Thursday, 15 September 2011

Making Money from Travel Writing?

Many travel writers are trying to figure out how to make money from their blogs.  Don't worry,  I don't plan to turn this blog commercial  - but like so many other industries, travel is having problems, and so are most newspapers, magazines and publishers. And consequently, life for travel writers is becoming harder too.

This was brought home to me when I contacted a European tourist board about an article I've been commissioned to do.   For this type of fairly short (1000 word) general-interest article, I'd expect to stay 3 or 4 days, and I would expect the local tourist board to take an interest. They supply information and (usually very valuable) local advice, and generally provide some free/cheap travel within the destination, and/or a museums card so I can whizz around and see far more than the ordinary visitor would in a brief time. They facilitate stays at hotels that want to show themselves off (and no, I don't guarantee coverage in return).  They suggest new attractions I might like to look into, tell me about seasonal things I might not know.  In short, a good travel press officer, like Linda Marcuzzi whom I had in Trieste last year, is worth their weight in gold.  And a press visit really isn't a holiday.

So I have a commission to write about this particular country (it's not one of the Eurozone debt disasters) but the press officer says she can't help because she's been told only to deal with papers of circulations of 20,000 and up. At the generally accepted rule of thumb of 3 or 4 readers per copy that means a readership of about 60,000- 80,000, plus website.

The paper that commissioned me has an accredited readership of nearly 70,000, but this includes visitors to the website.  So the circulation is lower than the board want, but personally I'd have thought 70,000 readers were worth bothering with, just a bit.  Anyway, the press officer didn't, or couldn't. 

I can't argue with their policy, and of course I'll still go there and write the story, but it will be harder to take in whatever attractions the locals are trying to promote, because I either won't know about them, and/or won't be able to afford them on my budget . And I may not be so keen to write about the place again, simply because I can't afford to.   

It shows the way the wind is blowing.  This time last year this very press officer was begging me to visit her country, and the paper's readership has actually risen since then.   But rates for writers have gone down.

In fact, many print publications are now not using outside writers at all, or paying them peanuts, or expecting them to work for free. So you can see why it's necessary to look at other options if we want to be able to keep writing about travel and making a bit of money.  

Two of the money-making travel blogs that I admire are Donna Dailey's Pacific Coast Highway and  Karen Bryan's Europe A La Carte      Donna focuses on just one region, which she knows really well, and she has said that she makes decent money from this blog, which has many ads.  Karen's European blog includes "tell it like it is" reviews and the kind of "Top this and that" features which form a staple of so many travel pages. She ropes in good guest bloggers like Amanda Kendle to cover some of the parts she can't reach.   Karen said on David Whitley's "The Grumpy Traveller" that 95 percent of her income comes from travel writing online.

Neither of those is for me.  I live in London but honestly who could do a better London site than Londonist?  And maintaining a multi-destination blog is difficult and expensive for an individual.  I don't have the time (and more importantly the money) to be constantly updating stuff I've written about in various far flung parts of Europe. 

Broadening Karen's idea into a bigger site involving more people, you  might get something like Simonseeks.com. I don't know if it is making money for its owners now (it wasn't the last time I heard, but it's had a revamp since then.)  But even if the owners make money, the writers don't seem to.  This link shows that Simonseeks relies heavily on people giving content for free. Even the "experts" who are expected to do a great deal of leg work, don't seem to get anything in exchange except the hope of "substantial rewards" - pay by click and cross your fingers, I suppose? I'm trying to find anyone who writes for them, so I can ask.   

I once tried making money on someone else's pay-by-click sites, and wrote about it in Writing for Suite 101 on my other blog:  (I hope you can get to the site - the server's having problems today.) You'll see I reckoned then that it wasn't worth doing, and readers' comments - temporarily removed because of a spam attack - agreed in no uncertain terms.

Another site has recently started which is aimed at people who aim to travel-blog professionally.  It's called http://www.travelllll.com/ and so far I haven't read the detail.  It is clearly a very business orientated thing, serious stuff.   

Ah, well, it's a sunny day today and I am not going anywhere, and glad of it.  A friend has just called and told me about a Welsh cliff hotel where he stayed with his family which he said was both beautifully located and cheap. One to try next time I'm in West Wales.  But now I'm going to the post office (un-favourite task) then I will tackle the nasturtiums which are absolutely swamping everything (that's a bit more fun than the post office), and finally I'll plant some Spring bulbs (which is definitely fun as I imagine how beautiful they'll be).

Here are flowers from some of last year's bulbs.   And how do any of you make money from online activity? 

16 comments:

  1. Hello Jenny:
    It would appear that quality journalism in whatever form is under threat these days and has, in our view, particularly in the field of gardening about which we have first hand experience, been in this situation for some time. As a result, we have thought for a while that finding well written, knowledgeable articles with good quality photography is becoming rarer than the Dodo.And, as for the Hungarian Tourist Board......a total shambles!!!

    We feel very fortunate that we are writing for our own pleasure and without a need to make money from what we write. These are very difficult times for any commercial venture and a particular worry for young people trying to find an opening in the marketplace.

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  2. hmmm...thats very sad that the press officer didnt help..i mean they shouldnt be concerned with the circulation of the papers...it should be their duty to help anybody coming their way... have a nice time :)

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  3. The tourist boards need to do what makes financial sense for them. If your paper doesnt have enough readers thats not their problem. Its yours. guess this is what you are saying

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  4. @Anonymous, you're so right. Actually some MAJOR big circulation papers have stopped paying altogether in their online editions. So you'd have the PR falling over you, but you wouldn't get paid for your work. Hm!! @Jane and Lance Hattat, yes, this is a problem across the board for all professional writers in all genres. Funnily enough I've started to buy print editions again, wonder if I'm bucking a trend?

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  5. Thank you for all the links that you made in your post. For me, travel writing is one of my favourite types of books to read. I would say it's a real addiction.

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  6. I don't make any money with my blog. I can't think of any way to do it considering I am not an expert in anything.

    I so enjoy reading your blog. It's very sad to me that paper circulations are dropping the way they are. I still prefer getting my news the old way.

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  7. I went to a travel bloggers meetup last year and a couple of people launched into exactly what was wrong with my site. Of course, they had never visited it before but there seems to be this whole movement towards making money from travel sites. I don't want to read about the experiences of people who were paid to go on blog tours. I'll read professional travel articles like yours or the real-life adventures of people like me across the blogosphere. You're right - press visits are not holidays but I have a full time career and need my holidays!!

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  8. I have no desire to make money off my blog and probably couldn't if I wanted to--LOL! I, also, think it's sad that the entire print world is being pushed out by the internet and still prefer to read with paper in my hands--newspapers, magazines, books, or letters. :)

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  9. Thanks for the lovely mention, Jenny!

    Although I still make a bit of money doing pure travel writing, most of my income now is kind of tangential - I run courses about blogging and do consulting with both individual and company bloggers. It's certainly a lot better paid, and usually just as fun (although with a few less trips!).

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  10. Although I'd love to write for a living, I am simply not good enough, and therefore, writing and reading are the same to me as sex - I do it for fun, not for money :-)
    It is quite unfair of those who expect others to work for free; I doubt they would be willing to do that themselves. We all need to pay our bills and fill our fridges somehow, don't we?

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  11. Thanks for all these comments! Specific replies: @librarian - lol about the sex! Travel writing has always been badly paid, the idea is that it's interesting work and you get something out of that. (it is still very much work, though, and can be very, very stressful,which is one reason I downscaled) @Rita - me too about paper. I wonder if that will apply to future generations. @Emm, bit of a nerve criticising your blog - specially if they haven't even read it. I love reading travel blogs but professional articles usually have some perspective. Travel writers research a LOT of stuff that doesn't go into the finished piece, but is there in the background shaping what they say. @Amanda Kendle - interesting what you say. Have you checked the Grumpy Traveller link? Not sure I agree with David Whitley mind you. In fact, I am pretty sure I don't, in many ways. But he's interesting.

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  12. Thank you so much for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. I do appreciate it. I feel honored that you visited as you are a professional writer, and my blog is anything but that. Just a "from the heart blog." I agree with you on newspaper circulation. It will be a sad day when newspapers disappear. It's much more relaxing to sit down with your feet up and read the newspaper rather than sit hutched over a computer.

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  13. I don't really make any money from my blog about Finland. I have too few visitors still. But I wouldn't mind if for example I could have a free dinner at some local restaurant and write review about it. It seems that blogs in Russian have less visitors than English ones. Finland is very popular destination amidst Russian tourists, but I don't have thousands of visitors per day, lol.

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  14. Thanks for visiting my blog and kind comment.

    Do you know of Zoe Dawes' Quirky Traveller blog?

    Not meant to be a shameless plug but she is coming to the course I'm co-tutoring with Rory Maclean at the Ty Newydd writing centre in Wales. Some other semi-pro bloggers coming too, so no doubt lots of discussion on how to make it pay .

    I make no money from my blog but it has led to other things, most notably a book deal (albeit modest) as well as invitations to read and speak.

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  15. I don't make money from my blog - but have to admit, I'm using it to gain a following and maybe then my 'fans' might be interested in my book I am attempting to get finished and published (we live in hope).

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