I’ve spent the past few days thinking over questions to ask travel writers at a session at the Hay Festival.
Pondering the future of travel writing made me think a bit more about the present. I’m often asked by younger freelance writers what sort of pieces we on Telegraph Travel are looking for. “Good ones” is the short answer, though it’s not a terribly helpful one. So here’s a bit more guidance, which can be helpfully summed up as NAP — bookie terminology for a tipster’s best bet.
N is for news. “Content’ may be the buzzword online, but Telegraph Travel is part of a media group, and media groups (I know it’s shallow of us) still get excited about news. Or novelty. If there’s something going on in travel or tourism that we haven’t already covered, we’re likely to be interested.
We do run timeless pieces occasionally, but when we’re planning our pages they’re much harder to fight for as part of the mixture, however well written they might be. “Why does that have to run this week?” someone will ask. And if it’s not newsy, you need another argument in its favour. Which bring us to A and P.
A is for anniversary. For examples, see Stephen McClarence’s recent piece on Edward Lear’s India, which appeared on the 200th anniversary of Lear’s birth; Nigel Richardson’s on the Titanic; or Sophie Campbell’s on the travels of the Queen.
P is for peg — something to hang your piece on. The peg might be the nomination in the Academy Awards of a film — one used by Max Davidson to make topical what would otherwise have been a timeless piece on the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi. It might be the start of a new television travel series — as it was for Nigel Richardson in his interview with Simon Reeve. It might be the creation of a new coastal path in Wales — the poet Owen Sheers had walked a stretch for us and we ran his piece the weekend the path officially opened.
Remembering NAP won’t guarantee you a commission, but it will improve your chances. And when you’re sending in an idea, make sure it goes to the right person. If you email email@example.com, you’ll get a bounce-back message telling you who does what.
Useful as NAP is, there are times when you can get away without it. Very few of the winners of our weekly travel-writing competition, “Just Back”, contain anything in the way of news, anniversary or peg. It’s all in the writing.