Thursday, June 12, 2008

Interview with a Travel Writer...Jeremy Head.

Today we talk with travel writer Jeremy Head, author of the recently released Frommer's Seville Day by Day

You can find some of his travel articles at Times Online, Wanderlust The Guardian, and Travel Weekly. Jeremy has also been active in television, recently presenting undercover reports for ITV's Holidays Undercover (prime time TV on a Tuesday evening in the UK) and also as a guidebook 'expert' on Channel 5's the Hotel Inspector (due for transmission early autumn 2008)

And of course, like all travel writers now, Jeremy maintains a travel blog - travelblather - where he writes about travel and travel writing.

Hi Jeremy and welcome to Write to Travel.

1. Did you always want to be a writer? How did you get started in writing?

Yes. I was always good at writing at school. I won a couple of diary writing competitions as a kid and dreamed about being a writer. Oddly I ended up working in Marketing for 5 years out of Uni and it took a year out travelling for me to take the plunge and go for writing as a career.

2. What do you consider your first 'break' as a travel writer?

I don't believe in breaks. I did work experience at a magazine company in London and asked the editor if I could try writing a few travel pieces. He said 'yes'. It's about getting yourself in the right place at the right time and that's about persistence and research.

3. What advice would you give to someone who wants to break into travel writing?

Don’t do it. Seriously. The pay is lousy. (I earn at best around £20,000 a year and doubt I'll ever do any better as a freelance.) The competition is fierce too. But what's worse is that after a few years even travelling loses its appeal. If you love travelling, then travel. Don't make a job out of it and ruin it for yourself. Travel writing is damn hard work – most of the time you are so busy when you are somewhere you don't have time to really appreciate it properly.

4. What do you see as the future for travel writers in the printed media and online ?

Bleak. The net is providing so much content for free people no longer value it. Decent travel content takes time. It needs careful research and quality writing. But because there's so much for free out there now people have forgotten this. My latest guidebook Frommer's Seville Day by Day is for sale on Amazon right now for £3.

That's less than the cost of a beer. That's plainly not sustainable. Publishers are running scared – both books and magazines. Ad revenue is declining and their profit margins are under siege. Instead of going on the offensive and saying 'If you want decent quality, accurate, trustworthy travel features and guides you need to pay a decent amount for them' and keeping prices at a sensible level they are continually cutting costs. That means writers are getting paid less and less. I recently heard someone was offered £1000 to write a 40,000 word guidebook with pics. Ridiculous. To do that job justice would take at least three months. You do the maths! Pay peanuts… get monkeys. You pay your writer that kind of amount how good a research job do you think they will do? It's a downward spiral and it's awful to watch, particularly when you're part of it.

5. Which travel writers and/or travel books have influenced you?

AA Gill is Away Just brilliant. AA Gill's first collection of travel pieces written for the Times. His introduction on how he goes about writing a travel piece is excellent and thought provoking too. I loved Bill Bryson's books as a kid, but now I find them a bit clich├ęd to be honest.

6. As a writer and traveler, what are the biggest challenges you face on the road ?

Sleeping. The longer I've done this job, the more beds I've slept in, the more I find I can't sleep in strange beds. Weird.

7. Finally, what is your favorite place and why ?

Brighton. My home town. It's the best – it's on the doorstep, it's by the sea and it has some great pubs. You should try it!

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greenygrey said...

Great honest interview.

Nomadic Matt said...

I have randomly stumbled up on this site and i must say I love it! great resource. I plan on linking it in my own site.


greenygrey, glad you liked the interview

nomadic matt, happy to see you here and thanks for the link

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