Royalty Reductions Down Under

Posted by Chika On 2:33 PM 0 comments

Hand-Book for Travellers

Welcome Gridskipper readers. Do feel free to wander around this blog and consume whatever morsel seems tasty. And if you have an interest in Southeast Asia (who doesn't?), then head over to my main blog at:

FriskoDude -- Southeast Asia, Travel and Photography

In other depressing news, Aussie publisher Penguin has elected to cut royalties sharply to help out everyone in the business, except for the writers themselves. Writers: The Shits of the Publishing World.

Penguin cuts authors' reprint royalties

Australia's biggest book publisher has made a historic move to cut back royalties for authors with books in reprint.

Penguin Books is now enforcing a clause in writers' contracts to drop reprint rates from an average of 10 per cent, to between 6 and 8 per cent.

Penguin's Bob Sessions has defended the decision and says it will benefit authors whose books would have otherwise not been reprinted.

Mr Sessions says the new royalty deal for Australian writers is in line with the international market.

"We're not doing anything unusual," he said.

"If an author goes to a publisher in New York or London, that's what they're going to be offered as a standard rate and all the literary agents in both those countries accept that and have done for many years."

ABC Online News Link

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Red Flags for Writers

Posted by Chika On 12:18 PM 0 comments

Passport to Adventure

Last week I signed up for a free weekly email newsletter from Angela Hoy at Writers Weekly, the "highest circulation freelance writing ezine in the world." While the newsletter is for freelancers in general, and doesn't seem to include much about travel writing, I found one great article by Angela that covers writer scams in great detail. I'll post a portion here, but do click the link at the bottom for the full story. And sign up for her free weekly email newsletter.

Last week, I received two letters from readers complimenting us on only running quality job ads. While I do occasionally screw up and get "had" by a bad one, I try very hard each week to avoid the questionable/seedy ads, and only run ads that are for real companies that pay writers real money.

I admit I get pretty upset when I see my writing website colleagues running ads that are obviously questionable or unethical, if not downright scams (pay per click, term paper mills, etc.) and, unfortunately, when I write to them to complain, they usually ignore my emails. One exception is FundsforWriters. Hope Clark will immediately remove any questionable ads to protect her readers. It's too bad that many freelance writing sites care more about how much content they put on their sites than they do about protecting their readers from the sharks in our industry.

I thought it would be a good idea this week to share a list of "red flag" words and phrases that I look for when scouring the job boards. These might help you avoid being scammed when doing your next online job search.

**RED FLAGS!**

"Start-up" - This often means little (or no) pay and, if the new company doesn't succeed, you'll probably never get your last paycheck.

"Employment Ad" which leads to no job ad at all - Watch out for those ads that simply lead you to a for-cost service for writers, such as a subscription-based service that requires writers to pay for actual job listings. These listings are often simply links to job ads already appearing freely online. Running deceptive "employment ads" like this is unethical and writers should avoid companies that play that game.

"On Site Freelance" - On site usually means "employee", not freelance. Companies that require freelancers to work on site may simply be ignorant, or may be trying to avoid paying employment taxes, overtime, and insurance costs for those workers. If you must work at their location, on their schedule, using their tools, you are probably an employee (even if you're only working part-time) and likely entitled to all the benefits of employment, including overtime pay (if you work overtime hours), the employer's portion of FICA and Medicare contributions, as well as medical insurance and other benefits given to their employees. If you believe your "employer" is taking advantage of you in this way, please contact the Wage and Hour Division at the Department of Labor. You are probably entitled to back-pay and benefits. There's a great list of items detailing this subject HERE.

"Project must be completed "ASAP!" - Many writers do work in a hurry for companies that demand immediate turn-around, often for promises of big pay on completion. However, the company never seems to have time to send a contract to the writer. This is a common scam and many of these writers, after pushing everything else aside for this "lucrative project", never get paid at all and never hear from the company again. Don't write without a contract! And, if a company needs immediate turn-around, request a down-payment for your trouble and for your own security.

"Editing/Writing Test Required" - Legitimate writing or editing tests mean taking the exact same test that all the other writers/editors take. Some companies ask writers/editors to rewrite/edit "sample chapters" from books or other items. However, they ask different writers to rewrite/edit different chapters and, before you know it, all those writers applying for the phony job have completed the entire project for the scammer.

"Revenue Sharing" - This is an old one, just like the old pay-per-click scenario. All writers either get a percentage (a minuscule percentage!) of the advertising revenue or they get paid a few pennies or less per click. You can read writers' experiences with these types of firms in my article HERE.

"Freelance Blogger" - First, let me say there are some real blogger jobs out there and there are more each week. According to Richard Hoy (yeah, my hubby), who sets up the blogs for BookLockerauthors, a blog is a running commentary on a subject, presented in "diary" format, made possible through special software that makes publishing the commentary on the Internet easy and quick. Unfortunately, many blogger ads currently appearing online are offering revenue sharing and pay-per-click payments only. This is really no different from the "revenue sharing" scheme mentioned above. If you don't have control of marketing for a company, why should your pay depend on their marketing expertise (or lack thereof)? There are also many blog "employment ads" online now offering now pay, just "exposure." Please don't fall for that one, either.

"Payment in stock / stock options" - Come on now! If a company can't afford to pay you even a few dollars for your work, do you really think this company is going anywhere? I've been in this business since 1997 and I've never met a writer who wrote for stock that ended up being worth anything at all.

Writer Weekly Link

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New York Mag: The Blog Establishment

Posted by Chika On 10:24 AM 0 comments

New York Magazine Cover

New York magazine has just published an inside look into the world of blogging, which may, or may not, provide some useful background for those travel writers intending to make money with their travel-oriented blog or website.

By all appearances, the blog boom is the most democratized revolution in media ever. Starting a blog is ridiculously cheap; indeed, blogging software and hosting can be had for free online. There are also easy-to-use ad services that, for a small fee, will place advertisements from major corporations on blogs, then mail the blogger his profits. Blogging, therefore, should be the purest meritocracy there is. It doesn’t matter if you’re a nobody from the sticks or a well-connected Harvard grad. If you launch a witty blog in a sexy niche, if you’re good at scrounging for news nuggets, and if you’re dedicated enough to post around the clock—well, there’s nothing separating you from the big successful bloggers, right? I can do that.

In theory, sure. But if you talk to many of today’s bloggers, they’ll complain that the game seems fixed. They’ve targeted one of the more lucrative niches—gossip or politics or gadgets (or sex, of course)—yet they cannot reach anywhere close to the size of the existing big blogs. It’s as if there were an A-list of a few extremely lucky, well-trafficked blogs—then hordes of people stuck on the B-list or C-list, also-rans who can’t figure out why their audiences stay so comparatively puny no matter how hard they work. “It just seems like it’s a big in-party,” one blogger complained to me. (Indeed, a couple of pranksters last spring started a joke site called Blogebrity and posted actual lists of the blogs they figured were A-, B-, and C-level famous.)

New York Link

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Yes, it's Real

Website guru and internet travel writer Durant Imboden recently pointed out an article that investigates the reality behind all those hotel review websites on the internet, such as the one I sometimes look at out of sheer boredom -- Fodor's Asia Chat (or whatever they call it). The Fodor's site is almost exclusively geared to very upscale travelers, who love to praise or damn their favorite hotels in Bangkok, and I find the site quite intelligent and useful for a travel writer trying to keep up with hotel developments in that part of the world.

Obviously, there are some shills on the site that hope to promote their favorite hotels in Bangkok or Bali, and you rarely get seriously critical comments about the properties, but it's not always a love fest. But you probably need to take the effulsive praise with the grain of salt, especially with the larger and more mainstream websites that invite commentary from the unwashed masses.

Here's what Durant has to say about the controversy:

The article describes how some hotels and resorts have "reputation management" departments that submit positive reviews under pseudonyms to user-review sites like TripAdvisor.com and IgoUgo.com. Others offer incentives to guests who post positive reviews at such sites. The bigger review sites are having to respond with more editorial control and penalties for hotels that abuse the system.

In another publication, PC MAGAZINE, columnist Bill Machrone writes about "turking," which involves the payment of tiny amounts (e.g., a penny per review) to users who name the three best pizza parlors in Philadelphia, the three best sushi bars in Silicon Valley, etc. Machrone talks about the dangers that turking could encourage a "vast, unregulated workforce, well under the minimum-wage radar" and speculates that "people clever for their own good" might pack turking-based sites with "multiple reviews, fake identities, and computer-reworded opinions." See:

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1895,1917750,00.asp

It seems that publishers who rely on free or almost-free contributions are beginning to discover that they get what they pay for. :-)

- Durant

Durant Imboden
Europe for Visitors
http://europeforvisitors.com


And here's a short bit from the New York Times article:

Business travelers like Michelle Madhok used to consider online hotel reviews a reliable reference.

Travelers once took reviews on Web sites at face value, but the proliferation of voices and the manipulation by hoteliers have made skeptics of the site operators and their readers.

Officials at TripAdvisor.com say they closely monitor reviews to eliminate any spurious recommendations for certain hotels.
Whenever she traveled to an unfamiliar city, Ms. Madhok said, she clicked on sites like TripAdvisor.com or IgoUgo.com, where she found thousands of ratings written by real guests.

Or so she thought.

Ms. Madhok, the president of the Internet shopping site Shefinds.com, said she was now becoming increasingly skeptical of what she saw online. "I read reviews of hotels that I've stayed at," she said. "And they're just wrong. I wonder if they've really stayed at the hotel."

On a recent visit to a spa in New York, she says, her doubts turned to disbelief: the resort was discreetly offering a free reflexology treatment to customers who posted a positive review of the establishment on Citysearch.com. "It was very troubling," she said.

As Web sites that publish guest hotel reviews become more influential, some hotels — from bed-and-breakfasts to large resorts — are going to greater lengths to ensure that their properties are rated highly. Their efforts, analysts say, range from encouraging guests to write flattering reviews to, in extreme cases, submitting bogus recommendations to Web sites.

The hotels justify their actions, the analysts say, as a counterweight to out-of-context rants by disgruntled guests; both sides are exploiting a new technology that lacks the safeguards of the traditional travel guidebooks, which are written by professional writers and edited for accuracy.

It was not always so. In the early days of hotel review sites on the Web, the Internet was a less diverse place, and the postings generally came from like-minded travelers, the experts say. But as more and more people are using the Internet to make travel decisions, there are more incentives, and opportunities, to manipulate reviews.

The major hotel chains deny that they try to influence online reviews in any way. But publishers at the most popular review Web sites say they have been inundated by fraudulent posts and have had to develop numerous measures to protect travelers.

Analysts and Web site operators say they fear that the effort is a losing battle. "Most sites can't catch a fake review," said Stanley E. Roberts, the chief executive of We8there.com, a lodging and dining review site.

Even so, Mr. Roberts says he reads every review before it is posted — a laborious process that relies on instinct and experience. Still, he said, "I'm never sure if a fake is going to make it through."

The relentless efforts by hotels to influence their online ratings have made some review sites suspicious, if not paranoid. "We assume that every review we get is bogus, and it is bogus until proven otherwise," said Kenneth J. Marshall, who publishes HotelShark.com, a small hotel review site "We have to look for a reason to publish it." Indeed, more than half the reviews he receives do not make the cut, he said. As a result, only about 1,200 hotels are reviewed on his site.

IgoUgo.com, another ratings site, takes a different approach to ferreting out fraudulent write-ups. The guest commentaries it publishes are put into context, with detailed information about each reviewer, "so you can see exactly who is writing the review and if that person has similar travel needs to yourself," said Jim Donnelly, the site's vice president for marketing.

IgoUgo counts about 670 active business travelers in its membership. Their postings are also monitored by editors as an extra precaution.

TripAdvisor, which is owned by Expedia, is perhaps the best known of the hotel ratings sites and proclaims it is the largest, with more than three million reader reviews. It is so concerned with review fraud that it hired Reed Meyer to create a fraud detection algorithm to sniff out suspect reviews. Mr. Meyer would not disclose how the program worked because he did not want to tip off hotels on how to circumvent it. Nor will he say how many reviews have been weeded out by the application.

Christine Petersen, TripAdvisor's senior vice president for marketing, said, "Hotels periodically try to get around the system." In one memorable case, an Italian hotelier offered the site a bottle of Limoncello di Capri liqueur if the site would remove a poor review of his property. The site declined.

"If a hotel is caught trying to influence the process, they're put on a watch list," she said. "That influences their ranking, and is a huge black mark against them."

New York Times Link

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Fly the Friendly Skies

Posted by Chika On 10:41 AM 0 comments

Saudi Airlines

Are you sick and tired of long, boring trans-Pacific flights, stuffed into economy class with horrid food and surly waitresses? A very clever guy in Saudi Arabia may have discovered the solution.

Cargo worker sleeps, wakes up in Turkey

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) — It was a short flight, and Muhammet Ahmet Mursi slept almost the whole way. No leg room complaints. No cramped seats. No annoying intercom announcements.

Only the heat wasn't on and it started to get a little cold. Cold enough to make Mursi wake up. Cold enough to make him realize he was in the cargo hold. Cold enough that he screamed so loud the pilots heard him.

Mursi, a cargo worker in Saudi Arabia, fell asleep on the job Wednesday night as he loaded the suitcases of Muslim pilgrims from Turkey on a Turkish Airlines flight from the Saudi port city of Jeddah to the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir.

Mursi woke up somewhere over southeastern Turkey, television station NTV reported Thursday. He managed to make himself heard from among the boxes and suitcases he was stretched out on, prompting the pilots to pump him some hot air. Bearded, wearing all orange and on a stretcher, Mursi was seen being taken from an airport in Diyarbakir, Turkey for medical treatment at a local hospital. Yusuf Yagmur, a doctor, said Mursi was suffering from pneumonia.

"The patient was in a panic and he had pneumonia," Yagmur told Anatolia news agency. "His treatment will take a few days." He will be returned to Saudi Arabia, probably on a seat, when his treatment is complete, NTV said.

USA Today Link

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Hindu Pilgrims by Carl Parkes

MediaBistro may sponsor ongoing seminars for prospective travel writers, but they rarely post articles about the craft, so I was surprised to see this story today with a very sensible tips for any and all travel writers. Take your damn camera along and take your best photos, to illustration your story and perhaps boost your paltry income from the writing itself.

Freelance writing and freelance photography often seem like completely different worlds. However, there is one genre where writers and photogs are often the same people: travel writing. To save money, publications often ask travel writers to turn in their trip pictures if they're useable for the piece. Not only do you get a nice clip with a published photo credit, you get extra money as well. Most of us though are new to invoicing and formatting photos for publication, so I spoke with a few travel writers on what other writers should know about selling their pictures.

"I have sold my pictures with several other non-travel stories to national magazines," says Gayle Formon, who teaches mb's Travel Writing Boot Camp. "Editors usually asked me to take photos and if they used any of them, I would simply ask them what their page rate was and who I should bill."

"The issue of shooting for your own articles did come up in my last class, and students had an opportunity to talk to travel editors about it. Certainly, when working for, or pitching, a smaller (poorer) publication, if you can come back from a trip with some fantastic shots, that can only work in your favor. If I had a good photographic eye, I would certainly tell an editor, maybe even show a portfolio.

Some editors will be glad to get two for the price of one, but the bargain should be simply that they don't have to pay to send a writer and a photographer to a place. Writers should expect to be paid separately, even if it's just a token amount. Otherwise, they're letting themselves be taken advantage of--which happens all too often in the freelance world. If I were given the assignment to shoot and report, I'd take it with the understanding that the photography assignment is on spec.

If they like something enough to use it, they should pay for it. Again, most pubs have a page rate, and pay a set amount based on size of the picture. I never brought up payment until after pictures were chosen for a layout, and then I simply asked how much the rate was and who I should bill."

Travel writer Bill Becher very helpfully sent me several tips on how writers can take and tell the best pictures they can to supplement their pay for a travel writing clip:

"'Do we have art?'" is the constant refrain of newspaper editors. (For some reason, newspaper people refer to photographs as "art"). If you can say yes, you'll increase the chance your story will be published and you'll earn more money. If you're writing on assignment for a glossy magazine, congratulations, but you'll probably find that the magazine will assign a photographer. So the rest of this discussion will focus on newspaper travel sections.

Pay for photos depends on the paper and its circulation, most will have a going rate (from $25 to $150 per photo and up, depending on size, quality and black and white or color).

Here are 10 tips for budding travel photographers:

1. Think like a movie director. Don't turn in all shots of scenery from a distance. Take an overall establishing shot, then a closer shot of people doing something that helps tell your story, then a really tight shot of something. An example might be an overall shot of a pink sand beach with palms and thatched huts, a shot of a couple of people coming out of the surf, and a close-up of starfish washed up on shore.

2. Get caption info. You don't need model releases for editorial use, but you should be able to supply a couple of sentences describing what's in the photo and names and hometowns of people featured in your shots. Check spelling.

3. Hold the camera steady! Many photos are too fuzzy ("soft") because of camera shake, especially with point and shot cameras. Use a tripod or lean against something when you shoot. But be sure to move around between shots and try different angles. For best light, shoot early or late in the day.

4. Most newspapers are entirely digital these days. If you only have slides or prints the paper will probably be able to scan negatives or slides, but digital is the way to go. Your camera should be capable of taking an image at least 2,500 pixels on the large side, this usually translates to a 5 mega pixel camera or better. More is better as it allows cropping. You may be asked to summit photos via e-mail, FTP, or a CD. Advanced digital cameras should be set to Adobe RGB II mode and sharpening turned off.

5. Good equipment like a digital SLR camera with selection of lenses and flash helps but I've sold many photos shot with a 5-7 mega pixel point and shoot camera. Set the camera on the highest resolution .jpg file. Don't edit it in Photoshop, even if you think you know what you're doing, let the paper's photo editors do that. Especially don't sharpen photos, as this needs to be done to press requirements.

MediaBistro Link

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Banging on Adventure Travel

Posted by Chika On 3:13 PM 0 comments

Through the Looking Glass

Travel writers who are writing stories for magazines or websites always need to find an underlying theme to their articles, whether it is following Conrad on his journeys around Southeast Asia or finding Orwell in Burma. You can't just write about nonsense and expect anyone to give a damn.

And so it goes with even the most lauded adventure travel writers on the planet such as Richard Bangs, founder of Sobek and the brave soul who rafted down a river in Central Africa and went on to establish his adventure travel company, now incorporated into Mountain Travel if I've got my facts straight.

Bangs wrote recently about the changes in adventure travel over the past few decades, and he's certainly qualified to write such an article, as he is a bonified expert on the subject. Why, then, so many inaccuracies? Most of the article is spot on, but his wildly imaginative writing style means he should exaggerate every failure in present day adventure travel? Why would he do that?

But I love his new words: faddism, rolling skein, panolpy of adventures. Nice wordsmithing, there.

The original adventure travelers were merchants on expedition, seeking proceeds for their imperial backers,

As an example, he cites Leif Erikson. Hello? Leif as merchant on expedition, seeking proceed for his imperial backer?

Leif Ericson was blown off course sailing from Norway to Greenland about A.D. 1000 and ended up in North America.

I'm sure the Norweigans will be thrilled to learn that their national hero was blown off course and only stumbled across North America. And where did Bangs get his notion about this theory?

The advent of modern international adventure travel traces to some 35 years ago, with the first organized treks to the Nepalese Himalayas, and soon thereafter the first commercial raft trips in Africa.

Guess who led the first commercial raft trips in Africa?

So much has changed. Nepal, which throughout the 1980's was the archetypically adventure travel destination, has been embroiled in a Maoist revolution the last several years and is on few itineraries today. The nearby kingdom of Bhutan has been the beneficiary, and is seeing record tourism. Virtually all the trekkers who go to Bhutan wander among the high peaks and immerse themselves in the Buddhist culture.

Bhutan, to my understanding, has very strict limits on international tourism, and I think the country only admits some 5,000 visitors per year. The tours may be filled up, but I doubt this is any direct response to the problems in Kathmandu.

In the 1970's, there were overland treks in Afghanistan, camel safaris in Algeria and river runs in New Guinea, none of which are viable today.

Richard should check with the tour operators which do organized river journeys up the Sepik, as I did several years ago. All are still in business. If you're nuts enough, you can still buy a canoe and paddle down the Sepik, although I wouldn't really recommend it. New Guinea is the most dangerous country I've ever visited.

In the 80's, popular offerings included felucca trips down the Egyptian Nile, climbing Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey, diving the Red Sea, even surfing in Bali. None of those is offered anymore, for fear of religious-based terrorism.

Surfing is now longer available in Bali? Richard, please tie down your hat and visit Nick at www.baliblog.com

I don't know about diving the Red Sea, but is it true that "none of those are offered anymore"?

Even natural disasters take their toll. Thailand had long been a top adventure destination until the tsunami hit in 2004; more than a year later, visitation numbers remain significantly down.

Tourism in tsunami zones is down about 20-30%, but is expected to rebound next year. Most people understand that a great tsunami is an extremely rare occurrence, and when the infrastructure at Khao Lak (most devastated) is rebuilt, the Swedish tourists will return. This statement is pure sensationalism and will only scare away people who should, should, should go to Thailand to help support the Thai people working in the local tourist industry. Shame on Richard.

Today, the fear of avian flu is keeping many Americans away from Southeast Asia and China.

Wrong. Outdated and sad sensationalism. Why is Richard a fear-mongering type? We expect it from Bush, but not from the guy whose purpose in life is to promote grand adventure travel.....to see the world and spread the wealth.

Conversely, destinations rarely visited by American adventurers in the 70's, 80's and 90's have in recent years become popular, like Libya, Mozambique, Nicaragua and Panama, all of which I've traveled to in the last 18 months, delighting in their incipient adventure offerings.

Note: Slate sent Bangs to Libya last year to report on the opening of that country. His report was colorful and honest, but he really seemed to hate most of the trip. And now he promotes the place. Really, Libya is NOT popular, not matter what Bangs tells you. Journalistic license, I guess.

I recently spent a week in Costa Rica with longtime friends including Michael Kaye, owner of one of the original Latin American adventure companies, which he founded in 1978. We rafted the Class-IV Pacuare River (which he pioneered), surfed the Pacific coast, biked some 80 miles through the rainforest, deep-sea fished the Caribbean, and went wildlife, whale and bird watching.

I have no idea the motivations behind this paragraph, but you've just got to wonder.............

New York Times Link

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IHT Travel Lies

Posted by Chika On 1:11 PM 0 comments

Sihanoukville Independence Beach



Sihanoukville Ochheteal Beach



Sihanoukville Otres Beach



Sihanoukville Serendipity Beach



Sihanoukville Victory Beach



Sihanoukville Sokha Beach

Do not believe any travel stories you read in the International Herald Tribune.

See the photos of the beaches of Sihanoukville above? Would you spend even a single nickel to visit any of these crudy, dirty, brown-sand beaches? Of course, you wouldn't, but you'd rather spend your time at Southeast Asian beaches which are truly beautiful, such as Boracay, El Nido, Ko Phi Phi, and Samui. Why would you be sucked into wasting your hard earned dollars on some third-rank beach resort in Cambodia?

I've been to Sihanoukville and was disgusted by the cattle that wandered the beach at sunset, shitting over everything. And the town has little more to offer than rundown guesthouses and low-rent brothels.

But then the IHT journalist was given a free trip to the beach resort, where he stayed at the four-star resort, and had nothing but wonderful things to say about his vacation. Travel writing at its worst.

SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia "It's the next Goa, the new Phi Phi. If you love the cusp, or that fabulous moment when a destination morphs from backpackers bolthole into a new compass point for monied bohemians, make tracks for Sihanoukville now," insisted my friend in Bangkok, and the idea of a cheap farniente week at the beach sounded ideal after a lot of temple climbing in Angkor Wat.

The beach was even lovelier by day - basically empty and lapped by the warm, limpid aquamarine waters of the Gulf of Thailand. We quickly abandoned plans to explore Sihanoukville, which is often referred to as the "youngest" city in Cambodia since it was founded in the late '50s, in favor of a recurring triangle of idleness consisting of swimming, reading and napping, in exactly that order.

If this quiet beach town, popular with Cambodia's glamorous beau monde during the '60s before the country was devastated by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, is slated to become the next Phuket, the turning point came with the opening of the Sokha Beach Hotel in May 2004. This 188-room, four-star hotel brought world-class comforts (satellite television, air conditioning, room service) to a place that had only had cheap and decidedly rustic guesthouses (Sokha Beach Resort, Street 2 Thnou Sangkat 4, Mttapheap District, Sihanoukville; tel. 855 34 935 999, fax 855 34 935 008, www.sokhahotels.com).

IHT Sihanoukville Travel Story Link

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Rory MacLean and Magic Bus

Posted by Chika On 11:07 AM 0 comments

Burning Man

British travel writer Rory MacLean has just finished his latest travelogue and it sounds like a winner wrapped inside an enigma: Magic Bus: On the Hippie Trail from Istanbul to India. Did Rory actually do this trip and, if so, what could he possibly remember of places like Kabul? He probably had to ask expert advice from surviving hippie travelers who made the journey back in the 1960s such as Dalton and Wheeler to spark his brain cells back into action.

In any event, it sounds like my kind of book, plus he discusses some interesting challenges with rights and old photographs in his latest newsletter. You might as well sign up, as Rory is pretty tight with his newsletters and they come far too infrequently in my opinion. He's at Rory MacLean Dot Com

Magic Bus is finished. Yesterday the proof-read manuscript was sent to the typesetter. The jacket has been designed and the subtitle ('On the Hippie Trail from Istanbul to India') agreed. I've met Rosie the-forever-young-and-sparkling-publicist and drafted ideas for newspaper features. The book's publication is set for June 29th. But finished? Not quite yet.

For one thing there are the rights clearances. Pop music was among the most important creations of the 1960s. Lyrics inspired, guided ­ or in some cases misguided ­ that generation and their search for a new way of living. I heard this sentiment expressed again and again during my research. In an early issue of the Village Voice I read of a Dylan debut performance, 'His voice is crude, his appearance scruffy and as a performer he lacks all traces of a professional. But one brief listening to the emotional understatement in his voice emphasizes the power of his lyrics and his genuine concern for the state of the world.' As far as I'm concerned, no book can be written about the Sixties without quoting ­ or paraphrasing -- lyrics.

In Magic Bus I quote short extracts from ten different songs ­ Dylan, The Beatles and Pink Floyd among others -- and the usage of each quotation has to be licensed to me by the song's writer or his/her representative. Easy? Well, I've spent at least an hour a day for the past month searching for rights holders, begging for permission and sending off cheques (the cost is borne by a book's author, not its publisher). Dylan, Sony (for Lennon and McCartney), Music Sales, EMI, Warner Chappell and Faber Music have been helpful, enthusiastic ­ and understanding over fees. I'm sorry to report that the people representing Bob Seger ­ whose music I love and I so wanted to quote ­ asked for £750 in advance on a percentage of book sales (I only wanted to use 19 words!). It was with a very heavy heart that I had to cut his lines from the book.

My other preoccupation at the moment is with Sixties and Seventies photographs. I went back to many 'veterans' of the Asia Overland trail to gather together a small collection of their original images. Most of them are incredibly evocative, even those shot on battered Instamatics. I hope there will be an opportunity to publish them later in the year. Stay tuned for details.

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Guidebooks Galore

Here's another story about the history of travel guidebooks as published recently in the Sydney Morning Herald, which takes a more classic approach to the craft, but also points out the changing styles between the original favorites and newer updates from Lonely Planet and other "travellers" guides. At the bottom, an interesting list of the best selling travel guidebooks in Australia.

Published by John Murray, it would be the pioneer title of one the world's first great guidebook empires, Murray's Handbooks, which would eventually publish about 400 titles. Its exhaustive, two-volume 1845 Handbook for Travellers in Spain, written by Richard Ford after four years of research and a decade of writing, is the classic among guidebooks.

Karl Baedeker is said to have written his first guidebook - Holland, Belgium and the Rhine - for Murray's Handbooks, but in 1829, with the publication of Baedeker's German-language guide to the Rhine Valley, he also became its first competition. Guidebooks to Austria, Belgium, Holland and Switzerland followed, and by 1861, two years after Karl's death, Baedeker was publishing English-language guides.

Baedeker created a guidebook template that has barely wavered in almost two centuries. The books were saturated in tourist sights but also offered guidance on pragmatic details such as money, language, visas, best seasons to visit, transport options and recommended hotels and restaurants.

Sydney Morning Herald Link

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A History of Travel Guidebooks

Posted by Chika On 10:24 AM 0 comments

Tony and Maureen 1973

PublishersWeekly.com has just posted a long article about the history of travel guidebook publishing, starting with Murray in 1836, Baedeker in 1839, along with the founding of both Moon Publications and Lonely Planet in Australia in 1973. Apparently, Bill Dalton beat Tony Wheeler by about six months, a curious fact I didn't know anything about, and I've known Bill for almost 30 years.

The PublishersWeekly.com links at the bottom also work, so you might want to check the travel guidebook publications schedules for 2006, if only to keep track of what's going on with Avalon and LP.

As Hofer was getting Insight off the ground, other adventurous travelers were making tracks off ever more lightly beaten paths. The year was 1973, and both Bill Dalton, whose Moon Publications was soon to launch, and Tony and Maureen Wheeler, the inspiration behind Lonely Planet, were traipsing through their respective territories in Asia.

There may be some confusion about which made its appearance first, but the record is clear: Dalton's A Traveller's Notes: Indonesia appeared in April 1973 as a six-page typed and mimeographed pamphlet distributed as a "gypsy guide" during a 10-day arts festival in southeastern Australia. Tony Wheeler's Across Asia on the Cheap, the first Lonely Planet guide, appeared in October under somewhat similar circumstances, with a reference to Dalton's book in it ("…A Traveller's Notes should be available in most big bookshops for 50 cents," he writes).

The last edition of the Indonesia book, 1,350 pages, was published in 1995. "Bill Dalton was a writer who became a publisher, Tony Wheeler was an MBA who briefly became a writer," says Bill Newlin, publisher of Avalon Travel, Moon's current owner and himself a onetime travel writer. "Bill did a wonderful job of establishing the template that we've continued to develop over the past 15 years."

It's no accident, Newlin says, that Southeast Asia was the locale Dalton and his colleagues at Lonely Planet focused on. "It was a new frontier, a countercultural phenomenon, an updating of the Grand Tour, as Europe became more common." Dalton sold his majority interest in 1989 and stayed on as publisher until 1990. He lives in Bali and stays in touch with the company on an occasional basis.

Publishers Weekly Link

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