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Journey to Self-published, “Fifty Classic Destinations for Pilots”

November, 2014

Over the years I had several people say I should write a book about many of the adventures you’ve read about in my blog.  I’ve always thought that the pilot community is pretty small and the adventure community is pretty small and my target would be the intersection of those two groups.  I would sell about 17 books.  However I did get some comments in the blog that pilots were interested in the adventures and Betsy and I have done some “normal” stuff like romantic getaways and trips with friends.

So early this year I decided to write a book, “West Coast Flying Adventures” later retitled to “100 Classic Destinations..” later retitled to “Fifty Classic Destinations…” I decided to have it ready by Christmas if I could which I knew meant a lot of work.

Month 1-4, The main content

I first created the fifty list and decided I really needed more destinations near southern California where so many pilots live, so I took out a few and put in Big Bear, San Diego and Santa Catalina on the list even though I hadn’t done flying adventures there (yet).

I spent evenings writing the text (using some stuff from the blog) but not using any photography at all.  When I finished the first draft I hired a professional editor from elance.com and she (an English teacher) corrected a lot of errors. I was an engineering major in college that had to take “bonehead” English courses so I definitely need a little help.

Month 4-5, Design and Layout

It didn’t take long to figure out that books like this are laid out with Adobe InDesign.  Two years ago I bought a nice big desktop computer with lots of RAM, graphics co-processor and two HD monitors in order to make videos and it turns out to be a perfect setup to design and lay out a book.   I have Adobe Create Suite with InDesign so I started InDesign right up and clicked on “New book”.  I couldn’t even get one character to show up on the screen so I bought two books on InDesign (It turns out “New document” will create something – “New book” merely allows you to combine documents into a book).

So I learned InDesign by reading about it at night then the following evening trying out what I had learned.  I went through a few different layouts for the book and finally decided upon the one you see in the book.  I had trouble later with the CMYK colors, transparencies and registration errors but that is far more than you want to know (and more than I wanted to know).

I laid out a rough draft of the book and selected, arranged and sized all the photos although the book was still missing many side stories and some adventures.

Month 5-7, Send out preview copies

I sent my rough layout to Mark Rudolph, a friend and pilot, to edit the book as it relates to pilots and also to my father-in-law Michael who used to edit books.  My informal and simple style (i.e. bad English) drove Michael a little nuts and about halfway through the book he gave up on trying to remove or move commas.  I learned from him what I was doing wrong and was able to edit the book a little more myself.  Betsy also went through the book and did a bunch of editing.

I knew magazines needed a long lead time so I sent my rough draft out to the main aviation magazines, and there I learned how hard this was going to be. EAA Sport Magazine replied and Mac McClellan said they “don’t do books” and , “It continues to astonish me the rate at which aviation titles are published”.  Sorry Mac for bothering you and thank you for the words of encouragement. But he did reply.

Flying Magazine also said they don’t do books.  But when the editor saw the book she told me, “this is exactly what the industry needs, real adventures and real places to go”.  She loved the book and interviewed me on the phone. Soon she said they had selected it for inclusion in the December gift guide and they needed a book ASAP for photography.  I didn’t have one and had to ask someone I had sent the book to to FedX it to Flying Magazine.  Awkward.  Flying was going to call it “The Ultimate Adventure Guide”.  Awesome! Then a month later they told me they had to cut the gift guide from 6 pages to 4 and they cut me out.  Bummer!  Still, I was thrilled the Flying editor liked the book – maybe I had something.

The word is still out on AOPA Magazine.  The editor said, “well, it is certainly more robust than other guides”.  I guess that is something.  I also had written an article for them on the Fry Canyon adventure and they asked for me to cut it down to 1,000 words.  That seemed like a good sign and I quickly edited the article and got it back to them.  Then they stopped returning my emails. So a bit of a black hole there at AOPA.

Plane and Pilot magazine never replied to me.  I emailed and asked for an address of an editor to send it to.  Nothing.  I sent the book anyway and then asked for acknowledgement of receipt. Nothing. Another email.  Nothing.  Maybe they went out of business and I missed that.

I also sent it out to aviation bloggers.  Karlene Petite and Ron Rapp loved the book and were absolutely terrific in offering their support.  There is a general aviation podcast called AirplaneGeeks and I thought, hey, I think I would make an interesting guest on the podcast.  However Max Flight of AirplaneGeeks refused to accept a copy of the book to look at.  Actually refused to even look at it which for a general aviation site was a little bewildering.

Finally I sent it out to a few people so I could get some advance reviews.  Hopefully they didn’t just give me good reviews because they knew me, because so far everyone who has seen the book has really liked it.

Month 8-9, Finish the book

While I was sending out preview copies I was still trying to finish the book.  I was able to get to Big Bear during a business trip to San Diego and we went scuba diving at Catalina so I was able to fill those holes in the book. I had technical difficulties with Amazon’s Createspace print on demand service as they stopped accepting my files, saying the book had become too large and complex (it was a 375MB file that expanded to 750MB).  Whoops – they never tell you there is a limit so I had no idea that could even happen.  For two weeks I optimized photos, flattened layers, and generally wandered around all the InDesign export options but Createspace would reject my files every time (and of course you can’t talk to anyone).  Did I have to start removing content?  I was starting to panic because a book called “Fifty Destinations” with only 47 destinations just wouldn’t work.  Then I hit on the combinations of options for compressing the photos and the file.  They accepted the file and I was back on track.  Whew!

I went back to elance.com and hired a proofreader (another English teacher) who did a great job in tying up loose ends in the copy.   Stuff like using UT in one instance and Utah in another. She got rid of a few more commas too. About a thousand of those things must have been deleted in all the editing everyone did.

Month 10

First week in November – launch date.  Kind of.  I didn’t get the traction with the magazines like I wanted.  So it will take some time but I have two magazine articles and I think at least one of them will eventually get published.  In the meantime I know I’ll get some visibility with the Cessna Pilots Association, Backcountry Pilots Association, some blogs and some other smaller markets.

So we’ll see how it goes!

Oh, the book is available at http://www.fiftyclassics.com

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