It has been almost four months since I’ve joined Culture Trip as Travel Editor. Since then, I have written often about the subtle differences in running a travel section of a website vs. playing editor of my own blog.
I can now speak with some confidence to what it takes to get published on a website. What we Travel Editors look for, what we can’t stand in pitches and how to get us to respond to your story ideas and (better yet) pay you for it. Here’s how to pitch a Travel Editor.
1. Read the website!
Okay, so when I was freelance I would be quite guilty of pitching Editors without frequently reading their website. I’m not saying look at one article and call it day; I’m saying spend at least an hour reading through a few articles on the website to get an idea of what stories they publish. Now here’s why it’s important: many websites (Culture Trip included) run different types of stories. For my section, we run top 10 listicles, Buzzfeed-like visual stories and long form journalism pieces that are well researched. If you were to just read one of those stories, you might make the mistake of thinking that’s all we publish, which could affect how your pitch your story. Bottom line: know the publication you’re pitching. (TIP: Some publications have “Editor’s Picks” sections: this is a good place to start when researching what a website publishes.)
2. Keep your pitch short and sweet.
Now that I have crossed over to the realm of editing, I can confirm that when an Editor doesn’t respond to your pitch it’s not because we’re jerks (at least not all of us are); rather, we get A LOT of emails. Let’s be honest here: If I get a pitch that is the size of a novel, I’m immediately turned off. If you have a stellar story idea, then try to summarize it in a punchy, kick ass paragraph that will knock the Editor’s socks off. If you can help it (because some story ideas truly do need more explanation than one paragraph) don’t let your email run too long.
3. Just because you’re “on location” does not make your story unique.
I’ll keep this one short and sweet. If you are pitching an Editor from – let’s say – India, you may think your story is the hottest shi*t to walk across that Editor’s inbox since you’re “on location.” I have thought this too. When I was traveling across Indonesia for a month, I literally could not fathom how publications weren’t beating down my door with story requests. Now, I’m an Editor and I finally get it. We have writers – so many writers. I have writers stationed in 40 cities around the world, so when I receive a “Hey, I’m in Bali – let’s boogie” sort of pitch; it’s not impressive enough.
4. Come up with an unforgettable story angle.
This brings me to this very important point. What is impressive is when someone sends me a pitch with a thoughtful angle that I haven’t come across before. For example: You have just come from Iraq and want to write about the cafes & bars there. To you, this might seem like a once-in-a-lifetime story (Hey! they have BARS in Iraq!) but to me, it’s a dime-a-dozen. Now say you come to me with a story about something specific like what it’s like to be a comedian in Iraq. Now, you’re talking! See what I did there? The story is unique, interesting, specific and not a “top 10 bars” list.
5. Finally…have patience!
It’s easy to throw in the towel when your pitch gets rejected. It’s easy to want to give up and just stick to your own blog rather than try and get published elsewhere – I get it, I have been there and (admittedely) have done that. Don’t do it! Have patience with your pitching, with your writing, and – above all – yourself.
and now…the GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY…
Travel Editors can be allusive characters to get a hold of, so here I offer the opportunity to my readers to pitch me directly at Culture Trip. I am looking for cool feature story ideas (1500 words max) that cover an interesting angle anywhere in the world. Stories pay $100 to $200 per story (depending on length, quality, photography, etc.)