For would-be travel writers

Ashland is full of people who like to travel.

Ashland is full of people who like to write.

The logical conclusion is that a fair number of residents might want to try travel writing.

For anyone interested in such an enterprise, the Ashland Branch Library's new books section has Cynthia Dial's "Get Your Travel Writing Published."

First, is it possible to make a living as a travel writer? Dial manages to do so and has built up an impressive catalog of published articles in local, national and international newspapers and magazines. She also teaches workshops, and of course, has written a book on travel writing.

However, the expenses of being a travel writer are staggering. Airfare, hotel stays, meals, car rentals and other big-ticket items add up quickly, and there are innumerable minor expenses, from pre-trip vaccinations to business cards.

But isn't one perk of being a travel writer all the freebies lavished on the person who can spread news of a destination's glories to a wide audience?

Dial says you may be able to get some things for free, but warns that some publications will automatically reject an article written by an author who accepted free travel.

Despite her success in getting published, Dial concedes that she's never been brave enough to calculate how much money she makes per hour after considering all the work that goes into an article.

One way to avoid some of the money pitfalls of travel writing is to follow the old advice to write about what you know, Dial says.

Since Ashland and the surrounding area is already a tourist destination, you might try pitching an article about Ashland.

"Your everyday environs are loaded with ideas, whether it's your town's annual Christmas parade or your city's century-old opera house," she says.

If you want to go far afield, Dial recommends developing multiple story ideas for the trip, so that you have the potential to sell several articles. (Since most article ideas are likely to be rejected anyway, you might as well come up with more than one concept.) When you have your ideas, plan the trip carefully so you actually have time to hit the various spots you need to visit.

You can send pre-trip query letters asking editors for assignments, or post-trip queries trying to sell article ideas. A successful pre-trip query can get you a coveted letter of assignment, Dial says, which can help you get financial assistance from airlines, hotels, excursion companies and other tourist-oriented businesses. She includes examples of query letters in her book.

Don't forget, travel writing requires work, so you may have to schedule interviews in advance, such as with a museum's curator. Dial recommends introducing yourself as a travel writer to your hotel's concierge so you don't miss meeting this valuable source of information. Enjoy the travel experience, but don't forget to take notes.

Another insider's tip Dial offers is that many publications are looking for articles by people with specialized knowledge, whether it be theater, snowboarding, photography or traveling with kids. Some people become experts in one geographic area.

What about the inevitable rejection slips you are bound to get? If an editor takes the time to write any comment, accept that person's professional judgment, rewrite the piece and start trying to sell it again. Dial submitted a climbing article, but an editor wrote that it had too many flowery and distracting observations.

"I followed the advice he so generously shared and subsequently sold the piece," she writes.

Although the library has the 2010 edition of Dial's book, it was first published in 2001 and doesn't seem fully updated regarding e-mail, Internet-based research and digital photography.

Reach reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-479-8199 or

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