TBEX2010: Your questions about travel blogging, branding & self promotion answered

This weekend I’ll be attending the Travel Blog Exchange Conference in New York City.  I’m also speaking on a panel about branding, finding a niche, and relevant self promotion with a few of my favorite travel writers; Debbie Dubrow (Delicious Baby – makes traveling with kids look so easy), Mike Richard (Vagabondish – A travelzine for today’s vagabond), Jessica Spiegel (Italy Logue – I want to go to Italy with each and every tweet!), AnneMarie Dooling (Frill Seeker Diary – everything you ever wanted to know about NYC), and Evelyn Hannon (JourneyWoman – an inspiration to all women).  Here are just a few of the questions we’ll be addressing

 What is your niche and how did you choose it:  I didn’t choose it.  It chose me.  At first I wanted to write a fiction book about flying, a dark comdey about a serial killing flight attendant, but chick lit was popular back then and publishers wanted me to make it lighter and more fun.  I refused.  Then, when I got pregnant with my son, my brain turned to mush.  That’s when I started blogging about juggling a professional career and family.  In tracking the keywords that led readers to my blog, I noticed that most were airline- and travel-related. I updated the blog, moving more personal entries elsewhere and narrowing my focus to travel. Since I don’t spend that much of my travel time on the ground, I mainly write about life at 30,000 feet – dealing with difficult or eccentric passengers, answering air travel-related questions, or revealing the secrets to seat switching – things like that.  The editors at the travel blog site Gadling.com asked me to write for them and soon after that Harper Collins approached me to write a book (scheduled to be released summer 2011).  Something tells me I could sell that serial killing flight attendant book now! (Thanks to blogging.) 

How do you think that having a niche has helped you vs writing about generic travel:  I’m not a great writer and I certainly haven’t traveled to half of the places most travel writers have, but I do have stories that most of those wonderful writers who travel to amazing places don’t! 


How do you differentiate yourself from the other people writing in your niche:  I allow my personality to shine!  When I first started writing, friends and family would say, “Oh don’t tell anyone what you’re writing about…”  The truth is I can tell a million people what I’m writing about and exactly how I’m going to write it and no one is going to “sound” like me.  Even if I were to experience the same thing at the exact same time as someone well-known in the travel writing industry like Wendy Perrin  or Christopher Elliott, we’re going to come away with two different views due to our different experiences in life.  Everyone has their own unique perspective and storytelling skills.  Trust in them and don’t play it safe.  Safe is boring – in my opinion    

How strict are you about staying “on topic” – when do you write about other aspects or your life or broader travel topics:  If you’re going to be an expert in your field, you don’t want to start playing on other fields.  For example, are you going to eat Italian food at an Italian/Chinese restaurant? Probably not.  Same goes for niche blogging.  Stay ON topic, especially in the beginning of your blogging/writing career.  You don’t want to confuse your readers.  That said, I can take just about any topic and give it a flying spin – It may not be the kind of post the majority of my readers want to read, but it might pick up a few new readers and lead to something I want to do more of in the future.  The secret is to sprinkle it in slowly.  For instance, I recently wrote about a funny experience I had at my gyno’s office (at least I thought it was funny), but I also mentioned that my doctor is a fertility specialist and how I plan on writing a post about infertility and flight attendants (one of these days I’ll get around to it).  When it comes to having children, it’s hard for flight attendants and pilots to just be home during ovulation time – a 24 hour window!  So I mention this.  What I didn’t mention is that in the future I’d like to write a humorous book about infertility – without the flying.  If you know what your goals are, why you’re blogging in the first place, and you keep that in the back of your head with every post you write, you’ll do fine.   
(Can’t wait to meet some of you at the conference!)




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