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Travel Writing: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

A Q&A with Tim Leffel, author of Travel Writing 2.0: Earning Money From Your Travels in the New Media Landscape

By Marcela Landres
Published on LatinoLA: July 6, 2012


Travel Writing: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly


Writers who are tempted to try their hand at travel writing must first read Travel Writing 2.0: Earning Money From Your Travels in the New Media Landscape by Tim Leffel. Whether you seek to publish magazine articles, guidebooks, or blogs, Leffel offers timely, no-nonsense advice based on his own career as an award-winning travel writer. In addition, he shares hard-earned wisdom from fifty-two other working travel writers plus select editors who hire freelancers or book authors. To learn more, read this month's Q&A with Leffel.

Award-winning travel writer Tim Leffel is author of The World's Cheapest Destinations, Travel Writing 2.0, and Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune: The Contrarian Traveler's Guide to Getting More for Less. He is also co-author of Traveler's Tool Kit: Mexico and Central America and is editor of the narrative web publication Perceptive Travel, http://perceptivetravel.com/. He splits his time between homes in Florida and Mexico. For more information, visit http://travel.booklocker.com/ and http://travelwriting2.com/.

Q: How did you get started as a travel writer?

A: I used to do a good bit of corporate writing working for RCA Records, so when my now-wife and I started off on a year-long trip around the world, I starting pitching some articles and got some things published. I also started reviewing hotels for a trade publication and I'm still doing that a fair bit almost two decades on. It was part-time for a long time, but about five years ago I went all-in and I don't do anything else on the side anymore.

Q: If you knew then what you know now, what would you have done differently?

A: Before the Internet, I wouldn't have done much differently except pitching more small stories about my own region/city. After the Internet came along, I should have moved a bit faster to expand beyond my first blog. All in all, I read a lot and got a lot of good advice along the way, so no major blunders thankfully.

Q: What three mistakes should newbie travel writers avoid?

A: Trying to do things in the wrong order: like pitching Travel & Leisure before they've had anything published elsewhere. Not reading enough to know what's good (especially not enough books), not writing often enough, not keeping a journal while traveling. Most importantly, though, they need to find a unique niche or point of view that's fresh. Become an expert at that instead of being lost in a sea of generalists.

Q: Alternatively, what are three signs of a top-notch travel writer?

A: Highly observant, very open-minded, very curious. If those things are in place, they're usually a pretty good writer with enough practice. Professionalism matters more than anything to editors, though. Most would prefer an average writer who follows instructions well and submits good copy on time over one who's brilliant but always late or sloppy.

Q: Who is your agent and how did you meet him/her? If you don't have an agent, how did you secure publication of your books The World's Cheapest Destinations, Traveler's Tool Kit: Mexico and Central America, Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune, and Travel Writing 2.0?

A: I've only used an agent for two things: getting Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune published and getting Italian rights sold for one of the other books. The first could have been accomplished without one if I'd gone direct, so an agent really only helps if you've got something that will pull in a huge advance. Not many travel books meet that criterion. It's far more profitable to go print on demand. Bookstores don't matter much anymore.

Q: Aside from your uber-sensible book, Travel Writing 2.0, what resources would you recommend to folks who want to learn more about travel writing?

A: The TravelWriting2.0 blog and monthly newsletter, also Travel Writers Exchange, MediaKitty.com, and the Wooden Horse Database. if you're pitching print editors. Go to conferences for travel writers or bloggers. I've gotten far more career boosts from networking in person than anything else I've done. After you've got the basics down, it's all tweaks and new opportunities. The latter come from who you know as often as not.

Q: Do you have upcoming projects that my readers should have on their radar?

A: I just started a new site called Hotel-Scoop.com that features reviews of lodging around the world. There are ten professional writers besides me. Most of us worked for a site that got bought by Groupon and shut down their blogs. I saw an opportunity open up to fill the gap and pounced on it. That's been part of my success I guess: seeing a hole in the marketplace and filling it.

Excerpted from Latinidad® © 2003 by Marcela Landres

About Marcela Landres:
Marcela Landres is the author of the e-book How Editors Think. She is an Editorial Consultant who specializes in helping Latinos get published and was formerly an editor at Simon & Schuster.
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