The following are words, abbreviations and terms every aspiring travel writer should know to help writers communicate with travel editors, pr firms and tourism folks more effectively. In other words to help readers of this article to travel and write.
While some words are completely self-explanatory, others require more awareness when applied in practice. Sometimes the definition is not enough.
Please note, imperfection happens. This list does not live in a vacuum. I will add or remove words as it becomes necessary. If I missed a word, feel free to leave a comment with a new word addition and if it is a fit, I am glad to add it and offer you a credit for your brilliance.
Also note these definitions are based upon my experience as a practicing travel writer. I have chosen to use my language skills to get to the point and not a definition found in a dictionary. My comments are in italics. Enjoy and bookmark for future use.
All-inclusive: The all-inclusive vacation means there are usually no additional costs once the vacationers arrive at their destination (assuming they paid in advance). All the food and activities are included in the initial price. However, special services like booze and excursions routinely cost more dough.
Think Club Med.
Assignment: The deal between the editor and the writer, as an example, 800 words about the hotel due on August 8, 2010.
Always know the word count and deadline for the story you are covering.
Booking Site: A travel site with little or no other purpose than to sell components of a vacation. Selling just airfare or car rental.
While there are a ton of booking sites, most don’t use original content. There are also a few large booking sites that will use any opinion as fact by whoever is willing to sign up and log in. As a writer there is little value here to promote yourself unless the site can offer you a link to your personal site.
Byline: The name attributed as the author for publication.
It is always a good idea to verify if the publication uses bylines for all their stories.
Clips (also see, tear sheets): Hard copy examples of your published writing.
I keep a pile in the closet, mostly for myself. I think these were much more important before the advent of the Internet. Now there are too many links available that makes hard copy clips and paper trails redundant.
CNF (or creative non-fiction): A more complex genre than meets the eye.
Comp or complimentary: A discounted or free something given to writers to inform a firsthand experience about the product or service.
Comps usually are part of a press trip, fam (familiarization) trip, junket or physical products.
Concierge: A hotel employee or department that offers guests a variety of services ranging from calling a taxi to scheduling a whole day of excursions. This may be either a complimentary or charged service.
Copyright: The right to present, license or distribute artistic work. And who is allowed to do it.
This is a legal term and it is worth your time to look into how it affects you.
Coverage: When a writer writes about a place he or she visited and the publication publishes the article.
PR firms, NTOs and CVBs will always want writer coverage on the places and attractions that they represent.
CVB (Convention and Visitors Bureau): Usually refers to the tourism office of a city.
Most large cities have one. More and more smaller cities are developing them as well. In my experience, they have been a great source of information.
Credits: A list of a writer’s published articles.
It is a good idea to have recent articles available to be faxed or emailed to whoever might want to use your services. This list should include links to where the articles can be seen or the name of publication, date, volume, edition, or other relevant numbers associated with the publication.
Deadline: The date and/or time when a story is due, frequently connected with word count.
If a writer is given a firm deadline by an editor it is wise to never miss it, and if the writer is going to miss it, best contact the editor asap. If you miss a deadline, even if there is a valid reason, don’t be surprised if the editor doesn’t use your writing again.
Excursion: When the hotel arranges for a separate trip to see a particular attraction. Many hotels offer this service through the concierge.
Kill Fee: Payment for a written assignment that will not be published.
This can be anywhere from 25-100% of the agreed upon price of the article. It is frequently the publication’s policy to name the specific percentage of payment, but is sometimes negotiated between writer and editor. Usually, this means the writer did everything right, but something happened to make the story no longer worth publishing – it doesn’t happen often. I once wrote a story about a new airline route and before the story was published, the airline decided to drop the route – making my story worthless.
LOA (or Letter of Assignment): A written agreement between an editor and an NTO or PR firm signifying that a writer will be visiting a particular destination “on assignment” with the expectation that the writer will be covering the destination.
Never assume that an editor will just send an LOA on your behalf. Ask your editor about their policies first.
Multiple Submissions: Sending more than one article to an editor or publication at a time.
I see this a lot from enthusiastic writers. If submitting one article is good, seven must be better, right? Not so much. Consider sending just one article at a time until you develop a relationship with an editor.
NTO (or National Tourism Organization): Generic abbreviation of any tourism board of any country.
Smaller NTOs do their media relations in-house. The larger NTOs use pr firms.
On-spec or On Speculation: A writer submitting a story without an assignment in the hopes of getting the story published. Or when an editor offers to look at a story from a query letter without guaranteeing the story’s publication.
I know a lot of writers hate this idea, but if an editor doesn’t know you, your writing becomes a gamble. It is one way to get a foot in the door.
Payment: Articles are usually paid by word count, as an example, $.50 a word, or a range of words, 700-800 words, for say $100. Payment is usually paid at time of publication, but sometimes at time of acceptance.
Are you drunk? There’s no money in travel writing. But I still love it.
This can also extend to ideas. When in doubt, just say where you heard it. Every time I think, I should remove that clause in ITKT’s acceptance letter, someone proves me wrong and sends me something clearly unoriginal. More often than not there is a confused, rambling opening paragraph followed by a paragraph of brilliant prose. When I cut and paste the brilliant prose into a Google search, it always reveals a different name.
Press trip: Trips writers take that are hosted by the destination/hotel/attraction to help with research and first hand experience.
Be advised, not all publications accept articles that come from the result of a press trip. Check writer’s guidelines. Press trips are working trips and not just free vacations. Participants can expect little free time.
PR Firm: This stands for public relations. A PR firm may represent various clients in the travel and tourism industry.
I have mostly very positive experiences with pr firm. However, it is important to be upfront about what you can do or not with a story.
Query: A presentation of a possible story to an editor.
Regular Contributor: A writer who has a lot of stories published with the same publication.
This isn’t a term more than an opportunity for advice. There are specific reasons why I use many writers over and over and why it can take a long time to get a new writer featured on the pages of In The Know Traveler. Regular contributors give me what I want. With some writers, I just accept their article without even reading it. I am sure this sounds terrible, but if I know that that a writer will write in a style and tone that matches what I publish consistently. It mean less work for me, and I am happy to present their work and provide them with more clips.
Reprint: Selling or publishing a previously published work.
I recommend letting your editor know if your article has appeared elsewhere.
Rights: See Copyright.
SASE: Self-addressed stamped envelope.
Sidebar: Some extra words about a very specific part of a story, but can also be lists of links, directions, or an addition to the regular article.
Simultaneous Submission: Submitting the same article to multiple publications at the same time.
Most editors frown at the idea because editors have little extra time to review a story that might be already sold elsewhere. With this in mind, it is a good idea to let the editor know up front. However, I will likely just pass on the article, unless I know the writer well.
Sound bites: A good quote.
Submission Guidelines: These are rules a publication wants writers to follow. Each publication has its own submission guidelines. Here are mine from In The Know Traveler
It is advisable to adhere to a publication’s rules if you want a chance of getting a response.
Swag: A funny term for free stuff that gets given away by people promoting products, services and destinations.
Think: logo-stamped pens, reusable beach bags, and flash drives
Tear Sheets (also see, Clips): Hard copy examples of your published writing.
I keep a pile in the closet, mostly for myself. I think these were much more important before the advent of the Internet. Now there are too many links available that make hard copy clips redundant.
Trade Publication: In this case, a magazine dedicated to people who work in the travel industry. It is also a magazine that the average consumer will never see – although the term could apply to any industry. In travel, the magazines would be directed to hoteliers, travel agents, airlines or other inter-industry types.
Word Count: The specified length of any article in the amount of words the article’s uses.
Word counts tend to be more exact in print publications. Online pubs may have more of a range (500-700 words). I suggest being within a few words of a prescribed word count (within ten, but sometimes it must be exact). On a personal note, I get it. Your article is perfect at 1100 words and don’t want to change a thing. Every word is perfect. Sadly, that’s not the way it works. I cap articles length for a reason. So do most editors. If you submit an article that is not what an editor asks for or goes against what is set in a magazine’s submission guidelines, expect the article to get passed on.