How much can I expect for a short travel article?
June 28, 2010 3:09 AM   Subscribe

I'm submitting a 1,000 word travel article to my local paper. What kind of payment could I expect?

I'm a UK resident and have just written a 1,000 word article on the subject of Spanish walking-tours.

I plan to submit this to my local newspaper later today, for use in their Saturday travel-column. I've tailored the style and format to their standard template, and I'm including 5 photos too.

The newspaper's readership is 50,000. How much payment could I expect - if any, seeing as it's my first (and unsolicited) submission? I'd be content to leave the remuneration to them, but I'd prefer to have an approximate figure in my head, in case they ask me how much I'm expecting.
posted by Black Spring to Media & Arts (11 answers total)
As a journalist, all I can tell you is what the papers I've worked at would pay, and that is a big fat zero. Sorry. We get a lot of submissions and rarely are any of them even publishable. If yours is, then you're most likely to get a byline at most.

That said... Different papers have different policies. Good luck!
posted by indienial at 3:24 AM on June 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sorry, but I'd be amazed if they give you anything. Especially in this economy.
posted by venividivici at 3:40 AM on June 28, 2010

Seconding indienial. If there's payment or none, they will tell you before they publish, but they're not in a position to pay for virtually anything but staff with that kind of circulation. Either way, believe me, an editor will never ask you what you're expecting, ha ha ha ha ha, that would have made my freelance years a lot more affluent! They'll tell you what the rate is for pieces like that, and pay it or not.

FYI, unless the column is 1000 words already - which to my australian eye seems like an awful lot for a paper of that size - expect your article to be whittled down substantially. Further, expect them to slice it to ribbons and dick around with your prose; it may not happen, but if it does (and it does a lot), at least you'll be ready to deal with it. Ah, the perils of the byline, it's not always your words up there!

Please don't read this as a total downer, it's not intended to be. But keep your focus on the pleasure of writing the piece, the experience it will give you upon publication, and the small thrill that accompanies seeing one's name in print; it's infinitely more rewarding than focussing on the more ethereal rewards of publishing that may or may not materialise.
posted by smoke at 3:44 AM on June 28, 2010

Does the newspaper state that unsolicited submissions are welcome?

It's unusual for newspapers to pay for stories they haven't explicitly commissioned. Usually, a writer starts by pitching his or her idea to the editor - after they've done some initial research, but before they've started writing the article. If the pitch is accepted, the writer and editor discuss the article's angle, word limit and rate of payment. Once they reach an agreement, the writer goes away and writes the article.

If this article is to be your first published piece, and you're sending it in unsolicited, you're not in a great bargaining position to request payment for your work. You could attempt to pitch your story anyway, and rewrite the article as necessary to fit the editor's requirements. Or you could send the article in unsolicited, hope for the best, and keep the clip (if it's published) on file as an example of prior work.

But yeah, you probably shouldn't expect to make any money this time round. Good luck.
posted by embrangled at 3:53 AM on June 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks guys. At this stage just getting published would be very helpful, in order to get something of a portfolio together. Based on your feedback, I'll consider any kind of payment a bonus if it happens. There's a couple of similar papers in my city, so I'll try the others if this one doesn't bite.
posted by Black Spring at 4:06 AM on June 28, 2010

Let's back up a bit --

What embrangled says is true - you don't know if they accept unsolicited submissions, do you? That could affect things.

You say you're in the UK -- here in the US there is a publication called "Writer's Market", which is a reference book with all of the submission and payment policies for every magazine out there, and some newspaper submission policies. I imagine the UK would have a similar resource. You may want to pick up a copy to at the least get a feel for what payments generally would be.

Also, it would help you figure out who to submit your work to, so as to get the best chance of publication (and/or payment).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:12 AM on June 28, 2010

seeing as it's my first (and unsolicited) submission?

Nothing, sorry. Papers, especially local ones, have vanishingly small budgets, and the editors will have spent them well in advance. They won't have a button set aside for 1000 words on Spanish walking tours, I guarantee it.

Also: those Saturday travel columns? They are either agency copy (effectively free), or excuses for the staff to go on foreign travel paid for by the airline/travel agency promoting the trip (free and a perk). On local papers they'll almost certainly be written by one guy working for the paper's parent company, and will be published in hundreds of local papers around the country. They're not a cost centre.

If you want a portfolio, volunteer for work experience at the paper.
posted by bonaldi at 4:56 AM on June 28, 2010

In Philly you could get maybe $100 for this from the Inquirer, maybe a little more if you had contacts at Philly Mag, but right now Philly Mag is so broke they're not taking much by way of freelance submissions, definitely not an unsolicited pitch from an unpublished writer they don't know. It's tough out there right now, sorry. Don't get too hung up on printed paper, if you have a local metroblog that gets decent traffic submit it to them, take the publishing credit and maybe develop a conduit for future pitches. Websites typically run more content since they aren't killing trees and therefore you have more opportunities as a new writer to get published on one.

FYI, I occassionally write feature pieces a little longer than this for one of the majors in terms of web traffic and the payment is just a tiny subsidy for my day job. There's basically no money right now, anywhere, unless you are a huge name that can command the market. Adjust your expectations accordingly.
posted by The Straightener at 6:02 AM on June 28, 2010

Why are you asking us instead of the newspaper itself? They're the ones that would be most able to tell you what their pay rates (if any) are.
posted by jdroth at 8:05 AM on June 28, 2010

Response by poster: I had checked a couple of the indices but this paper wasn't listed in the 'standard rates' tables. I've submitted the article now and the Features Editor is taking a look at it. Fingers crossed they'll run it, at least.
posted by Black Spring at 12:36 PM on June 28, 2010

Fellow travel writer here - newspapers pay? Um, no, sorry. Build your portfolio in the way of New Media. If you're only looking for money, writing is not the field to get into right now. If you're looking to build a portfolio (which begs the question - what's the goal of that?), writing is writing. Being published doesn't make something good.
posted by chrisinseoul at 4:15 PM on June 28, 2010

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