Perceptive Travel Writer's Guidelines

If you are a published print book author or anthology editor who is interested in being a part of this award-winning publication, then welcome! Perceptive Travel is designed to plug a hole, to fill a niche, to serve an unserved need for quality writing aimed at independent travelers.

For all you ADD types that routinely send e-mails to editors before fully reading the guidelines, here's the condensed version:
1) Articles from printed book authors or anthology editors only.
2) Your book needs to be in print and widely available, not published only in Wales 15 years ago or only as a $2 Kindle edition.
3) If your story idea would work in a newspaper or mainstream travel magazine, it's probably not for us.

As a book author with something to say, you can probably count on one hand the travel magazines you respect. Many of those that offered a place for perceptive writers to really let loose have fallen by the wayside. Independent travelers don't have a whole lot to choose from on the magazine rack. On the web there are a zillion choices, but only a few online magazines are focused on quality material from top-tier writers.

In general, the travel magazine press is collectively infatuated with luxury, simplistic "best of" lists, and consumerism. The "special advertising sections" in print mags take up almost as much space as the real editorial. In the U.S. at least, most newspaper travel sections now consist of a page or two of uninspiring wire service stories that run in Des Moines and Dallas on the same day---if the paper even still has a travel section. Few of the blogs out there do narrative features because they don't fit into a neat search engine optimization framework.

Frustrated yet?

In my own small way, maybe with your help, I am doing something about the problem instead of just whining. Perceptive Travel started in 2006 and it has certainly not changed the publishing industry. It only makes a modest profit. But it does give some of the most talented vagabond authors a home for their homeless articles. And here's the novel part—it will pay you actual money, within three weeks of publication, and treat you like a professional on top of it. Payment started at $50 $60 $75 $85, and is now $100 per article. No great sum, I'll admit, but we pay out roughly half our revenue to writers and editors, which you certainly won't find at Hearst, Gannett, or Condé Nast. (And most of our authors sell a few or a lot of books in the process, so even better.) Our writers tend to win awards each year and get listed in "best travel writing" anthologies on a consistent basis, so the prestige factor is not too shabby either.

This web magazine is published monthly, with four feature articles per issue, plus travel-related book reviews. (We have dropped the world music reviews, though you'll find past ones in the archives.) Travel feature stories are open to all contributing authors, though the book reviews are handled by rotating regulars.

It may sound snobbish, but only articles from authors with book(s) in print will be accepted. This is partly a "who has a following already" filter and partly a submission management filter. The main reason, however, is that this requirement differentiates Perceptive Travel from the infinite number of other travel sites out there and allows cross-promotion that is of mutual benefit. The article you write will prominently feature your latest book(s) and will provide a link to your website in the bio. Because of your platform and following you draw visitors to our site. Everybody wins. The book doesn't have to be about travel, but show me you do know how to write about the subject in a fresh and engaging way.

Sponsored trips are allowed, provided you can find a unique angle. Or a funny one. Or a very odd one.

Editing will be done with a light touch. I am not trying to appeal to bridal mag bimbos or babe-scoring lads here. Nobody will cut your free-flowing prose down to "breezy and light" pun-filled copy that a third-grader could understand. Most of our stories are between 1,800 and 2,500 words, though we'll gladly go higher if warranted by the narrative. This should be original material that has never appeared elsewhere online. On rare occasions we have published a book excerpt, but only if it's a well-known author and the piece stands well on its own.

Supply a range of 8-20 good and varied digital photos (after the story is accepted), or risk me having to find something that fits the story, which is a pain. Photos should be beautiful, strange, or striking—or all of the above. No, you don't get paid extra (sorry), but you retain the rights. While we're on the subject, story rights revert to you after 60 days, so don't hold back your best stuff thinking you can't use it later. All this will be spelled out in a contract—imagine that.

What is the perfect story for Perceptive Travel? For a start, something that is a square peg for all the round holes out there. Think Travelers' Tales, not Travel & Leisure. The long-form, gripping articles in Outside or on NPR's This American Life, not the surface-level fluff in a AAA magazine. This is not a service publication. We're not interested in guidebook-type destination rundowns or stories that are very wide in scope. Think small and focused. Tell us a good story or immerse us in a place we haven't already read about a hundred times. Have a point, a clear angle, and make us want to care enough to keep reading to the end. Be yourself, follow your instincts, tell us the real deal. There's no set tone you have to follow: write like Hemingway or write like Rushdie—as long as it's really you that's talking and you have something unique to say.

Here's the advice you've heard a hundred times but few seem to follow: read what's already been published here to get an idea of what works.

Beyond that, I'm not big on rules. So send me a query, send me a completed story, or send me a wacky idea and a phone or Skype number to discuss it. But send a link to a portfolio site or info about your book(s) so I know what you've accomplished. (Okay, that one is a rule, actually. Your book info is mandatory.) If you know me already, fire off a note to whatever e-mail address you've got. Otherwise, use editor (at) I'll respond one way or the other as soon as I read your note. If you have followed these guidelines and haven't heard back in two weeks, it's okay to bug me again. No pocket vetoes here.


Tim Leffel, editor

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