active freelance writer, and a contributor to the travel section of many newspapers. Carole has been quoted in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, has been a featured guest on the Today Show, and is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers.
Interview conducted in August, 2013 by Kristin Mock.