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The Problem with Guidebooks


The codex (ie, paper book) was a great way to publish travel information for two millennia. Then along came the Internet and changed all that.

Guidebooks have always been great travel information resources.

Roman travelers loved their viaticum, their "Go with You," a compendium of loose sheets of paper with notes scribbled by previous travelers along a Roman road.

But times change, and guidebook publishing, once lucrative for authors, isn't any longer.

Today's publishers, intent on organizational aggrandizement and shareholder return, allow ever smaller amounts of money for authors.

Editors, empowered by their status as members of the core organization, make ever greater demands of freelance authors' time, talent and hard work—with no increase in pay.

Corporate lawyers make sure that contracts give as much protection from risk and revenue loss as possible to publishers, and devolve all possible risk and responsibility on authors.

In the absence of adequate compensation, this once viable craft becomes a "starter job" for young people with a lust for adventure, no debt, no mortgage, and no kids.

Here's how to judge if a guidebook writing project is worth the money.

Publishers have discovered (starting with Harvard's Let's Go series) that some people will travel and write for free, or nearly so.

Good for them! But then, it's not a way to make a living.

Does this sound like a formula for professional author success?

What is?

Internet self-publishing and book self-publishing.


The Problem with Print

Declining Print Revenues

Long-Term Earnings Online

Print vs Internet

The Problem with Newspapers & Magazines

Is Guidebook Writing Worth the Money?

Book Self-Publishing

All About Internet Self-Publishing

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Tom Brosnahan