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Writing a book about a bike tour

Old 02-25-18, 07:03 AM
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mev
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Writing a book about a bike tour

Anyone written a book about a long bike tour? Any experiences to share?

Here are mine so far.

"You should write a book!" I heard that more than a few times as I recounted my experiences, but had always shrugged it off. I keep blogs for each of my longest trips and figure the audience for a blog is somewhat different than the audience for a book. Typically I use a blog to inform folks that want to "follow along" during the trip or who later want to research potential routes. Those combined with my writing style means that turning a blog directly into a book results in a rather boring product... repetitious and full of irrelevant details. A picture tells 1000 words so my blogs have many photos but also typos and grammatical mistakes.

During my last 18-month trip, I had plenty of time along the way and decided I would try a project of turning my previous five trips along with the one in progress into a book. Use a general theme of "six trips, six continents, 60,000 miles" I sourced background information from my blogs, but tried to write either more general accounts or the most interesting highlights/experiences along the way. Not sure how well I've succeeded, but now have created ~100,000 word account for six trips and augmented it with ~20 photos. The most recent trips are written with more detail than one I did 25 years ago. Most of it was written while I was on the road, but I finished things off in the two months after I returned.

The internet has made self-publishing fairly easy. A combination of the Kindle Desktop Platform KDP (for Amazon) or Sigil/Calibre tools for other places like Smashwords or Barnes and Noble - makes it fairly easy for anyone to turn a manuscript into either an e-book or a print-on-demand paperback.

Just because you can publish, doesn't mean that you should. I've read quite a few of those cycle touring travelogues. Some of my favorites are either well written (e.g. Miles from Nowhere) or rather challenging accounts (e.g. Off the Map). Others are more similar to my quickly written blogs. I have no pretense of having written a best-seller but also don't want to be embarrassed by the effort. Hence, I still plan to send it out for a good copy edit to clean up the language even if the "plot line" is relatively fixed. Copy editing online seems to be in the range of $0.005/word to $0.06/word which can thus add up, but also seems worth it for my goal. So I am close to the point of sending it to be edited.

After that comes the mechanics of publishing it where I'll likely use Kindle Desktop Publishing first. I've already done multiple trials and found KDP fairly easy to turn that text into something that looks OK on my Kindle devices.

Overall the process has been not too difficult and I've found it fun to revisit previous trips and figure out how I might best recount the experiences for others in a format that isn't a real-time blog as it happens.
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Old 02-25-18, 09:44 AM
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I have written four books about my hometown. The first, published in 2001, sold 6,000 copies. This was before the vast majority of people came to expect that you could - and should be able to - get everything for free on the Internet. The next three were well-received, but only because they were giveaways, underwritten by various local organizations and paid for with journal-style advertisements. Each one of those books was better than the previous one and way better than the first one, but I don't think people would have been willing to pay for them. It's just the way things are nowadays.

I think it's the same for cycling journals. In the 1990's, I plunked down all kinds of money for any book I could find about cycling. Those books were priceless then, but today, I wouldn't spend a dime for something I can't get for free online. And, as you already know, many, many people are very willing to share their tour journals online just for the heck of it.
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Old 02-25-18, 09:46 AM
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I would love to find a bike tour book devoid of introspection and self-reflection, and any emotional angst any more abstract than worrying about where to refill a water bottle.
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Old 02-25-18, 10:02 AM
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Just my opinion: The popularity of your book would likely hinge on some sort of plot/ storyline. Reading about you getting up and riding your bike from point A to point B everyday would get pretty boring for most people.
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Old 02-25-18, 10:32 AM
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I think that a book would be a good way to chronicle your travels if only for yourself. I'm pretty sure that your travels would be interesting, and like a lot of us, you probably have many great "sub-stories" that are the true essence of bike touring.
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Old 02-25-18, 10:51 AM
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who pre internet writers of books on travel have you read ?
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Old 02-25-18, 01:59 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
who pre internet writers of books on travel have you read ?
If Joe Kurmanski writes another book, I'll buy it

I have one shelf in my bookcase that is mostly about bike travel. I have read all of them.
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Old 02-25-18, 02:12 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
who pre internet writers of books on travel have you read ?
Not all pre-internet but I have a bookshelf of >30 bicycle touring books with more on the kindle. Among my reading favorites are (were):
- Off the Map by Barbara Savage and some of the books by Josie Dew. What I like about these are the descriptions and tales of their travels.
- National Geographic articles by Roff Smith in 1998/1999 followed by his book Cold Beer and Crocodiles. Served as inspiration for my own trip around Australia.
- Off the Map by Mark Jenkins. One of the first accounts of cycling across Siberia and inspiration for my own trip.
- Blogs by Nancy Sathre-Vogel also inspiration for my own trip.

Originally Posted by Brian25 View Post
Just my opinion: The popularity of your book would likely hinge on some sort of plot/ storyline. Reading about you getting up and riding your bike from point A to point B everyday would get pretty boring for most people.
Absolutely agreed. Also a difference I find in writing a blog vs. writing for a book. Folks do blogging differently, but I mostly use a blog as a more immediate account of what happened, where I went, photos along the way, etc. As such, I don't worry as much about repeating myself - if somewhat similar things occur five days in a row, I might repeat myself in those multiple days.While blogging I also tend to emphasize more the immediacy of getting something written out - since if I spent too much energy honing for perfection it is less fun and might never get done.

There is a certain pattern and similarity to being on a long bike trip, sometimes coming through interesting experiences along the way or subtle differences. When writing for a book, I try much more to at least thread together the most interesting things that happened and either overall perceptions or subtle observations, while de-emphasizing the repetitive stuff.

Most of the chapters have an overall "crossing continent X" type theme that would be in its own way a chronological storyline. However, I also de-emphasize some of that story line to concentrate more on the most interesting/amusing/startling/different things that happened while using "I crossed X" to tie it together.

Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
I think that a book would be a good way to chronicle your travels if only for yourself. I'm pretty sure that your travels would be interesting, and like a lot of us, you probably have many great "sub-stories" that are the true essence of bike touring.
Agreed. I still have blogs up and posted for five of my six longest trips, so I also have them chronicled there. However, going back and trying to summarize them differently is also an interesting way to look at them again.

There was a certain finality of crossing my sixth continent (since I'll never cycle across the seventh) and then just idea of trying the experience of writing a book that motivated me in this exercise.

I'm not necessarily trying to write a wildly popular book, but also want something done well enough that it can be read by someone other than my mother. As such, there is some value in getting an editor to help clean up at least the mechanical parts of the writing I might overlook in my self-edits.
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Old 02-25-18, 02:38 PM
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I like the idea of recording ones thoughts and experiences and would encourage anyone who is interested to do so. You have to make a decision though as to whether you are doing it for your own intrinsic sense of accomplishment or because you want to write something interesting to others. I'm a strong believer in the first as it frees you from the constant worry that you probably don't have anything "worth" writing about and that is one of the biggest stumbling blocks new writers face. If you write for others you may feel compromised to alter events/thoughts so that they seem more appealing to the masses.

I work with the elderly and many from the "great generation" have incredible life stories. I'm constantly telling them they should write their memoirs but many feel their stories are not that interesting. I am often tempted to start a service that records and writes them for them.

When I tour I now always spend a part of each evening journaling so that when I'm done I have a record of my thoughts and impressions. For me, waiting until after the tour results in a lot of missed small things. Some may blog in the field but I find it too hard to do on my phone. When get home I then create a photo book with accompanying text from my journals, for my own enjoyment. It's also a great way to share the experience with others.

Some people record their trips on touring websites but I find I like to retain control of my own intellectual property and it's layout. Online personal websites and blogs are free and I have one for my diving pursuits manfish.ca The Adventures of a Grassroots Canadian Diver - Home It's a fun way to share your experiences. I have been told that it takes almost a year of dedicated writing and development to make a blogsite generate income but it can be done if the writer tries to create good content and networks. I have a friend who is currently creating a food critic site.

Although not cycling related perse, along those lines I began contributing magazine articles to an E-zine publication for underwater photography PNW Diver Magazine - Home and that encouraged me to continue to work at my writing. The editor and I are now collaborating on a topic specific special edition that I am writing the bulk of the copy for. The same could be done with cycling either as a contributor or a publisher as a creative outlet. I'm sharing links as neither sells anything.

As to the contents of a larger touring book? I dunno. No matter what tact you try someone will say they prefer something different and that would drive me crazy. Better to create your own vision and go for it, letting the chips fall where they may. Regardless of whether you become a best selling author or not you will end up with something that means something to you and a sense of accomplishment at having seen a project through from conception to completion. Bicycle touring is a such a small genre in which there is a plethora of online journals already available that doing it as a financial venture would seem daunting but as an exercise in craft quite rewarding. I have a thesis that a fellow wrote describing "The Early Learning Strategies of British Columbia Divers" that while limited in readership appeal, is one of my prized and often studied research manuals. Who knows?

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Old 02-25-18, 03:24 PM
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If you add enough drama, it could be made into a movie some day.
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Old 02-25-18, 03:50 PM
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I am currently reading a cycling book called A Hole In The Wind. It is pretty good, more about the where the writer went on a bicycles versus the how he gets there.

I think like others said, online journals are a dime a dozen... just look at Crazy Guy On A Bike blogs.
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Old 05-17-18, 05:21 AM
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Happy to say I got the book published on Amazon

It has been a fun exercise to write it out and revisit some of the trips I took years ago. I paid a copy editor to help clean up some of the grammar. Hardest thing still is to write things more as a book than a blog. Not sure I've completely succeeded, but glad to have tried.
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Old 05-17-18, 06:15 AM
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Originally Posted by mev View Post
Happy to say I got the book published on Amazon

It has been a fun exercise to write it out and revisit some of the trips I took years ago. I paid a copy editor to help clean up some of the grammar. Hardest thing still is to write things more as a book than a blog. Not sure I've completely succeeded, but glad to have tried.
I enjoyed reading your blog about your trip to Ushuaia. I'll give this a try as well. Just ordered.
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Everyone thinks they have had a long strange trip, until they look at other folks' journeys. Then they realize everyone has had a long strange trip, just using different modes of transportation.
"The mystery of life isn't a problem to solve, but a reality to experience."
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Old 05-17-18, 06:52 AM
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Originally Posted by mev View Post
Happy to say I got the book published on Amazon

It has been a fun exercise to write it out and revisit some of the trips I took years ago. I paid a copy editor to help clean up some of the grammar. Hardest thing still is to write things more as a book than a blog. Not sure I've completely succeeded, but glad to have tried.
Congrats, but why would I buy it on Amazon when I can hear about the trips here

I'm not author, but I have considered putting together a coffee table picture book of my travels, as I am now past the dozen trip mark. It'd be a pain trying to write about the trips in any detail now, but I have some great pictures that could convey the feeling of the adventures quite well.
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Old 05-17-18, 06:55 AM
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Congratulations mev! Must have been a lot of work to pull that together. Good on you for seeing it through to completion.
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Old 05-17-18, 07:03 AM
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When is the movie coming out?
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Old 05-17-18, 07:50 AM
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
When is the movie coming out?
Pump your brakes. He has to do a nationwide book signing tour first.

Seriously...Congrats, OP.
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Old 05-17-18, 01:38 PM
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Originally Posted by mev View Post
Happy to say I got the book published on Amazon

It has been a fun exercise to write it out and revisit some of the trips I took years ago. I paid a copy editor to help clean up some of the grammar. Hardest thing still is to write things more as a book than a blog. Not sure I've completely succeeded, but glad to have tried.
Congratulations! I just ordered it and am anxious to read it.
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Old 05-17-18, 08:14 PM
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Originally Posted by mev View Post
Happy to say I got the book published on Amazon

It has been a fun exercise to write it out and revisit some of the trips I took years ago. I paid a copy editor to help clean up some of the grammar. Hardest thing still is to write things more as a book than a blog. Not sure I've completely succeeded, but glad to have tried.
heck, I missed this announcement. Congratulations Mike, it really must have been fun going over all your trips and reliving moments.
cheerio
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Old 05-17-18, 09:56 PM
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Any chance the book will be sold in stores or have paper underneath the words. I try to avoid giving money to Jeff Bezos and I am not a fan of using computers for my book reading. Give me a nice paper book.
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Old 05-18-18, 04:28 AM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
I was thinking of a few british authors .. Dervla Murphy, Nicholas Crane and Tom Vernon..
She's not British. Dervla Murphy was born, raised and lives in the Republic of Ireland.
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Old 05-18-18, 06:19 AM
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Originally Posted by veganbikes View Post
Any chance the book will be sold in stores or have paper underneath the words. I try to avoid giving money to Jeff Bezos and I am not a fan of using computers for my book reading. Give me a nice paper book.
I don't know, but most likely not both paper and !Amazon together.

First experiment has been to publish it as a Kindle book. Amazon makes it not too tough to turn a MS word document into a Kindle book so that is what I tried first. There are also similar tools to help format a print-on-demand book that gets printed on paper when someone orders. Depending on how the Kindle experiment goes, I might try that later if only to create some paperback copies. My sense is print on demand is overall a higher cost per copy but otherwise works better for books that have a low and uncertain number of copies. There are free tools like Sigil and Calibre that can do a lot of the same formatting work and other distributors of print on demand books or electronic books.

It has been an interesting exercise to try writing a book about my bike tours and interesting to learn some of the publishing tools. However, I also don't see myself taking this experiment too much farther.
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Old 05-18-18, 07:10 AM
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
If you add enough drama, it could be made into a movie some day.
Yes


Did you seduce any beautiful women that tried to kill you?
Rid your bike over a cliff to avoid armed bandits?
Launch any rockets at any one eyed men?

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Old 05-18-18, 09:36 AM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
Ireland is geographically, one of the British islands . Britain (as an island chain) as a populated place has stone age settlements.
long before any division into various national bordered regions.




...
Ireland is in the British Isles, but a person from the Republic of Ireland is Irish. So when you are referring to the author, it is incorrect to say she is British.
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Old 05-18-18, 09:55 AM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
Ireland is geographically, one of the British islands . Britain (as an island chain) as a populated place has stone age settlements.
long before any division into various national bordered regions.




...
None of which, even if one accepts it, makes either Dervla or I 'British'.
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