Lonely Planet Seeking Authors

Guidebook publisher Lonely Planet is currently seeking people interested in updating their guidebooks for a fee. This list of destinations up for grabs includes seven Canadian provinces and 15 US cities or states. They're also looking for Pacific-based writers for their island titles. Unlike the previous Lonely Planet policy of “parachuting” experienced researchers into new areas, LP now seems to prefer stringers based in the areas themselves. This has the obvious advantage of local knowledge but members of a community are unlikely to want to step on many toes. So future Lonely Planet guides will probably be less critical. Newbie writers with no experience need not apply as “two examples of your published writing work (preferably travel-related), including details on where and when they were published” are required.

Lonely Planet's job offer page is all about what they want and doesn't cover what they'll be giving successful applicants. Anyone considering updating for Lonely Planet should be aware that the publisher will own all rights to their work, including moral rights. The only compensation will be a flat one-time fee. Free travel insurance is usually thrown in (probably to protect the publisher from liability as much as the writer from actual harm). The good old days when LP writers retained their copyrights and earned royalties are gone for good.

Still, if you've got the time and enthusiasm, doing one or two books for LP can be educational. You'll be badgered by arrogant editors who have no personal knowledge of your area, will have to adhere to strict deadlines, won't be allowed to solicit freebies (although many LP authors do anyway), and will have to pay your own travel expenses. Ex-Lonely Planet author Wayne Bernhardson comments, “Nothing could persuade me to return to LP, even if they wanted me (not bloody likely). Working with them is, as Tim Cahill so famously put it, like being pecked to death by ducks.”

Avalon Travel also accepts applications from potential authors and they want five relevant clips to demonstrate your travel writing prowess before they'll even look at your application. The many other requirements are clearly spelled out on their Acquisitions page. In the short term, you'll make more money working with Lonely Planet, although you'll probably survive longer with Avalon if you do a good job and toe the line. At Lonely Planet, you'll be completely at the mercy of the publisher whereas Avalon Travel still respects author's rights and usually allows them to retain the copyright to their own work. Avalon also pays royalties – although they're not high – and usually gives a small advance to help cover writer's initial costs.

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