Lucas T. Jahn
How To Get Your Travel Story Published In A Travel Magazine
Updated: Jun 29, 2020
Have you ever dreamt of seeing your story and pictures printed in a magazine but your work has not been noticed yet? Or have you just come back from an epic adventure and crave to share your story with the world? Then this guide of how to pitch to a travel magazine is for you!
What is your Story about?
First, you need to figure out what your story is all about? Is it a destination story - you may for example have climbed Cerro Chirripó, Costa Rica’s highest mountain. Or is it a more philosophical story - you may have learned something about yourself, while on a seven-day retreat in an Indian ashram. Or do you want to write a city guide - helping people to make the most of their stay in a certain city?
Is your Story worth telling?
Then ask yourself: is your story is worth telling? What sets it apart from other travelers' stories? This is the point at which you should be honest with yourself. If you went backpacking through Thailand and had a great time at Khaosan Road or relaxing on the beaches of Phuket it surely was a great trip for you, but would somebody else be interested in that? If, however, you went backpacking through Thailand and stayed for 2 months in a Hmong mountain tribe village harvesting coffee in manual labor, that is definitely a story worth telling.
What makes a good story?
There is no generally applicable answer to this question, but a good story usually needs one or more of the following elements: surprise, personalization, negativity, timeliness, conflict, or familiarity. These news values help to spark the interest of both editors and readers and increase your chance of publication. What does that mean for you? Think about what is unusual about your story. What sets it apart from other people's travel stories? Have you heard countless other people tell a similar story before or do people flock around you at every dinner party? If the latter applies, you've got yourself a good story.
Do your research.
Next, you need to learn which magazines and websites are out there. Do a thorough sweep of the media landscape of your home country to learn more about the variety of magazines that are published around travel topics. Likely, there will be a number of magazines focusing on different angles. Maybe there is a 4x4 magazine, a luxury holiday magazine, a hiking magazine, and so on. Learn as much as you can about each of these and add them to a list of prospects.
How to Research?
Initially, you can use Google to get an idea. For example, you could google ‚travel magazine‘ or ‚hiking magazine‘ and see what pops up. Additionally, you can use an online shop for magazines to learn more about the variety of publications out there. Lastly, if you want to go into the field, you can visit a store and browse the magazines on sale. Make sure to write down all their names, URLs, and main topics. I like to use an excel sheet to easily keep track.
(Ps.: These are all fake names and emails)
Check out local magazines.
If you are from a non-native English speaking country, focus on magazines written in your mother tongue first. For example, there are many magazines written in German, French, or Italien. The advantage? There is much less competition. The same applies to travel websites, of course.
Select the most suitable ones.
Once you figured out which kinds of magazines are on the market, you need to make a selection. A 4x4 magazine will not be interested in your hiking story, and a luxury holiday destination magazine will not be relevant for your camping trip. Select only the ones where you see a good fit for your story. Highlight them in your document, or move them to the top for an easier overview. Once you figured out which two to three magazines are the most relevant, it is time to check if they accept contributions.
Do they accept guest authors?
Some magazines pride themselves on working only with professional journalists and photographers (think National Geographic). Is it likely you‘ll get your story placed in one of these when you just start out? No, probably not. Start small and write your way up. Before you take the time to write to an editor to propose your story, make sure the magazine or website accepts guest author submissions. Often, you can find information about that directly on the website (check the footer for ‚Contributions‘) or you can flick through the pages of the magazine to see if the authors frequently change. Once you know they do accept guest posts, you can continue with the next step.
Check the past stories.
Before you pitch your story, make sure to have a thorough look through the older editions of the selected magazine. This will help you in determining if the type of story you are trying to pitch is indeed a fit or if they just reported on the same topic recently. If you are trying to propose a story about a roadtrip through the Canadian Rockies, but the magazine just ran a similar story two months ago, it is very unlikely they will pick up the topic anytime soon again. Make sure your travel story has an interesting angle, that was not covered recently. Only if that is the case, should you proceed to pitch to that magazine
Find the contact details.
Sometimes, finding contact details is hard and at other times it can be incredibly easy. If you pitch to a magazine check for their legal notice page. Often they list the contact details of the editors and writers there. Additionally, you can check out the 'about us' sections on the website, or the contact page. I always try to find an email address and not submit through a contact form, as you can not link to your website or social media through a contact form. Try to find the personal email address of the person in charge of the travel stories you are trying to pitch. Don‘t necessarily go for the chief editor, their inbox is usually flooded by emails. You can also write to the entire editorial team if they provide you with an email@example.com email.
Prepare your photos.
The chances of your story getting published will be a lot higher if you also take high-quality photos. Don‘t expect your smartphone snapshots to get published (although, this won‘t be true for much longer), but provide some great images that support the story you would like to tell. Your photos need to support your story and help to visually guide the viewer. If you write about the Australien outback but only have pictures from Sydney, that won‘t be very helpful. Also, make sure to reduce your selection to the best shots. No editor has the time to click through 150 images. They want to see 10-20 pictures to get a feel for your story.
Write a pitch note.
Now, we are getting closer. You have your story, you selected a suitable travel magazine, you know it hasn‘t covered a similar story recently and you found the contact details. Now it is time to write a pitch note. A pitch note is your way of sparking the interest of the editor of a magazine. Ideally, it immediately captures their imagination and has them asking for more. You may think it should, therefore, be lengthy and detailed, but that is the opposite of what you want to do.
Keep it short!
A pitch note needs to be concise and to the point. Personally, I limit myself to 150 words. The reason? Nobody wants to read an email essay. Just imagine receiving an incredibly lengthy email from somebody you don‘t know. It is likely most people will close your email or even delete it, which means your story will never get published. Limiting yourself, breaking the content in different paragraphs, and linking to additional researches will allow the editor to skim what you wrote and click the links at their leisure.
A good pitch note should look somewhat like this:
Travel Story: 35000km Down Under - 4x4 Roadtrip across Australia
I saw that you feature travel stories from guest authors in NAME travel magazine and on your website.
I would like to propose a feature story with 2000-4000 words about the topic 35000km Down Under - 4x4 Roadtrip across Australia.
The story will be about how my girlfriend and I traveled around Australia for one year in a 4x4 vehicle, swam with whale sharks, dealt with a fuel leak on the remote outback Gibb River Road, climbed a 65m high fire lookout tree, and how I proposed to her after we hiked the 8-day Overland Track in Tasmania. You can find a selection of pictures here.
Several of my stories have appeared in travel magazines. You can find a selection on our website.
I am looking forward to hearing from you.
Thanks and all the best
Things to note
I show familiarity with their magazine by knowing they accept guest posts
I give a clear topic
I provide a rough story outline
I share a selection of photos hosted on Google Drive
I send them to my website to showcase my past work
Personalize your pitch.
Always keep in mind that you are writing to another human, so if you can, address them by their name. Aside from that, make sure that you show familiarity with their magazine and don‘t just pitch to a large mailing list of random contacts. In the example above, I clearly showed knowledge of how many words they expect for their stories and I read their contributor guidelines which asked for an outline of the story when pitching. Make sure to read all the available information before hitting send. Another good tactic is to reference the fact that the magazine has never run a story like yours before.
Hit the send button.
Once you have done your research and wrote your pitch it is time to send it out. However, do not expect to receive an answer within an hour. Often, editors and journalists are busy and do not have the time to reply immediately.
If you haven‘t heard back from the magazine within one week of sending your email, I suggest to follow up once. A follow-up email should be short and sent in the same thread as the original pitch email. This will allow the editor to read the original email again. A follow-up is always a good idea as sometimes the recipient might simply have missed your initial email among the many other emails received that day. A follow-up brings you back into memory and helps to spark action. I find that journalists regularly answer quickly after a follow-up email.
A follow-up email could look like this:
I would like to follow up on the above to see if you are interested in such a story?
Thanks and all the best
Not successful? Try again later!
Should your pitch elicit no reply, even after following up, it is likely that the magazine is not interested in your story for now. Instead of harassing them with more emails, I suggest looking at another magazine on your list. Make sure to do the same diligent research again as you did for the first one and personalize your pitch to the new requirements.
If your story is worth telling, your photos are great and you followed the above steps your chances of success are high! It might not work on the first try, but just like photography or writing, pitching to magazines requires patience and learning. Don't give up too quickly, but if you realize your emails aren't getting any responses, revisit your pitch, and see what you can improve. But if you've taken the time to read until here, there is little between you and success.
Any questions? Let me know in the comments or drop me an email!