Pitching 101: How to Write for BootsnAll.comFeatured, Travel Writing — By Candace R on February 25, 2011 at 12:00 pm
By Candace Rardon
LG Section Editor
You may know BootsnAll.com from their website’s tagline, One-Stop Indie Travel Guide, or maybe from their huge archive of well-written, informative travel articles, geared especially towards the independent traveler. Having been around since 1998, BootsnAll is one of the premier travel resource sites out there and what’s more, they love working with freelancers! This week, Lost Girls had the chance to talk to BootsnAll editor and staff writer, Katie Hammel, about what they look for in freelance pitches. If you think you may have an idea to send their way, read on to find out more:
1. What sections are open to freelancers for pitching?
The majority of the feature articles on BootsnAll.com are written by freelancers. Within this section, there are a few different types of articles that we publish: features (pay $50), “expert” articles (pay $30), photo essays (pay $30), essays (pay $20-$40) and guest posts (bio and link to your site or blog). We also accept guest posts for our WhyGo sites, like WhyGo Italy, WhyGo Australia, and WhyGo France.
2. Is there a particular format and style you prefer when it comes to freelance work? Are you more interested in narrative pieces, list articles, guides, etc?
It depends on the type of article. For features, we’re looking for inspirational and educational pieces that will appeal to a wider audience (like 5 Countries to Visit for Under $500 or 10 Best Roman Ruins Outside of Rome). For expert articles, we’re looking to cover a more niche topic or a single destination in depth (such as 5 Ways to Score Luxury Travel Deals or How to Travel Like a Local in Indonesia).
We don’t publish a lot of narrative writing (except as guest posts) but we do publish some essays, which need to be thought-provoking “conversation-starters” about some aspect of travel. (Examples include: The Eat, Pray, Love Effect: Is Travel Really a Path to Self Discovery and Defining Paradise: Why is it All About the Beaches?).
3. What makes a stellar pitch for BootsnAll? Can you give some examples of pitches that were outstanding, including links to the final stories?
A stellar pitch is one that demonstrates that the writer is familiar with our site and has taken the time to see what we have/have not covered and then has come up with an idea that is unique and will be useful to our readers. There is a fine line between an article pitch that is focused enough to be manageable (i.e, not about “solo travel” in a general sense) but still wide enough to appeal to a range of readers (not solo travelers going only to Germany).
A great pitch I received was from Jessica Hoolko, who wanted to write about Albania. Her pitch outlined exactly what she wanted to cover and the angle from which she wanted to approach the piece so that it wasn’t attempting to take on too much (you can’t comprehensively cover a whole country in one article) but still provided useful tips to help a reader get started planning a trip. We ended up with a fantastic piece that had me searching for flights to Albania halfway through reading it.
Another stellar pitch, this one from Adam Seper, was for an expert article about lessons learned from a round-the-world trip. The outline suggested using personal stories to illustrate lessons that could be applied by anyone planning a RTW trip. A lot of pitches I receive make the writer the focus – it’s all about me and my trip – while this one made it clear that the focus would be on the reader and how he could improve his travel experience by learning from the author’s mistakes. The end result was great.
4. What doesn’t make a good pitch (ie, things that freelancers do that would never fly for the site).
Anything that is too narrowly focused won’t work for us. “8 Quirky Things to Do in Austin, Texas” might make for a great read, but there’s just not enough of an audience for that to be a feature our site (but we’d love it as a guest post). A personal essay about how you fell in love in Rome is another one that will most likely be rejected; again, it might be a great story, but it’s all about the writer and isn’t necessarily helpful or inspiring for the reader and just won’t get enough traction to be successful on our site. When I reject a piece, I generally invite the writer to submit it as a guest post. And if there’s a good idea in there but it’s just slightly off base, I’ll work with the writer to come up with an idea that is right for BootsnAll.
5. Similarly, what are the most common mistakes made by freelancers when pitching?
The number one mistake is not being familiar with our site and what we do and do not publish. When I get a pitch for a personal essay about renting a car in Spain and getting a flat tire, it becomes obvious that the person has not spent much time exploring the site, really looking at what we publish and carefully going over the submission guidelines.
Once we have worked with a freelancer a few times, if they have established that they can complete quality work and meet deadlines, we will sometimes offer them article commissions. If we have a loose idea of an article we’d like to publish, we’ll contact one of these freelancers and ask if they’d like to take that idea, focus it and come up with an outline, and then write the piece. Freelancers who don’t meet deadlines, who turn in sloppy work that requires a lot of editing or who generally make the process more time-intensive, do not get these opportunities.
6. If you’ve got a stellar idea, which editor should you send it to?
All submissions are read by me, and I make an effort to respond to every one I receive. We ask that interested freelancers check out our writers page. Here you’ll find more information on (and the requirements for) the different types of articles we publish, along with instructions on how to submit a pitch. We have a form that asks for the proposed title, article idea, and a brief outline so that we can get a clear picture of the article idea. We also have an online editorial calendar so you can see the upcoming theme weeks.
7. Finally, what sets BootsnAll apart from other travel websites that are available? Is there anything in particular about the site’s background that would be important for freelancers to keep in mind before pitching?
BootsnAll has been around since 1998, so we have thousands of articles in the archives. Before you pitch an idea, do a quick search to make sure that idea hasn’t already been covered; if it has, we may still be interested, so long as your article would offer new and different information on the topic.
Every day we receive dozens of great pitches with creative and unique ideas for articles that can inspire people to travel and discover the world. If you have an idea for an article that profiles wanderlust-inducing destinations or that offers tips to help people travel better, then we’d love to hear from you.
Check out 25 more great sites that accept (and pay for!) travel articles from freelancers by clicking here!
Find out how The Lost Girls paid for part of their round-the-world journey with travel writing!
Read about four way to make money while you’re traveling.