It breaks my heart when I see writers go on a trip, come home, spend months waiting to hear about one story idea pitched to one magazine (and waiting for far too long to follow up with that editor) and then say with a sigh:
“I went on this great trip, saw this festival that only happens once every seven years, and got great photos. I know it’s a great story, but I just can’t get anyone to publish it.
I hear this primarily from brand new writers, who are trying to do travel writing on the side of a full-time job or now that they are retired or that the kids are out of the house, but also I hear this incredibly often from the folks who are calling themselves travel writers but who are not being paid enough money or often enough to truly call this a profession rather than a hobby.
Are You Really Giving Your Story a Chance to Get Published?
The very first question I ask when I hear these stories is: how many places have you pitched this idea to?
The answer is typically one.
If you have pitched one idea from an entire trip to just one magazine or website, the problem is not that no one is interested in your story. It might not even be that your story is bad. You are simply not giving your story a chance to succeed.
Editors are busy. They sometimes are keeping your story on file, but just can’t use it right now. Sometimes they just didn’t see (or get) your email. And other times, you just didn’t do your homework, and the editor was annoyed and deleted your email without sending you a rejection.
Lots of things may have happened to that one pitch.
But when you break your trip into dozens of article ideas, each with their own slant and audience, then it’s okay if lots of things happen to one pitch. You have so many pitches going from that trip that some can be ignored, some can be deleted, some can be squirreled away for the winter, and some will get responses.
Why (Perhaps) No One Wants Your Story
But sometimes, even that’s not enough. You’ve sent your pitch quite a few times and have still not had a positive response.
If you’ve written an essay, I understand. On some level. The essay is already written, so you can’t reslant it as easily as an article pitch. But you can reslant it.
And if you’ve sent the same essay to every single place you can find that should publish something like that (a.k.a. you have tried at least 25-30 outlets), then that means it’s time to take the time and reslant your essay just as you would reslant a pitch.
Or perhaps you need to blow up the whole thing. Ask yourself these five questions whether you have an essay that’s not finding a home or simply an article idea from a trip that isn’t getting accepted even in differently slanted outlets:
- do I have a central idea? Or a list of things or experiences that don’t unify around a compelling premise?
- am I including things that aren’t relevant to that central idea?
- do I know what the outlets I’m pitching are about? Do they even publish stories like this?
- is this idea a real idea, but just too general to be of interest to anyone? Is it missing a time peg and a narrowing to fit the audience I’m pitching?
- is my article (or proposed article) just too long for the places I’m pitching (or magazines and websites in general)?
Take fifteen minutes today to go back through some of your pitches that haven’t panned out and see if they’re suffering from one of these five issues.
Maybe that trip doesn’t need to go unpublished after all.
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