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U.S. writers

Thank you for your interest in contributing to National Geographic Traveler, which is published eight times a year by the National Geographic Society. Traveler's publishing goals are to find the new, to showcase fresh travel opportunities, to be an advocate for travelers. Traveler's tag line is "Nobody knows this world better, " and accordingly, a Traveler story must capture a place's essence in a way that inspires readers to follow in the writer's footsteps—and equip them to do so with useful destination information.

What Types of Stories Does Traveler Publish?

Each issue of the magazine contains five or more features, roughly balanced between U.S. and foreign subjects. Generally, we are interested in places accessible to most travelers, not just the intrepid or wealthy. The types of destinations we cover vary widely, from mainstream to adventure travel.

Traveler features are usually narrow in scope; we do not cover whole states or countries. Subjects of particular interest to us are national and state parks, historic places, cities, little-known or undiscovered places, train trips, cruises, and driving trips. Service information is generally given separately at the end of each feature in a section that includes how to get to the destination, things to see and do there, and where to obtain more information. The writer is expected to send along as much service information as possible with the manuscript to help us prepare this section.

We also publish several regular service-oriented departments, with the emphasis on meaty, practical information. Subjects include photography, food, lodgings, ecotourism, adventurous learning experiences, and short getaways. Essays offering reflections on the travel experience round out the department mix.

What Kinds of Proposals Is Traveler Looking For?

We accept freelance queries for most of our departments. Ideas for features are generated both by the Traveler staff and by freelance contributors. We do assign features to writers we have not used but only to those whose published clips demonstrate the highest level of writing skill. We do not accept phone queries from writers, and we discourage the submission of unsolicited manuscripts for feature articles. We do not accept proposals about trips that are subsidized in any way.

How Should an Idea Be Proposed?

If we have to sell readers to consume our magazine, then writers must sell us with more than just notions and place-names, so please do not send us any unfocused wish lists of multiple queries. Restrict each submission to one or two well-developed proposals that have been crafted especially for us. A carefully considered proposal combines support for doing a particular destination with some premise or hook. A good query has a headline that suggests what the story is, a deck that amplifies on that, a strong lead, and not much more than a page that clearly sets out the premise and approach of the piece. The query should represent the writer's style and should answer these questions about the story: Why now, and why in Traveler?

Check the Traveler index to make sure we have not recently run a piece on the topic you are proposing. Please include your credentials, relevant published clippings and a SASE to ensure that the requested materials are returned. Mail your proposal to Query Editor, National Geographic Traveler, 1145 17th St NW, Washington DC 20036. Prospective contributors doing preliminary research for a story must avoid giving the impression that they are representing the National Geographic Society or Traveler. They may use the name of the magazine only if they have a definite assignment. When Traveler gives an assignment, the terms are clearly stated in a written contract.

How Long Are Traveler Feature Stories And Departments?

Most Traveler features range from 1, 500 to 2, 500 words, depending on the subject. Traveler departments generally run from 750 to 1, 500 words. Compensation varies depending on the type of feature or department but is competitive with other national magazines. Payment is made upon acceptance. We buy all rights to manuscripts, although copyright is returned to the author 90 days after publication.

What Does Traveler Look For in Writing Style?

There are no limitations on style, as long as the writing is lively and interesting, although a sense of discovery should be at the heart of every Traveler story. We want our writers to project a curious and knowing voice that captures the experience of travel—the places and personalities, the insights and idiosyncrasies. Writers who work for us must see destinations with fresh eyes and real insight. We place a premium on surprise and good storytelling—the compelling anecdote, the colorful character, the lively quote, the telling detail. And we prefer that our readers be allowed to experience a destination directly through the words and actions of people the writer encounters, not just through the writer's narrative.

Beyond being strongly evocative of place, our articles attempt to speak to the soul of traveling. Every traveler, no matter how seasoned, wonders what awaits at a new destination. This goes beyond weather and accommodations and language and scenics and museums. There's a certain frisson of expectation: How foreign is this destination? What new experience will I have? This is travel as texture—the feel of a place, its essential differentness, its look, its flavor. We seek that texture in every story we publish.

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