It’s sometimes difficult to know how to develop diaries and blog entries into a full-length book. First, read a few books of adventurous journeys and think about what appeals to you.
Bear in mind is that the world of publishing moves slowly; we have to ‘sell in’ a book to the trade six months before publication, and the book retailers don’t like to take travel books during the 'Christmas' period between September and February. And you want that book to stay on the shelves for a good few years too. So avoid too many dates and events that will make the book feel dated. Try to make it a timeless story – one that will still inspire 5 years from now. That means you don’t have to rush it, although obviously it would be good to get the book out there before your followers have forgotten what you did… Think about whether a traditional publisher is right for you, if you need to get the book out quickly.
Make sure it’s a great story. You’ve probably got loads of material. Trim the stuff we don’t really need to know. An ideal length for a book like this is 80,000 words. Develop your best anecdotes into scenes with dialogue and description, so we feel we are there with you on the road. Let us feel we are on the journey with you. But a real journey has plenty of boring bits, and they don’t make for good reading (do we really need to go through the experience of visa applications with you?). Get us on the road with you as soon as you can, then tell the bits about setting up the journey in flashback perhaps. Though do include some of the difficult times – the highs and the lows – and if one of the lows is boredom, it’s fine to show that.
Good characters are essential – the main characters are you and whoever you went on the journey with (if anyone), so make sure we get a good sense of you. If you did the trip with someone else, we'll need to know if that other person is thinking of writing a competing book - not a good idea! Ideally, if you're both interested in writing a book, you'll want to be working together to maximise potential.
Adventure stories are great, but we also want to understand why you’re doing this journey. It's an interesting measure of our times that people are doing extraordinary journeys all the time. We get dozens of proposals from people who've cycled the world, or walked around Britain. So there has to be a reason why people will want to read your story, what makes it special and inspiring – and you have to tell it in a compelling way.
No pressure, eh?!
If you're thinking of sending to Summersdale, I'd like to see a proposal and two sample chapters, ideally the first two. Let me know what plans you have for the future.
And good luck with it.