Want to become a travel writer? A Wanderlust editor answers your questions

Did you catch our live twitter Q&A with Wanderlust editor Phoebe Smith today? Don't worry if you missed it – we've rounded up all the answers here!

4 mins

Need more advice – or want to quiz Phoebe in person? She'll be revealing all her tips for making it in the travel writing industry this weekend, at the Buxton Adventure Festival. This Q&A is just the tip of the iceberg – she'll be covering pitching, research, style, money – and more – in her 'How to become a travel writer' seminar, just £20..

Q1: Should travel writers be Photoshop pros too? @sophontrack

Absolutely not - even good photographers don't need to be! Writing and photography are two very different arts - just because you're good at one I don't expect you to be good at the other! If you can take good photos, great, but if not don't let it stop you writing.

Q2: Tips for balancing personal feelings/experience with focus on practical destination info or facts? @GottaKeepMovin

It really depends on the kind of article you are writing. If it's a 'how to' piece then obviously it's all about the facts. For first person inspirational articles you need to bring yourself into it, but don't make it too personal. See yourself as the 'way in' for the reader; they need to relate to you but don't let it stop them getting a sense of people and place.

Q3: I am about to publish my first travel book. Who would you recommend I pitch to? If I self-publish is Lulu best? @wilburthewotsit

Look to the smaller, independent publishers - especially for your first one. The lovely guys at Summersdale look at manuscripts. I've not used Lulu or know anyone who has. Amazon's own platform has come recommended as has Smashwords and BookBaby.

Q4: I've travelled a lot over recent years and have a few notes with photos... Any tips for writing about past trips? @davmatter

The main thing is it's got to be accurate because as soon as you make factual errors you lose trust from readers and editors. There's nothing wrong with writing about past trips, but I'd argue that anything more than 1-2 years is too old. If you do it make sure you go back and verify any facts first. Of course, if you're doing a memoir piece/travel narrative this is not an issue. Remember honesty is the best policy, if it's from an older trip - flag it to your readers.

The key thing is that a travel writer is a writer who travels, not a traveller who writes

Q5: What's the best way to get into it? And can you do it on the side if you struggle to do it as a job? @Maaiysa

There's no set way in - I studied journalism at university, started on a city newspaper and worked my way into it. Others plunged straight in with no training at all. The key thing is that a travel writer is a writer who travels, not a traveller who writes, so good writing has to come first. If you are good then you've got to work at getting good ideas for articles and pitch them to the right magazines/newspapers. It takes time, you need to be patient and persevere without being pushy- that and a dash of luck. Yes of course you can do another job on the side, many do – at Wanderlust,  we even have a lawyer who writes for us! Other freelancers simply do other kinds of writing as another income. Lots of options - good writers are usually very busy!

Q6: Techniques for trying to understand or dig into a place? I have a matter of days sometimes & it's tricky! @GottaKeepMovin

Talk to local people as much as you can - they hold the key to getting the secrets of a place. Also if time is short I always get a good guide - their wisdom on everything from history to where to go, where not to bother with, who to talk to etc is invaluable. Plus they give you rich quotes for your piece.

Q7: What are the story pitches that nail it, that you want to commission the minute you read it? @Solonaut

It really does depend! People who stick to our submission guidelines always get a look in. But bear in mind that I often get over 100 submission emails a day - your idea has to be bang on in terms of our readers, with a clear angle. It also needs to be bang on in terms of location, activity, and be attainable and desirable for my readers to fit into their annual leave. So please no charity expeditions, no RTW trips and definitely no going stories or beach breaks.

Q8: Write as you hike along or write at the end of the day? @piocardoza

Always, always, always when you hike - you wouldn't believe how much you forget by the end of the day. From quotes to smells, sounds and sights. I also sometimes think of a great intro while there - you never know when inspiration will strike so be ready! There's really no excuse not to. I used to work on an outdoor magazine - rain, wind and snow - with a waterproof notebook and pencil. 

The difference between travel writers who make it and those who don't is that those who make it never gave up.

Q9: Tips on how to get noticed in an online world full of wannabe travel writers and blogs? @Lizonomy

Write about what you know and are passionate about. So many bloggers make the mistake of seeing something that works well and try to mimic it. Your strength is your unique-ness! Embrace it. Then be accurate - like I said before, once your readers lose trust then they won't come back!

Q10: What advice would you give for going from blogging to turning travel writing into a career? @EmmaBrisdion

When you say going from blogger to travel writer I assume you mean getting into print? If so then it's virtually the same as advice to any new writer trying to 'break in' to the industry. Send well-angled, well researched articles to the relevant editors, following their submission guidelines. Your advantage is you will already have a good body of writing on your blog to direct them to to show what you can do. Pitch ideas that show your expertise. Be passionate and patient, if your idea wasn't right for that publication remember, it might be right for another. The difference between travel writers who make it and those who don't is that those who make it never gave up.

Enjoyed @PhoebeRSmith's writing tips on our live Q&A? Catch her in person - she'll be talking at the Buxton Adventure Festival

Main image Woman writing travel journal (Shutterstock)

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