Or learning how to play the angles
If there’s one phrase that crops up time and time again in editorial guidelines for a travel section/ travel magazine it is: “The destination is not a story in itself.” Too right it isn’t.
Would you like a story on Venice?
Say you’ve been to Venice, had a wonderful time, and written what you think is a brilliant piece about your experiences. It may be a superb piece of writing, but the likelihood is that this isn’t enough to sell it.
Let’s face it, the editors you try and pitch it to have probably heard “Would you like a story on Venice?” a hundred times before. And you’ve not given them a good reason to pick yours over anyone else’s.
Venice story angles
What you need is an angle – a focus on an aspect of Venice that is interesting, and preferably hasn’t been covered very much. ‘Venice’ isn’t a story, but the campaign to save Venice from sinking is. So is Venice’s newest hotels. So is a day in the life of a gondolier.
Then there’s Venice on a budget, the military history of Venice, the population exodus, the rejuvenation of the Lido, Venice’s best coffee, places to avoid in Venice etc. For the record, when I went for four days in February 2007, I got four full stories out it, and numerous snippets that I used at a later date.
One visit: four stories
One was a general Best Of Venice guide piece (which I had been commissioned for in advance – one of the rare occasions where the destination WAS the story ; they just needed a guide to Venice). The others I sold later – one was on exploring Venice in the dead of night, one on the arty islands of the Venice lagoon and the third on how nearby Treviso is trying to fight its way out of Venice’s shadow.
Looking back, I could have easily got a couple of other stories, but the visit was at the end of a long trip and I was exhausted. My brain and body just said “no more” for at least half a day.
New approaches to old favourites
Exactly the same principle applies for other destinations – look for the angles. The more novel and intriguing the angle, the better chance it has of selling. Editors are crying out for different approaches to old favourite destinations. Give them what they want, and you’ll start making some money very quickly.