Using creative “lead-time” logic to sell articles to travel magazines

Not long ago, a fellow travel blogger emailed me with the following query about pitching story ideas to travel magazines:

There are several travel magazines that I’m interested in sending a query to, but I’m having a hard time translating what I know into something that’s “pitchable.” I feel like I’m usually on the cutting-edge as far as travel news, gadgets, tools, and websites go, but I’m not quite sure the best way to use this to my advantage.

What’s the best way to “look ahead” and pitch story ideas to travel magazines? How much lead-time should I give?

This is what I told him:

The fact that you have expertise in travel news, gadgets, tools, and websites is a huge plus. Magazines love that stuff, because they need to fill the front of the magazine with short items. That’s a great way to break in anywhere and establish editorial relationships (i.e. an editor who will assign you again and again) that will be your bread and butter in the long run.

One problem is that magazine lead-time is pretty big — often as much as six months — so you have to be predictive with your “hooks”. If you already do a lot of research regarding travel and travel issues, you should get into the habit of cross-referencing research on future media events. For instance, check or Variety to see which movies are coming up in the next 6-8 months — especially the ones with name stars. Where are they being shot? What is their subject matter? How might there be a travel angle? Look for any excuse to roll movie releases and related “pseudo-events” (a wonderful phrase coined by Daniel Boorstin in the 1960s) into a practical travel hook.

The same can be said with anniversaries of all sorts. I didn’t sell my Allen Ginsberg “Wichita Vortex Sutra” essay to The Believer entirely on its objective merit, but because it was the 50th anniversary of “Howl” (and in fact I pitched that idea fruitlessly for three years before finding a home for it). So just be creative with those tie-ins — sometimes you will think of an angle that never occurred to the editor, and that will make the editor feel smart when he pitches it to his superior.

But whatever you do, just get started pitching. It’s a trial and error process, and you’ll learn a lot by just doing it. A lot of pitches will be turned down (or, more likely, unanswered), but eventually this will begin to bear fruit. Good luck!

Posted by | Comments (1)  | March 31, 2008
Category: Vagabonding Advice

One Response to “Using creative “lead-time” logic to sell articles to travel magazines”

  1. Mike Says:

    Ahhhh… It’s the old pseudo-event ploy… Good one!