This is Part Two in a series of four articles on Travel Writing and Photography by Blair Howard. Blair is a travel photographer who has written and photographed dozens of books and hundreds of travel articles.
The Easiest Travel Articles to Re-sell
and How to Take the Pictures That Make it Work.
You know, I am basically a lazy person – I think we all are to some extent – and it occurred to me some years back, several years after I’d begun writing travel articles, that rather than writing 10 articles and selling them only once, it would be much better to write a single article and sell it 10 times. That way, if I could write 2 really good articles each month, I could make a decent living doing what I love best: photography, writing and traveling.
The result would be the same: about 250 sales each year, but only 10% of the work. Think of the time I save, and what I’m able to do with time. And that, my friends, is exactly how I’ve lived my life for the past 20 or so years – neat, huh?
Now, last week I mentioned a specialty of mine: there’s one type of travel article in particular that’s very easy to write. It’s one any photographer can manage; it’s one that any travel writer worth the title can easily write; it’s one that will sell over and over again; and it’s an article that editors love and will buy almost without question – you can build a career around this single, simple article – I have. It’s the Photo Essay (or Round-up) Article.
I hit on this type of writing almost by accident.
I was on the phone with the editor at Tours & Resorts Magazine, pitching him an article about Lookout Mountain National Civil War Battlefield Park. He thought for a moment, and then said: “Not a bad idea, but it’s a bit too narrow in focus for us.”
Now then, to most folks that would be a rejection. But I had learned how to listen and I heard something entirely different: He didn’t say he wouldn’t buy from me, right? What I heard was this: “Broaden the focus and I will buy it.”
So, I came straight back at him with: “Okay, suppose I put together a round-up article of say, a half-dozen battlefields, would that work for you? Well, he liked the idea and I got the go-ahead. The result was an article called “Touring Southern Battlefields.” That article has already sold 16 times AND IT’S STILL SELLING.
But it wasn’t quite that easy. I had photos for only one battlefield.
Now, I know you’ve already heard many times that if you can include photographs with your travel articles, you will often have a better chance of selling them. This is because you are supplying what most editors are looking for these days: a complete package. They will be far more receptive to a text and photo package than they will just text. They too are lazy folks and will always take an article complete with photos rather one without, which means they have to go find the photos themselves; makes sense, right?
Most travel writers write the article first, then go find the photos. I never do that. I get an idea, bounce it off one or two editors then, if I find some interest, I go shoot the photos and then write the text to fit the photographs.
What I mean is this: I start with the photos, and then I figure out what the article is. The Tours & Resorts piece was one such occasion. I had to shoot first and write later.
This is how I do it: I visit a number of related locations, shoot some photographs, and then tie them all together with short pieces of descriptive text. Those pieces of text can be as short or as long as you care to make them.
Never again will you be intimidated by a blank page. If you’re not sure where to start or how to put your story together, you can simply lay out your photos and let them tell the story for you. It’s a fantastic way to write an article. Use the photographs as the focus point, then fill in the gaps. The result: an article you can sell again and again.
You could place your photos in chronological order, thus forming a time-line. That’s what I did for the battlefields piece — Shiloh being the earliest, Kennesaw Mountain in Georgia being the final battle in the series.
But you can place them in any order that makes the piece flow smoothly from beginning to end. Suppose your article was about the 5 best beaches on the Panhandle of Florida. Your best bet would be to lay them out geographically along US98 say from west to east and then describe them in that order.
Ideas for “round-up” articles are easy to come by. And editors love them. Look at the covers on any newsstand: the covers are laden with round-ups – 7 ways to do this, 5 ways to do that, 6 tips for…. Well, you get the idea, and this is especially true for travel articles.
I wrote one entitled “Caves of The Tennessee Valley.” It sold to several major newspapers, as well as to a major magazine. I did another called “Museum Hopping In London” and sold that multiple times as well. I think I may already have mentioned this, but never mind, it can’t hurt to emphasize a point:
On a single 10-day trip to England some years ago, I had an assignment from British Heritage Magazine to write an article, with photos, about my old home town. While I was there I gathered material for five more articles, all of them round-up/photo essay articles. Believe it or not, I am still selling those very same articles. To date, they have sold collectively more than 50 times for an income in excess of $12,600. This is the key to making a great living as a travel writer/photographer.
You can write a “round-up” about anything — state parks, state landmarks, national cemeteries, grand hotels, expansive resorts, restaurants, camping sites, fishing spots, and on and on.
I’m living proof that you can make a good living selling and reselling this type of article: the “round-up/photo essay.” Articles and photos packaged together.
If you would like to learn more about how to photograph/write your own round-up article, and submit it to an editor for publication purposes, then I would love to teach you. Check out this link http://www.blairhoward.com/ModShop/ShowProduct/23742/ for information on the on-line photo-essay course I have put together. Why not sign up today? Getting published is not as hard as it may appear, if you know the tricks of the trade!
What Type of Photos are Editors Looking For:
Now, since I’m suggesting you go to your editors with a complete package – text and photos – I’d like to give you some ideas about how, exactly, to take the sort of photos editors like to receive. But first, here are a couple of things you need to understand:
Even though your photographs should be technically good – they should be properly focused, well-composed, and correctly exposed — they don’t have to be spectacular. Obviously you will do better if they are, but it’s not critical.
You don’t need an expensive camera to shoot your photos. However, you do need a camera that’s capable of producing high resolution images.
The photographs you will be shooting are illustrations, not art. Even so, you must be creative and always try to do something out of the ordinary.
Improve Your Photos
Here’s a practical tip to help you shoot saleable images consistently and to order. Learn to see creatively. Find a new angle. Climb a tree, stand on a wall, get down on your knees, lie down on your stomach, walk around and try to find new and interesting view points.
(c) Blair Howard