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Writing a travel guidebook: My journey
My Costa Rica guidebook, Moon Costa Rica, was released on November 12th, 2019. If you’re about to start writing a travel guidebook, here’s what you can expect from the journey!
How has it been writing for Moon Travel Guides?
A dream come true. I’ve wanted to publish a Costa Rica travel guide for a while now, but I never thought I’d be lucky enough to write for Moon. Their travel series reflects a lot of what I look for in a great guidebook, including tons of unique, firsthand knowledge supplied by an author who loves the destination and knows it inside and out. I think the Moon brand and I fit well together; we both want readers to have eye-opening and life-changing travel experiences. You’ll find tons of experience-based content in Moon Costa Rica.
What has your experience been like working with Avalon Travel?
In a word? Synergistic. There’s a strong team vibe that radiates from Avalon Travel (the publisher of Moon‘s travel series) that was evident from the moment I started to work on Moon Costa Rica. Being that book publishing is a collaborative effort, I was in direct contact with several people at Avalon Travel, including an acquisitions editor, a senior editor, a graphics editor, and a map coordinator. I particularly love that the team I worked closely with was comprised entirely of women, each one superbly kind and professional. I always received prompt and friendly answers to my questions and felt supported during every step of the book’s production. I can’t speak to what it’s like writing for publishers of other travel series, but Avalon Travel is a dream team.
Probably more than most people think. Beyond obvious requirements, like a passion for writing, producing a travel guidebook requires diligence to meet deadlines, discipline to stay focused, and respect for both your future readers and residents of the country you’re writing about. As fun and spontaneous as traveling can be, writing a travel guide is a much more serious undertaking. You’ll have an entire publishing team counting on you to supply truthful, helpful, and interesting content, plus a world of potential readers who will listen to your recommendations. As an ambassador of the destination you’re writing about, you’ll also want to portray locals, their lifestyle, and their culture accurately and fairly. That’s a whole lot of responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
What did Moon Costa Rica require of you in particular?
It required ample previous Costa Rica travel experience, tons of time spent traveling and writing, an openness to trying new things, appreciation for Ticos, and a deep love of the land of pura vida.
What’s the hardest part about writing a travel guidebook?
For me, the hardest part was being too busy to fully enjoy every moment. As much as writing Moon Costa Rica felt like a passion project, it was a job. When I traveled around Costa Rica conducting research for the book, I had a job to do, and that busy job left very little room for doing anything else. For Moon Costa Rica, I walked along the sand of countless beautiful beaches but I only had time to swim at one. Fortunately, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to swim in Costa Rica’s crystalline waters over the past 12 years, but it was still tough to routinely pass up downtime in paradise in order to get the job done.
Is writing a travel guidebook a full-time job?
The work required for Moon Costa Rica was the equivalent of work for a full-time job, though I managed to balance other projects on my plate at the same time. Other travel writers may say their books took less time to complete, but I set out to make Moon Costa Rica the best Costa Rica travel guidebook on the market, so I consciously worked non-stop on it. There were nights when Ricky and I were awake until 3:00am trying to decide on something like which waterfalls should be documented in the book. There were days we missed important family events because we were so committed to this project. Hopefully the intensity that went into this book will translate to readers getting immense help and incredible Costa Rica experiences out of it.
How did you get the travel-writing job?
I was very lucky; the acquisition editor reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in applying for the authorship of Moon Costa Rica. That day was one of the best and worst days of my life. I had just finished touring a set of hanging bridges in La Fortuna when I exited the forest and Wi-Fi returned to my phone. I had two unread messages. One informed me that a beloved family member had passed away suddenly. The other was the offer to apply for the job with Moon. I felt deflated and elated at the same time. Avalon Travel was incredibly patient with me while I handled my personal business. I later provided them with a cover letter and resume, took part in an interview, and wrote a nearly 100-page book proposal to compete with other possible candidates for the job. Approximately three months after I learned about the authorship position, I was signing my contract and writing the first chapter.
What’s the project timeline like for writing a travel guidebook?
Timelines differ across publishers, but I spent roughly one year working on Moon Costa Rica with Avalon Travel following the signing of my contract. As a first edition, the Avalon Travel team and I built the 2019 publication of Moon Costa Rica from scratch, which no doubt added significant length to the timeline.
Is there anything that made the project easier?
Having Ricky by my side always makes things easier, but he was especially influential with respect to this project. As a born-and-raised Costa Rican, Ricky’s insider perspective is a crucial part of this book. Though I know Costa Rica well, Ricky is Costa Rica. He’s part of the local population, part of the culture, part of the country’s story, and part of its face. His memories, traditions, knowledge of nature and wildlife, and pride for his country made it easy to fill Moon Costa Rica with authentic information.
Can you describe a typical workday while writing a travel guidebook?
There wasn’t one; not for me at least. Every day was different. Some days were spent participating in tours to understand what they offer and others flew by while inspecting hotels, talking with establishment owners and managers, making phone calls to check facts, dining out at restaurants, and driving familiar (and a few unfamiliar) roads. The only constant is the fact that I wrote every single day. If not to complete a chapter and meet a deadline, to keep notes that may come in handy one day.
Is there anything you struggled with when writing your travel guidebook?
I had to keep reminding myself that many Moon Costa Rica readers are first-time Costa Rica visitors. It’s easy for me to write for people who have been to Costa Rica before because I can relay information to them in a similar way to how I talk to Ricky. But there’s a lot about Costa Rica that first-time visitors don’t know and I had to make sure my writing wasn’t over their heads. Thankfully, Avalon Travel has a fantastic editor who helped me with that. I had to reflect on my first few days, weeks, months, and years in Costa Rica in order to connect with the new generation of first-time Costa Rica visitors, but once I got in the routine of doing that, it became easier to write for this group of Moon Costa Rica readers.
It’s an awesome feeling when you believe you’ve created something great. Throw in the fact that Moon Costa Rica is part of a world-renowned travel series, and you can begin to imagine how excited I am to have jumped on the bandwagon. I’m grateful for Avalon Travel‘s preference, I’m pumped to see the book on store shelves, I’m curious to read buyer reviews, and I’m honored to be able to represent the Moon brand. I’m also looking forward to continuing to work on Moon Costa Rica and to publishing new editions of the book hopefully every 2-3 years.
What advice would you give writers who want to publish a travel guidebook?
I think the most important thing to strive for is unique content. Moon Costa Rica contends with several other Costa Rica travel guidebooks for readers, and you’ll probably have your fair share of competition guides too. But I researched other Costa Rica travel guidebooks extensively before I set out to write my contribution to the market and that process taught me which content had been published over and over. Though some repeat content is inevitable, strive to stand out on whichever pages you can. Some readers will appreciate your individualistic approach and others might not, but at least you’ll sleep soundly at night knowing you wrote the world a new story and didn’t settle for rewriting someone else’s.
When and where to buy Moon Costa Rica (2019)
Moon Costa Rica (2019) hit stores on November 12th, 2019. You can find it in the travel section in bookstores across the US and Canada (Barnes & Noble and Chapters/Indigo, for example), as well as on the websites of online book vendors, such as Amazon. Here’s a list of popular places you can buy the book, complete with links to Moon Costa Rica‘s listing page on each:
For more information about Moon Costa Rica, don’t miss our related blog post:
QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: Have a question about writing a travel guidebook? Comment below and I’ll do my best to answer it!