Looking for Sean McLachlan? He mostly hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog these days, but feel free to nose around this blog for some fun older posts!

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Thursday, 17 April 2008

Yet More on the Lonely Planet Pseudo-Scandal

Can you tell my blood's up? While a certain Lonely Planet author has been getting a well-deserved thrashing on this blog and a few hundred others, I have to say that this whole thing does point out a few serious problems in the guidebook industry, things publishers should really look at if they want to improve their reputations and quality of their product. To wit:

1. Insufficient advances. The more you pay your writers, the longer they can stay in the destination and the more they can learn about it. Duh.

2. Insufficient fact checking. Most guidebooks aren't fact checked by the publisher, opening them up to lazy authors fudging facts or making things up.

3. Tight Deadlines. This can lead to writers cutting corners, yet no matter how tight a deadline the writer has, the book will still take months to come out, reducing its accuracy.

4. Rigid templates. The editors, the vast majority of whom aren't travelers themselves, sit in a boardroom and come up with a template they think will work great, and cram every guidebook into this template, whether it fits or not. This is contributing to the current implosion of the Moon Handbooks series.

5. Insufficient Marketing. Many publishers think that as long as they have a good distributor and get on a lot of bookstore shelves that they don't have to market their books. See number 4 above for what can happen.

Actually, all of these problems can be projected to a greater or lesser extent on all fields of publishing. While publishing makes tens of billions of dollars a year in the U.S. alone, it's very hard on individual authors and titles. Most titles sink, and many authors quit the game, or get embittered and bite the hand that fed them, like a certain Lonely Planet author.

But nobody is going to listen to me, are they?

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