First of all, thank you! I am so happy that there are people out there who want to write travel guidebooks because it is hard. (For insight, check out American Nomad Laura Martone’s post on the subject.) And it won’t make you rich. But, most of the writers I’ve hired have wanted to work on more guidebooks, so the experience does have its rewards. Plus, working in guidebooks is a great conversation starter, and you, as writers (unlike us editors), will have a more satisfying answer to the inevitable first question: Do you get to travel?
For those of you who want to pursue this life, it might seem a little hard to figure out what we’re looking for and the right way to approach us. In general, I am almost exclusively looking for authors to write books that fit into our existing Moon series, and I keep a semi-current list of destinations I’m seeking on the Avalon Travel Acquisitions page. I admit that I’m not very good at keeping this page updated, but right now, it’s pretty accurate, except for the Moon Living Abroad section. Also, when I’m actively looking to fill a writing position, I usually post an ad on the craigslist page for that destination. If you don’t see the book you want to write on the Acquisitions page or on craigslist, I do welcome unsolicited pitches—it just might be a while before we’re ready to add your book to the Moon roster. Whether you’re pitching for a book you know I want or one that you think would be a great addition to our list, here are a few things you can do to make yourself stand out.
Get to know Moon a little better.
Writing for Moon can be different from writing for other guidebook publishers. We usually hire one author to write the whole book, and ideally, we like to work with the same writer for edition after edition.
When doing your research on Moon, read the author bios to see what kind of background and experience other Moon authors have, especially those who write about destinations similar to yours. Become more familiar with the books we publish—the book you want to write may have already been published or may not fit into our list (sorry, we don’t do travel memoirs). Pay attention not only to whether or not we cover the destination you want to write about but also how we cover similar destinations, both in theme and geography. The books page of moon.com has a comprehensive list of our active titles, along with the bios of the authors who wrote them, and a search of online retailers can give you a peek inside our active books, as well as an idea of what we’ll be releasing for the next six months or so.
Follow the directions on how to pitch to us.
You can find these directions on the Avalon Travel Acquisitions page. At Moon, we have our own guidelines and expectations of what authors need to provide in their manuscripts, and in order to produce an acceptable book, authors need to be willing to adhere to these guidelines. One way to show that you would be willing to learn and adapt to Moon’s guidelines is to follow our directions from the beginning.
Many writers might think that their chances are better if they send their pitch to me, instead of to firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s actually the opposite. The acquisitions email address is not a black hole—I check it almost every day, and even though I’m not the neatest person, I am an inveterate electronic filer. If you send your pitch to the acquisitions address, I will look at it, and more importantly, it will be in the right place when I sit down to review all the applications for a destination.
Focus on the cover letter.
A cover letter, resume, and up to five clips are all I want in a pitch, and of these, the cover letter is by far the most important. Be enthusiastic about the destination, as well as yourself. It is definitely important to establish your authority in a destination, but simply reiterating the experiences and qualifications on your resume is not going to be as inspiring as a well-formed letter showing me that you are the best person to write this book. The best letters convince me of a writer’s expertise, as well as convey a sense of place and the writer’s love for that destination.
A common mistake is for writers to pitch themselves as capable of covering any number of destinations. Moon authors have deep knowledge of their destinations, and it’s rare for someone to have that level of familiarity about more than a couple places. That’s not to say that a single author can’t have multiple books with us; one region can have a lot of potential—just look at how many books we have to the Carolinas. You can mention other destinations you know well in your pitch (so that if I’m ever searching my archives for that destination, your information will turn up), but the focus should be on one book.
Build and maintain a professional website.
A good website would include a resume and a regularly updated list of publications with links. A blog is also nice to show off your personality, interests, and unedited writing style. If you do get a book project, a website can help later on with publicity efforts after the book is published.
A website can also help me to find you. If I don’t have good writer leads on a destination, I need to be more creative in my search, and your website might bring me knocking on your door. I also look at professional sites like LinkedIn or Mediabistro and having an active profile on those sites is another way that I can find you.
Don’t burn bridges.
There are usually lots of applicants but only one spot I’m looking to fill at a time. But even if I reject you or don’t respond, you never know what other projects I might have down the line. I hold on to almost every application I’ve ever received, and I search through my archives every time I start a new project. It is so wonderful when I come across someone who didn’t work for an earlier project but might be perfect for this new one.
Although I can’t express it personally to everyone, I value all the interest that writers have shown for Moon. Whether we end up working together or not, it is the interaction I have with authors and potential authors that I love most about my job. You would think that after four-plus years, I would no longer be surprised and fascinated, but the people who want to write about travel are so full of great stories. At the end of April, I’ll be at the ASJA Writers Conference (on the Travel Markets panel and at the book publishers portion of Personal Pitch), and perhaps there I’ll be able to hear more of these stories in person. It really is a pleasure, and I hope I have the opportunity to work with at least some of you in the future.