Questions people are asking me…

Are you really going to reveal the secrets of your trade? If so, don’t you worry those who attend will take your work? If you’re not worried about this, surely it means you’re not providing anything of value?

My answers are yes, no and no. I reckon some of the people who attend the workshop will leave Taiwan in the next few years. If they go into freelance writing, it’ll be in their home countries. Of course, if they all stay in Taiwan and specialize in the niches I write about, then I’ll face some competition. However, it does takes a while to be fully trusted by editors, and I’ll always have several years’ more experience than they do.

10 x NT$2,400 = NT$24,000. That’s a lot of money for a day’s work.

NT$24,000 would be good money for a day’s work, but out of that I need to pay travel and venue expenses. Also, preparing for this workshop took perhaps 15 hours spread over a few weeks. When you get your hands on the outline – which is almost 4,000 words long – you’ll see the amount of detail I’m providing. Also, this workshop is very inexpensive compared to many you’ll find advertised on the Internet.

I can’t attend the workshop but I’m interested. Can you email me the outline?

I can sell it to you. But I do urge anyone interested to attend the workshop. The outline is merely an outline; we’ll do a lot of discussing and brainstorming, and I expect everyone will go home with a pile of notes and a brainful of ideas. If there’s enough interest, I’ll organize a second workshop at a later date.

Can you tell us how much you really make from travel writing?

That’s between me and the tax man. Also, I don’t distinguish between travel writing and other forms of writing; it’s all paid work. Very few people around the world make a living entirely from travel writing or blogging; if you write about Taiwan travel only, it’s probably impossible. Every travel writer will tell you there’s no way you’ll get rich doing this, but you can have a lot of fun, and if you grab the opportunities that are likely to come along, it can lead to decent overall income.

If you go to my blog, you’ll see links to most of what’s been published with my byline since 2008. So far in 2015, the most I earned for a single article is US$700. The lowest is US$175. I got a Taiwan-Poland-UK air ticket (and some money) for one job. Other freebies included hotel stays, meals, train tickets etc.

If I’m offered work that pays less than around US$150, I tend to turn it down unless (a) it’s a subject I’m truly passionate about, or (b) it’s something I can write in less than half a day, by recycling/updating a previous article.

My non-byline writing isn’t on the blog. Some of it is for tour companies that want Tpuppetaiwan content for their websites. I also write advertorials, press releases and other marketing materials. If your byline starts to appear regularly, you’ll likely be offered non-byline writing, and also non-writing work such as editing and consulting. I’ll talk a bit about these opportunities at the workshop.

What do you enjoy most about writing travel and feature articles?

In the movie Almost Famous a musician is asked “What do you love about music?” and answers, “To begin with… everything.” I’m the same. I love coming up with ideas for articles, whether they come out of nowhere and hit me while I’m riding my bike, or emerge while brainstorming with Rich J. Matheson (a photographer I often work with). Getting an email from an editor asking if I’d like to write about a particular subject is always flattering. I love how much I learn while researching an article. And I love, to quote Hemingway, “Getting the words right.”

What are the downsides?

Occasionally people promise to provide information or to answer questions by email, but then they fall off the face of the Earth. When you write for a publication for the first time, you often need to wait three months or longer for your money. But once your details are in their payment system, it’s much quicker.

I’m not interested in writing short articles, but I’d love to write a book-length travel narrative or a guidebook. What’s your advice?

Good luck with that. If you can convince a publisher of your expertise regarding a country or region, you may just be able to get a guidebook contract, but it’ll be much easier if you have a string of articles to your name. Evidence you can write and deliver counts for a great deal.

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