Whether you have a story burning inside of you, or you simply want to build your brand, a well written and promoted book can be the gateway to career development, more speaking and presenting gigs, and increased credibility in your field. Writing a book is an opportunity to reach a specific audience, tap into a content marketing strategy, build a community of followers who resonate with your message, and create a platform for thought leadership. From travel podcast hosts to book publishing pros to travel writers and editors, the following experts in the travel space offer their most sage advice.
Getting Started in a Saturated Market
For prospective writers who are working on a travel-related guide, memoir, or the like, Marika Flatt, founder and chief publicity strategist of PR by the Book, says that to begin writers should create a social media strategy and roll it out on a consistent schedule. Also, authors should define their target reader. “Create an avatar of who this person is,” says Flatt. “What do they like to do? Where do they buy and read books? Get clear on who you’re writing for before you begin.”
Founding editor of Unearth Women and co-author of the new book, Wanderess, Nikki Vargas says that to get books into the hands of readers, first-time authors will spend time developing a book proposal, approaching literary agents—a good one is key, and pitching publishers. “Because getting a book published can be tricky, I have seen a myriad of stellar women I admire self-publishing books and leveraging their individual platforms to spread awareness, which I think is a great option for first-time authors that may be wary of navigating the world of publishing but are keen to see their work fulfilled,” says Vargas.
“We were approached by an editor at Clarkson Potter who had discovered the work we were doing with Unearth Women and believed it could lend itself nicely to a book,” Vargas says. “While we were extremely fortunate to be approached by a major imprint like Clarkson Potter and publisher like Penguin Random House, I recognize that my experience with Wanderess is rare.”
Wanderess, as Vargas says, is a women’s travel resource that utilizes the diverse experiences of leading women in the industry, women like Oneika Raymond, Brooke Saward, Kelly Lewis, Dani Heinrich, Esme Benjamin, and Annika Ziehen. “Co-authored by myself and Unearth Women Co-Founder, Elise Fitzsimmons, Wanderess aims to show travelers how best to support and connect with women worldwide while also diving into the nuances of the travel experience. The pages of Wanderess cover everything from solo travel to travel planning to LGBTQ+ travel to traveling as a woman of color, as a new mom, and so much more.”
Picking a Lane and Finding Resources
With regards to the pros and cons of traditional versus independent versus self-publishing modalities, Flatt says, “Most people need a book shepherd to herd them in the right direction. In traditional publishing, they do most of the work for you once you sell your book—they’ll handle everything including editing, layout, design, sales, marketing, and distribution. When you self-publish, all of that falls on your shoulders.”
And, in a saturated market, writers, Flatt says, must be unique or different to stand out. “Create a listicle (an article in the form of a list) that covers your expertise and make sure these are tips you’re not hearing all over the place—start there and lean on that with your messaging.”
Building a Stalwart Community
Building a community of wanderers has long been the modus operandi for Jason Moore, from the popular Zero to Travel Podcast. Initially, way back in 2013, the show began as a way to inspire others to travel through storytelling, strategic planning, and expert advice.
“It was the show I wish I had when I started out with $20,000 of debt and a dream to see the world,” Moore says. “When I started getting messages from listeners telling me how the show helped them overcome adversities and hit the road, I knew I was onto something. What I didn’t know is how much of an impact the show would have on my life as well. Outside of traveling, getting married, and having kids, starting a podcast is the best thing I’ve ever done both personally and professionally.”
For authors, being a featured guest on a podcast has its benefits. “Podcast listeners have a strong connection with their favorite shows,” Moore says. “An invite means the host is vouching for you—you’ll have the audience’s trust from the get-go, so don’t blow it! Provide as much value as humanely possible to the audience, do your best to entertain them along the way, and be sure to leave listeners with plenty of reasons to buy your book—invite them to get in touch or offer a freebie to hop on your email list. If you do these things right, and the audience is a solid match for your content, then sales will be sure to follow.”
To promote a book, being on a podcast as a guest can help demonstrate to readers your expertise in a field. You’ve done the research; you’ve put in the time. “I’ve had a lot of authors as guests on my podcasts,” says Shelby Stanger, host of Vitamin Joy, a new podcast in the health and wellness space, and Wild Ideas Worth Living, a podcast by REI Co-op Studios. “Many have told me book sales have gone up after my show or other shows and many listeners have written thanking me for recommending a book on the show.”
Learning How to Be a Storyteller, On the Page and On the Air
Stanger, who has a background in journalism as well as marketing in the outdoor and health and fitness spaces, says, “As a writer and storyteller, I’ve always loved stories about people who have taken the road less travelled, and turned their wildest ideas into a reality. That has been the impetus for Wild Ideas. There have been several times when I have felt stuck and listening to others who have been able to “go for it” has always encouraged me to get unstuck and make a positive change to “go for it” as well.”
Podcasts, as it turns out, have been an excellent conduit for truth telling. “I love that in podcasting, interviews live in a fuller format, and it always feels like such an intimate conversation. As a listener, some podcast hosts begin to feel like friends, and I hope I feel like a friend to some people listening as well,” says Stanger.
“For Wild Ideas Worth Living Podcast by REI Co-Op Studios, we interview anyone with a wild idea, from those you have heard of like author Cheryl Strayed who wrote Wild and rock climber Alex Honnold who many know from the movie Free Solo to those you might not know as much, like Corina Newsome, an ornithology graduate student who started a movement for black birders and Chris Fagan who, with her husband Marty, became the fastest American married couple to ski to the South Pole,” Stanger says. “On the show, we talk about where people get their wild ideas, how they deal with fear, failure and obstacles along the way, and the beauty of the journey.”
“We share advice to hopefully encourage others to go after their own wild ideas,” Stanger says. “I truly believe a little adventure is life’s antidote. Over the last five years, we’ve received dozens of letters from listeners saying a show they listened to encouraged them to pursue learning to surf, bike across the county, and even move across the country.”