It seems too good to be true—travel the world and get paid to do it. You love writing, you love travel, why not try to marry the two and self-publish a travel book? Could it really be that easy? Well…
Your bags are packed, your flights are confirmed, and you’ve downloaded the travel apps. Now, let’s talk about the writing.
First, get real (and don’t quit that day job just yet). You should write travel stories because you enjoy it, plain and simple. Travel is generally considered to be one of the most competitive but lowest-paying writing genres, and only a tiny percentage of authors can do it full-time.
The amount that publications will pay for a travel story vary widely, but generally start at under $100 (up to a few hundred dollars) for newspapers and regional magazines, up to thousands of dollars for national and top-tier magazines (Travel & Leisure, for example). The top publications, of course, can pick from the best talent.
Find your unique angle. Cairo, Tokyo or Bermuda are not your subject, they’re only the setting for your subject. The more you can define your niche, the better; that’s how you make yourself stand out, and establish yourself as an authority in your specialty.
Are you visiting Thailand? Travel publisher Lonely Planet’s Thailand titles alone could fill a small bookshelf. But what about focusing on cooking schools in Thailand? Or, with the increasing popularity of mixed martial arts, an article about Muay Thai gyms in Bangkok?
Pay your dues. Read a lot of travel stories, and write about travel as much as possible. Start a blog, try to contribute to other peoples’ sites or forum, and check out what’s selling in travel writing (Amazon.com’s Travel section is a good place to start).
Many popular travel writers also maintain their own blogs, and Amazon’s “Look Inside” option usually lets you sample a book’s introduction or first chapter. Along with your local library, these are both great ways to sample a lot of writers’ work without breaking your budget.
Leave the laptop at home. Not only is “pack light” one of the golden rules of modern travel, it’s almost a sub-genre of travel writing in itself. The added weight of a laptop is a burden you just don’t need.
In most countries, internet cafes are readily available at prices that range from reasonable to dirt-cheap. In addition, many hotels have a “business center” that typically includes internet-connected computers. You can save your writing in cloud storage, or simply type it into an email and send it to yourself. Your backpack (and shoulders) will thank you!