What do travel editors want from freelance writers? What’s the best way to pitch them? What kind of writer do they want to work with?
We set out to answer these questions on a panel I moderated at the Travel Bloggers Exchange North America (TBEX) conference recently. Taking place in hospitable Huntsville, Alabama, more than 550 registrants gathered to network, learn, and up their game. For those who want to mix freelance travel writing with their blogging, this was a rare opportunity to get advice from travel editors who are making paid assignments on a monthly–sometimes weekly–basis. Here’s who we had on stage:
Tracey Minkin of Coastal Living Magazine
Bailey Freeman of Lonely Planet (Caribbean and Central America Editor)
Max Hartshorne of GoNOMAD online magazine
I had my Perceptive Travel editor hat on, since I pay freelancers there on both the magazine side and the blog side.
You can listen to the full recording here. There’s a little audio bleed from the session one room over, but otherwise you should be able to hear what the panelists are saying. In the Q&A section at the end, the people asking questions are on a mic. Be advised this is more than an hour long, so come back here when you have time or right click and download it to your phone to listen on a walk or a drive.
TBEX Editors Panel Huntsville
[Click on the play button or hit the down arrow to download. ]
If you don’t want to listen to all that, here are a few takeaways that the four editors agreed on. They may not want to see the same kind of query and they have different requirements for their audience, but these were the intersection points:
1) Send an idea that’s right for the publication—which you only find out by looking at the guidelines and/or actually reading the publication.
If you send a query about Kansas to Coastal Living or a query about Branson to GoNOMAD, you have probably blown your chances of ever getting your e-mails opened again.
2) Editors are really busy and don’t have time for long queries.
The best way to get through to an editor is through a short e-mail, with emphasis on the “short.” Three or four paragraphs tops. They will follow up if they want more.
3) It’s okay to follow up, but only by e-mail.
None of the four editors participating in this panel wants to receive phone calls, DMs, or Facebook messages. E-mail is easy to organize, search, and batch. If you haven’t gotten an answer in three weeks or so, it’s okay to follow up. You will probably only get a form letter though if they don’t want it.
4) It’s usually not personal
Queries get rejected for many reasons and often those reasons have nothing to do with your writing skill. It’s a duplicate, it doesn’t fit the editorial schedule, or it’s too soon to cover that destination again. If you haven’t violated the rules above and made someone mad, try again later.
5) Be reliable and be nice.
If you want to get hired again by that editor, do a good job, meet your deadline, and be nice. If the editor asks you for another quote, another photo, or a partial rewrite, there’s only one right answer: “No problem.” Being reliable, nice, and responsive are not extras—they’re expected.