I don't usually write much here about the business of being a travel writer, although I see so many adverts for courses that promise to train people to be one. Well, I am a travel writer, and I will explain part of the reason why I have been travelling less this summer, and will be travelling rather less in future, too. I will be It is not all bad news, but the business is changing.
I am lucky that editors want to use me and I am getting press trip invites (lately to Sardinia, Northern Ireland, Turkey and Eastern Germany, though none of them hit the spot with me so I haven't accepted any.). And I have a couple of trips pencilled in for next year (notably Japan, with the book's new publication date)
Can't wait! These pictures were taken in the depths of winter - bright, cold and beautiful.
But the hard fact is that even though we can still travel cheap or free and write about it, it has become difficult to make the same sort of money out of it as we once could. And making money - for everyone in business - is crucial. As a kid, I used to wonder why Mum and Dad complained of being hard up when all they had to do was ask people in the bank for money.. And so it is with the freebies; they are not really free. Someone has to make money.
In the past, PRs could assess which publications got their clients the best ooverage and hence the most money. But blogging has confused the issue. These days, I sometimes feel that PRs and travel companies find blogs hard to evaluate.Some, of course are totally fabulous, but also utterly uncommercial, with hardly any readers. Others, though full of sponsored trips, restaurant meals and overnight stays, are boring, and even if they have lots of page views, they lack reader reaction and involvement. Neither type is an obvious winner from the travel company's point of view.
The most successful blogs either provide loads of useful information with a personal touch (like The Man In Seat 61) or very varied and personal, with polls, photos, trip descriptions and travel related issues all presented in a carefully structured magazine-like way. (see Andy Jarosz's fab "501 Places".) But, even with an ideal blog, making money is not necessarily a piece of cake.
As Andy Jarosz says "No ads, no sponsored posts, no guest posts, no paid links." . Hm. So now you know, PRs....
Even if you own a great blog, making money from it can be hard work. Delightful though it may be to spend a week in Jordan or Portugal handed to you by a hopeful PR, it is not an automatic way to make money. In fact, it's likely to cost you money - getting to the airport, buying yourself a coffee or a meal or two. Really successful blog owners don't spend their whole lives travelling on freebies. They pop up all over the place too, tweeting, pinteresting, facebooking. They go on the radio and TV, they talk at conferences, libraries, women's institutes, community centres. They teach other people how to write about travel, and promote any other skills they might have - copywriting, teaching, lecturing..
On the other hand, though, they needn't work their way into that little closed world of editors and freelances in the way that used to be essential. They can be their own people, do their own thing - and this is a big bonus.
So, you up and coming travel writers, the world is open to you. If I was starting out, I'd now be exploring all avenues for trips and sponsorship. There are not many rules, nobody is entirely sure where they're headed, there are risks aplenty - but if you play it right, you could get to see places, meet people, build up your own networks, and maybe one day give up the day job - for a night and day job. :)
To get back to Kington Lacy. My friend and I agreed that it is one of the nicest houses we know. Its main rooms all have very different atmospheres, and the attendants have many interesting stories to tell. For instance, why are the enormous keys hung over the fireplace in the library (below)? (Answer here)
The pink room below was charming. Yes, it is cluttered, but the fashion a hundred years ago was for as many tables, ornaments and plants as you could fit in. I wonder how the ladies with their huge skirts managed to avoid demolishing the place. I am notoriously clumsy and tend to cannon into anything fragile within twenty feet.
I hope I would have managed not to destroy this beautiful table setting! .
One huge and magnificent room was designed entirely to display Spanish paintings, with walls covered with tooled leather of the highest quality.
The kids were kept in the attics, as they so often were, along with the servants and mad relatives, I suppose. But these are very nice attic rooms, with sloping ceilings designed like a tent, with windows cunningly concealed behind the drapery.
Outside, there are grounds and gardens, and some unusual oddities, like shepherd's huts and some adorable kune-kune piglets.