Trying to come up with non-fiction markets

I’ve been trying to think of ways to sell the sort of writing I do here in the blog (only more polished, of course). I’m not coming up with much. Travel mags in general want articles about fun places, not someone’s experiences in them. They are not looking for what goes by the name “narrative nonfiction”; instead they want descriptions (and photos) of local landmarks and tourist attractions. They don’t care about the pretty bartender in some back alley pub, or my musings on a conversation overheard, or about a man with no nose.

I suppose I could write in a more traditional travel style, but there are lots of people gunning for those gigs (“Paid to travel? Cool!”), and while few of them are very good, that still leaves more than enough to fill the void, people whose style is naturally more matter-of-fact than mine. Articles for those who actually go to the attractions when they visit a place are best written by people who travel the same way, rather than some guy who prefers to hang out in dark and quiet bars and watch the locals.

Magazines and Newspapers often have columnists who are more or less free to ramble, as long as they keep the focus relevant to the readers, which generally means “local”. The only place I’d be able to contribute something like that would be a rag catering to ex-pats in Prague, but in general my “local” is much different than theirs, and when I write about how annoying ex-pats can be, it may not go over very well. Still, it’s something I should look into. Maybe someone’s looking for an irascible voice that will piss people off. The other tricky part about that is that I would have to lead a more interesting life, and write about it with fewer words.

Gonzo Travel Magazine, that’s what I need. Maybe Letters From a Bowling Alley, or perhaps Rock Stacking World. That would be a sweet gig, traveling the world on assignment, hanging out in rocky places, meeting other stackers, and just generally screwing around. Remind me to search Writer’s Market for rock stacking.

Any of you guys have any ideas? Do you know any magazines or newspapers that actually exist that might like this sort of thing?

Meanwhile, one of the waiters here at the Bowling alley is blindfolded. I bet there’s a story there.


13 thoughts on “Trying to come up with non-fiction markets

  1. There are three writers I can think of who did travel writing the way you do travel writing: Ernest Hemingway, D.H. Lawrence, and James Michener. Hemingway and Lawrence got their stuff published in literary rather than travel markets and then put together anthologies; Michener didn’t bothter with the magazines at all and just wrote whole big books.

    Interesting thing … all three of them wrote very successfully about Spain.

  2. Hmm….Surely there’s a HighBrow newspaper that has an educated readship and a weekly travel section?

    I’ve seen writers apply similar feels to Sports sections on a weekly basis here in Australia ( articles by ‘the fan’). They manage to provide articles which have very little to do with the actual occurances on-field, and alot to do with ‘the human experience’ off-field.

    I’d push a few at travel magazines anyway, and bill yourself as ‘The Reflectionist’ or something. Mix your rambling dialogue with colourful descriptors, and offer yourself as a continuum, a series….

    i think I prefer the newspaper option though, as I would imagine they’d have a more dedicated readership, who could grow to love you, and take you into their hearts.


  3. Until recently, there was a publication called “Barfly” which published travel articles. It is now out of business.

  4. I agree with gizo’s 2nd paragraph. I have a feeling they might do well with your sort of “reflectionism” (great coin, gizo), they just don’t know it yet.

    Since you are becoming “writerly” and understanding that rejection is not rejection, (just a ball that failed to go thru a hoop, so shoot more) I think it is a good question of yours. What things have we readers come across that may be just the ticket?

    I have two mags in mind and one comment…
    1) Details magazine. A college roommate turned me onto this mag and all thru the 1990s it was a really good magazine. They mixed intelligent articles with GQ fashion spreads. I would quickly leaf past the $160 shirts that I could never afford (nor care to), and get to strange articles, like “I just took a dare to be dumped in Mongolia without cab fare or a passport,” or “What it’s really like to work in the meat packing industry” (that one was heart-rending and made it hard to look at an immigrant without wincing). In the late 90s I dropped my subscription, because they changed editors to compete with Maxim and FHM, and thus started sucking. But who knows, there still might be a niche for your articles there. For that matter, Esquire ,GQ, even the Cosmo-type mags may be a source.
    2) Atlantic Monthly This one is total hearsay. I dont’ subscribe, I just heard once that a friend of a friend of a friend….went on a bike ride and was in so much pain the next day they wrote up a hilarious account of age and sport and living life and emailed it to all their friends. Said group of friends loved it, said it was the funniest story evah, and encouraged them to get it published. Supposedly sent it off to AM and got pub’d. Take with big grain of salt.
    el commento) Do not change your style to fit a mag’s style. I feel, (as an observer) that the people who do really well in life are the ones that do exactly what they want to do, Love it, and wait for the world to beat a path to their doorstep. As an admittedly clunky example: in the late 70s early 80s if you were cool and alternative you were amassing a punk rock collection. If you liked to rock out and party, you listened to Motley Crue or Poison. But the boys of Metallica were spending all of their afternoons at the closeout basement bins of dusty LPs in the music stores, searching for obscure European metal bands nobody was interested in. But that was what they wanted to play. 20 gilligannion dollars later that is still what they want to play.

  5. Reply to gizo’s comment. Yes, there is a “Highbrow newspaper that has an educated readership”, (well, it has an educated readership, anyway). It’s called the Los Alamos Monitor, but it doesn’t pay well. In fact it doesn’t pay at all. Contributors are supposed to feel that seeing our work in print is reward enough!

  6. Oops, forgot to mention other travel writers–Steinbeck and Charlie. This too was a book. But I think Steinbeck wrote more like what you would be doing. Traveling and meeting ordinary people in out-of-the-way places.

  7. Jess — I’m eyeballin’ Atlantic Monthly for no other reason than It may be the hardest magazine in the world to get into that takes unsolicited material.

    Selling AM on a column is way off, but once I’m sure about the status of “Trick Play” they will be hearing from me.

    Details I hadn’t thought of. I had lumped it into the Maxim category of “magazines for guys who can’t read.”

    For the Los Alamos Monitor, perhaps the three e’s in my last name would qualify me, or perhaps they would appreciate a thousand words a week from a new voice, but local papers as a rule want local contributors. I suppose if they are asking themselves how to fill the paper without another story about Mrs. Murphy’s cats, there might be a chance. It depends, finally, on what they’d bump to make room for me.

    It never hurts to ask, however. I think I would call my column “Far From Home”. Never mind where home is.

    Pay is not an issue at first. The hope for both paper and writer is that international notoriety ensues. Oh, and money, of course.

  8. Don’t you think your blog is already doing much of this? People don’t come here for travel info with a personal touch, your international reflectionist prose? The haikus? Or does paper prove?

  9. Mom, when I wrote for the Monitor, I got paid — a whopping $15 per article. When I provided a sidebar, that was another $10. They even paid for photos — I think it was $5 each, although I don’t remember for sure, since Steve Mabry took the photos that got used with my articles. Did they turn into cheapskates when Evelyn left?

    In terms of the idea of “Far From Home” … I think that’s a great idea. Unfortunately, so many people from Los Alamos end up far from home that the concept wouldn’t be all that gripping for the Monitor. I’d actually think the smaller towns would be more interested — the Sierra County Sentinel and Truth or Consequences Herald down south, and the Chama Courier and Chama Valley Times up here in Rio Arriba County absolutely LOVE hearing from people who grew up locally and are now out in the big world. Your curse is that, while you grew up in a small town, it’s a small town where people going off abroad is no big deal.

    Meanwhile, keep on writing the way you do. Don’t change a thing. Hemingway and Steinbeck and Lawrence and Michener all eventually found markets.

  10. In addition to the Atlantic, you might also try Harpers and The New Yorker. Both mags frequently have articles similar to yours. Although the magazine articles are frequently a lot longer.

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