How do you get your articles published?

As a travel photographer, educator, and writer, one of the questions I’m most often asked is: How do you get your articles published?

Most people don’t think much about how the articles they see in magazines got there, much less what it took from the writer/photographer to create them.

So, to give you an idea of how it all works, following is the story of how my Istanbul piece was sold to and bought by Shutterbug Magazine, a photography publication.

how do you get your articles published

It all started with my first trip to Istanbul.  I stopped there on my way home from an India expedition with Great Escape Publishing and I immediately fell in love with the place, its architecture, history, gorgeous location, and people.

I thought an article about some of the best places to photograph would be of interest to Shutterbug because I subscribe to the magazine and was familiar with the types of pieces they like.

So during my visit, I photographed quite a number of subjects, from the famous mosques (Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque) to the chaotic bazaars to the nearby fishing village of Sariyer.

The hard part in great cities like Istanbul is narrowing down all the many options you have to photograph.  Naturally, I took photos of everything that caught my attention.  And ultimately I decided to narrow my focus on just the core of the city – all the main structures and landmarks.

I could have pitched the article to them right away, but I held on to the photos for another year. I knew I’d be going back to Istanbul with Great Escape Publishing on one of their photography expeditions during that year, so I figured I could get a few more photos and round out my collection then.

After that trip, I was ready to put my article together. I edited my best images and narrowed down the subjects I would feature in the article. Again, this is one of the hardest parts about putting a photo/article package together.  When you fall in love with a place, it’s hard to “kill your darlings” as writer William Faulkner might say.  But this step is really critical.  You can’t expect an editor to do this for you.

After selecting my best images, it was time to write. I enjoy writing “where-to” articles (as opposed to “how-to”), so my piece focused on some of the best subjects to photograph in Istanbul, best times to capture them, some compositional ideas and equipment suggestions. I also sprinkled the article with facts about the subjects to add interest and historical context.

Because magazines have space limitations, I made sure I kept the article under 2,000 words and submitted 20 images to illustrate it.

Tip: When you notice that a magazine typically publishes five to seven photos in each article, it’s usually best to send them three times the number of photos they’re going to use, so that they have choice.  Don’t overwhelm them.  And don’t make them narrow down your subjects for you.  But do give them a few choices they can work with in the article layout.  In this case, I knew they’d probably want five to seven good images, so I sent them 20. They used nine.

I also made sure I proofread and fact-checked the article a number of times, and that I selected only my best pictures for submission.

Most travel publications have submission guidelines that outline how many words their articles are, what kind of stories they are looking for, how to propose a story, etc. They are all a little different, so make sure to check them out if you’re pitching a story to a magazine for the first time.  I outline how to do that in the new Kindle book I prepared for Great Escape Publishing, here.

In my case, since I’d worked with Shutterbug before, the editor had instructed me to submit story ideas via e-mail. In the e-mail, I included a one-sentence description of my idea (where to photograph in Istanbul), an itemized list of the images submitted, a link to a gallery of my images, and an attachment of the article.

Because Shutterbug usually includes “If-You-Go” and “About the Author” sections, I included those as well.

Within a week of my submission, the editor responded saying he liked the article and would add it to his editorial calendar. Because he wanted to include the piece in the magazine’s travel issue, it would not be published until late spring of 2014. This is not uncommon in the industry as magazine issues are usually planned many months in advance.

The Istanbul article was published in the July 2014 issue of Shutterbug, and it included nine of my images. I received payment about the same time, plus a couple of extra copies for my records and future marketing efforts.

Here’s what it looked like (although I admit it loses a little of its charm when there are advertisements on every other page)…

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Although about two years passed between my first trip to Istanbul and the idea for the article, I’m happy with the turnout.  Not everything takes this long.  But this is why it’s always a good idea to have a number of articles in the pipeline in order to create a steady income over time.

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[Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.  Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]