Recreation, Tours, Country and city

Effective habits of great travel writers

Posted by: 2013-09-13

When I was writing the first edition of Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Writing, we decided to incorporate interviews with a wide range of travel writers, editors and agents into the book, thinking that readers would profit from hearing a spectrum of experiences and opinions.

We’ve continued this feature in succeeding editions; the new (third) edition features 26 interviews with such luminaries as Keith Bellows of National Geographic Traveler, Simon Calder of the Independent, Catharine Hamm of the Los Angeles Times, and Jim Benning of WorldHum. One of the lessons I gleaned from interviewing authors is that certain habits seem to help ensure their success. Here are three of these common habits.

Choose a subject niche and build a digital platform for it

Guidebook writer Paul Clammer attributes his first job with Lonely Planet to just this strategy: 'I’d travelled in Taliban-era Afghanistan and written a website about it. After their ouster I added more travel information, so it evolved into an online guide. In 2003 Lonely Planet was looking to send an author to Afghanistan for the first time since the 1970s, had seen my site, and got in touch.' Clammer underscores the importance of focusing on a particular subject area: 'Develop an area of expertise, so you can really sell your skill set to editors. My foot in the door was Afghanistan, but it could equally be something like trekking or regional food. You need something on your résumé to help you stand out against the competition.' Freelance writer Danny Palmerlee agrees: 'Start a blog, and make it specific about a country or a city or a cuisine and you’ll build credibility. It shows that you have a passion and a knowledge about something, and editors like to see that when screening potential authors.' Wanderlust and Big Issue contributor George Dunford concurs that the digital platform is a must: 'Starting with a blog is the best idea. You won’t make a fortune out of a blog but you’ll get feedback from your audience and you’ll get practise writing. Plus you never know who will read your blog.'