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Getting Paid for Travel Writing: A Conversation with Kristin Luna

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This is an excerpt from the Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing.

For over a decade, Kristin Luna has written about travel for some of the biggest names out there: Frommers, Time, Condé Nast, and Newsweek (just to name a few). She spoke with Amber Adrian about how she broke into the travel writing business, sharing several tricks she learned along the way.

Here’s a piece of their conversation:

Amber: What would your recommendations be for getting into travel writing and landing some of those more coveted assignments?

Kristin: My number-one tip for people wanting to break into travel writing is to write about what’s in their own backyard first. People often think ‘Oh, I really want to go to some far-flung destination like Thailand or Mauritius and write about it,’ but if you’re a beginning writer you need to start with what you know.

For example, when I lived in California, I wound up writing more than a dozen guidebooks for Frommer’s, and I was constantly being contacted by different magazines looking for a San Francisco based writer to cover topics from food to the travel scene. They didn’t want to pay someone to go there – they wanted an established local. Establishing yourself as a destination expert, about where you live or where you grew up, helps people know they can rely on you—and then you can start going for bigger assignments (and the ones that pay for you to see the world).

Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t travel. In fact, living abroad is a great way to get into travel writing. Start pitching stories from your destination about your experiences and what you’re discovering.

Amber: Sure. Or even if you just go on vacation for a week, take a day or two and
take some notes and get some ideas that you can pitch when you get home.

Kristin: Exactly. Many places I’ve written about were places I had already been, either on vacation or for another job. I worked with Semester at Sea several times throughout the past few years on contract with their communications coordinator, and have gotten to spend time on their ship. As I traveled around the world working with them, I dug up story ideas that I later pitched (and sold) to magazines.

Listen to the entire interview here.

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This interview was recorded by Amber Adrian for The Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing. By purchasing the guide (starting at just $39), you can receive up to eight additional interviews and complete transcriptions.

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Photo: Backyard Movie Theater by Jason Gessner

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