How to get yourself published?

There are millions of books written in the UK each year but few of them see the light of day, except possibly on the internet read only by members of their family! The first requirement is to write something other people will want to read, then you need a great deal of persistence to get someone to publish your book. Remember JK Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone’ was rejected by 12 publishing houses before she found a publisher.

Don’t expect to make a fortune from having a book published, as with sport, writing is a hobby with just a few ‘superstars’ getting a significant income. Most authors will find that the royalties from book sales won’t cover their expenses so you should definitely see writing as a hobby not as a significant source of income.

You’ve much more chance getting a book published in a small specialist market than of writing a getting a work of fiction published. Write about something you know about! One of my bridge partners has just had a history of Leicester Rugby Club published. Specialist knowledge? Yes, apart from being a supporter of the club, he was chief rugby correspondent of the Times until he retired and still writes for the Independent on Sunday.

I’ve now had four books published, but how did it get started? It’s much easier to get an article published in a magazine, than it is to get a book published, so that’s a good starting place. Long ago, my first articles would have been in the orienteering newsletters/magazines of the Sarum Orienteers, South West Orienteering Association and British Orienteering Federation.

I’d produced photo-journals of four of my major mountaineering expeditions; Pacific Crest Trail 2002, GR11 2003, Round Britain Walk 2004 and Pacific Crest Trail 2006. I’d also written photo-journals of some of my wilderness Naturist trips, but these journals would have only been seen by family and friends.

The coming of the internet gave more opportunities for the budding author and this is where most authors will have their first experience of being published. I published the mountaineering journals on an American trail-walking site and they are available on
www.trailjournals.com/abonpct2002
www.trailjournals.com/gr11lasenda
www.trailjournals.com/roundbritain
www.trailjournals.com/ancientbrit
and 15 of the Naturist wilderness articles are available on the BN website at:
www.bn.org.uk/articles.php/_/travel-and-holidays/talesofancientbrit
I’d also had a few articles on wilderness Naturism published in the BN magazine.

I emailed the photo-journal of the Pacific Crest Trail 2002 round to a large number of outdoor book publishers in the UK and USA and was surprised by getting interest shown by a small publisher in Perth, Scotland. After a meeting with the publisher it took them over a year to decide not to publish.

If you want to start up a business the most important thing is to spot a gap in the market. The same is true if you want to get a book published. Ray Jardine had written a popular (in terms of outdoor books anyway) on how to do a through-hike of the 2700-mile Pacific Crest Trail in which he suggested you need to walk about 25-30 miles/day carrying virtually no equipment. I didn’t consider 25-30 miles/day possible for most hikers and I didn’t consider his ‘kit-list’ safe on a remote trail going over 13,000ft snow-covered passes and I don’t think most hikers would be able to cope with the lack of comfort he was advocating. On my successful 2002 through-hike I had averaged 17.5 miles/day carrying a relatively heavy pack. I was also concerned about the number of hikers giving up in the first week due to lack of knowledge or awareness of what they would encounter, especially early on with the first 500 miles being through hot, dry semi-desert. During this hike I wrote a handbook on how to walk the trail for the “ordinary walker”. When I got home I typed this up and again emailed it to a large number of outdoor book publishers in the UK and USA.

One of the publishers I approached was Cicerone Press and small publisher in the Lake District who specialised in walking guidebooks. In fact when I checked my bookshelves I found I had owned about forty of their books! They didn’t publish handbooks, but the owner of Cicerone Press thought my handbook would make a good introduction to a guidebook on the Pacific Crest Trail. I wrote a draft of a guidebook based on my journals, the maps and information freely available on the internet and then did a third through-hike of the trail in 2009 to check the detail. This is one reason Cicerone Press guidebooks are so good, the authors check them thoroughly before publication. I got the final draft of the book to the publishers in the autumn of 2009. After this the book is checked by an external editor, whose main job is to spot errors, not rewrite the book, and then the Cicerone Press staff select photos from those provided by the author and the do the final layout. After a final check by the author the book is sent to the printers (in the far-east) and the guide was published in Spring 2010.

Details of this guidebook can be found at http://www.cicerone.co.uk/product/detail.cfm/book/588/title/the-pacific-crest-trail#.VHNgZsJybIU

The really difficult thing is to get your first book published. If you do a good job it is considerably easier to get further books published and I had little difficulty persuading Cicerone Press to publish a guide to the Corbett’s. These are the 2500-2999ft mountain in Scotland and with 221 peaks two volumes were required. I’d walked most of the Corbetts 20+ years ago and I walked them all again in 2011 and 2012 and these guides were published in 2012 and 2013.

http://www.cicerone.co.uk/product/detail.cfm/book/652/title/walking-the-corbetts-vol-1-south-of-the-great-glen#.VHNjKcJybIU
http://www.cicerone.co.uk/product/detail.cfm/book/653/title/walking-the-corbetts-vol-2-north-of-the-great-glen#.VHNjD8JybIV

I am now writing a guide to the Graham’s, the 2000-2499ft mountains in Scotland, but the owner of Cicerone doesn’t think there will be sufficient demand to justify publication. I’d also written a route description for the Via de La Plata, the pilgrim route from Seville and Granada in Southern Spain to Compostella de Santiago in NW Spain. This wasn’t for my own book but to help with a new edition of the guide of another author after the route had been mangled by the building of the new high-speed rail-line along much of the route.

As I suggested earlier, you need to look for a gap in the market and I noticed that the Paul Lucia, author of the Cicerone guide to the GR11, the long distance path from Atlantic to Mediterranean through the Spanish Pyrenees, had died. I’d walked this route using his guide in 2003 and was aware that it was time for an update or a new edition. I decided to walk the route in 2012 and rang up the owner of Cicerone and he asked me to make some notes for an update. It soon became obvious that a completely new guide was required, partly from the natural aging of all guide-books but mainly because the route was thoroughly waymarked and signed in 2008-2010 and there were enormous changes to the route. Cicerone took little persuading that a completely new edition was required and I was asked to write the new guide. Having walked the route in 2012, I wrote the guide over the winter of 2012/13 before walking the route to check the detail again in 2013. The final draft went to the publishers in October 2013 and the book was published in spring 2014.

http://www.cicerone.co.uk/product/detail.cfm/book/725/title/the-gr11-trail---la-senda#.VHNpecJybIU

Paul Lucia had written two guides for Cicerone Press, the second being the GR10, also Atlantic to Mediterranean but on the French side of the Pyrenees and I am now working on a completely new edition of that guidebook for publication in 2016.

If you want to get into writing blogs are probably the easiest way to get started nowadays and write an occasional blog on the British Naturism website, which is mainly, but not entirely, on matters connected with Naturism. You are more likely to be read if you post blogs on specialist websites, such as the BN website, than you are on the more general websites hosting thousands of blogs.

http://www.bn.org.uk/community/blog/13-ancient-brits-blog/

I’ve also contributed to the three books on outdoor Naturism written by Richard Foley: ‘Active Nudists’, ‘World Naked Bike Ride’ and ‘Naked Hiking’.

Books

Time to get writing!

ps Signed copies of my Cicerone guides are available to readers of this blog at the bargain price of £12 (Including P&P to UK addresses). Contact me at ancientbritbrian@btinternet.com

brian johnson

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