It's been said by many travel writers that once you get past the notion that self-publishing equates to "vanity publishing," doors begin to open – and in the case of travel writers -- that portal can be your entrée to whole wide world.
Frommer, the Gold Standard
Professionals in almost all fields of business have been tempted to self-publish their experiences. But to date none in the travel industry have been as successful and stood the test of time as long as Arthur B. Frommer. As one of America's foremost budget travel authorities, Frommer's seminal guidebook, "Europe on 5 Dollars a Day," not only changed the way Americans traveled but also became the gold standard for guidebooks like Lonely Planet and Rick Steves Europe to follow.
With literary credentials that included a college stint as editor of the Yale Law Review, Frommer instilled credibility in the world of self-publishing dating as far back as 1955. His life story as a son of Jewish immigrants who became a litigator and eventually a publishing magnate embodied the American Dream.
Many younger writers today only know about self-publishing as a by-product of the Digital Age. Frommer, on the other hand, was one of the first to plant his foot solidly in that world when books in print were the selected option by so many of his colleagues. According to him, "the best guidebooks are written by people who are walking encyclopedias on the cities where they live."
It wasn't until 1977, when his media empire was sold to Simon & Schuster that Frommer stepped away from self-publishing. Subsequently in 2001, the series was acquired by John Wiley & Sons and then ten years later, Google announced it was purchasing Frommer's Travel Guides in a bid to acquire more online content.
What's Old is New Again
However, coming full circle, it was announced in March of this year, at the ripe young age of 84, this travel guru was reacquiring rights to his travel guidebook brand from Google, and today with the help of his daughter Pauline, he intends to return to his self-publishing roots. "It's a very happy time for me," Frommer told The Associated Press. "We will be publishing the Frommer Travel Guides in ebook and print formats and will also be operating the travel site Frommers.com."
As a benchmark, Frommer's life work in the field of self-publishing set the bar very high for others to follow, but today the travel industry has attracted travel writers not only of guidebooks, but also how-to's and even novels.
Modern-day Frommer in the Making
Following in Frommer's footsteps but adding a modern 21st Century twist on the traditional travel guidebook, Jeremy and Angie Jones practice what they preach in a travelogue titled, "The Long-Term Traveler's Guide: Going Longer, Cheaper, and Living Your Dream."
Published in 2012, and self-described "as the definitive planning resource for all those looking to cut loose. . . and see the world for weeks, months, or years on end," the Joneses felt they spent so much time learning about the self-publishing process, they should also blog on the topic for other would-be writers. "In order to save future authors time and money, (our) ten-part "Writing a Travel Book" series was born."
From pricing out costs, to deciding on distribution companies, digital packages and even affiliate programs and tips to succeed, their checklist provides a thorough overview for new indie writers to tip their toes into the travel guidebook waters.
For those readers who are not only interested in travel, but the nuts and bolts behind the lodging segment of the travel industry, Leon Birdi's self-published how-to, titled "HotelBooster II - From Booking to Departure" is the go-to resource on hotel sales. Based on tested, proven and systematic techniques aimed at increasing hotel profits and obtaining higher guest satisfaction scores, Birdi who is a world-renowned hotel development expert focuses on ensuring a hotel's bottom line.
With a passion for seeking out quality guest service when traveling, and as a self-publisher with a readership base comprised of both travelers and hoteliers, Birdi was a natural for TV, which helped promote his book in Denmark. "TV2 founded in 1988 was the first cable channel to break the TV network monopoly in Denmark - they found me on Google when their travel show required an expert in hotels and travel," noted Birdi.
Hotelier Turned Novelist
Based on 50 years in the hotel business and over a million miles flown, Greg Plank, author of "Saving the Hotel St. George" crafts real hotel and guest events into a novel revealing what happens behind the scenes in hotels on a daily basis, Anyone who's a frequent traveler or works in the hotel industry will quickly identify with characters that according to Dr. John Hogan from HospitalityEducators.com are "straight out of corporate America."
Using the online platform CreateSpace, hotelier Plank selected self-publishing over traditional publishing because they "provided me with total freedom . . . and also if you get lucky, the royalties are higher." In choosing fiction over non-fiction, Plank explains: "I'm really a story-teller, not an author." All the plot points in his book "happened in hotels throughout my career," and are "relatable to my readers."
Have Search, Will Travel
With Frommer back in driver's seat as it pertains to his self-publishing firm, the question that arises is: What did Google gain in the short tenured buy-sell transaction. Most folks are still scratching their heads as to why the Granddaddy of search engines sold the guidebooks back to Frommer, barely nine months after acquiring them.
Critics point to an ulterior motive - which makes sense when you consider what's at the core of all of Google's business -- namely, data!
Based on their exit negotiations with Frommer, the deal was contingent on Google being allowed to keep all of the followers that Frommer accrued vis a vis Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare, Google+, YouTube and Pinterest. These thousands — or more likely millions — of accounts are valuable assets because they represent a huge collection of data pertaining to serious and targeted travel enthusiasts – and they now all belong to Google.
Going forward it appears Frommer will be faced with some major competition from Google's ownership of another famous guidebook headed up by Zagat. Since the Big G was allowed to walk-away with virtually an intact mailing list, all of Frommer's data will be neatly folded into the Zagat guidebooks.
When the following tweet was blasted out to the Twittersphere from what was previously the @FrommerTravel account, it became clear that Google’s final chess move was well thought out in advance.
So, for those readers who are contemplating self-publishing their own books in the travel genre, if the Frommer-Google machinations are any indication, the travel industry is alive and well and continues to attract wider and wider audiences. In this space, if you are a writer with wanderlust, you might want to think of targeting this market for your next travel odyssey.
Readers & Writers: I look forward to your feedback, comments and critiques, and please use BookWorks as your resource to learn more about preparing, publishing and promoting self-published books. My blogs appear bi-weekly on the 1st and 3rd Fridays of each month.