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Break Into A New Market
by Susan Miles

One of the joys of writing is the sheer variety of topics and interests you can explore through your articles and essays. For most new writers, we start writing about a particular field that we have an interest or some expertise in. For me, this field was running. I was by no means an "expert" but enjoyed being an enthusiastic participant and then writing about my experiences and observations to share with others. My clip file therefore was full of articles on this topic. The only problem with this is 1. There are only so many story ideas on running I can come up with and 2. There are only a limited number of running publications in the world that I can pitch these articles to!

In order to keep generating sales and stop myself from becoming bored with writing I was going to have to expand my repertoire and flesh out my clip file with some new topics. But getting into a new market was almost as difficult and as frustrating as getting published in the first place. I needed to have 3 or 4 clips appropriate to my new market in order to achieve a sale, but I needed to make a sale in order to accumulate the necessary clips!

As with my foray into writing on running, I knew I should follow my heart and write on a topic/interest I was passionate about. My other great interest is travel. I love to explore new places and learn about new customs and cultures. This seemed like the logical genre to tackle next as I already had a truckload of memory's and experiences to draw upon without even having to pull out my passport. But as anyone who has ever put pen to paper dreams of being a "travel writer" I knew I was going to have to be inventive in my approach in order to break into this tough and competitive market.

I decided to stick with my strengths and write again about running, but this time with a travel element incorporated into the article. I wrote a "How to" piece on maintaining a training routine while on the road for a running magazine in New York. The piece was studded with travel antidotes from my own experiences and those of runners that I had interviewed for the article. By writing this "cross-over" piece, I was able to sell the article to the market I had written for a number of times before but gain that first elusive "travel clip". The other area I had been able to sell a few pieces in, has been the genre of the personal essay. So my next piece was a personal account of the women I had met on my travels and the travel hints and tips they had taught me. By taking this approach I had a personal essay/travel how to article that I then sold to a women's magazine.

Without too much effort I now had two "travel clips" to present to prospective editors to demonstrate my work. But I wanted a third clip and preferably a destination piece for a travel publication. I was unable to get a commission from any of the traditional travel magazines. This was not surprising as I was an unknown to these editors and my clip file was not substantial enough to warrant their attention. I was going to have to come in through the "back door" so to speak of the travel writing industry.

I therefore looked to the growing market of travel websites and ezines. A new site advertised in a small ad in a Writers magazine I subscribe to catch my eye. I submitted a package of five proposals for the editor to choose from on a variety of destinations from a recent vacation, confirming the availability of photos to accompany each article proposed.

The one that they choose to buy had an unusual angle to the story. The town I was showcasing was not only an ideal holiday destination, but has been a popular backdrop for movies and television shows over the years. I was able to tie in particular features of the town with the movies/TV that the landmark had appeared in.

Once this article appeared, I decided to try and resell it to other publications. One editor's response was a no to the article, but a request for a piece on my current location. I had fortunately included sufficient detail in my biography in my submission to grab his attention as to the potential for another article. I had recently relocated overseas and was enjoying the highs and lows of being a foreign resident in a new country.

This inspired me to seek out specialist travel magazines geared towards ex-pats like myself. I achieved not a full sale, but a sidebar sale to accompany an already planned article on the same topic. The reason I was able to sale the sidebar information was that my proposal included unique and specific detail that was not mentioned in the main article.

Since these early successes I have been able to sell further travel articles to the publishers who gave me my first break and slowly but surely build a travel article clip file that is now as thick and as varied as my running article clip file.

So what have I learnt from this experience of breaking into the travel writing market?

  1. Write "cross-over" pieces combining your established market with your sought after market. In my case running & travel, then personal essays & travel.
  2. Use ezines and websites to build your clip file in your new market.
  3. Propose multiple article ideas when pitching to a new market. This will teach you the type of piece that most appeals in this field.
  4. Include a unique angle to your story or provide specific interesting facts in your proposal to grab the editors attention and demonstrate your knowledge on the subject.
  5. Build your reputation by selling sidebar details to accompany other articles.
  6. Remember your backyard is someone else's exotic travel location. You can either pitch an idea on your local area or at least include sufficient details in your biography to make your editor aware of the destinations you can write about.

I would like to try writing for the corporate/business environment next, drawing on my experiences as a Finance/IT Manager. For this and future markets, I will apply the same strategies as I did when I wanted to break into travel writing. My "cross-over" piece for this new market is already at the submission stage, but this time I have pitched a piece combining travel and career changes. Writing is a stepping stone process. The secret is to find the right sequence of stepping stones to go from an enthusiastic amateur with a good idea to a working writer. I hope my suggestions have provided you with some useful first stones!

Recommended websites for prospective travel writers:

Writingfordollars.com - Use their searchable guidelines database to access publications that accept travel articles.

Travelwriters.com - This site offers a lot of useful information for the would be travel writer as well as a database of over 600 publications that accept travel articles. The database can be purchased online for $39-00 US.

Writersweekly.com - In this sites weekly market listing is often included job ads and guidelines specifically for travel articles.

© Copyright 2002, Susan Miles

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