This page contains information about travel and the Second Lifer.
Super Second Life Newsletter
9/1/02: Want to earn back three times what you pay to travel?
That’s not a wild come-on, it’s what I explain, step-by-step, to my workshop attendees (schedule is at http://www.sops.com/seminars.htm) at my “Writing Travel Articles That Sell!” program about twenty times a year. But if you live in Paducah or Pittsburgh, save the airfare. The same how-to advice is now available in my book The Travel Writer’s Guide. (Or in a two-tape and workbook audio cassette series called “How to Sell 75% of Your Travel Writing.”)
Why include this blatant self-serving information now? The book is arriving tomorrow (9/2) in its updated, revised format complete with new stuff about digital travel photography, computer submissions, and e-mail querying, plus the old stuff about how to sell travel articles to magazines and newspapers and even how to deduct all of the costs from your taxes (including the book!).
The first editions of this book were published by Prima, in 1994, with an update in 1997. (They were also Writer’s Digest Book Club top choices, as will be this edition in early 2003.) This new version costs $17.95, but since you were tenacious enough to read this far into the newsletter, you get $2 off. (Well, not exactly. Send $15.95 and the $2 for shipping, and if you live in California, add $1.24 for tax. You still save $2.) Want details and a sample chapter? Check http://www.sops.com/travel.htm. (You can also get it from Amazon.com, etc. once I post it next week, but no savings there—nor any book until I ship it their way!)
Almost everybody wants to travel in his or her second life. Why not
learn a new skill and use it to pay for those trips? Somebody writes those
pieces in the travel section—and gets paid for them! Why not you?
7/1/02: Airport delays are fewer and shorter.
Forget the 90-minute or two-hour early arrival at the airport (except for international flights). According to a Travelocity online survey released a week ago, more than 80% of travelers are getting from the curb to gate in less than 30 minutes, and 59% are doing so in less than 15 (of those, 55% were checking in bags). The fastest airports, with better than 70% arriving at the gate in 15 minutes or less: the Reagan in Washington, D.C.; Austin, Texas, and Orange County, California. The slowest was the Baltimore-Washington Airport. (The tally was taken from 5/1-6/13/02 of 3,700 Travelocity users.)
A tip: If you are toting carry-ons only, you can go directly through security to the gate.
In my airport, in Santa Maria, CA, if you arrived 90 minutes early for
the first flights you would have been lonely. The whole process always
took about 20 minutes, shoe removal or not. But if you sassed the ample
check-in lady, you’d have had to go to the end of the line.
10/15/01: Scheduling your travel articles
If you’d like to see your travel in print, the most confusing aspect is when you do what.
First, plan precisely where you are going and when. Then research the key sites and find topics to write about.
Match those topics to magazines, and see if they’ve run something similar in the past three years. (The editor may still be interested if the topic has appeared more recently, but you usually must find an angle or slant that features something particularly important and new.) Read about each target magazine in the current <Writer’s Market>, gather enough interesting information to write a one-page query letter, and send that to the editor of the respective magazine—only one at a time per idea.
Start querying magazines as much as six months before the trip (a year is okay for Christmas themes). Tell the editor when you will be at the location, when you will be back, and promise it (and photos, if needed) in the editor’s hands three weeks after you return.
If an editor is interested, study at least one article in each of the last three issues of that publication to see precisely what that editor wants on their pages. What worked in the articles that he or she bought? What was the ratio of fact to quote to anecdote? How much humor was used? How many people were quoted on an average? What kind of people? What kind of photos accompanied the articles? Were they sold by the author?
When you are at the site, first focus on getting what you need for those editors who responded positively. Also gather more material for newspaper articles.
After you return, write the promised query go-ahead articles first while the slides or prints are being developed. After you send off the promised magazine pieces, if you found additional magazine material there, write queries to new magazine editors, this time promising the article within three weeks of the editor’s interest.
Then write the newspaper pieces and send them simultaneously to regional newspapers that are at least 100 miles from each other, excluding the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, U.S.A. Today, and Christian Science Monitor.
Later, after a magazine article appears (assuming
you sold first rights only), you can sell the second (or reprint) rights
to any other magazine that is interested. Most magazines that buy second
rights pay on publication.
10/1: Photos help sell your travel articles
We’ve been sharing information in the past four issues about using travel writing to both earn some extra income and inject some fresh fun into your present and coming years.
The way to sell your photography to magazine and newspaper editors is by selling your travel articles first, then creating (and selling) professional-level photos of the featured topic and locale. (You gather everything on the same trip, of course.)
The kind of camera used is less important than the sharp, exciting photo it produces. Use 35mm or larger. In the future, digital will rule but right now film is still the most widely accepted format: color slides for magazines, black-and-while for most of the “seconds” you will sell to newspapers.
Your most important task is to capture at least one or two “tell-all” shots for each article, a photo that in one glimpse tells what that article is about. It’s a parka-wearing Eskimo urging his dogs to pull that sled full of clearly-marked Red Cross boxes. Or six tourists atop a baggage flatbed being pulled into an tropical airport full of knee-deep water. To that you add several dozen more shots. My guide is three 36-exposure rolls of b/w’s for each newspaper piece; five to eight 36-exposure rolls of color slides for “go-ahead” magazine articles.
Do you need photo releases? Almost never, but the current Writer’s Market will tell of the exceptions. On the long shot, though, and to provide the needed captions, get the names and particulars about specific people (except large group shots). I simply promise to send them a copy of the article, if bought. Thus I need at least their name and address, and could get that release later. (Even if it’s not bought, I send them a photo or slide copy, with thanks.)
How do you know what the editor will buy? Study the “go-ahead” magazines. What did they use in the latest issues? What they will buy is pretty much what they just bought. But newspapers are more of a gamble. They use verticals about75% of the time, need sharp b/w contrast (so early am/late pm shots seldom work), avoid broad and ill-defined shots (like a cornfield), and almost always want humans doing something natural, like a skydiver in harness about to launch, in the air, or landing.
In your query letter (discussed in the last issue) offer to provide color slides to accompany the article (with shot specifics if you know them). Then if you get the nod, have the slides developed when you return. Select the best 24 or 40 or so and insert them in clear slide holders, put them in some order, and create a caption sheet that explains each slide in a sentence or two, with your name and address on each slide, slide holder, and caption sheet. Send those with the manuscript. The editor will keep about six shots, return the rest, and send back those held after the issue is in print.
For newspapers, where you submit the copy rather than query, tell the editor in the cover note that you can provide 16 b/w’s (with captions) to pick from, if interested, or you will send the best five. If the editor asks for the photos, take the proof sheets you had developed, carefully cut out 16 good mini-pictures (if possible, pick about 12 verticals), double-stick them in rows of four to a full sheet of paper, and number all 16. Then create captions of all 16 on another sheet of paper, and to those sheets add a short note asking the editor to select those he/she most likes so you can send negatives. Include a #10 stamped, self-addressed envelope. The editor will return the proof pix in the envelope and indicate which negatives are wanted. Then carefully cut out those negatives, slip them into negative sleeves (plastic holders available at any photo shop), put the sleeves between two pieces of light cardboard, and insert a copy of the editor’s request note, with your address added and a request to return the negatives ASAP. Voila, the editor will make 8 x 10s of the chosen photos, and return the negs quickly!
Does all of this fury pay? Sure. Color shots usually bring $25-100+ apiece, the b/w’s maybe a quarter as much. But if the magazine uses one of your verticals in a cover, that usually reaps from $400 to much, much more.
Professional photographers have just passed out reading the last nine paragraphs, as they do regularly in my seminars. I have you take far too few shots and violate about a dozen other paranoiac practices, but I’ve sold many hundreds of photos, four covers, and never lost a shot en route or at a publication, so it has worked quite well for almost 30 years for me. And the process is precisely what I liked when I was an editor too. So if you need a system that will keep you in modest clover without undue expense, there it is.
As I said in the previous issues, if you’re in California, come to my travel writing seminar (see http://www.sops.com/seminars.htm for dates and locations). If not, my Travel Writer’s Guide tells all—as does the “How to Sell 75% of Your Travel Writing” audio cassette/workbook series (see http://www.sops.com/travel.htm.) We also sell two related reports: “100 Best U.S. Travel Newspaper Markets” and “25 Sample Query and Cover Letters.” (Sorry, I don’t mean to plug products here but how, in clear conscience, can I not tell you that this help exists?)
Those who think travel writing is akin to devil worship or bubble dancing
will be glad to know that this endless series (to them) will, in fact,
end in the next issue. The finale will discuss scheduling, which is one
of the most bewildering parts of travel writing for newcomers.
9/15: Travel writing: query letters are keys to the kingdom
If travel fits into your Second Life and you want to be paid to write about it, the magic words to seeing your copy in magazines are “query letters.” And the magic word to the best pay and time utilization in article writing is “magazines.”
In the past three issues of the SSL Newsletter I offered a short travel writing overview with the key steps needed to deduct your expenses and report income on your 1040, a quick summary about selling to newspapers, and some guidelines about interviewing. Professionals make their bread from magazines and butter from newspapers, and use interviews as a critical component of articles for both.
The trick is less the actual writing—although that takes attention and requires a proper balance of the requisite facts, quotes, and anecdotes—than it is to get the editor to agree to look at the article at the outset. The “go ahead, send it to me for consideration” is in response to a well written, exciting one-page query letter that both sells the topic and, by its good writing, you as the person to write about it. Your chance of selling an article without a query is nil; your chance of selling an article that is as good or better than the query when it is written, on time, and about the topic posed after a “go ahead” is nearly 100%. The editor simply will not ask to see the article unless the query convinces him or her “that their readers would be eager to read it,” it is timely, and you have the writing craft to bring it in ready to use.
A query letter, single-spaced and written on plain typing paper (or letterhead, if you have it), is done in business letter fashion. It probably includes six or so paragraphs, about four of which gently “sell” the subject.” So you must do enough research before writing the query to know that what you say about the topic is accurate and that if the editor asks to see the piece, you can follow through. You needn’t travel to the site beforehand (read what others have said plus any new information). It might take you from two hours to a day to prep a query.
If you are yet to take the trip (most query before going), explain when you will leave, when you will be back, and offer the article (with photos, if available) three weeks after your return. (If you already went, the editor will probably want the article within three weeks.)
After creating interest in the theme in the opening and heart of the letter, close with a paragraph that briefly explains your writing background. A few sentences are enough; editors don’t want academic dossiers. Have you been in print in magazines before, how often, publications similar to theirs, recently? If not, in newspapers? Did you write a book? Are you an expert on the topic? If you have no credits, make the rest of the query shine and leave this paragraph out.
If photos are involved or you can provide them, simply mention that you will provide “36” or “54” or a wide assortment of colored slides (they might accept digital color), with captions, with the manuscript. Few magazines use black and white, but you might suggest you can also provide a backup assortment of “b/w”s, if they are interested. (Those you take for newspaper “seconds.”)
Make your query a full page long, no longer, positive, and compelling. The editor should say, when reading it, “I’d be a fool not to look at this piece.” Alas, they aren’t fools: they are simply giving you a chance to make their pages. They’ve only offered to consider it, not buy. Yet rarely does an article as good as its query not get accepted.
Always include a self-addressed, stamp envelope for a reply. Where do you find the editors to query? Check the current Writer’s Market at your library. Can you send queries by email? Not often. Only do so if the Writer’s Market specifically gives the okay. Otherwise, snail mail.
I’ve plucked (and slightly updated) two queries from an earlier book of mine now out of print, which you can see by clicking to http://www.sops.com/sslqueries.htm. The value of querying? If you get a positive response and you study the magazine to see what they editor wants, then you can focus on gathering precisely that on your trip. And since it only makes sense (or cents) to write when you have better than a 50% chance of a sale, that is a reality once you have a “go ahead” reply from the editor. (Newspaper simultaneous submissions, as we discussed, are the other case where the 50%+ odds are in your favor.)
A couple of final questions I often get asked in my travel writing seminars: (1) Can I send more than one query at a time to the same editor? No, don’t compete with yourself. (2) Can I send the very same query to many editors simultaneously? No, since each wants to buy first rights exclusively. But you can send a different query about a different topic at the same locale to different editors, and if all say yes, get an extra money bag.
As I said last time, if you’re in California, come to at my travel writing seminar where I explain the entire process (see http://www.sops.com/seminars.htm). If not, my Travel Writer’s Guide tells all—as does the “How to Sell 75% of Your Travel Writing” audio cassette/workbook series (see http://www.sops.com/travel.htm.) We also sell a report that consists of “25 Query and Cover Letters,” plus another report specifically geared to newspaper travel called “100 Best U.S. Travel Newspaper Markets” that includes both info about selling to newspapers and the 100 best current buying addresses that can be copied at Kinkos (or any print shop). (Sorry, I don’t mean to plug products here but how, in clear conscience, can I not tell you that this help exists?)
I’ll share some thoughts about travel photography to sell with your
magazine and newspaper articles in the next issue.
7/15: Which do you like more, a trip or a bargain? Why not both?
It’s no secret that airline fares range from very cheap to astronomically expensive, and that spending some time on the Internet or the phone can reap huge reductions (usually with some sacrifice, like leaving from the desert at dawn and spending Saturday night somewhere).
Let me share some useful info from three good articles in the last week of June (plus Jean Sherman Chatzky’s “MoneySmart” in USA Weekend on May11-13; Jean also wrote Talking Money).
Airline bookings are down so Delta, on 6/27, is leading a parade of carriers (American and Continental are said to be next) offering discounts as much as 20% off their lowest rates if the tickets are bought on line. Simply type in the airline dot com on the Internet and check not only for new trips but to see if your already-booked trip can be reticketed. Often there’s a fee for the latter (but you may still be ahead financially). Instead of paying that fee, sometimes, just for asking, the airlines will give you future flight discount coupons for the difference.
There are also fewer bookings for hotels, cruises, resorts, and package tours. Some of the best hotels are selling weekend reservations for $59 a night. Just call and ask—but call the specific hotel, not their national booking office.
You have to shop to find, though. Go “off-season” for shorter lines, fewer gawkers, and lower rates: the Caribbean, South America, or Australia now, Europe in the spring or fall. Follow the fickle dollar: huge bargains in Canada, Thailand, Germany, South Africa, and Down Under today. Look at buying packages at a discount too: airfare plus hotel, a cruise with transfers and air ...
No one website has a corner on the best prices (see the list that follows) so it pays to compare. Fare sales are released on Tuesday or Wednesday (until Friday or for a week) for a certain number of seats on the plane, so hunt midweek and buy if you hear bells ringing.
Don’t be rigid: would you drive an additional 45 miles to another airport to save $300, even if $70 of it went to parking your chariot? If you could travel Wednesday to Wednesday and pocket enough to pay the hotel, could you adjust?
It’s all a bit awkward in the beginning, becoming our own travel agents (or comparing what an agent can get for us with the rates we can arrange by ourselves), but once we’ve done it a couple of times, it’s fun.
The best part? Flying the very same flight and staying in the very same hotel all at half price, with Lisbon, Quito, or Lincoln, Nebraska thrown into the bargain!
Caveats? A few. Read the fine print or ask questions. Stick with airlines you’ve heard of (except for the commuter, end-of-line linkers). Avoid anything too good to believe (“Florida for $50 a week!!!”) And be firmly committed before you buy a ticket. Refunds on bargain rates are as rare as teeth in worms.
Some sites that you might check: Travelocity.com,