Pitching 101: How to Write for the Expeditioner

Travel Writing — By on March 11, 2011 at 1:00 pm

By Candace Rardon
LG Section Editor

When it comes to writing for the online travel magazine, The Expeditioner, it’s all about getting off the beaten path. Recent posts have included “2011: The Year the Guidebook Burned” and a video titled “A Behind-The-Scenes Visit To A Brazilian Samba School.” Those interested less in a luxury vacation and more in a unique, enlightening experience will already be on the right track to writing for the magazine. This week, The Lost Girls spoke with The Expeditioner’s editor-in-chief and founder, Matt Stabile, about what goes into a winning pitch for the website.

1. What sections are open to freelancers for pitching?

Every Monday we publish feature articles at The Expeditioner, and these pieces feature the work of freelancers. At this time we pay $30 to the author of the piece or to a related charity on their behalf.

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?

Our only requirement is that your submission be interesting, informative, and inspiring for future travelers. This includes everything from long-form first-person narratives, “Top 10” list articles, to videos. We’d even consider haiku form — but that’d have to be a really kick-ass haiku.

3. What makes a stellar pitch for the Expeditioner? Can you give some examples of pitches that were outstanding, including links to the final stories?

For writers whom we have never worked with before, we require that submissions be sent “on spec,” meaning they are in final format and ready for consideration. For us, it’s not so much the pitch that is going to sell the article than it is the final product. Therefore, those articles that are most likely going to make the cut are those that are the most ready to be published, i.e., those that are ready to go from submission to web page with the least amount of work: copy-editing is finished, the piece contains a strong intro and ending, quotes properly cited, etc… It also helps if the author includes a small group of print-worthy pictures to be considered for use in the piece.

However, for those pitches that we are going to consider, the best are those that capture the editor’s imagination just as it would potentially capture that of the future reader. This means a pitch for a story with a unique, focused angle, catering to our readership (i.e., young, active travelers who stray from the beaten path).

A recent example of this was a piece submitted to us by Cynthia Ord (“A Bike Community Grows in Albania”). Here’s her pitch:

“A first-person narrative about the budding bicycle community in Tirana, Albania.  I could cover my experiences on bicycle in Albania over one summer, focusing on 1) the monthly critical mass ride   2) the Mt Dajti bike tour to another bicycle day trip and 3) a cave that is possible for visitors in Tirana.  The overall message would be that there is a small group of enthusiasts who also rent out bicycles and organize the tours, but progress is slow and Albania is still a very far from being bicycle ready. 1000-1300 words.”

After telling her that I think this would make a great piece, she submitted a finished, fully edited piece, with about 10 pictures to choose from, along with relevant links embedded in the text that would be useful for the reader. It was a no-brainer for me after reading through it, and we published the piece a month later when there was an opening.

4. What doesn’t make a good pitch (ie, things that freelancers do that would never fly for the site)?

It’s important to make sure the pitch/submission fits the site. There are a number of topics that we either make fun of or absolutely will never write about on the site, and we’re not going to publish a story on them no matter how good the pitch/submission is. These include, in no particular order: Cruises, Samantha Brown, Luxury Hotels, Cancun, Travel Insurance, Money Belts, Indianapolis, Family Destinations, and anything that includes the word “Disney.”

5. Similarly, what are the most common mistakes made by freelancers when pitching?

I think most travel editors would agree that the most common mistake in any pitch is the vague e-mail that says: “I want to write for [insert misspelled name of publication here]. In the last five years I’ve visited 36 different countries. Here is the link to my travel blog where I recorded my experiences. Please visit the site and tell me what you want to publish.”

You may be a fantastic writer with a ton of great experiences to write about, but no editor has the time or ability to tell you what you should write about. Make sure you limit the amount of leg-work any editor has to do, and prove by showing, not by telling.

6. If you’ve got a stellar idea, which editor should you send it to? Can you provide the names and email addresses of the right people to connect with?

Here at The Expeditioner we pride ourselves on accepting, considering, and publishing pieces from all level of writers, from the absolute beginners to the seasoned pro. All submissions should be sent to Matt.Stabile [@] TheExpeditioner.com, and I promise your piece will be given the consideration it deserves.

7. Finally, what sets The Expeditioner 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?

It’s probably easier to say what we’re not rather than what we are. If you enjoy reading Conde Naste Travel or Travel + Leisure (nothing wrong with that), you’re probably not going to be a big fan of The Expeditioner. If you’re the type of traveler that gets off the beaten path, that values the cultural experience over the aesthetic experience, that knows how much better the trip is when things go wrong, that believes travel is a means to not only bring joy and pleasure to yourself, but also to improve the world through meeting others, then we’re your site.

I think it’s clear that all the editors and contributors to the site share in this mindset, and we all secretly hope to change the world just a little bit through our work.

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