How to Pitch: Travelfish.org

Asia, Travel Writing, Websites and Blogs — By on May 2, 2012 at 6:00 am

By Emma Rosenberg
Special to The Lost Girls

Samantha Brown, managing editor of Travelfish.org, caught up with The Lost Girls to give no-nonsense advice on how to pitch for the site. Travelfish.org is an all-encompassing travel guide for backpacking Southeast Asia written by travelers who’ve really been there.

What Travelfish.org sections are open to freelancers for pitching?

We have about 12 writers based in Southeast Asia who post to the Travelfish.org destination blogs on average two times per week. The areas we currently cover are: Bali (and Java), Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hanoi, Islands (any islands in the countries we cover), Kuala Lumpur, Phnom Penh, Saigon, Singapore, and Siem Reap.

Many of these writers also do research for our main guide, Travelfish.org, which covers Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. We’re often asked whether we’ll add Burma and the Philippines. Of course that makes sense—and we’d love to—but we just don’t have the time to do that right now. (Oddly, nobody ever asks about Brunei.)

Generally, we prefer writers based in the region as there’s a learning curve to researching for our site, and we like our writers to be around for a while and have an existing familiarity with Southeast Asia before they start writing for us.

We do very occasionally take feature stories from people who are not living in the region but have travelled there.

In short, if you live in the region, we’re open to you applying to be a researcher/blogger. If you don’t live in the region, but are travelling for a short period, we may still take features.

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?

For a feature article, we take 800-word pieces with five or six photos. The best way to get a feel for the pieces we like is to look at what we already have on the site, here. We do not like list pieces! We think they tend to encourage lazy writing. Beautiful prose about intriguing places that puts the reader into the shoes of the writer and transports them away are what we’re after. We like to offer practical advice. We don’t want to hear about what you saw on your holiday, but rather, what the highlights were and the best way for people following in your footsteps to get the most out of their time.

Our guides are much, much lengthier pieces that follow a particular format.

What makes a stellar pitch for Travelfish.org? Can you give examples?

A stellar pitch for a feature is short and sweet. It tells me in a nutshell what the angle of your proposed story is and what you’ll cover in it. You’ll tell me you have fantastic photos to accompany the piece. It will also indicate you’ve read our submission guidelines.

Here’s a good pitch for a feature we recently received:

Hi there Sam,

The prahok season is about to start in Cambodia, and I was wondering if you’d be interested in a colour piece on how the infamously smelly fermented fish paste is made. The production process would make decent photos and copy as villagers flock to riverbanks from miles around to catch fish and preserve them in salt.

I plan to do the story at Cambodia’s prahok-making hub, Phsar Prahok village on the banks of the Sanke river near Battambang, where hundreds of tons of freshwater fish are bought and sold each year.

We have actually found several of our regular writers via Twitter—when they’re tweeting interesting stuff about their work and observations of life where they are living, it makes us pay attention and wonder whether we could tap into their knowledge.

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

Please don’t tell me: “I’m travelling to Cambodia next month, please let me know if you’d like any stories from there?”

And don’t promise something you can’t deliver. If you say you’ll get a story in by January 31, get it in by January 31. (And don’t send your invoice with your story, either. It’s annoying.)

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

With features, writers often simply don’t really pitch. They might say how wonderful they are and how long they’ve been in the region, but they don’t really offer to provide specific stories with sharp angles. It’s all about the angle. I need to know more than you’re going rock-climbing in Thailand. Big deal!

With a general job application, the most common mistake is not addressing our criteria, which are clearly listed on our site here.

Don’t ask how many hours we expect you to work on the research/feature. That’s like asking how long a piece of string is. We can give you tips on what to look for when reviewing hotels, restaurants, or sites, but how long that takes and how you do it is completely up to you. And if you are looking for a good hourly rate of pay, well, travel writing may not be the career for you.

Where should pitches be sent?

Pitch directly to me: sambrown@travelfish.org.

But we do have a very full plate. Generally, if a pitch is really good and what we are after—for instance at the moment we’re looking for someone to research/blog for us in Luang Prabang—then I’d get back to you within minutes. If you don’t hear from me quickly, the news probably isn’t good. But I do keep CVs on file.

What sets Travelfish.org apart from other travel sites? Is there anything in particular about the site’s background that would be important for freelancers to keep in mind before pitching?

What sets us apart is something that’s not necessarily good news for some writers: we don’t allow our writers to accept freebies. Not even a free drink. We think accepting freebies undermines our credibility.

The upside is: We’re a very credible site. Travellers—and other travel writers—really do use us. We have excellent writers who work really hard on the ground to provide trustworthy information. We really want passionate writers who write—and write honestly—because they want other travellers to have a fantastic time in Southeast Asia.

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    1 Comment

  • Ranjith Sudaaingha says:

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    Ranjith