Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Travel Happy on Travel Guidebook Work

Airline Seating Configuration

When it rains, it pours. After the post below by Erik at Gadling, Travel Happy from Southeast Asia follows up with some more discouraging advice for prospective travel guidebook writers, including a link to the recent controversial article published last Sunday in the New York Times.

Becoming a travel writer for one of the major guidebook companies like Lonely Planet or Let's Go is not the romantic idyll many imagine before they hit the road.

The New York Times has a pretty dispiriting piece on the state of the travel guidebook industry, where young, eager writers are paid a pittance to spend thousands of hours on the road collating info about hotels and restaurants for the next guidebook edition. Pay rates have spiralled downwards because there are so many people willing to take on the job and whose words can be hacked into readable prose by editors at the mothership office. It's essentially become a McJob, which one guidebook writer likens to "data entry". There's a lot of travelling in terms of logistics but precious little in terms of travel experience per se, and a huge amount of ongoing stress to submit all that information on time.

You'd have to be incredibly well organised and efficient to leave some time over for you to actually enjoy the places you're travelling and stay within your advance budget. I'm not saying it can't be done - but I am saying you should think, think and think again before getting involved with this sort of gig. Personally, I think saving up a few thousand dollars and then going travelling without any ties in South East Asia would be much more preferable, even if it doesn't have the kudos of being a guidebook writer - kudos which isn't much use because you can't tell anyone you work for one of the major guidebooks anyway for fear of favouritism.

It's definitely worth checking Josh Berman's advice on how to be a travel guidebook writer and Friskodude's TravelWriters blog - he's a veteran travel journalist who's resolutely unsentimental about travel writing for a living.

Travel Happy Link

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