RSS Feed

Interview with Trisha Miller of Travel Writers Exchange

I like talking with writers, editors, publishers, and other folks in the profession to learn how they got started, what projects they’re working on, what advice they have to offer, and what they’ve learned through their own work.

Below is a recent exchange I had with Trisha Miller of the website Travel Writers Exchange.

Julie:

I consider Travel Writers Exchange to be one of the best resources for travel writers, and the main reason is because you and your contributors are generous with information that other writers tend to keep to themselves. Why are you so generous and how would you sum up TWE’s goals in a sentence or two?

Trisha:

Although I’ve never been a teacher by trade, helping others through teaching is second-nature to me, and something I’m passionate about. It’s also really humbling to be a part of such a supportive community, and I’ve found that travel writers and bloggers are among the most supportive writers out there, so it hasn’t been hard to get others to contribute.  Sharing just seems to inspire others to share also.

Originally TWE’s goals were to help traditional print writers learn how to adapt to writing for an online audience, but it’s grown from that into something that is, I hope, helpful to any writer or blogger.

Julie:

When did you start TWE and what was your impetus?


Trisha:

It’s been around about two years.  When I decided to shift from travel related copywriting, which I’d been doing for nearly a decade, to writing for myself, I was immediately approached by other writers asking for help in learning how to set up their own websites and attract readers….so many in fact that the idea of establishing a community just seemed like an easier way to teach many all at once.

Julie:

Is serving as the editor in chief of TWE a full-time job for you? (And if so, does it pay the bills?)

Trisha:

It takes up a great deal of my time, but it’s really a labor of love.  It’s always been the goal for it to remain a community resource, although it does earn enough from advertising revenue to cover it’s own costs (hosting and such).  I’m very fortunate that I spent years building a large travel company which I sold back in 2000, giving me the ability to just focus on doing things I love to do, and TWE keeps me involved in the both the travel industry as well as both the tech and travel communities.

Julie:

What are some of your short and long-range goals for TWE?

Trisha:

Short range goals include continuing to grow the community in terms of both readership and quantity/quality of resources and information we can offer.

Longer range goals include attracting more Forum members so that writers can engage more directly with each other, and recruiting more contributors to help scout out and present opportunities that travel writers should be aware of.  There’s so much out there that finding and compiling it all is a bigger job than I can handle on my own.

Julie:

One of the messages of TWE is that writers should really use the Internet as a resource platform by creating a blog or website that serves as a professional portfolio. Two questions here: (1) What are the essential elements of such an online portfolio? and (2) Are there a few blogs that you’d point as being exceptional examples?

Trisha:

It depends on the goals of the writer.  If you want to be a freelance writer for hire (regardless of genre) then you should have a portfolio site that is separate from your travel blog.  I believe you need to target your site to your audience, and those are two vastly different audiences – one is looking to hire a writer and the other is looking for information about a place. It gets challenging to excel at either if you’re splitting the focus of one site between two audiences.

So for the freelancer-for-hire writer, the most essential component of a professional portfolio is exemplary writing.  Every word on a portfolio site must earn its way there, be free of typos or grammatical errors, and be productive to the goal of the site. Skip the fluff.   Editors and publishers are very busy people, and what they want to know is what qualifies you to write for them.  Give them a professional bio that includes only what is relevant – your education or background as it relates to writing, links to online clips, a few examples they can read, a list of offline places your work has been published (along with publication date and title), and if applicable, awards or acknowledgments for your writing.

However, if you want to be ONLY a travel writer, a travel blog can also perform as a portfolio, because an editor/publisher looking to work with a travel writer will naturally want to see their travel writing.

In that case, I still believe good writing skills are important, but that doesn’t mean a travel blog can’t be successful even if you’re not the best writer – I regularly read several travel blogs on which the writing is often filled with typos and grammar errors, but I ignore those because I enjoy the stories and the personality or attitude of the writer.  A travel blog with a large enough audience should be able to generate opportunities despite less-than-great writing.

The key here is to brand yourself and develop an audience.

As for examples, there are so many that I think are doing a really great job, but one in particular that I like is Health Conscious Travel, written by Melanie Haiken.  She’s done a great job at combining a well-written travel blog with a portfolio component that is appealing to both readers and editors.  Another great example is ThePlanetD, where Dave and Deb have done a great job with creating their brand (“Canada’s Adventure Couple”) that has led to some exciting opportunities for them.  The writing there is less professional but more personal, and they connect well with their audience.

Julie:

Talk to me about monetization. I’m all for writers making a living off their travel blog, but I find so many of the monetization strategies to be terribly annoying, often bordering on obnoxious. What are some smart strategies for monetization that don’t produce visual clutter and questionable ethics?

Trisha:

I totally agree that many of the blogs I see don’t really understand good monetization strategies, and often hear writers saying that monetizing their blogs violates their ethics.  But I believe that it can be done right, and not involve compromising one’s ethics, or annoying readers.

For me it boils down to two questions: 1) Is it something I would want to buy? and 2) Is it something I can be comfortable telling someone else about?   If the answer is yes to both, then I have no qualms about saying to others “hey I found this really great thing that I like, and that I think you’ll like too.”

Whether it’s a graphic ad or a link in your post, the key is finding the right combination of relevancy and quality, and being transparent about it.  If it’s a quality product that you believe in, then you’re not compromising your ethics by offering it to others, and if it’s something that  is relevant to your readers, then they won’t be annoyed by it.  And when you’re up front with them about the fact that if they use the link, you’ll earn a small amount on their purchase, most readers understand and respect that.

An example I often use is this: If I write about traveling with pets, and I know that the people who read my blog are interested in traveling with their pets, it makes sense that some of them might want to know if I found a new TSA-approved pet carrier that fits perfectly under an airline seat.   So if I write a blog post and say “I really like this product, and my cat liked it to, and here’s a good deal on the same one at Amazon”, I see that as providing a service to my readers.

Better still, if I have a reasonably good-sized audience of pet-loving travelers, it’s quite likely that I can negotiate an extra discount coupon through a particular distributor for that same product, and offer that extra discount to my readers.  So I earn money and they save money.  Again, it’s a service I’m providing to them, so at the end of the day, I can feel good about that.

**

Follow Trisha on Twitter.

Advertisements

28 responses »

  1. Excellent advice, Trisha.

    As for monetization, you’re right. As the community develops, more connections between people develop, making it far more palatable to follow an ad link from a social media friend’s page than from a complete stranger.

    Reply
    • Thanks Leigh – that’s very true….and if we can’t count on our friends to give us good recommendations, well then we need new friends. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Great interview Julie. I thought Trisha’s response about monetization was great, about the two questions to ask yourself.

    Reply
  3. Travel Writers Exchange is one of my must-read blogs. I love everything Trisha posts on the site because of the variety and complete relevancy of the content.

    I’ve also had the chance to meet and chat with Trisha in person, and there is no doubt in mind that she wants to see people achieve their travel writing goals. I think anyone who is interested in travel writing specifically and writing in general is wise to follow her site.

    Thank you, Julie, for interviewing Trisha. I know she’s been an inspiration for me, and I know travel writers everywhere can learn from her experience and insight with the travel industry.

    Reply
    • Wow, thank you JoAnna, I am deeply humbled by your compliments. We have one of those goofy mutual-admiration societies going, because I think you’re a wonderfully talented writer, and I’m thrilled to publish anything you send me!

      I’m looking forward to catching up with you again, as well as meeting Julie in person, at TBEX!

      Reply
  4. Great interview Julie and Trisha. I remember seeing Trisha ‘around’ when I first started at the U, but for some reason I lost track of her. Glad you included the Twitter link right there so I could easily follow and learn more about TWE.

    Reply
    • Hi Heather – I loved MatadorU (and still do) but got super-busy and had to take a break from it – my goal is to get back to it this summer and finish!

      Reply
  5. Dear Julia and Trisha,
    I just stumbled on this interview and am so honored to see Trisha’s comments about my blog; thank you very much!
    I have been very excited to discover Travel Writers Exchange, as I’m fairly new to travel blogging and thrilled to connect with like-minded folks. We need more ways to support each other, and I’m honored to participate.

    Reply
    • papertrail23

      Melanie-
      Thanks for visiting and for your comment. I’m looking forward to checking out your site!

      Reply
  6. Oh gosh, just noticed my typo – Julie of course, not Julia!

    Reply
  7. Agreed! Trisha and TWE very generously share heaps of info and good advice. Enjoyed the Suzy-series 🙂

    Reply
  8. Really enjoyed this interview, Trisha!

    TWE is one of the few blogs I instantly zero in on when a new post arrives in my RSS reader.

    Extremely informative and helpful. See you at TBEX too!

    Reply
  9. Huge fan of the Travel Writers Exchange! Loved the Portfolio info, I’ve been meaning to put together a better one for awhile now…

    Reply
  10. Wow – I really got a lot out of this interview and just subscribed to Travel Writers Exchange. Thanks!

    Reply
  11. Glad everyone enjoyed the interview. An interview’s useful when your subject is generous and open and has information and life experience to share.

    Reply
    • Thanks Julie – I was flattered to be asked! I think that’s the perfect way to put it – at my age, I’ve already garnered a lot of experience, and I just felt it was time to give back and share some of it. 🙂

      Reply
  12. What a wonderful interview. Travel Writers Exchange has been the biggest source of inspiration and information for my writing. Right from the beginning of when I first introduced myself to her, Trisha has been extremely generous and supportive. This has been a amazing way to learn more about one of the most influential people in the travel writing community. Thanks for sharing this interview.

    Reply
  13. Great interview. As someone who is trying to switch careers and get into the travel writing business, I have TONS to learn, and TWE has been really, really, really helpful thus far, so this interview was great. Thanks to all of you out there helping us newbies find the best way to break into this career. I have LOVED the communal aspect I have encountered thus far.

    Reply
    • papertrail23

      Hi, seabass- Thanks for visiting! Yes, the travel writing community actually begins to feel small after a while, but it’s a good kind of small- because the community is warm and supportive.

      Reply
  14. What a great interview. I knew next to nothing about Travel Writers Exchange before reading this. Can’t wait to dig in.

    Reply
  15. Nadia Seignon-Flambert

    Great interview! It was very informational. I’ve learned a lot from it.

    Reply
  16. Great interview. Trisha rocks. She is very supportive of all writers and is a wonderful teacher.
    (She’s also fun to take on a horseback riding vacation.)

    Reply
  17. What a material of un-ambiguity and preserveness of
    valuable familiarity on the topic of unexpected feelings.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: