Episode 6: Pitching Stories with International Travel

Photo by Walter Workman

Photo by Walter Workman


Welcome to episode 6 where we discuss pitching stories that involve international travel with Western Horseman Senior Editor Jennifer Denison. Jennifer started with Western Horseman in March of 2002 and handles their culture themed articles, like the monthly column with cowboy chef Kent Rollins, as well as tackling features with the Great Basin Buckaroo area’s best horseman. She is based in Colorado and from there gathers stories on ranching, horsemanship and cowboy culture through the U.S., and just recently, she successfully pitched a trip to Costa Rica. Here, we discuss how to pitch a traveling story gather trip to a magazine editor.

1. Where do you look for topics that are worthy of a long trip/flight?

Jennifer developed a system called her “idea file.”

            - Clips and prints off internet articles with an interesting angle on a horse, place, event.

            - Files in categories, mainly region/location

She subscribes to many publications, and not all equine.

            - Food & travel

            - Regional crafts and breed

With her idea file, if she is pursuing one of the ideas she looks for a recommendation from someone she has worked with, unless she’s found “a diamond in the rough.” Jennifer also uses social media to find ideas; she is in many different groups on horsemanship and cowboy culture. She says it is a great way to find potential sources.

2. How do you make sure travel stories fit your magazine? 

First, Jennifer asks herself if the readership may like to learn about the travel location’s horse culture (EX: Costa Rica).

Second, she uses local sources to find ideas. (Clinician Tammy Pate assisted her with contacts)

            - Local ranch owners or horse breeders

            - What is the food & culture like?

3. How do you propose/pitch the trip to your editor? 
Jennifer’s meals and lodging were covered. She aimed to find stories to justify airfare, rental car and meal costs.

            - She priced airfare & car

            - Listed 5 potential stories with photography

                        > 2 features

                        > 3 smaller department articles/blogs

- She presented her itinerary & story ideas/ blog platform pitch together

She knew that too many stories from one area would saturate her readers, so she found smaller ideas, including a blog, that could run at different times.

> Jennifer lists some options to cut down on expenses:

- Stay with the source

- Bring your own tent or cowboy teepee

- Bring own food to cook & stock up on snacks

> For freelancers, Jennifer says there are so many opportunities to shop travel around, even outside the industry.

            - Travel sites need multimedia

            - Narrow in on one tourist site

            - Find a niche publication & branch out of core network

> Abigail talked about her working trip to Australia where she gathered stories for AQHA.

            - She queried friends before pitching stories

            - She made sure that the stories were printed over different months/times

            - Turning a vacation into a business trip can be one way to travel

> Kate discusses how a magazine can schedule articles over the next year or so. That may be one way to pitch multiple stories in one area, by ensuring they are timely at any time of year.


4. If freelancers want to pitch stories to Western Horseman, are there areas of the country that are better to focus on?

The magazine looks to have geographic diversity in each issue.

            - There are lots of Texas, Arizona & California ideas.

- Look outside of the “normal” areas. Slant pitch for urban area, East Coast, northern mid-west or southeast areas.

- Pitch both the story and ability to take photographs.

Western Horseman uses freelancers that live around the country, including writers from abroad. Jennifer says having a freelancer that can travel where staffers can’t is a huge resource. 

** Jennifer suggests reading airplane magazines and also visiting the local chamber of commerce to pick up a visitor’s guide for:

            - Source ideas

            - Event/festival dates

            - Museum information

Writing for travel or niche magazines outside of your usual publications is a valid way to cover expenses. Jennifer cautions freelancers to be sure that the “new” pub is not a competitor of any other publications. “Never pitch a story to a competing publication.”

Jennifer recently toured Nevada with a “FAM” tour where writers with gathering multimedia for travel blogs.

            - Destination type of travel stories

            - Stories on a particular site or festival

            - Stories on tourism economy (or how horses/cattle, etc drive economy)

            - Learn to cover as many topics in as many formats as possible

                        > Facebook, Instagram stories, social media with video, photos, interviews, etc.

5. What are your suggestions for pitching magazines articles that may require some negotiation for compensation to cover travel? 

Jennifer says that in general, as a freelancer, one shouldn’t expect a publication to pay your expenses. However, if a freelancer establishes a relationship and does diligence with a publication and that may be an opportunity.

She reminds listeners to have a solid idea of trip costs before pitching stories or booking, that way there is enough work opportunities to cover it all.

Abigail & Kate agree flight cost can be the deal breaker. Abigail suggests: using flight miles to make it happen, build the expenses into article, rates, & use trip as business expense.

Jennifer says to save loose change, use a travel card, work with multiple publications and more advice.

6. Anything else you’d like to add?
Jennifer learned about “FAM” or Familiarization Trips that are offered by chamber of commerce or travel agencies that handle tourism. The trips bring media together to promote different areas/events.

She says it is a great way for a freelancer to get involved and make beneficial connections. Jennifer’s trip was through Travel Nevada.

“When you’re writing or pitching for a particular publication, really know the demographic for that particular audience.”

“Find the wow to set your pitch apart.”

“Know the style and the format for particular departments.”

“I tend to be somebody that gets as many stories as I can find. But it can be detrimental in that our readers will see six stories from Costa Rica and they might get tired of that. More is not always the greatest.”

7. How can people find you online?

Email Jennifer at: jennifer.denison@westernhorseman.com
Twitter: @Calicocowgirl
Instagram: @cultured_colorado_cowgirl

Links to more information on FAM Trips:
The Remuda couldn’t find an official link for all FAM trips. Here are some good finds:
1. http://www.contentedtraveller.com/media-fam-trips/

2. Good packet from the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association

3. What’s a Press Trip? From WritingWorld.com

4. Texas: FAM Tour Guidelines

5. Utah Office of Tourism: Travel Trade

6. Ontario, Canada: What’s a FAM tour?

 Create an internet search in your area of interest to see what you can find!

About The Freelance Remuda

The Freelance Remuda is a podcast about navigating the equine media frontier. Co-hosted by seasoned freelance professionals Abigail Boatwright and Kate Bradley Byars, the podcast explores the trials and triumphs surrounding life as a freelancer in equine media, while sharing valuable tips from equine media editors and creatives doing what they love. Find and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and Stitcher.

Abigail Boatwright