7th edition of The Travel Writer’s Handbook

A man must carry knowledge with him
if he would bring knowledge home.

~ Samuel Johnson


When I first became interested in becoming a travel writer, I browsed the writers' self-help shelves for "how to  be successfully published" books.  The conclusion was obvious–to become financially successful, forget writing about travel and write a book about how to be a travel writer. The shelves were full of those books.

Working travel writers grow to hate these books because they provide such an unreal portrait–promising an all-expense-paid, year-round travel schedule with claims of "guaranteed to make $100,000 a year" and "how to sell everything you write." The false promises lure people into the business who should just enjoy their vacation.

The hollow promises fly off the shelves and quickly disappear. However Louise Zobel's book, The Travel Writer's Handbook: How to Write – and Sell – Your Own Travel Experiences ,  even in its early editions back when I was a newbie, seemed different. She claimed to be the first to write a book dedicated specifically to travel writing.

In the latest book, The Travel Writer's Handbook, 7th edition, you will read on the first page: "But its always more work than it seems."  Her solid advice book has outlasted the flashy promises of all those others. Along the way, Zobel, who died in 2008 at the age of 86, teamed up with a co-author, but the basics of her original have remained.

While Jacqueline Butler leaves most of Zobel's writing intact, she update with information for the digital age–admittedly not the strongest sections of the book.

As an experienced writer, I particularly appreciate that this guide starts with a chapter on content.  Too often we get caught up in the needs of marketing, querying, bookkeeping and forget that what we want to do is communicate interesting and worthwhile information to our readers.

These practical matters are addressed as well, together with real life examples from working travel writers, quotes from throughout history, suggested books for your library shelf including reference books and classic great travel writing, and how to prepare for a trip.

The book is packed with little tips that are valuable reminders for experienced travel writers as well as those just starting out. What should you observe as you travel? How do you estimate the size of a crowd? How do you conduct an interview to get the best information? What aps might be useful?

The authors stress what has been my own personal guideline through the years: Do what the editor asks for–or the reader expects–PLUS. A big order? Yes, but that is what makes travel writing a job and not an endless vacation.


This post is written by Vera Marie Badertscher, who discusses books and movies that inspire travel at A Traveler's Library. The review includes a link to Amazon to make it easier for you to buy a copy of The Travel Writer's Handbook. You should know that although it costs you no more, as an affiliate of Amazon, A Traveler's Library will make a few cents on any purchase you make through that link. VMB Thanks you!


  1. DEK

    When I see a shelf-full of How-to-be-a-Travel-Writer books it suggests to me that this must be an over-crowded field and there are a lot of people out there who write well enough to get a self-help book published but not well enough to support themselves by travel writing.
    And when I look at their advice I ask myself if Bruce Chatwin or Patrick Fermor wrote like that or did those sort of things to get published.
    But my own goal is not to get my travel paid for, or even to make any money, but to write something that years from now some few people who know what they are talking about may say "that was good writing".
    I think the only way to get there is to read good writing.  Fortunately, there is a fair amount of that out there, though it is not at all an over-crowded field.

    • Davis, I think you’re right about it being an over-crowded field, but never over-crowded with people who approach it professionally and with art. You also have to ask yourself, I think, if Bruce Chatwin and Patrick Fermor would  be avidly read if they were brand new writers on the scene today. Would they be noticed? Would people have patience with their more literary style? I hope enough would that they would still be read, but its not a definite.

    • And to this book’s credit, it DOES emphasize the importance of reading good writing and suggests some excellent reading.

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