If you have any preconceptions about writing a travel guidebook, you can put them aside until you have read Barbara Hudgins Crafting the Travel Guidebook: How to Write, Publish & Sell Your Travel Book. In her introduction Hudgins states, “Travel writing may be an art, but putting a travel guidebook together is a craft".
The author is a seasoned travel writer, best known as the original writer and self-publisher of New Jersey Day Trips, which sold over 110,000 copies in several editions before the rights were sold to Rutgers University Press. Ms Hudgins has also written extensively on a variety of subjects for several newspapers and magazines.
This latest book is divided into four parts: getting started, constructing a framework, using words and pictures and the paths to publishing and promotion. The first part is a detailed exploration of the concept of a book. If the concept is vague, the book will go nowhere. It is here where you must ask yourself what territory you plan to cover. If it centers on the outdoors, what activity will be covered. For a how-to-do-it book, what is its subject? Consequently, there must be perimeters of the territory, activity and subject related to the specific category of the book.
Considerable thought must also be devoted to the book’s format and its organization. What about your own personal experiences, how much will you include? Research is important, have you thought about its planning? If you are proposing the book to a publisher, how well can you adapt your style to their preset format, and what are your credentials? These broad topics are subdivided into smaller sections where Hudgins practically leads you by the hand and examines each in detail.
In the second part, Hudgins examines the construction of the book’s framework covering the following topics: icons, directions, price and hours, foreign exchanges, punctuation and grammar and sidebars and call outs. For example, if you are using icons, which ones will be used? There are the standard ones that denote wheelchair access, credit cards, etc., and then there are the unique ones that go beyond. Hudgins mentions that it is essential to notify your readers either at the beginning or end of your book, what exactly your icons mean. Also examined in this section are how chapters flow; front and back matters such as title, subtitle, copyright page, acknowledgement, and table of contents, as well as the glossary, index and appendix.
Hudgins deals with the essential required skills of a travel writer in the third part. Here is where we learn about the abilities of observation, writing physical descriptions, narrating, presenting an opinion, sense of fairness, effective summing up, checking facts and not to be omitted, grammar and spelling. Consideration is also given to plagiarism, copyright infringement and second hand prose. This part ends with a series of writing exercises.
The final section covers the paths to publishing, promotion or what some refer to as the "business side". This involve the choice of the kind of publishing you wish to pursue, traditional or self-publishing, the book proposal and publicity and promotion. Hudgins provides her readers with a 15-page list of traditional publishers that accept non-agented manuscripts. These include large, mid-size and small publishers, their addresses, phone numbers, websites and a brief description of the books they publish. Hudgins devotes an entire chapter on the difference between traditional publishing, self-publishing and subsidy publishing.
Adding to the book’s thoroughness is an appendix listing several travel books that are referred to or quoted in the text. There is a list of other resources such as books on travel writing, publishing and self-publishing, marketing and promotion, organizations for writers and publishers, websites, blogs and newsletters.
Anyone searching for a highly informative and well researched resource into the “nitty gritty” of travel guide book writing will be well served by this book. The book’s tone is light and approachable. Ms Hudgins does a first-rate job presenting and examining the essential ingredients that go into travel guidebook writing.