So you want to be a travel writer? Want to explore new lands, be wined and dined by resort owners, then get paid to describe what you saw and experienced? Then why not get started! Its easier than you think. The next step would be to research how to get a book published, then it all goes up from there.
Tim Leffel discusses the ups and downs of being a travel writer in his new book TRAVEL WRITING 2.0: Earning Money from your Travels in the New Media Landscape. The book, says Tim, is mostly a “handbook for the business and marketing side of things.” This means advice on matters like choosing your SEO keywords (which you can see more about here), reaching out to fellow bloggers and writers, and so on.
Though Travel Writing 2.0 is filled with sober reality checks, Tim admits the fame-and-glory parts are possible. Sometimes. I agree. In the process of researching my guidebooks, I’ve crawled through caves in Belize with the country’s top archeologist; I’ve flown in helicopters and bush planes, skimming over jungles and reefs; I’ve ash-surfed the inside of an active volcano crater; I’ve picked beans with campesino families during the Nicaragua coffee harvest; and I’ve grown mustaches.
I’ve also laid sick and alone in cockroach-ridden hostels; walked from hotel to hotel in 100-degree-heat until my legs turned to jelly; been attacked by dogs at a pizza restaurant in Honduras which I’m sure not a single reader of Moon Honduras has ever visited (the place still got a good write-up). And I’ve forsaken more profitable, stable careers, and have a negative bank account as a reward.
Tim tells it like it is, describing the travel market as a “hyper-competitive, crowded, low-paying field with the deck stacked against you.” This is all true, but if you play your cards right-and if you can write well and stay organized-you can scrape at least part of your income by selling words about the places you go, stay, and play.
In Travel Writing 2.0, Tim describes the landscape of the travel market. He draws from his decades of experience writing and editing all kinds of travel publications, but also generously peppers the book with the anecdotes and advice of scores of fellow travel writers (myself included), each one of whom has found an expertise and been able to make at least a partial living by writing guidebooks, articles, blogs, brochures, and/or websites. (See my interview: “A Conversation with Joshua Berman.”)
Travel Writing 2.0 is a must-read-both for newbies getting into the industry and for those of us already in the trenches, since things change so quickly and it’s impossible to go to all the conferences.
Thanks to Tim, my new advice for aspiring travel writers now goes something like this:
(1) find a niche or expertise you don’t mind living and breathing for awhile;
(2) don’t quit your day job;
(3) read this guidebook-writing FAQ I once posted;
(4) get used to rejection letters; they’re a sign you’re doing the right thing (I’ve received 3 this week already);
(5) be prepared to brand and market yourself;