Ever think of taking all those travel tips you’ve gathered on your wanderings and collecting them into a guidebook? How about those stories of your trip with three girlfriends halfway around the world? Or maybe you are the docent for your local town’s historic tour and feel more people ought to know about your corner of the world. Barbara Hudgins, author of Crafting the Travel Guidebook, offers some clues on how to construct a travel book out of your research and experiences.
1. Know your category: There are destination guidebooks and regional guidebooks, there are guides aimed at a particular audience (such as business women traveling alone) or a particular interest (like the art lover’s guide to London). There are outdoor guides, and how-to-do-it manuals (for instance, how to pack a suitcase), directories and road guides among others.
2. Know your audience: Are they budget minded or do they like to splurge? Are they young, old or middle-aged? If you’re trying for a broader appeal you will have to include various chapters that would interest each group. A twenty-something woman would be more interested in clubbing than her 67-year-old grandmother. Are they from the local area or tourists from abroad? Each type requires different details.
3. Know your parameters: Your boundaries include the geographical lines you draw (will your guide to Boston also cover Concord and Cape Cod?), but your criteria for inclusion might be budget restaurants only, or motels that allow pets, or only sights in the safe part of town.
4. Know your format: If you plan to approach publishers of branded series you will have to understand and adapt to their format. If you plan to start from scratch you will have to construct a format.
5. Know your voice: Journal writing is usually done from the personal point of view. Tips and advice are often given in the 2nd person “you” voice. In guidebook writing, you can weave in and out of different voices. With travel memoirs you can mix the first person with factual material given in the third person.
6. Learn about the publishing business: Book publishing is different from the newspaper, magazine or online media. Some publishers require that you have a literary agent. Others allow book proposals. Self-publishing is a viable option but there are subsidy presses that masquerade as self-publishers. Learn the difference before you sign any contracts.
7. Know submission guidelines: All publishers that accept book proposals post submission guidelines on their websites. One publisher might only be interested in short stories for an anthology and another may be looking for expatriates who live in Cairo.
8. Craft your credentials: You don’t have to be a writer (although you should certainly learn how to write). If you have worked as a travel agent, a docent at an historic house, an airline employee, a cruise ship coordinator, a hotel concierge, a hiking or biking guide, or if you have simply sent in tips and articles to the myriad travel websites on the Internet you may have the right stuff to create a readable guide.
9. Keep notes and take pictures when you go on a trip. File away the brochures. Take some photos that do not include your face or those of your friends obscuring the Neptune fountain. You may need those someday when the thunderbolt hits you to write your own guidebook.
Read up on everything first. Travel writing, book publishing, guidebook construction, and self-publishing are all subjects you should plumb in depth.
10. Follow your passion: Whether that is rock climbing in Colorado or visiting the temples in Southeast Asia, you will write best about what you love best.
You can learn more about the art and crafting of writing a travel book. Read Crafting the Travel Guidebook: How to Write, Publish and Sell Your Travel Book by Barbara Hudgins. It is available from all online bookstores. Also available at half price as an e-book at www.booklocker.com. Barbara blogs at www.travelwritersandpublishers.blogspot.com and www.writersandpublishers.blogspot.com. Visit her website at: www.woodmontpress.com