I’m excited to share the news with you all: I am profiled in the current issue of Publishers Weekly Magazine as one of five guidebook authors–representing five major publishers–in a Q&A series titled “Meet a Guidebook Author.”  This issue includes a big spread examining the evolving state of the travel guidebook-publishing world in this digital age, and the current “Leaders of the Pack” (including my publisher, Moon Guides).

       

It feels great to see my titles for Moon Guides–Moon Dominican Republic and Moon Belize–showcased in such a popular, big outlet. And to appear on an entire page, literally just a couple of flips away from Rick Steves talking shop in the same issue. Now I’ve really made it (ha)!

The Interview

You can read the full interview at this link.

I also shared more thoughts about my guidebook writing career on Instagram (click on the image to view the caption in its entirety).

In good work news this week: I am excited to be profiled in the current issue of #PublishersWeeklyMagazine, as one of five major guidebook authors. The issue includes a big spread on the world of guidebook publishing in this digital age, and the “Leaders of the Pack” (including my publisher @moonguides). Check out the link in the Bio to read the interview! ☝🏽 ⠀⠀ Being a guidebook author has been one of the best experiences in my life. I’ve always loved to travel and explore—raised overseas and in multiple cultures and countries, that‘s nothing new to me. But being responsible for writing about a destination, researching it constantly and living it at the level of detail and depth it takes for a great printed book (at least for Moon Guides, a publisher that never takes on authors who aren’t experts in their destination), is a whole other dimension. It’s a job that requires passion, strength of character and body, ethics, stamina, organization, patience, flexibility, and the ability to write well and quickly for many, many hours after being on the road. Including for me, taking great photos. Being on the road is the fun part, while writing advice for travelers in the hope they have a memorable trip, and shaping the content so it reflects responsible travel and is culturally informative, is fulfilling. I gave 150% to my #DominicanRepublic and #Belize guidebooks and the risk has more than paid off. I tuned out the naysayers and went for it. As I hoped it would, it led me to establish credibility, deeper expertise, and opened up amazing paying writing and editing opportunities. —continued below! 👇🏽

A post shared by Lebawit Lily Girma (@sunandstilettos) on

The Other Questions

A couple of the Q&A I received weren’t published–I imagine due to space–so I am including them below because I found the questions to be excellent.

How do you balance the desire to impart good information and tell people about cool places with the desire to keep a place “secret,” so there isn’t worry of “ruining” it?

It can be difficult. It has been an easier decision, for instance, those couple of times a local asked me not to share the location for this or that spot. When I got there, I understood why. I’ve respected such a request because it’s fair to the community and I wouldn’t want folks to start heading there on their own rather than hiring that specific local guide, for example. That’s what I think of in terms of ‘ruining’ a place. I always keep in mind the benefit to the community at large before making a decision.

Travel has changed drastically in recent years, what with developments like AirBnB and Google Maps. How do you think this has impacted the role of the guidebook writer–for better and worse?

Overall I believe it has impacted guidebook writers for the better–though it also has resulted in more work on the ground! I recently updated the next edition of Rough Guide to Jamaica for Rough Guides and stayed in a few AirBnBs in Kingston, Mandeville, and Whitehouse. These ranged from villa stays to condo guesthouses. They led me to stumble on sights and activities that I might not have found or known of otherwise because these were located in neighborhoods away from the tourist trail, and because the hosts had years of knowledge on their hometowns. That led to more exciting discoveries, and more original content.

As far as Google Maps, it has shown the importance of guidebooks with their updated maps–because there are so many errors online, it’s astounding. More than once I’ve come across restaurants and hotels marked in the wrong location on Google.

So overall, guidebooks have come to play a more important role in a way than in the past thanks to the way travel has evolved, because expertise and accuracy are now more important than ever. And that’s not something you are guaranteed to find on the Internet, which is more generic or typical when it comes to travel. Ultimately, most experts in a discipline share their best tips in print.

What is the biggest misconception about travel writing?

That it’s all fun all the time. There are definitely exciting days exploring, observing, meeting interesting people and having unique experiences. But there are also equally countless hours indoors, behind the computer screen, crafting perfect descriptions or stories.

What defines a great travel story for you?

One that give me a solid sense of the place–but especially through its cultural elements. I want to feel transported there by feeling the nuances of the people and culture. I’m huge on culture.

Five featured guidebook authors–Publishers Weekly 2018 (yours truly at #4 from the left).

So there you have it. Don’t forget to head over to my book and plan an amazing trip to the Dominican Republic!

And stay tuned to this website for Moon Dominican Republic guidebook updates, as well as exciting new places around the DR– right here on the blog.

Lebawit Lily Girma

A former corporate attorney, Lebawit Lily Girma is an award-winning travel writer, photographer, and author of several Caribbean guidebooks for US-publisher Moon Travel Guides, including Moon Belize and Moon Dominican Republic. Originally from Ethiopia, Lily calls herself a “culture-holic”–fluent in four languages, she has lived in eight countries besides the U.S., including Belize, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic. Her articles and photography focusing on culture, adventure, and sustainable travel in the Caribbean region have been published in AFAR Magazine, CNN, BBC, Delta Sky, The Guardian, and others. She is the recipient of the 2016 Marcia Vickery Wallace Award for Excellence in Travel Journalism from the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

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