A few weeks ago, bloggers Peter Davidson – a fellow Canadian currently writing out of Shanghai, China – and Julie Schwietert – a prolific writer who splits her time between New York, Mexico City and San Juan – asked me and a few other travel writers how we decide whether to pitch or to blog.
The collected answers – in an article for The Traveler’s Notebook called Travel Stories: Knowing When to Pitch to an Editor and When to Blog – make for some interesting reading, especially for newly emerging travel writers trying to make a go of it while both blogging and pitching and selling work.
It seems to me it must be a tougher go nowadays. I’ve often wondered how things would be different for me, if I was starting out now and not when I did, in the days just preceding the Internet, when being published meant carefully writing a query letter, affixing a stamp and sending it out with sample writing clips enclosed.
Part of what drove me to learn to write a query and craft those first pitches was the urge to see my name in print. These days, it’s so easy to satisfy that need for gratification, and instantly, too. It makes me wonder if I would even bother learning how to craft a query and pitching editors if I was just now beginning to write.
If I was in the early days of writing freelance, I might just start a blog, or four, and find another way to make a steady living.
Don’t get me wrong, I realize that there are lots of new opportunities for writers these days and if it weren’t for the Internet, I wouldn’t be living in a small city nearly a two-hour drive (during rush hour) from Toronto. I’d have to be in the big city. I’m thankful for that, but it is also hard to know how exactly to capitalize on the new reality of lots and lots of words for, seemingly, less and less pay. Or, even, for free.
There are some great ideas out there, and certainly writers are doing it, including those interviewed for Julie and Peter’s story. Blogging can build your reputation, Abha Malpani pointed out. It can also help you gain a readership, including a literary agent, says Kelsey Timmerman, blogger at whereamiwearing.com in another discussion, at WorldHum, about how important blogging is for a travel writing career.
Lots of interesting perspectives and important questions keep coming up in this debate, an important one as advertising profits for traditional print media continue to shift into the online world.
But what I’m wondering is what does it mean for a conventional career as a writer?
Can we make it?
Yes, blogging attracts attention and does result in getting gigs but are those jobs enough to put a turkey – or tofurkey – on the table every now and then?
There’s no doubt about it that having your writing published in print is, generally, more rewarding financially. Personally I think the “look what I wrote ma” factor is also much higher when an editor reads something you wrote, takes the time to edit it, pays for the ink and paper to publish it, and sends you a check.
Of course, I’ve never made a dime writing online so I’m a bit biased. I would be interested to know how much pro-bloggers make and if is a viable career for more than the lucky few.