I just returned a few days ago from the Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference and was delighted to see the seats full of writers who are already making freelance travel writing their full-time occupation or are on their way there.
But even more than hearing their stories of taking the leap, quitting their previous professions, and making travel writing work for them, I loved seeing them interact with editors.
It is so easy to have an “us vs. them” mentality about editors as a freelance writer.
If you’ve never been an editor, you might not have much more than abject conjecture of what they do and, most importantly, why they aren’t responding to your email.
Nothing puts a writer in an us-vs.-them mood about an editor faster than not getting a response to a put the writer thought was a perfect fit.
That’s why I found it so heartening to see writers get to hear editors get up on the podium and admit things like editors are now being asked to do so many different jobs that it’s a wonder they aren’t also cleaning the floors (at a *major* magazine) and that’s why they just don’t have time to respond to every pitch, or that they really, really need pitches for X, Y, and Z sections of their magazines but all anyone ever pitches are features, and they literally only assign eight to 12 of those a year.
Editors are feeling the strain even more than writers these days as they have more masters to please: their writers, their readers, and their publishers.
But it’s hard to know what frustrations they have–and how you can become their go-to writer by easing those particular pains–if you only ever talk to other writers.
If you want to write for magazines but don’t understand the market you are selling to, there are two ways to learn:
- Slowly over time through hearsay and/or painful trial and error.
- Straight from the fire hose.
So if you don’t already have a regular practice of it, and especially if you’ve never done it before, go where the editors are. If you can’t meet them in person, read their publications and their Tweets to get in their head.
Just get to know them as people with goals, needs, and aspirations. Then you’ll never wonder what to pitch again.
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